Chủ Nhật, 1 tháng 6, 2014

Love in the time of instagram

Photo by Jilson Seckler Tiu

It was the video that got everyone talking. Running less than three minutes and uploaded on Vimeo on November 26, 2010, the controversial clip turned Jason Magbanua into the bad boy of prenuptial videos.

Photo by Jilson Seckler Tiu

The video featured then engaged couple Maggie Wilson and businessman Victor Consunji making out in several settings: indoors, in a sports car and finally, underwater, to the dream-like tune of Portishead’s “Glory Box.”

Released just weeks before the couple’s wedding, it definitely had an impact on the romance-oriented Pinoy.

Wrote the Inquirer: “The video, shot by wedding videographer Jason Magbanua, is the raciest prenup video we’ve ever seen. It shows VJ and former Bb. Pilipinas Maggie Wilson and real estate scion Victor Consunji in various states of undress, in bed, in the pool, in the car, kissing, touching, taking more clothes off. Hot? Sexy? Wild? Tacky? Inappropriate? Practically pornographic? We’re still deciding.”

It is still widely considered the hottest pre-wedding video ever.

Television reporters asked Magbanua to comment, but back then, he declined.

Today, he looks back at the controversy from a more philosophical perspective: “It was amazing and funny at the same time because it wasn’t your typical pre-wedding shoot. It touched a lot of different people’s nerves. My take on it is: ‘Ay, conservative pa rin pala ang Pilipinas (Wow, the Philippines is still conservative after all),”’ the 39-year-old Magbanua explains.

Photo by Jilson Seckler Tiu

He goes on to clarify the back story behind the video: It was the couple’s idea to do scenes that steamy, with the initial meeting done in the presence of the bride’s parents.

“It was a celebration of their bodies at their peak, although Maggie and Vic still look hot now,” says the videographer who says he didn’t usually shoot this sort of fare. In fact, he was initially uncomfortable about it that he had eschewed a full crew and settled on just himself and another camera operator.

He has changed his mind since then: “It was great. I didn’t really realize that, wow, so many hits on YouTube, so much drama about it,”

He adds: “It is what is what it is. If it was the (couple’s) intention to be sensational, well and good, that goal was achieved.”

Serendipitously, the Wilson-Consunji video made Magbanua a hot conversation topic while he was already the country’s most sought-after wedding videographer.

It wasn’t anything he planned, says Jason Roderick Osete Magbanua who first fell in love with video work while an AB Economics major at the Ateneo de Manila University, when he held a video camera for the first time in his life. He loved doing camera work so much that he shifted to AB Communication, graduating in 1995.

But back then, he didn’t see himself working professionally in video. “I’m not really a forward thinking person,” he admits. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do, except that I was going to make the most of learning and learn whatever I can. Bahala na what I will be after.”

Initially, he wanted to teach, so he moved to Lucena City where he taught at Sacred Heart College for five years. His students on video production would often ask him to shoot their older siblings’ weddings, and he said, “Yes, why not?”

It was extra income for him, he says, plus he liked what he did. “I was able to apply techniques I saw in the movies and taught in the classroom. I thought I can make them better. I can use better music, different shots, a variety of angles. I can make the product more appealing, more cinematic.”

FROM NUMBERS TO IMAGES: Lihan is a savant with numbers who discovered photography. PDI Photo/Jason Seckler Tiu

As his clientele in Quezon province grew, he found himself hopping on a bus to shoot weddings in Villa Escudero or in Manila. He was shooting so many weddings he was missing classes.

“So I reached a crossroads,” Magbanua recalls.  Did he want to have a steady paycheck or did he want to take the risk and start his own business?

In 2000, Magbanua decamped to a studio apartment in Manila and threw himself into his fledgling wedding video business. The one-man operation saw him doing 10 weddings a year, and charging P15,000 for each wedding.

“I got lucky with my initial clientele because they had a good profile,” he says. “They knew a lot of people who were also getting married.”

His first celebrity wedding, he recounts, was that of former actor Monsour del Rosario.  After that, his name became associated with those of class-A wedding planners.

“Everything skyrocketed in 2006 when I did Claudine Barretto’s wedding,” he says.  He has since done almost all the big celeb weddings, including the Judy Ann Santos-Ryan Agoncillo’s nuptials in 2009. He also did the wedding video for the popular love team of Maya and Sir Chief from the TV series, “Be Careful With My Heart.”

HAVE LOVE, WILL TRAVEL: Lihan has done prenup and wedding videos all over the world, and hopes to fill her coming world tour with more shoots. PDI Photo/Jilson Seckler Tiu

When you get hired for fictional weddings, you know you’ve arrived.

Success has meant bigger, better video toys and appurtenances for this videographer.  Magbanua’s studio is located in a townhouse in Palm Village, Makati, that has its own mini-theater for viewing videos and a conference room for meeting prospective clients.

He now runs a 25-man operation although he still personally shoots each of the 80 weddings he does in a year, although he has imposed on himself the implacable rule of doing only one wedding a day.

How times have changed indeed:  From P15,000, his basic wedding package now costs P150,000, or ten times what he used to charge when he was starting out.   Despite the hefty cost, he routinely turns down clients because he is always fully booked.

And that’s just for weddings.  The pre-wedding videos are a different matter altogether. The love child of the business presentation and the home video, pre-wedding videos were originally known by the generic tag “audio-visual presentation,” or AVP, that were shot by wedding videographers almost as an afterthought in the days or weeks leading to the wedding so that guests at the reception had something to view while tucking into their meal.

Then everything changed, thanks to computer technology.

“My career is parallel to the development of the Internet,” says Magbanua. “Even when I still couldn’t post videos online, I already had e-mail and that helped generate word of mouth.”

One of the transformative technologies is the same-day edit, which allowed wedding videographers and photographers alike to show wedding guests the video and photos they shot of the wedding during the reception, with sometimes just an hour or two between them.

The Internet Age also allowed videographers and photographers to post and upload their work online, something very useful for  couples who want to announce their engagements and reinforce the save-the-date announcement in style.

Magbanua’s first pre-wedding videos were quite traditional. But as he got used to shooting this genre, he got better and more ambitious. “To be honest, it’s additional income for me, as well as another form of artistic expression outside of the wedding,” he says. “You can’t control the wedding—it’s an event by the numbers. This is one way to show we can do other stuff.”

While the wedding itself tends to be a collaborative experience for the couple with their parents, the pre-wedding video is purely the turf of the  bride and groom: They make all the decisions themselves.

During those early days, recalls Magbanua, the clients wanted the pre-wedding video as a throw-in, an extra or a free service courtesy of the photographer hired to do the wedding shots. “Utang ng loob  (a goodwill gesture from the photographer),” he recalls. “Then soon you realize, wow, this is more difficult to do that the actual wedding! It was tough because people would demand things of us that we wouldn’t do for weddings, complete with concepts, styling, production design, and location. This has to be treated differently because it has evolved.”

So Magbanua began charging for it. “It’s different because it’s not just a matter of shooting, but has a dynamic of its own.”

He has a very popular Vimeo micro-site where he posts all his pre-wedding and wedding vids and they aren’t cheap. The pre-wedding videos can be just a few minutes long, but Magbanua charges a minimum of P75,000 for a single video. He has shot an estimated 250 pre-wedding videos in places such as San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong and Singapore, and almost all the romantic destinations in the Philippines.

Among the hundreds of pre-wedding videos he’s done, there a 2009 fully-scripted work he’ll never forget. “I think that was my favorite because I was pushed to show what I could do. It was like I did a short film for that couple. It was not as viral as the other videos but it holds a special place in my heart. I think I can only do one of that in a year. It was taxing but it really showed in narrative form that the couple was meant for each other, and that the girl changed the guy’s life when they met.”

Magbanua may enjoy the shoot, but he also hates being micro-managed by his subjects.  In fact, it takes a lot out of him to control the urge to snap back at the couple, “This is why you hired me; let me do my job.”

Still, those difficult videos will be shot and delivered. “But because I don’t consider them my work anymore, they will never be posted on the Net.”

The most common local venue is definitely Tagaytay,  he says.  If the clients are busy, the Ninoy Aquino Parks Wildlife and the La Mesa Eco-Park are close by. He has shot in beaches like Boracay and Bohol, and he loves shooting in these locations.

“From the point of view of the filmmaker, you can do a lot. Inherently, there is beauty. You have sunsets and you have sand. It’s already romantic by itself,” he explains.

It wasn’t all about the videos, of course. Photographs used to be the definitive way of preserving wedding memories, until the images began to move. Wedding photographers are considered an essential part of wedding planning—especially if you want a good one.

As the market for pre-wedding pictorials grew, the talent rose to match it.

Certainly Jamie Lihan also has an unusual story in terms of her becoming a wedding photographer.

Jamie Anne Chua Lihan is a savant with numbers and can remember a remarkable string of numbers with accuracy. For example, she can recite the numbers of her contacts on the phone. “Just in case I need to call someone if my phone dies,” the 32-year-old Lihan says.

She excelled in math and chess in high school, graduated from the Ateneo de Manila in 2003 with a degree in Management Engineering, and earned her MBA on a scholarship in 2007. The skill with numbers is also useful when she teaches business statistics and applied mathematics at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

“I enjoy making things simpler for students but I hate speaking in front of people,” she admits.

Lihan discovered photography shortly after graduation. A painting teacher in Ateneo recommended that she take a photography workshop at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, something she discovered she really enjoyed.

Although she had been working in real estate by then, she decided to go for broke and became an apprentice photographer at Imagine Nation Photography, the studio of wedding photography titan John Mateos Ong. Now a Master Photographer at Imagine Nation, Lihan does some 60 weddings a year.

She began doing pre-wedding pictorials as soon as she joined the studio. “There was a demand even then, but things were simpler, there was no stylist,” she recalls. “I think by 2011, shoots began to get more complicated. It became an extra, an option that we could give and one couples usually got because it’s uso (fashionable).”

The challenge in pre-wedding pictorials is simple: “You’re supposed to capture their (love) story in one take. I think that’s challenging,” says Lihan.

Additionally, the pre-wedding photographer has to get the prospective bride and groom to relax, and to act as if the photographer isn’t there. “I think pre-wedding photos are more relaxed. The couple can take its time. They’ll have beautiful photos of themselves, unlike during the wedding when things can get hectic. Here, there’s no stress. Also, if the couple doesn’t have many photos of themselves, this would be the perfect time to catch up on that.”

Lihan’s rates start at P75,000 for the wedding itself, and P15,000 for the pre-wedding pictorials.

She savors shooting outside the country, and has done pre-wedding pictorials in Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, England and Japan, among other countries. She remembers fondly a 2012 shoot in Scotland, “Everywhere you looked, you could shoot it.” There was a street she didn’t even get to the end of because she found so many places to shoot. “No permits required,” she adds.

Locally, she shoots a lot at the Ronac Art Center in San Juan, the Greenery Bulacan and Intramuros in Manila. “They each have a different feel,” she explains.

The pre-wedding shoots have their own challenges. If it’s outdoors and it rains, that can be a problem, Lihan explains. “But if it’s indoors, there should be something different. If there’s none, then it’s also hard.”

Her pet peeve, she says, is how, during weddings, some couples don’t want to be photographed. “If they didn’t want us to shoot them, why are we here? For the portraits, you need a variety of shots, but you get some clients who, after just two shots, would say, ‘OK, we’re done!’”

Like Magbanua, Lihan also recognizes the importance of the Internet in her work. “Some guests may not be able to come to the wedding so they can just view the event via Internet. We had an American couple who got married in Siargao, but their families couldn’t attend so the photos were just sent online.”

There are perks to the job as well: “I have my own schedule. I don’t have to work five days a week, eight hours a day. I can do what I want. I can travel.”

That’s what led to Lihan’s “world tour.” She is set to travel to seven countries this year and advertised on the Internet for wedding assignments while she’s there. “I just happened to have a lot of travel scheduled this year, and thought of filling them up with shoots,” she explains. She dreams of eventually getting to shoot in Africa.

In the meantime, there are more weddings and pre-weddings to shoot, more numbers to crunch and a career to burnish.

A necessary sacrifice for Jason Magbanua are his weekends. Since most weddings are scheduled on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, he knows his weekends are basically shot. He considers his Mondays his days off, and spends two days a week meeting booked or prospective clients. Otherwise, he stays home to play “NBA 2K” on the PlayStation 4, root for his beloved Houston Rockets or hang out with his kids: Jakob, 13, Lukas, 9, and Elise, 4.

Things have been different since the Wilson-Consunji video. “That’s hard to beat, and it’s an outlier because except for that one, what I shoot is usually general patronage,” he says.

Another of his videos has been a smash, “Biyahe ni Drew at Iya,” the pre-wedding video for Drew Arellano and Iya Villania. Set to the beat of The Black Keys’ “Have Love Will Travel,” the video shows the couple dancing, horsing around and going on a road trip. “The response to their video is really nice, but I’ve done videos for non-celebrities and when I look at the Internet hits, I can see that they’re appreciated as well.”

Magbanua says the demand for pre-wedding videos is pushing him and his contemporaries to push the boundaries. He is, for example, a big fan of Instagram. “I love Instagram,” he says enthusiastically. “Before, it has to be a song that’s two-and-a-half to three minutes. Now 15 seconds is enough. You say what you can say in that span of time and it still works.”

He sees pre-wedding videos getting even more complicated. “I guess it’s because the couple is paying a premium. They can say, I’ve seen this, I’ve seen that, show me something different.”

Costs are bound to soar as well. The most expensive pre-wedding video Magbanua has ever done costs a whopping P225,000 because it was a fully-scripted spectacle.

The cost has not deterred couples any, it seems.  In fact, Magbanua’s shooting sked is so full he started a second wedding video business called For You Are Mine, which operates out of his Makati studio as well and is handled by manager Therese Yee.

If Magbanua is already booked on your chosen date, he would then recommend his second team. “We’re turning down so much business it’s better if those jobs still go to us,” he says.

For You Are Mine is now doing some 50 weddings a year.

The wedding landscape is changing fast, Magbanua notes, adding that some things still amaze him. “I’ve done one same-sex wedding. Right now, I have three lesbian weddings on my calendar. I’m amazed that these same-sex couples are coming out and getting hitched, despite the difficulties they encounter because some venues don’t want them and some planners turn them down. That’s kind of sad for me because I’m very open to this kind of thing.  The bottom line is, they’re professing their love in front of family and friends regardless of their sexual orientation.

“But we’re in the Philippines. It’s going to take forever for same-sex marriage to find acceptance here.  But these are necessary baby steps, so kudos to these people for moving it forward.”

Filipinos love weddings, after all, and Jason Magbanua still catches himself being in awe of what he has experienced. “I just really feel that Filipinos value weddings so much that they’re willing to spend a lot.  Of course, I never advocate that couples go into debt just for a wedding… but here there’s no divorce and it’s very difficult to get an annulment. So they want to make it right, and cost is not that important. That’s why the wedding business is booming.  Personally, how a couple fits together is what’s important.  Our role is just to make sure they start their married life together with a bang.” •

For inquiries:

Jason Magbanua

141 Zodiac Street, Palm Village, Makati City, Philippines 1600

Landline: +63 (2) 895 7687

Mobile: +63 (928) 470 4145


Jamie Lihan

Imagine Nation Photography

17Q G. Araneta Ave., Quezon City


Toll Free: 1-800-3908769 (For US Residents)

Prepping for the Prenup

For engaged couples seeking a hassle-free and successful pre-wedding video, videographer supreme Jason Magbanua has the following tips:

Sky is the limit. If your wedding day is constrained with traditions and formality, the pre-wedding shoot is your chance to be more creative.

Make sure the pre-wedding shoot still reflects who you are. Don’t force the issue and place yourself in an uncomfortable situation.

Hire a stylist. Often, the vision of the photographer and videographer can be further realized by one who can execute the “look” and “feel” of the concept.

Have fun during the shoot. Don’t feel it’s an obligation. Let loose and enjoy. You get to be artistas for a day. Trust me, the images will come out better.

If on a budget, remember, these videos are NICE to have, not MUST haves.

For soon-to-be-wed twosomes looking forward to a great pre-wedding pictorial, ace photographer Jamie Lihan offers up these tips:

Choose the photographer who will suit the style of photos you want.

Brides can have their trial make up done during their pre-wedding shoot (so they can check if the style of their chosen makeup artist suits them).

Pick a venue that will match whatever concept the couple has in mind. Check if a permit is necessary.

The pre-wedding shoot is a good warm up for couples who are generally camera shy. You are able to build rapport with the photographer and it becomes easier on the wedding day.

It’s all about you. There can be so many themes and concepts. But remember that this shoot is about you two. So the photos should reflect what you want. Discuss this with your photographer so that he/she knows what the general feel of the photos should be.

Love in the time of instagram

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