Working together as ‘With Heart Films’, cinematographers George Kasionis and Stam Tsopanakis use the α7 III as the perfect companion to their storytelling approach.
It’s July in Pienza, Tuscany and, unusually, it is raining. Hard. This is especially unwelcome news for Francesca, who is stranded across the street from the cathedral in the town’s main square, where she’s about to marry Max. But the teeming rain is going nowhere, forcing guests and onlookers under the square’s historic arches, and Francesca back into her wedding car. She’s anxious. And who wouldn’t be?
The big day is being captured on video by George Kasionis and Stam Tsopanakis, together they’re ‘With Heart Films’, a partnership with more than 20 years of experience between them, and a business built on a very special approach to wedding films.
For a cinematographer, the dramatic weather is a goldmine, but George knows there is a job to do, and right now, it’s not filming.
“I went to the car,” he explains, “and stayed with the bride with my camera down. I could have been shooting everything around there, all the rainy streets, and the people hiding in doorways, but instead I was there to say, ‘it’s OK, it doesn't matter if it's raining or not. You have to be happy because the rain will stop in a minute and you will be married to your man.’ And that’s what happened. The sun came out straight after the ceremony and the wedding carried on without a hitch.”
‘With Heart Films’ has a philosophy of emotional storytelling. And this can only be done with the right blend of people skills, technical experience, and cutting-edge cameras and lenses. They shoot across two or three days, giving guests, as Stam puts it, “time for them to feel comfortable around us. We go there with open hearts and try to be there with them in the moment, not like staff members.”
Working as a team before, during and after the event has advantages beyond many hands making light work. “When you shoot video – especially unique and unrepeatable moments like a wedding,” George continues, “you want someone to cover you, and that kind of trust frees you up and makes you more artistic and creative yourself.”
Both agree that modern technology makes it easier than ever before to create beautiful footage, but rather than making their jobs obsolete, it’s meant their role as storytellers has become even more important. “Everyone knows their videos can look beautiful,” explains Stam, “so, the hard part is making it immersive and emotional. We make it as cinematic as we can, but it also needs to be personal for the bride and the groom, and all the people there.”
To do that you can’t spend time worrying about gear, and the kit George and Stam trust is the Sony α7 III, which has shaped the stories they tell.
Through this new technology, like Sony’s advanced AF and In-body Image Stabilisation, we’re able to react faster and be more confident with our gear,” says Stam. The α7 III’s small body also means they can keep true to their method of blending in with friends and family for a more natural approach. “It's very intimidating to be put in front of a big cinema camera,” Stam continues, “but a smaller body makes it easier to capture real emotions and not scared eyes.
When it comes to lenses, George and Stam rely on a range of FE glass to give themselves enough flexibility to capture a wide range of scenes. Favourites include the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM, FE 24mm f/1.4 GM, FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA and for filming the ceremony and speeches, the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM is their go-to.
Fast, quiet and dependable autofocus is a god-send, too. And it has unexpected benefits.
“It’s amazingly liberating, having a system you can really trust,” explains George. “It used to be really tiring capturing long speeches. But with Real-time Eye AF, you hit record, and basically relax! And if you can rest, you’re less tired, so later you have the energy to do all the other things, like the party that lasts until five o'clock in the morning!”
As with all the best films, all this tech is safely behind the curtain, leaving just the story front and centre. And with so many stories left to tell, are George and Stam still as keen as ever? “Yes,” laughs George, “because every time is different, and every time when they come to say ‘thank you’, that’s my reward.”
For Stam it’s the same. “Every film we make is a celebration of love between two people and all of those who care for them. Who could get bored of that?”