Tye Dunn and Michael Bird form the dynamic duo behind Collingwood-based Native Weddings. With an emphasis on producing wedding videos that capture the genuine story, Tye and Michael strive to redefine a strain of videography usually associated with Vaseline lens shots. In an age where the notion of happily ever after is being redefined in itself, this is no small feat. We talk to them about filmmaking, love, and how they tell the modern tale of romance.
Tye: We like to think of it in two ways – making the best possible film for the couples while also balancing the idea that no one wants a nameless camera in their face all day. So we have fun with it, get to know the couple while also not getting in the way. If they don’t know they’re being filmed, the better!
Mike: I really love to give the clients a final product that is extremely personal, and I’ve found that the best way to achieve that is to get to know the clients on personal level. There are many wedding video companies who send a random filmmaker on the day, and it’s very hard for anyone to capture the most important moments if they don’t have an understanding of the relationship.
Tye: Wedding videos have had such a bad rap. If you told me at film school that I’d be not only making wedding films but running a wedding film company, I would have wept. That’s because wedding films were always the worst, just a guy with a terrible camera on his shoulder filming with giant lights, then editing it with pink love hearts everywhere.
But now it’s the opposite – we can make people look like they are in a movie.
Mike: Filmmaking is continually evolving, not only in its tools but also in the demands of the audience. People no longer want the long, drawn-out videos of their parents’ era, so we provide them with films that suit the music video generation.
Mike: Tye and I go way back! He was a close high school friend of my wife’s, and I’ve known him for close to 12 years. In terms of working together, our first experience was when I started a documentary art photography project, I really wanted to have my process filmed. Knowing Tye’s love for film, he was the obvious choice to collaborate.
That led to many more collaborations, and Tye asked me to join him on some wedding shoots. We had a load of fun but, although the job gave me a bit of an artistic outlet, I felt it was a little sterile. At that point that I decided that a more loving film could be made, and so we started Native Weddings.
Tye: I did scoff at the idea at first – I was happy slowly working my way up the video production ladder, but after many years of working 60 to 70 hour weeks for very little pay, I craved the freedom to start making films that meant more. The coolest thing about wedding films is that you are making something that people will watch for the rest of their lives. There are not many creative industries that can claim such longevity for their works.
Tye: That is heavy. It’s actually not something I really think about when I’m out shooting, well not something I chase to capture. I’m out there shooting what I see, trying to capture that atmosphere and charm, and if you are shooting people with a great connection, it really shows through the film. YES! FINE – I have welled up when editing videos.
Mike: I’m married and disgustingly in love, even after the 11 years we have been together and know I will be way into the distant future. Love is knowing that someone is always there for you whatever decisions you make and wherever life takes you.
Tye: You see all types of couples and all types of love stories. I think there is this notion that everyone loves the same, as you see in Hollywood films, but that’s not true. I’ve seen quiet couples that only speak with their eyes, to a crowdsurfing couple holding a bottle of whiskey and everywhere in between. We get the chance to show these unique stories for one day, and hopefully can convey that connection.
Mike: My assertions about love are strengthened with every single wedding I work and every single couple that we meet. They each have, for some unexplainable and maybe even illogical reason, decided that they are going to devote the rest of their lives to supporting one another, and I think that it’s seeing that choice that reminds me of the unexplainable power that love has over us.
Tye: We just film what we see. It’s stressful but fun, having to come up with new shots every wedding. We don’t like to make the same film over and over again. But hang out with the couple and their friends, and try to capture that atmosphere. Sometimes it’s fun and crazy, other times emotional and sweet.
Mike: Once a wedding has been captured, the next step is the daunting task of whittling down all the footage into something that represents everything and everyone, as well as emotions of the day. This is often the hardest step and definitely takes the most time. The process of creating the final product is the perfect combination of technical knowledge and emotion.
Mike: I’m very lucky that Tye and I are friends because there have been several occasions when we have become emotionally attached to our own visions for a film or project, which has lead to tensions.
We both now realise our individual merits and weaknesses, and how to bounce those off each other. There’s not a single film that leaves our office until we both agree that it’s the perfect standard of video that we want to produce for Native and our couples.
Photography by Elly Freer