Andy Fitts of Fitts Studios is here to share his insights and experience with cinematography.
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How lucky to grow up with parents who were musicians and photographers! Tell us how that influenced who you would become as an artist.
My dad was always singing around the house, mostly improvising silly songs about us kids, calling us names that no person has ever even thought of, I can guarantee it. He's the dad that to this day harmonizes gratuitously through every counterpoint of the happy birthday song. Humor is probably the way I most connect with him, which has impacted my creativity and approach-activation to anything that interests me. My mom is unusually resourceful and quick to investigate and comprehend anything that comes her way. She became serious about photography in high school, let it take a backseat while she stayed at home the formative years of her four kids, and then resumed as a professional photographer around the time I was in middle school. Nothing ever seems difficult or above pay-grade for her, which taught me confidence and capability.
In your early twenties you were a musician in Seattle. What was the catalyst that made you move to cinematography as a career?
I started writing songs when I was 13 growing up in a very culturally-isolated Hawaii, and knew from age 14 that I wanted to live in Seattle. Music and songwriting will always be my primary creative outlet because it's central to my identity and how I express things that have no other platform to convey. Around the time that my wife and I decided to have a family I wanted to challenge myself to branch into something that would allow me to take a break from touring. I had been assisting her as a photographer when I was home and saw a need for more video/film/cinema people in the wedding market particularly.
It wasn't until I saw some wedding videos a friend made that I realized it was something that I could really enjoy, be proud of, and approach with the same creative skills that I use in music and photography. I love documenting a wedding because it's a party attended by a couple's favorite people who will likely never be in the same place, ever again. I not only have VIP access, but it's my primary objective to shuffle through the inner circles of the day and hold the crystal ball for the next moment. I love photography, but my eye thrives on movement and choreographing memories in a way that feels exciting, sweet, and funny. I want people that think weddings are lame being psyched by the way I remember them.
You split your time between Seattle and Hawaii….hello, you are living our dream! How do you market to these vastly different clienteles?
They really are a vastly different clientele. In Hawaii, clients find me through word of mouth, wedding coordinators and internet searches. I would say that applies to both regions. I've never done any marketing with a capital M. I am based permanently in Seattle now after spending 5 months last year in Hawaii to establish more work there. Seattle is home for me. It's where I've grown up as an adult, where all my friends are, and I love it.
How do you edit in both locations? Do you use a laptop?
I've actually never once used a desktop computer or additional monitors for editing, which is probably crazy, but I have a habit of holding out on things like that to preserve the value of my mind being blown. For example, I've never had a consummate music listening station in my home, which is a total austerity measure for me. I think I do it in order that someday I will allow myself that luxury and it will be like gaining back one of my senses for the first time. Also, I love transit and so having to commute to Hawaii is pretty fun for me, as long as I get to come back, quickly.
What’s at your editing desk? Tell us about the systems/software you love.
I'm kind of an armchair / aspiring user experience designer which means that any software I use has inevitable flaws, and usually the kind that are completely dumbfounding to me. I get so frustrated that I can't make systems work the way that seems obviously optimal to me, especially when we're talking about a multi-billion dollar mammoth like Adobe. That being said, after testing the workflow of every editing suite, I use Premiere, and lots of hard drives.
I'm interested to see how wedding videos will continue evolving. The most exciting part for me is editing with music that I love, but record labels are on the prowl for any of their music being used without clearance, which is completely prohibitive given that if you're lucky enough to clear a song it would cost 5-10k. That leaves us with all these online music agencies, only three main ones that I know of, to purchase songs. I guess I'm extremely picky, because I spend way too much time searching for a good song, and I am deeply underwhelmed by what is available legally. If I had the time I would make the music myself but I'm spread way too thin as it is.
Anything else to add?
It seems to me that on occasion wedding speeches are the only time that people tell other people the affections that they really have for them, you know what I mean? I think it's great that they finally come out, but it's a shame that people are so embarrassed to tell people that stuff more comfortably. What about all the people that never get married? They probably have had close friends all their life who have never once been on the spot to express why that person has meant so much to them. What if that became a birthday tradition as well? I think everyone could benefit from more affirmation, in person.
Andy Fitts was raised near the ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii by a musician and a photographer. He has spent the last 10 years working as a songwriter, recording artist, and touring musician-for-hire. He assisted his wife for several years as a photographer with Julie Harmsen Photography, and discovered a passion in expressing his creativity through the visual transcription of romance. He wants to provide couples with a wedding video that they’re not embarrassed or self-conscious watching, but EXCITED to watch, over and over again. He loves to work with photographers and compliment the beautiful still images with a choreographic map of the day. Some couples remember the flurry of events that transpire on a wedding day, but rarely are one’s memories more than fragmented snap-shots generated by the photographs we review. He is excited to create moving pictures that assist in retaining living memories.
From a very early age I loved taking pictures and looking at them in magazines and books, but the art of photography captured my heart when I was a teenager, on my first overseas trip to Wales. From that point, I began shooting with a little film SLR and having my friend model for me. In college I took some digital photography and visual communication courses as part of my communication studies major, and decided to pursue a career in photography. I became a legal business and took my first paid client at age 20, and it's been quite a journey and adventure over the past nine years.
I secretly bought a mail-order 35mm camera when I was 15, and took lots of ordinary photos of animals and nature for several years. Although I majored in art and studied photography in college, my career started in marketing and advertising, from the client service end. Then I had the most beautiful baby, found my old camera and realized how much I love photographing people.