Curtis Heyne, Principal at Living Cinema. Photo by Aaron Delesie
Living Cinema has been leaving clients speechless for years with their hand-crafted approach to wedding cinematography. The film does all of the talking for them. Yes, Living Cinema captures exclusively on film, and they're proud of it. I recently spoke with Curtis Heyne, Principal at Living Cinema, to ask him some questions about the company, their overall style, favorite film stocks, and more.
Allow me to introduce you to Curtis Heyne and Living Cinema!
Tell us about your company. Where is it located, how long have you been in business, what’s your mission, etc.?
Living Cinema is a boutique production company producing lifestyle films primarily for private clients in the United States and abroad. We’ve been in business for eight years, and over that time we’ve come to see the power of shooting on film. More than anything else, film invigorates; it gives me a distinct vision for our work. I think it’s a combination of the very tactile experience of the filmmaking process along with the amazing creative flexibility the medium affords.
Tell us a bit about you. How did you start making wedding films? Did you receive any formal training in filmmaking?
My genesis in producing wedding films is not all that exciting. Ten years ago, I was a young guy spending a lot of time skateboarding, making small skate videos here and there, and in desperate need of a job. I started out as an editor for a few companies and soon realized that this could be a pretty great creative outlet. With no real formal training, I spent a lot of time and money shooting and exploring the filmmaking process. I wasn’t very interested in making a movie, but rather in capturing beautiful and compelling imagery. All of that led to where we are today.
What’s your vision for wedding cinematography and how do you approach them stylistically? Is each one different, or is there a look or feel you try to achieve for all of them?
As a filmmaker, there is definitely a type of image I’m drawn to. I want things to feel classic and elegant, but at the same time, not over produced. Each event is different and each story is going to have its own nuances. I don’t try to force each event into the same box, but instead allow them to naturally unfold and try to tell the story as true to each couple as possible.
How does film allow you to achieve that vision?
For more than seven years I was shooting weddings digitally, never really getting the image to look and feel the way I wanted, but as soon as I started incorporating film into our process, I instantly got what I had been trying to achieve for years before. Now we only shoot on film and it completely frees up my focus for what gets put to film and how the story will unfold. No more trying to make it look like film, it’s right there.
You have filmed many destination weddings. What affect has shooting film had on those projects?
We’ve had the opportunity to shoot in Asia, Europe, Central America, and the British West Indies and no doubt, taking a bunch of film to a foreign country is not always the easiest thing to do, but every time I come back and see the images we captured, I realize, there’s no way this would look this good if we shot digital. I hope we can continue to build on our experience and capture more unique events around the world. Not to mention, there’s something about film that makes me want to capture the life of a place, thinking to myself, this is going to be great to look back on in 20 or 30 years; in the same way I enjoy watching the home movies of The Kennedy’s now. I think that’s something that only film can give you.
What do you think draws clients to your work?
I think it’s first and foremost our sensibility, that is, what looks good to our eye. Second, shooting on film is unique and shooting on some of the larger formats is even rarer.
How do they respond when they receive their final films?
This is the best part about what I do, getting notes and calls from our clients expressing their complete joy and amazement at the finished film. For the everyday couple, this is their first introduction to motion picture film, and there’s always so much excitement about what the final image is going to look like. It’s fun because I know what their day looked like on film, but there’s a bit of mystery for the client about the process. We get to wow them with some truly stunning imagery.
Do you have samples to share with us?
Jessica & Chetan | Paris Wedding | 16mm Wedding Film from Living Cinema on Vimeo.
Marisa & Ron | Palm Springs Wedding Film | 16mm Film | Korakia Pensione from Living Cinema on Vimeo.
Amy & Jason | Vibiana Wedding | Super 8 Film Wedding from Living Cinema on Vimeo.
J+T | Pelican Hill Wedding | Newport Coast | 16mm Wedding Film from Living Cinema on Vimeo.
In addition to currently shooting Super 8mm, you recently added 35mm to your offerings. What drove you to that decision?
I’ve been a huge fan of 16mm film, with a small portion of our work still shot on Super 8, so this really felt like a natural progression. That being said, 35mm film is the gold standard and I wanted to give our clients the opportunity to capture their most important memories in a way that I know will last. Of course, as an artist, I wanted to take advantage of all the amazing characteristics the larger negative had to offer. It’s really a whole other game at that level.
Do you have a favorite stock to shoot with?
I love reversal film so on 16mm it’s 7285(color) and 7266(B&W). But I have to say; the mid-speed color negative 250D (7207) is really finding a home in our production for its versatility. Of course, we shoot a whole lot of KODAK VISION3 500T color negative; this is our go-to once the sun goes down or we’re inside.
How about lighting? Do you use any for dramatic effect or do you rely on available light?
Lighting is a bit tricky when you’re working in a situation where someone has spent a whole lot of time and money designing a look for a space, so I’m very careful about what our lighting package looks like at an event. I typically work with natural light as much as possible, but when we’re inside, we’ll use a little on camera fill, but nothing too drastic.
What about equipment? What’s in your bag for a typical event?
Really, it’s whatever the event calls for, from Ultra 16 with a couple of Canon Scoopics to Super 16 on the Aaton XTR and Super 8 with the Canon 814XL-s.
What postproduction path do you follow: What facility do you use for the transfer? Do you scan at HD or other resolution for the editing portion of your projects? On what system do you edit the films?
We shoot a lot of reversal film so that’s primarily sent to AlphaCine Labs in Seattle, their reversal film processing is some of the best and it always comes back super clean. Our film scanning is handled in Hollywood by Cinelicious. Cinelicious has really helped us take our films to the next level with their Scanity film scanner. Our 16mm/35mm film is scanned at 2K and output at 1080p Log ProRes 444 HQ files for editing on Final Cut Pro 7. Super 8 is handled on the Spirit and output at 1080p, and with this image path the film looks amazing.
What does the future hold for Living Cinema? What projects do you have coming up that we should keep an eye out for?
Hopefully, we can continue to take our event coverage on film to the next level and explore new creative paths. Ultimately, it would be great to work with other creatives and shoot more commercial work. It would be great to take our visual storytelling style and work on fashion or other stylized brand campaigns.
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