Psychological Directing For Wedding Filmmakers
Using Attachment Theory To Direct Couples On Camera
For the experienced wedding videographer, there is one point in the day that we look forward to above anything else. Not the first kiss. Not the toasts. Not the first dance. Not even that big moment when the bride starts walking down the aisle with tears in her eyes.
It’s the photo session.
Although the wedding planner calls this the photo session, this is typically the only time us filmmakers have to film our cinematic session.
The hour we usually have to ourself and couple is our time to be the most innovative without being held to the timeline of a sermon or speech. It is our secret sauce that turns our bread and butter video into a delicacy of wedding cinema. But how do we do this?
There are a number of ways to record a wedding video, but the way we choose to direct our couples puts a personalized stamp on our work. And although there are infinite ways to do this, I believe the best way to direct a couple is to fully understand the couple in love.
Fully understanding how partners interact helps us filmmakers fully, easily, and seamlessly direct the ordinary into believable Hollywood actors. If you can understand people, you can understand how to direct them.
READING AND DIRECTING WEDDING COUPLES
There are many ways to read people - like their body language, their tone of voice, and their energy - but getting deep into their psyche is the most fundamental and reliable way to understand and guide them. We do this by studying Attachment Theory.
As previously mentioned, Attachment Theory describes how individuals come to attach and behave with others, especially their significant others. We do this in 4 styles: Secure Attachment, Anxious Attachment, Avoidant Attachment, and Disorganized Attachment.
Although I will be touching on each attachment style below, you can click here for more in-depth knowledge on each.
The following sections aim to take what we know of each attachment style and apply it to wedding film directing.
Directing The Secure Individual
With their partners, secure individuals are very open, easily adapting to the emotional environment they’re in. Specifically around the camera, they tend to be very obedient and energized to work with filmmakers and their partner. For these individuals, basically anything goes.
Give your partner a big bear hug for me.
Play with each other’s hands as you whisper what you love about each other.
Say something that you know will make your partner laugh.
Tickle your partner where they’re most ticklish.
With your eyes closed and foreheads touching, I want you to rub her back to keep her warm and close.
Grab him by the cheeks and bring his face in for a long kiss.
Sing me your favourite song together.
Dance to your favourite song together.
Although this is not an exhaustive list of prompts, as many variations on this playfulness can come out of nowhere, this is what us as wedding filmmakers search for. The hidden candid moments that make the couple seem like they’re a Hollywood couple in love. These are the ideal scenarios and playfulness we wish to bring about in our couples. But unfortunately this is not always the case.
One of them may be too shy, try to overact, or just freeze under confusion at what’s happening. Let’s take a look at these types of individuals as they try to interact for a couple video session.
Directing The Anxious Individual
The anxious individuals (also called ambivalent) tend to have a strong need for their partner, and it shows as overacting in front of the camera. There is strong anxiety, clinginess, and the need for reassurance when they feel their relationship at risk or not looking like their idea of an ideal couple (almost always with overreaction). This manifests as overacting in love for the camera and is awkwardly noticeable.
Psychologically, this happens due to their early care-giver’s inconsistent receptivity and affection, causing them to continually protest for attention. They come to highly rely on others for acceptance when it has already been given. It’s our job to help regulate and calm down any signs of this extreme sensitivity.
One looks too involved and the other not at all. In order to bring down the overacting, here are a few prompts for the couple to go through:
Quietly in your partner’s ear, whisper 3 things they did this past month that you absolutely loved.
With your eyes closed, temples touching, and hands held together tight, list 5 things about your partner that you are thankful for.
Playing with each other’s hands and directly looking in to each other’s eyes, I want you to say “I love you” to each other over and over, but starting with a whisper and getting louder and louder and louder each time.
Carry your partner down this path while describing 3 vacation places you want to take her.
These are a few co-regulating questions that help the anxious partner become more trusting, secure and authentically open with their partner. They want to know their partner is there for them, they listen to them, and they are appreciated. This leads to being openly directed in a safe and secure way (as mentioned with secure attachment).
Directing the Avoidant Individual
The avoidant individuals are those who tend to keep intimacy at arm’s length. They show minimal effort and engagement while on camera with their partner. Detached, insensitive, cold, workaholic - all words that the typical avoidant is described by.
Psychologically, growing up, they felt neglected or left out from their caregivers, leading their subconscious into believing there isn’t a point in getting close to anyone.
Commonly they are the male figure who acts almost too cool to put importance on the film being made (NOTE: They may have grown extremely secure with their partner, but have not grown to be as easily accepting with new people; i.e. - us filmmakers). No hate to these individuals, as everyone has their own interests and not-so-interests. But as wedding filmmakers, it’s our job to help guide these “I hate being on camera” people into “I look like a movie star in this” people.
In order to bring them into a good, safe, and relaxing state to be directed in a secure manner, here are a few prompts to bring out their trusting connection on camera:
Start a game of patty-cake with each other, slowly getting faster and faster.
Think of a movie you both like, and play a game of charades to help the other guess what movie it is.
Pick an old song you can slow dance to, keeping your eyes locked on each other while holding each other tight.
With your arm around your partner and walking down this path, name 3 things that your partner does that makes you so proud of them.
The name of the game here is to get the avoidant individual to reach out. To show appreciation and love without being caught up in his or her own world. As most avoidants often get lost in thought, it takes patience for you to guide them out of their hole. Joint attention with their partner, meaningful eye contact with their partner, and an empathic appreciation for their partner who may not have the same self-sufficiency as them. These are just a few ways to transition them into a secure behaviour for the camera.
Directing The Disorganized Individual
Now the fourth and final attachment style - the disorganized. They desperately want to feel close attachment, but also hold in them a fear of those they wish to attach to. This confusing and disorganized attachment system manifests in the form of freezing (too confused to know what to do) and sporadically swaying between avoidant and anxious.
On camera, we generally see this as being confused or frozen. They’re asked to get close, but hesitate or freeze as if they don’t trust the people around them. Obviously they’re more comfortable with their partner, but again, it’s the idea of becoming open and secure with us filmmakers around.
Psychologically, they grew up vying for affection, but in these instances, those they longed for were the ones that struck a form of fear or distress as well. Physical harm, verbal abuse, subconscious confusion. Wanting someone, but then also fearing their proximity. This causes stress on our fight-or-flight system, and defaults them into the freeze system.
In order to best lead these individuals, and like our previous insecure attachment styles, we must regulate their emotions back into a feeling of security. We may do this by prompting the following:
Squeezing each other tight, breathe in slowly and deeply together.
Slowly sway in each other’s hold.
Imagine being in a soundproof bubble together, holding her by the waist and holding him by the cheeks, laughingly trying to give each other kisses on the nose
Play with each other's hands
Sing one of your favourite love song's together
Try to make each other laugh with just your facial expressions
The biggest thing to note while working with disorganized individuals is to be sensitive to their sensitivity. The delicateness of their security can easily be shattered, and that's something we don't want on camera. We want real love. Treat them with kindness, and get their partners to show them their kindness. Remember, this is their wedding day, and they want to feel safe with you around, their personal videographer paparazzi.
After reading this, you now know how to direct every couple and individual for the camera, based on their attachment style.
The secure individual is a free-for-all, and most forms of intimacy can be energetically portrayed on camera.
The anxious individual is generally overactive and noticeably trying to force a smile on their partner - we must bring them down into a state of calmness and present playfulness.
The avoidant individual is typically too cool and not engaged enough on camera - we must bring them up and into a state of present energy of playfulness.
The disorganized individual is commonly frozen and confused about how they should act on camera - generally shy, we must speak to them with kindness and bring them out of their hole and into a sense of safety with their partner and the camera.
By no means is this a complete representation of working with each attachment style. The Attachment Theory by John Bowlby is continually being researched, and new ways of categorizing and understanding people are being found every day.
The more us filmmakers can come in tune with human psychology and behaviour, the easier it is to read and reproduce directing methods in the most efficient way. Much like studying the types of people we're attracted to, the more we interact with each type, the easier it becomes at directing and guiding them into an authentic form of acting.
In future posts, I’ll be focusing more on reading people and how to better categorize them into each style.
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find--and Keep-- Love - Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller
The Power Of Attachment - Diane Poole Heller