To continue my spotlight series on vendors in the wedding industry, today I have an interview with the lovely team at Midnight Hour Studios. Their studio filmed my wedding in May 2014 at Arlington Gardens and did a fabulous job.
1. Tell us a bit about yourselves and your background.
Nathan: I was raised in the piney woods of East Texas. My mother was a reading teacher, and so at a very young age, I inherited the love of a good story. I’ve always been really passionate about the arts – I’ve studied writing, music, visual arts, photography, animation, and filmmaking. My favorite movies are Beauty and the Beast, Days of Heaven and Fiddler on the Roof, and my favorite food is lasagna. I got married myself last fall to an incredible artist and animation enthusiast, so I have a pretty fresh perspective on all the work and artistry that goes into a wedding.
Heather: They had a beautiful wedding! Nathan is also a fantastic cook.
Nathan: My mom is a great Italian cook, so I grew up eating really wonderful food. When I moved to California to attend USC, I realized I was going to have to learn to cook or settle for frozen meals. I’m glad I learned, because I’m pretty sure that’s why Alexa married me!.
Heather: I was raised in Orange County, also with a deep love of books. When I was younger, my family had special “Reading Rules” for my behavior: 1) No reading at the dinner table; 2) No reading in the car; 3) No walking and reading at the same time —
Nathan: How often did that come up??
Heather: More than one would think, actually. Anyway, what really propelled me towards film was my time in high school. When I was 16, my mom pushed me out of the door to go to the local city Youth Employment Fair – and I walked away that afternoon with a job in the concessions department at a nearby movie theater. It was the best! We got unlimited free movies and popcorn and soda, and so for those few years, I watched everything. At the same time, I was also taking a video production class at my high school, which I did for two years. We learned the basics of shooting, the basics of editing, and I got quite adept at traditional student affairs-style coverage. Then I was fortunate enough to get into USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program, and that’s when I really fell in love with cinema, and knew I had to make a career out of film.
2. When and how did Midnight Hour Studios come about?
Nathan: At USC I studied English and animation, and after I graduated I went to work for the university, writing stories and taking photos for the university website. I did a lot of interviews and covered a lot of events and learned a lot of things. Then, because of my animation background, I was approached with the opportunity to make some of the first videos that the university wanted to produce for the website, and that’s where Heather came in.
Heather: I was actually Nathan’s student assistant. I was a junior at the time, and I wanted a part time job to support my caramel macchiato addiction, so I jumped at the chance. Nathan and I hit it off right from the start, and we really meshed well together when it came to film. When I was a senior, I started filming weddings, and realized after graduation I wanted to strike off on my own.
Nathan: Working at USC and watching Heather’s work, I realized that small scale filmmaking was a great way to use so many of the different arts that I love and spend time with, and I realized I wanted to join her in starting a company. So, over a few great dim sum lunches in Alhambra-
Heather: And ice cream!
Nathan: We came up with the idea for Midnight Hour Studios, and here we are!
3. What is your process like when working with a bride and groom?
Heather: We really love getting to know our couples before the actual wedding day. Our footage is just so much better because we have that rapport and familiarity with our couples, and they feel comfortable with us.
Nathan: Yeah, a wedding day is a big responsibility and it’s nice when everyone is on the same page about what’s important to you. Also, any time we get to share life’s most precious gift – coffee – is time well spent.
Heather: We like to set up a coffee date, and if we click, from that point on there’s a more detailed conversation about how the day breaks down. We are very good about inserting ourselves and working around a schedule – but we are also very good at stepping in and guiding the day. I personally think our footage looks more natural when people forget that we’re shooting, so ultimately we do prefer to blend into the background.
4. What is your favorite part of your job?
Nathan: I feel like there’s a trend in arts and entertainment these days towards a grim and gritty look and feel, but that’s never appealed to me. I love getting to capture beautiful things – the grandeur of the locations, details that the bride and groom have worked hard to put together – ultimately, just the wonder and joy that you get to watch unfold on your screen as two people join their lives in this really beautiful way. For all the pomp and circumstance in a wedding, and despite all the million things you have to arrange and coordinate, it all boils down to two people in front of the people that love them most, making a really profound promise to one another.
Heather: That’s exactly it. It really is like a fairy tale, and even though the settings vary, all weddings are about love – true love! And that’s magical. I think we’re very sentimental like that. It really is a joy to be at a wedding.
Heather: Weddings are such a display of creativity and emotion, and it sounds so cheesy, but as artists, we really do feed off of that kind of thing. And by now, we’ve gotten to sample cakes from half of the bakeries in the LA area, so that’s a huge plus.
5. Do you have any advice for brides and grooms?
Heather: Don’t sweat the small stuff! Actually, don’t even sweat the big stuff. There is a tendency to get really caught up in obsessing over the mechanics of the day, and I mean that stuff is absolutely important, but on the wedding day you should relax. You would not believe what we have seen go wrong, get mixed up, get forgotten, and I can assure you that all of our weddings have gone great and nobody, I mean nobody, really notices.
Nathan: I’ve been there! When I got married, we spent hours and hours, and weeks and months agonizing about every little thing; and then the day comes, and it’s so fast, and it’s so wonderful, and more than how the flowers are arranged or how the tables are set up, you find yourself caring about who you got to see and spend time with.
Heather: If I had to get into the nitty gritty of planning, I would say as a specific bit of advice, girls, make sure to give yourself enough breathing time for yourself in the morning. If you run behind in the morning it can throw off the rest of the day, and people don’t always estimate how long it takes to get all the hair and makeup done and all that.
Nathan: We recommend starting your day early and ease into it – have some breakfast, enjoy a few mimosas, hang out with your bridesmaids and groomsmen – and it will set the tone of your day really well. Whatever you do, do not stay out until 3 AM drinking the night before. You’ll need all your energy! Also, make sure that when you’re working with your officiant or DJ, you’ll be mic’d during your own vows. We have actually been in ceremonies where the audience cannot hear the couple’s vows because it’s only the officiant with the microphone and that is disappointing for everyone.
Heather: On the whole, we’re big fans of low-tech weddings. A really large number of well-meaning guests will lean into our shots with giant iPads, and it can ruin the footage. The moment’s going to be better anyway if everyone is watching you instead of recording you, so don’t be afraid to discourage guests.
Nathan: And get onto the dance floor with your new spouse! It always makes for fantastic footage to capture a couple dancing away the night.
6. Do you have any favorite wedding traditions or moments?
Heather: I’m resisting saying ‘cake’ for every answer… But in seriousness, my favorite moment is actually when the bride’s veil is being pinned on. I think there’s something so timeless and beautiful about that moment.
Nathan: It’s a classic answer, but I love the look on a groom’s face when he sees his bride for the first time. The grooms that are criers are my favorite. It’s just such a great moment.
7. How do you feel videography differs from photography on the wedding day and why do you feel it is important?
Heather: I forget where I heard this, but there was a study done that asked people whether they’d rather have a photo of a deceased love one or a recording of their voice; most people actually chose the voice recording and for some reason that’s always stuck with me. Pictures are beautiful and wonderful and you will have that frame on your mantelpiece for the rest of your life – but with video you get to hear your father say a few words. You get to relive that moment in time, not just remember it, and I think there’s something really powerful about that.
Nathan: I love photography, I got my start in photography. So of course, I also believe there is an incredible power in a single perfect image. But I think filmmaking has a unique ability to immerse you completely in the sights and sounds and feeling of the day.
Heather: Because I was a film major, I can wax poetic on the power of the moving image-
Nathan: Was this question meant in a practical way? Photographers and cinematographers care about very different things on the day of. We really care about the speeches and the ceremony, and capturing both image and sound, and it’s incredibly important that we know what’s going to happen in advance, so we can be set up and ready to go from the moment someone starts speaking.
Heather: I think we’re both looking for moments, but obviously thinking about them in different ways. Photography is just an entirely different beast from video. But they complement each other, absolutely.