Russell Kent Nicholls Shares the Art of Visual Storytelling and Musical Alchemy

With a lifetime of experience in weddings, Russell knows how to bring emotion and depth into any commercial projects, branded content, and music videos.

Russell Kent Nicholls Filmmaker

Named as ‘One of the Top UK Wedding Videographers’ by WedVibes, Russell Kent Nicholls is an expert at bringing emotion and depth into any project, branded content, and music video. Read his recent interview to learn what keeps the UK-based filmmaker inspired, his essentials for crafting compelling stories, and his streamlined strategy for finding his music on Musicbed.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Russell Kent Nicholls: As a young child, I loved to draw and write the occasional story and my parents would encourage me to express myself on paper as much as possible (but probably to just keep me quiet and still for a while). For me, the love of technology was stronger than the love of storytelling, but that technology in turn sparked my passion for filmmaking. As time went on, I became more and more obsessed with gadgets (game consoles, TV remotes, anything with buttons and batteries) which conveniently coincided with the arrival of digital media. The arrival of desktop computers around school age helped me combine my two loves. As an adult, something that sticks in my mind when I think about filmmaking is when a family friend brought their VHS camcorder to a dinner party. I was only three at the time, but I look back on that footage so fondly and fascinated, and so emotionally connected to seeing myself and my mother and father as their younger selves. It’s a bit like when certain smells remind you of something, and take you back instantly—seeing the expressions and movements of me and my family is like hopping in a portal to a pastime. Being able to do the same thing for my couples with the technology that is available today is so rewarding to me. In an age where we’re consuming snippets of content every day with no meaningful return, I want to help my couples and clients realize the value of preserving these moments in the best way.

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

I stay motivated by the excitement and wonder of being able to support myself both financially and creatively in the digital age. A time when a job no longer resembles a traditional career and can be as fluid as you want (as long as the bills get paid), I’m living my dream life with my hobby as my main source of income. I think when you are running your own business, you’re always trying to reach that next level. You’re never satisfied, but then by the time you get to stop and look back, you realize that you’ve already reached that level you dreamt of reaching AND pushed even further beyond. The challenge is in the unknown, and the career of a creative can change overnight, whether that be with an offer from a brand you’ve always wanted to work with, traveling to a new destination that you’ve always wanted to visit, or simply completing a personal project. I’m hugely inspired by the pace, art direction, and energy in music videos, so I try and make my wedding teasers a bit like fun music videos where I can with energetic cuts and ramping segments. I really like the way that social media and short-form content have embraced this type of pacing, and it’s always fun to keep an eye on the latest trends and try to put my own spin on them.

Russell Kent Nicholls showing clients image

What makes a story visually appealing? What role does music play in storytelling?

On a day-to-day basis, I’d say I’m quite over-exposed to wedding films on my social feeds. I end up seeing a LOT of wedding content, and I think these days it’s much harder for a wedding video to capture my attention. When I’m creating something, I like things to be very ‘technically perfect—filmed in the correct shutter speed and frame rates, and making sure that everything is exposed correctly—but that doesn’t always complete an amazing story. I appreciate a mixture of different focal lengths and angles that add attention to detail, and make you feel as if you were really there. Music is such a huge part of driving an emotional response to wedding filmmaking. It’s so, so important. Whether it be the lyrics, the build, orchestral rises, or the sensation of anticipation from beating drums, a good soundtrack is fundamental to the storytelling process. Picking the music for an edit takes the longest time for me because it absolutely HAS to be right, and sometimes it’s worth taking a risk if it feels right. Often, it’s the first song that you mentally approved in your head when you started the song search, before going through hundreds of other songs, then circling back to the one that felt right in your heart.

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

To create a compelling story you have to really draw in your audience and enable them to connect to the emotions that the character is feeling, and to WANT to keep watching. Part of being a wedding filmmaker is being able to anticipate those moments and capture people reacting to not just everyday things, but the huge, monumental emotional moments that only happens once in a lifetime. Being able to create a sense of anticipation, whilst building a start, beginning, and conclusion is always a good framework for a story, and this actually fits perfectly with weddings. Most of my wedding films will follow a similar chronological order and follow the same kind of format because most weddings do follow a similar structure of preparations, ceremony, and then the reception party. Keeping to this story structure can make my editing much more efficient because I anticipate exactly how much footage I need to shoot to complete each story.

How important is music in your work?

Music is so important for my work, and so many people tell me how much they love the songs that I’ve chosen. The right song can make or break an entire project, and you just know when you come across the right soundtrack that it’s the one. My work involves invoking feelings and lyrics, combined with the right pace and vibe can change that silent movie into a full-on cinematic experience.

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators starting their careers?

The digital world is constantly evolving. Right now, the most important thing for filmmakers and creators to focus on would be growth on social media platforms. Short teaser clips and emotive content in reels are great to start with. The biggest piece of advice that I could offer would be to try and showcase the type of work that you want your future self to be paid to do. If you want to travel internationally and shoot high-end weddings, try attending a destination wedding workshop so that you’ve got that content for your portfolio to showcase to potential clients on your website and social media channels. If bridal editorial is your thing, reach out and hire a model and a wedding gown, and head out with your camera and see what you can create. It doesn’t have to be an expensive investment. But generally, you pay for experience and end up with better content, which is going to bring you more valuable bookings in the long run.

How do you find the balance between pushing creative boundaries and meeting client/audience expectations?

My business has a bit of a split personality! Half of what I post on my social media platforms is created around that audience in mind, and the same goes for YouTube. My Instagram audience is quite different from my YouTube subscribers, and they are both different from the deliverables that I deliver to my wedding couples. However, all of those aspects combined are the ingredients for my creator business. Here’s the thing: even though my wedding couples aren’t necessarily interested in my YouTube reviews or passion for technology, it’s still appreciated by them because they can see that I have a deep-set interest and authority within my space. When I’m editing a wedding, I make sure that I create a teaser trailer that is primarily for the couple as a hype reel, but also I’m making sure that it’s going to be a good marketing piece for myself. I will exclude some parts of the day that may have a more personal meaning to my couples and keep them exclusively for the highlights film, especially if they are less visually exciting. That said, my clients still get the same quality and attention to detail that I put into all of my work. Learning what your audience wants to see on the respective platforms has really been key to my growth.

Russell Kent Nicholls photographing bride and groom outside

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

The most challenging aspect for me in the past couple of years as a filmmaker has been managing expectations. Both from my side and also my client’s side. I think social media has a lot to answer for when it comes to showcasing perfection, and when you’re working in the live event space, perfection isn’t always 100% possible. That’s not to say that my clients haven’t been disappointed in my work, but I often think that some people have different expectations for how things might look on camera. That might be working in different weather conditions, with lighting in different environments or time restrictions. Making sure that your client has a good understanding of these limitations beforehand has helped negate any disappointment I think, and just doing my best at every opportunity is all you can do when you only get one take in most instances.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

I love, love, LOVE working on real weddings, but what really sparks joy for me a project where I get to provide some kind of artistic input and gain more creative control. Bridal editorials are a good example of this. My clients always have a brief of making the model and the product (dress) look incredible, but I love being able to direct, and have a more hands-on approach to make the models feel comfortable. I think probably a career highlight for me in the last couple of years was working with Panasonic for a second time. After Panasonic was happy with my ad for the S5 camera, when it came to the ad for the S5II, they pretty much gave me the budget and complete free reign with the visuals and storyboarding. I spent weeks storyboarding the advert, then months filming and traveling to different destinations. Then followed weeks and weeks of editing to meet the tight deadline before the camera’s release. I had already chosen a Musicbed song as the soundtrack (with their recommendations) before filming anything, which meant that I was able to match my shots to some of the lyrics and finish the editing much quicker. I’d absolutely love to do more projects where I have more creative input in the future!

How do you search for music on Musicbed? Any tips for other filmmakers?

I have a streamlined strategy when it comes to finding music on Musicbed that fits both my brand personality and also my client’s vibe. I usually start off with checking Pop and Lyrical, and sort by Recently Added. This is usually because I have listened to every single song and I like to know what’s new. I’m not just looking at the name of the song, but mostly the audio waveform graphic to see if there is a build or a beat drop. If so, this is usually where I concentrate the energy of an edit, so that there is an energetic twist or dramatic reveal in the video. My favorite genres to listen to are Cinematic, Pop, R&B, and ALWAYS Lyrical. I’ll also read through the lyrics as well, just to check that there’s nothing unexpected or throw the mood off. If you’re looking for music and you want to see if it works with a particular project, my tip is to have both windows open at the same time. Press play on Musicbed and press play on your video timeline and see if the energy feels right. I normally end up shortlisting two or three songs, and then come back to it the next day just to see if I still feel the same before licensing and downloading. Sometimes it’s a bit back-and-forth, and usually, you’ll end up with this song that you thought was the best choice in the first place!

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

I wouldn’t get my music from anywhere else other than Musicbed. When I first started out as a creative, I was attracted to the cheaper options. I quickly felt limited by the variety and quality of the songs, and ended up with multiple cheaper subscriptions running side-by-side. I never quite felt satisfied with the music choices available. And because I do quite a high turnover of videos, it’s great that Musicbed has new releases regularly. It means I’m not recycling the same songs over and over, and most of the choices that I make are songs that I would absolutely listen to and enjoy as if they were in the top 100. I also love to be able to tell my clients that I use the same music source as huge brands like Netflix and Nike, which is also a great selling point for me as I head towards the premium wedding filmmaker market. I’ve had a bit of a break from creating over winter for some much-needed rest, but I’m excited to go in and look at all of the new music under Recently Added!

Explore a curated playlist of Russell’s favorite songs to listen to and use in his videos—available to license only on Musicbed.