Tips + Techniques

Filmmaking Class: What Joe Switzer’s Students Learned at WPPI [VIDEO]

May 23, 2014

By RF Staff

As increasingly more still photographers expand their business models to include multimedia packages and video coverage for their clients, the need for acquiring a new skill set also increases. This year, WPPI introduced a Filmmaking Track offering an impressive roster of talent and courses, including “Directing Motion with Vincent Laforet,” “Wedding Cinema Crash Course” led by Ray Roman, “Concept Filmmaking” with Kevin Shahinian and, among several other presentations, “WPPI Filmmaking 4-Day Class” with Joe Switzer. As Switzer—who started Switzerfilm as a $150 wedding video on a VHS tape, and in just a few years transformed into a wedding photo and video dream team—puts it, “The best way to learn is by doing.”

Adds WPPI director Jason Groupp, “This year we added Filmmaking as part of our educational tracks at WPPI because, as with our photography programs, I wanted to have some hands-on classes that would lend to real world experience. And what better way to do that then by covering a live event, and turning the edit around in a short period of time?”

The four-day, deep-immersion class at WPPI had Switzer leading ten students through the A-to-Zs of the medium, which entailed writing, shooting and editing the official WPPI 2014 film . Switzer says that at the time he had no idea what to expect but knew it would be great regardless. “A few students had dabbled in video before, but 80 percent of them were like, ‘Where is the record button?’” Switzer says with a laugh. Everyone in the class, he adds, was curious, excited and interested in a future in video and filmmaking. Students learned how to use stabilization tools, glidecams, lenses and more. 

WPPI 2014 "Hi-Five Highlight" from Switzerfilm on Vimeo.

The movie-making process went like this: Starting on a Sunday afternoon, Switzer and his ten students met Groupp to go over the script and begin production of the film. “I was fortunate to be at this first meeting with the crew, and I immediately felt a chemistry forming between these guys,” Groupp recalls.

During the next four days, this team worked constantly, shooting late into the night at WPPI events, in the hallways, on the trade show floor and in a small conference room huddled around a laptop, each taking turns with editing.

On Wednesday evening, the night of the WPPI Awards Ceremony, the class debuted the final “Hi-Five Highlight” Film. “On stage they put their arms around each other in nervous excitement as the film played, which ended in a standing ovation,” says Groupp.

Adds class attendee Beau Hobson,  “I learned so much working with Joe and his crew! Just to be able to observe the little things they do made my work so much better as a videographer. It’s now a couple of months later and I still apply what I learned every single day.”

Switzer explains, “One of the key lessons the group came away with here is that once photographers want to do video, they think it has to be complex, but it doesn’t. You just need to make an impactful, two-to-three minute video.”