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  • Sean Pettis

Meet Your Napa Valley Wedding Videographer

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Who are you?

I'm Sean Pettis and I'm a wedding filmmaker in Napa, CA! Unless otherwise stated, I'm the guy that shows up when you book a wedding videographer through Wedlock Cinema. I've completely lost count, but I've shot well over 500 weddings at this point. 1,000 is probably a more accurate estimation. I used to shoot weddings every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These days I'm all about quality over quantity. If I work with you, I'm giving you everything I've got. I'll work with anyone as long as it's obvious they're in love. If the love isn't there, I can't do what I do.

Planning a wedding can be a lot of stress. I know what it's like, here's a shot of my beautiful wife and I on our wedding day as proof:

I believe the wedding day should be about the couple and nothing else. The day is whatever they want it to be. I apply this philosophy in the way I collaborate with other vendors. We should all be supporting each other, so that we can all do our best work for the benefit of the couple. I try to maintain a very chill attitude when I'm around couples. The goal is to put people at ease so they're comfortable throughout the very surreal process of getting married.

How did you get into videography?

For me, photography came before cinematography. Growing up, I was surrounded by cameras. My father and both of my grandfathers were passionate photographers. For them, it was a hobby, however all three of them could have easily turned their photography skills into careers. At one point, my mom had somehow got a hold of Ansel Adams and he agreed to have lunch with my dad. Dad was devastated when Ansel died before that meeting took place. When I was a little boy, my dad taught my sister and I how to make pinhole cameras with papier-mâché. We took a few photos and developed them after converting the bathroom into a darkroom. Shortly after, we went on a family trip to Yosemite. I only had a disposable camera with me at the time, but this is where I really fell in love with photography. I remember pinning a few of the photos I took onto a cork board in my room and thinking in my child brain that I wasn’t half bad. In reality, I had a long way to go.

The transition from photography into filmmaking came from a love of storytelling. I didn't posses exceptional skills as a writer, but my mom was a poet and had always encouraged me to tell stories. In high school, I worked out a deal with my English teacher where I was able to get credit for writing a novel. Shortly after, I began writing screenplays and shooting them on an old VHS video camera my grandfather gave me. The father of a girl I was dating in high school was a freelance videographer, who let me edit my “films” on his computer. The filmmaking bug got a hold of me. Instead of practicing with short films, I went straight into features. This is probably the worst thing anyone getting into filmmaking could do, but I successfully completed two feature films simultaneously. The films were trash, but I accomplished the goal I had at the time, so I consider it a success. At that point, I began making proper short films. I quit my job and spent all my money to buy a mini DV camera which was considered good at the time. That’s when the paid jobs started rolling in.

Do you still make films?

I do! I’m a director and director of photography. Most recently I was privileged to shoot a feature length documentary on a gifted musician who was taken from us at a young age due to a brain tumor. The film is still in development, so I won’t say much about it, but it lead to this glorious encounter with Weird Al:

The last film I directed was an experimental horror short called The Deep End. Somehow this wacky film won an award at an Oscar-qualifying film festival. I’ve had a surprising amount of success with my films and I’ve been lucky to meet and befriend so many talented creatives throughout my career. If you’d like to see The Deep End, you can check it out here:

How did you get into wedding videography?

In the film industry, a lot of people turn their nose up at wedding videography. I’ve never felt that way. Above all creative pursuits, I’m most interested in storytelling and human psychology. There are few things more exciting or fascinating than getting to witness and tell the story of the best day in someone’s life. The judgy film people who don’t consider wedding filmmaking to be real filmmaking only feel that way because they’re treating it like a job instead of approaching it the way an artist should. It’s an opportunity to witness love and human goodness. If the goal is to capture that goodness, the films will be moving and profoundly beautiful. I think it was 2002 when I shot my first wedding. I lived just outside of Napa Valley, where the most frequent video gigs tended to be weddings. There’s a very specific set of skills that one has to master to be good in this field. At the time, I didn’t understand the difference between a wedding or a commercial job. I believe this is something that you can only learn with experience and time. I worked for five other wedding video companies while holding down a full-time marketing video job before I started my own company. Wedlock Cinema took off immediately and it completely changed my life.

Why should couples book a wedding videographer?

I think a wedding film can be likened to a precious family heirloom and the wedding videographer is an artisan. On the wedding day, when someone engages me in small talk that prevents me from getting a shot that I would have otherwise been able to capture, I feel like that person is grinding a knife blade into a fine piece of jewelry that belongs to the couple. Moments are fleeting and it is up to me to preserve them. The wedding film is special and should be treated with the same respect as the wedding ring. The only difference is that the wedding film can be enjoyed by all, while the ring can only be worn by one. I try to work with couples who value their wedding film in this way, as opposed to those who think of video as an afterthought. Unfortunately, those couples who decide not to book a wedding videographer miss out on preserving the best version of themselves at the happiest they'll ever be on the best day of their lives. Their children and their children's children will never be able to have that feeling like they were there on that very special day. Photography does a great job of keeping this historical record, but photos are incapable of making you feel like you were there the way video does. Your wedding film is priceless and should be your most prized possession.

What's next?

This line of work remains meaningful to mean and I'm always looking for ways to push it to the next level creatively. I'm hosting a series of classes in Napa where I can share what I've learned with other videographers looking to take their wedding filmmaking to the next level. I think about the hundreds of couples I've worked with and it gives me a sense of purpose knowing I played a part in the preservation of their wedding day. If I can help improve the skills of other videographers and instill a sense of passion and responsibility in them, I can exponentially increase the number of couples that receive proper wedding films. I believe this can really help people.

At this moment I intend to continue offering my services, shooting wedding videos in Napa to exciting couples. I think it's good to fear anything that makes you feel comfortable, because comfort often blocks one's development. I've felt perfectly comfortable creating wedding videos for years and I want to find ways to push myself and keep the work challenging. The solution is to approach each wedding like it's entirely unique, which they are. If I show up with a fresh outlook, as if I'm experiencing something for the first time, I'll be able to better feel out how to create a piece of art that is better suited to that specific couple. This is better for them and it keeps me creatively fulfilled.

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