When I began James Lee Films in the middle of 2012, I actually did not have an established business plan for the company; all I knew was that I had found my passion and was yearning to pursue it freely. I was naive, and excitingly so, about owning a creative business – and balancing the creativity and the business of it. I was shy (and still am a bit), but the nature of this business pulled me out of my shell and challenged me to build genuine relationships with people who otherwise would be complete strangers to me. The responsibility of owning a business also pushed me to think deeper on my responsibilities in other aspects of my life (family/home, school, church, etc.). Now, as I come close to finishing up the last edit of our 2012 couples, I look back to where I started and realize I have come a very long way. After so many lessons and joys, so many tears and much laughter, I’m excited to share with you all that we are booking many new awesome couples for 2013 and receiving inquiries for 2014 as well. Where I stand now is truly an exciting place, and before I begin running with 2013 and beyond, today I wanted to share with you the precious lessons I had learned in 2012…
1) It takes Passion – When I sat down during the reception of the first wedding I shot (Kirim and David’s), I remember feeling every muscle in my body aching and my stomach growling angrily at its human that was rejecting its signals because of hours and hours of in-taking adrenaline. I realize I could have thought at that moment: ‘This sucks.’ But instead, I remember thinking: ‘This is awesome.’ The opportunity to be at a key moment of someone’s life and being entrusted with the task of capturing that day to keep forever – and be given only one shot at it – somehow was exhilarating to me. It gave me a stress that did not break me, but made me. It was because I had a genuine and bursting passion for wedding filmmaking that I was able to push myself further and further.
2) It takes Wisdom – In a short period of time, I began to realize while I established James Lee Films as an outlet to my creativity, James Lee Films was becoming a beast that could potentially take over my life. Thus one of the most important lessons I learned this first year was that I needed to find balance in my work – and it’s a lesson I need to remind myself almost daily. At first I was asking questions such as: “What do I say when I first meet with couples?” or “How should I start my feature film?” or “What’s the most cost-effective way to do XYZ?” – but later I begin asking: “What does it mean to spend time with my wife this evening rather than update my blog?” It took wisdom to begin asking these questions and seeking balance in my life.
3) It takes Humility – One of the key statements I heard from all top wedding cinematography professionals is to always be open to learning, as the industry is constantly changing. The top this year may not be so the next if they were to become complacent and refuse change. To always seek education meant to remain humble and willing to learn. In 2012, I have had some incredible education opportunities, including stillmotion’s KNOW, which came to UniquePhoto in Fairfield, NJ. It was perhaps one of the greatest $250 I’ve spent, as my mind was blown in so many ways and I left from there to go on and make fresh films with deeper stories. I also indulged in creativeLIVE, and went on to purchase the intensive seminars on wedding filmmaking by Rob Adams. Again, worth every penny. I purpose to always remain humble and seek to learn from others, because it is only then, I believe, I can continue to make innovative and lasting films.
4) It takes Faith – Even after all of these things, there are so many intricate details that I can in no way manage or control. When equipment fails and/or is damaged on the day; when figuring out taxes gets overwhelming; when edits pile up and at first I can’t see the end… in all of this I learned to accept that I cannot control everything, and especially in those areas I can’t, I take a deep breath and let God. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but scripture reminds me to be honest and transparent with my couples, to do business law-abidingly and respectfully, and to uphold a good name. And God works in great ways in bringing me peace through the frequent storms.
I feel so blessed and humbled that every day I can wake up and create films. Thank you couples and clients of 2012 for trusting in me to capture your day, and for allowing me to witness the joy it brought in your life. I hope to share even more joy with all of you in 2013 and beyond.
Photographer: Scott Tsai. (http://www.scotttsai.com/)