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Geoffrey Chandler May 13th, 2011 06:34 AM

Indian Wedding
For a regular "American wedding" I deliver a 20-30 minute "feature film" along with lightly edited raw footage. I sell a 3-5 min highlight reel as an extra add on.

I am meeting a couple this afternoon to discuss hiring me to produce a film for their traditional Indian wedding. I understand there are two full days of events starting with an engagement ceremony Friday and an engagement party/dance that night along with the actual wedding and reception on Saturday. I'm wondering what product I should deliver?? Should I make a separate film for Friday and Saturday?

Thanks for anyone with experience with this!


Chris Harding May 13th, 2011 07:04 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
Hi Geoff

I shy clear of ethnic weddings totally!! I have been burnt once too often!!! We have lots of Indian couples here and if they share the same culture they truly expect you to film everything non-stop. Doing it on your own would be an exhausting venture... they are seldom interested in anything creative (however most here love the 80's style "floating hearts across the screen" and lots of fancy transitions) Unless the USA immigrants are different you will suck in a good 8 -10 hours of footage on your camera and they want every minute of it too!!! My local service station attendant had his wedding shot back in India and he has a pile of DVD's of the event...even at receptions you are expected to cover things like food serving and even guests eating and when they dance or have their rituals (and there are plenty of them!!) they must be captured faithfully without skipping a beat.

If you do it, be prepared for a long haul and certainly don't attempt it on your own!! I would consider it only with at least two other camera persons!!

Actually we have a local photographer who is Chinese and refuses to do his own people ... they expect everything and want to pay nothing so he only does Western weddings


George Kilroy May 13th, 2011 08:10 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
I did a similar one a few months ago, having vowed not to do one again after experiences I've had in the past. When they engaged me I told them how I work, what I look for and how I put it together and showed them samples of the work that I do. They were very happy and the bride said that the reason she wanted me was because she had been bridesmaid at an English wedding I had done and I was unobtrusive and every key part of the day was on the DVD yet it didn't go on and on (i.e. run for 6 hours). On that basis I took the booking. They were having a traditional Indian ceremony on the Saturday morning lasting about an hour followed by a civil official ceremony at a nearby hotel with traditional British reception/speeches and evening party. I priced and booked for that.

As the date approached the first "additional" request was for me to go along the evening before for about an hour to record a small pre-wedding ritual. I agreed to that and said I'd add a nominal charge to cover the time.

The day before the wedding she sent me the agenda which went like this.
Friday 5pm attend local hall to film families arriving and greeting bride's parents.
Then arrival of Indian musicians.
Then bride's Indian preparation ritual
Then presentation of wedding gifts to the bride's family
Then a meal
Then parading of the bride around the hall with Indian musicians
Finale everyone dancing to Musicians.
End at 11pm.

Be at the temple for 9am to film families arriving.
Arrival of groom and Indian ritual.
Travel with bride's brother to collect bride.
Film bride's final preparation at home and leaving the house.
Travel back to temple ahead of the bride to film her arriving.
11am Film the full Indian ceremony
Film families as they congratulate the couple and present them with prashad (gift of money).

2pm Arrival of groom at the hotel
Arrival of guests and bride
3pm civil ceremony
Photos at the hotel including a walk around the lake which is wanted on film.
5pm speeches followed by a meal which is to be filmed.
7.30 first dance followed by general dancing and interviews with guests.
10pm Bride and groom leaving with Indian ritual.
(they actually left at 12.30am)

She then had the cheek to call me and ask if I could revise my price as it seemed higher than expected, her mother (who had devised the agenda) said she had to ask me to reduce the price. This
was on the day before the wedding.

I did do the wedding (but not reduce the price) but that, and the 'snagging list' of requests afterwards, is another story.

I don't wish to put a damper on anyones enthusiasm nor subdue their appetite for a challenge, but as Chris said, Asian families do have very particular requirements for wedding coverage, much of which you'll only be told about on the day. If you are unfamiliar with the reality of an Indian wedding get yourself up to speed and prepared for what will be expected. You will be there to work hard. If you are seen standing someone - bride's brother or uncle - will find you something to film.

Having said that you'll get some beautiful images to work with.

Just to give you an idea of the final offering.
I usually provide a 60-75 min edited douc style which includes the main part of the ceremony and full speeches plus a 5 minute highlights.
For the one above they had two DL discs of over 5 hours and still were picky about things that weren't on there such as an aunt talking to her on the Friday (she was sure she saw me filming) not enough shots of people eating at the temple after the wedding, her brother doing a particular dance at night, her favourite aunt saying goodbye at the end out of about 50 people milling around the car (in a dark car park at 12.30am). That's just part of the list.

Chris Harding May 13th, 2011 08:35 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
Hi George

Glad it's not only me!! Asian and Middle-Eastern cultures are brought up with a completely different approach to a business transaction. In the Western world we transact on a "win-win" transaction where one party pays for services from the other party and both win.

Other cultures are brought up with a win-lose approach where the buyer needs to appear the winner in the deal and services procured are done so eventually at a greatly lower price so the service provider is the loser. Just bear this in mind when negotiating your price and make provision to be beaten down a fair bit or provide lots of extras at no cost. It's a natural way of life for them and I would suspect they the service provider begins with a grossly inflated price to allow for the bartering/haggling and also covering the provision of freebies and extras at no cost.

I think the other major issue is that in India videographers tend to work for almost nothing so brides expect the same sort of deal elsewhere. One would-be client was "outraged" at my prices when he contacted me. In India the ceremonies and rituals done over a 3 day period had cost him less than $300.00 and he expected me to do just a 6 hour reception for the same sort of figure. Luckily I told him I was booked on that day!!

My website now actually states that I only do Western Style weddings ... once bitten twice shy!!!

Geoff unless you seriously need the work I would think hard before accepting it ...it's a lot more in it than you think... !!


Jeff Harper May 13th, 2011 08:53 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
I usually refer Indian customers to a friend of mine who does most of them around Cincinnati.

I've done one. If you know how to horse trade, and want to see a spectacle unlike any other, do it. They are stunningly beautiful affairs, your video will look amazing, as the affairs are usually brightly lit, and the colors of the clothing everyone wears is fantastic.

The young people all appear to be beautiful or handsome, as the case may be, and Indian weddings are unforgettable events.

On the other hand, most Americans are unfamiliar with the Indian way of doing business, and therein lies the problem, exactly as Chris has said.

I have consulted with a few Indian couples, and it often gets ugly before the contract is signed. If you do not know what you are doing and are not a master of negotiation, avoid it. When the parents get involved, it gets worse, and the parents are always involved.

I personally am not equipped with the negotiating or dimplomatic skills necessary to work with Indain families, but I truly wish I did. They are amazing affairs.

Google "Pacific Pictures" to see what they look first hand if you haven't already.

Geoffrey Chandler May 13th, 2011 08:56 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
Thanks for the personal experiences. That info will make me a little more savvy as I meet the couple. When talking on the phone, they are interested in a "wedding film" that they understand will be 20-30 minutes in length - that's what I do. When we meet in person, I will ask them to tell me what they want to make sure we are on the same page. I will quote them a price that will take into account 2 full days. I'm thinking it would be like doing two weddings in one weekend, so I will price it that way. BTW- I will be using two camera people and one awesome assistant.

Jeff Harper May 13th, 2011 08:58 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
You sound like a lamb being led to the slaughter, good luck. Let us know how it turns out!

Noel Lising May 13th, 2011 09:04 AM

Re: Indian Wedding
I have done Indian weddings and I usually deliver 2 disc, marked day 1 and day 2. I have to agree though that some (but its is a minority) tend to haggle. Rather than give in I just tell them I'll give them extra DVD copies of their weddings.

George Kilroy May 13th, 2011 09:32 AM

Re: Indian Wedding

Originally Posted by Jeff Harper (Post 1648791)
When the parents get involved, it gets worse, and the parents are always involved.

I think that has always been the difficulty in my experience in the past. The couple seem fine with agreeing to my style and what their friend have and that's why I've gone ahead with it, but as soon as it's booked the parents (bride's mother) take over.

But as you said Jeff they are an amazing visual spectacle which will provide hours of colourful images, and very few shy people.

Dave Blackhurst May 13th, 2011 12:20 PM

Re: Indian Wedding
I know sometime I'd be tempted to do one, just for the visuals...

That said, I learned long ago in business that there are to put it politely, "cultural differences", which were well outlined above.

In the US we go to the store, look at the price on the shelf, and if acceptable we buy... bing, bang, boom... buyer happy, seller happy.

In other cultures, the "bargaining" is a major part of the transaction - think a open air bazzar, where the wares are displayed without prices, and the "art" is in the bargaining of the deal - eventually the "fair value" is determined based upon the skills of each party, and may not be the same for the next transaction.

I learned in another business that when "certain" customers with such backgrounds came in, I immediately quoted about double my usual rates, then took pleasure in the ensuing banter about many things, including the price, which was eventually agreed to be about my "normal" rate... I highly suggest that this strategy be considered...

If you quoted a outrageously high rate to a "westerner", they will usually just walk away and go elsewhere... to the "eastern" (there are LOTS of cultures with this mindset, not just the ones mentioned) buyer, this is an invitation to a spirited detbate and discourse over how you can charge such an outrageous fee, and this is part of "getting to know you", after which they expect a "friendly" price.

The parents are more likely to have been raised completely in such a culture, the offspring will probably be more westernized, so you have to take this into account - I'd fully expect the "deal" won't be "final" until the parents come in and "negotiate"...

Just a few observations from the "walk of life". Personally I find myself fascinated by other cultures, and don't mind learning the differences and how to work within them, if that's not your mindset, you might find it rather frustrating! I worked in an electronics chain store that was situated on the "borders" of multiple immigrant communities, most struggling to speak English and transact business - the other sales people wouldn't touch these customers, as they couldn't "speak the lingo", so I always took the challenge and learned to transact in a combination of gestures, language learning, and patience... I took home lots of "bonuses" for making sales to good buyers, when we could barely communicate. There are rewards in addition to challenges!

Philip Howells May 13th, 2011 08:55 PM

Re: Indian Wedding

I'd be tempted to recommend the most annoying "artistic" DLSR shooter I know.

Just kidding boys, just kidding.

D.J. Ammons May 13th, 2011 09:23 PM

Re: Indian Wedding
I have enjoyed this thread a lot. Both amusing and educational. I will NOT be booking Asian weddings. I can appreciate the cultural differences but I am not into the haggling and as part of our contract we retain creative control over the edited / delivered discs.

The spectacle does sound amazing but I will be content with viewing some other videographers work!

I can't wait for Geoffrey to report back on this thread how everything goes if they hire him.

Jeff Harper May 13th, 2011 09:38 PM

Re: Indian Wedding
Anyone that hasn't seen City of Lakes (Indian wedding film) do yourself a favor and check it out. At about 6:30 there is a music video. Pretty amazing stuff. Go ahead and turn HD off for faster loading. You don't need HD, the video is pristine, all shot with 7Ds, I believe.

Philip Howells May 13th, 2011 09:59 PM

Re: Indian Wedding
DJ makes good points and represents the view of many who participate here. I certainly concur with the no haggling about the money part - we have a clear legal and binding contract and if clients fail to make the final payment they don't get the delivery.

But, and it's a big but.

Unless we see ourselves as Wedding Steven Spielbergs don't we risk the accusation of arrogance if we stick rigidly to the line that we are the creatives and you chose us as you'd choose a portrait artist on the basis of his previous work? In other words, take it or leave it. Of course, we are generally the experts in the relationship but I subscribe to the more modest view that whilst our expertise is undeniable, the clients are paying the bill.

I've recently gone through a lengthy approval, drawn out by the clients moving from the district and working overseas for a period. The bride sent me a lengthy 10 point message regarding the changes she and her husband wanted. Our first reaction was concern that so much was not right, especially as our processing means we get pretty tight specs from our clients.

However, when we examined the list more carefully, the requests were based really on a lack of understanding of the production techniques/limitations etc. It's one of the drawbacks of being accepted as the expert. The client wants shots of an ad hoc, unplanned event which happened in virtual darkness. Instead of taking offence at the "unreasonable demand", we needed to explain why it wasn't possible to record the sequence.

OK so the explanation required a longish message but the outcome was that the client understood why they couldn't have what hadn't been recorded, they understood why we chose to include the sequences we did and could choose whether to accept an alternative which was technically inferior but, because of the people in the sequence, their preference. For our part we could easily accommodate the other, smaller and less demanding changes.

The result is a programme which the clients regard as perfect, not necessarily in my technical or creative eyes but in theirs. In the balance involved in satisfying the client, I'm content to lose a little creative control without taking offence.

Chris Harding May 13th, 2011 10:00 PM

Re: Indian Wedding
Hi Philip

I expected you to chip in with a comment, of course!!
Actually the rituals are quite fascinating and extremely colourful but they do go on for ages so it is painful to shoot!! When I still did ethnic weddings I expected the henna ritual to last a few minutes at most so I went handheld...bad choice!!! The rituals are highly detailed and precise and take absolute ages so you will have tons of footage.
I think it's absolutely essential to have some sort of understand of what will happen during each "process" otherwise it's easy to miss sections that you might think are un-important but are a critical part of the ceremonial procedure.

I found also that the "young 'uns" become quite "westernised" and are easy to deal with but as already said you need to satisfy the parents otherwise you will get into all sorts of arguments of why you didn't cover this and that!! With ethnic cultures the parents are still the bosses!!!


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