A Wedding at the Majestic Downtown LA
For the last three years, I’ve started my ‘official season’ with a wedding in Los Angeles. This year was no different. I was to be wedding cinematographer for Tess and Arya at their Wedding at the Majestic Downtown LA.
Our winter here in the UK passes without much opportunity to film. Then in a heartbeat, I’m suddenly five thousand miles away from home, Leica in hand, ready once again to capture the most important day of someones life. I worry that I won’t be able to shoot. That I’ll get nervous and forget what I’ve being doing successfully on a weekly basis for well over a decade. I worry that I’ve lost my people skills. That my ability to judge situations throughout a wedding will have faded. Five minutes into Tess and Arya’s Wedding at the Majestic Downtown and I’m fine.
It’s second nature to me. I realise once again that it’s my eyes that are the tool and not the camera. Seek, record, move, repeat. Enjoy the day. Celebrate with the couple. Shoot from the perspective of a guest. Shoot from the inside not as an outsider trying to peer in. Seek, record, move, repeat.
The Majestic in downtown took me by surprise. I’ve worked as a wedding cinematographer in Los Angeles frequently over the last few years yet every single ceremony has been held outside in the glorious hazy Californian sunlight. This wedding at the Majestic in downtown LA was a totally different beast. Proceedings started late so I had no natural light work with and just ninety minutes in which all the action took place. Myself of eight years ago would have struggled to deal with many of the scenes and situations before me. The darkness added a sophistication to the wedding. An elegance that can only be found at night. It made me work hard and seek shots rather than being handed them on a plate.
A former Bank of America headquarters, it only dawned on me when I returned to my hotel that night, just how many movies had been located in the Majestic. There’s a cool link to their official website at the bottom of this post with a number of youtube clips .
I spoke to Tess and Arya by Skype late last year and we broke down their expectations for their Wedding at the Majestic Downtown. It seems stupid to mention but as the connection was made, Arya noticed that we were wearing the same hat. It’s a small thing but the more I travel for weddings the more I’m realising that my couples need to feel a connection with me. Sure they’re attracted to my style of films but it has to go beyond that.
I want to feel like we could hang out, go for food, share a joke, drink a beer. There has to be more of a connection than being simply the film guy. If you’re bringing someone five thousand miles to hang out with your nearest and dearest, you need to feel something for them beyond a professional capacity. So anyway, It was only a hat, but I think it may have sealed the deal in some strange way.
The day before the wedding at the Majestic Downtown I took an Uber across Los Angeles to Tess and Arya’s apartment. More so than any wedding day, this genuinely always freaks me out for a few moments. On the day of the wedding itself, everything is unfamiliar to everyone. No one really knows what to expect next. Entering someone’s home is different. I’m entering their private space, sitting on their chairs, drinking their coffee.
I looked around the room and things felt familiar to me. I noticed we shared the same record player, art, and at least three of the same coffee table books. Another connection. I hadn’t started work yet but I was instantly at ease. We chatted for a while then drove up to Tess’s parents house in the beautiful hills above Los Angeles for their pre wedding party. I met their friends, drank beers, ate Tacos and generally made myself a familiar face for the following day.
Keeping it real
Tess and Arya requested what, in my heart I wish every wedding was like – A totally natural approach with nothing in the slightest scripted, posed, or false. No couples shots, no positioning. 100% Documentary 100% Real. Yet again another connection. The wedding should be about the couple, not about the photographer and cinematographer. It seems totally unnatural to me to ask a couple to perform for the camera. I say it time and time again to my couples. There’s enough real action going on. I don’t need to fake anything. It’s a wedding not a movie.
Tess and Arya are beautiful souls who didn’t want to create what wasn’t real. They joined their guests from the first minute. There was no fancy reveal. They prepared together and walked together down the aisle as a couple during the processional. Their Persian Jewish wedding at the Majestic Downtown was a fresh approach that ignored traditional but felt right in every way. And for that, I take my hat off to them.
Ara + Chris / Malibu
If you like this wedding at the Majestic Downtown we think you’ll also love Ara and Chris’ beach side wedding at home in Malibu
More about our Weddings in Los Angeles?
Getting married in Los Angeles Learn more about Philip’s work in LA here