Wedding Filmmaking: How Matt Johnson Captures the Heartbeat of Every Story with Music

Lights, Camera, Emotion: Matt Johnson reveals the soundtrack to cinematic magic.

Matt Johnson - Wedding Filmmaker

When wedding filmmaker Matt Johnson isn’t inspiring others to create great films with his online courses and coaching, he’s crafting unforgettable films for his clients. His secret to driving his work’s most emotional moments? Selecting the right music.

Hear more from Matt on what keeps him inspired, how he makes time to create, and how he utilizes Musicbed‘s ever-growing collection to find music for every moment.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Matt Johnson: I have memories of being about 10 years old and using my parents’ VHS camcorder to make videos of my G.I. Joe action figures. My parents also have home videos of me as a child “directing” my brother and sister on how to act for a home video we made with plastic toy lightsabers. I vividly recall making my mother film a black trash bag that was hung up on the mantle of our fireplace because I said that it looked like the blackness of space. She wasted approximately two minutes of tape filming this trash bag while I played the Star Wars theme over a stereo to mimic the intro of Star Wars.

My parents have always been supportive of any creative endeavors of their children. They encouraged me when I was a child, and they also encouraged me when I was a freshman in college when they bought me a tiny point-and-shoot camera that I started to use to make videos.

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

Always trying new things is important. Making new kinds of videos, trying new ways of filming, and talking to other filmmakers who are doing things differently than how I do them.

For example, I recently started going to weddings with other wedding filmmakers and filming them as they film the wedding. This is super inspiring because I get to see how other professionals work and their creative process, and that helps keep me really fresh. I share these videos on YouTube, with other people in the hopes that that will inspire them as well.

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

Good lighting is, of course, critical, as I have grown as a filmmaker I’ve begun to appreciate a lot more. How important lighting of the environment is, not just for people. In the past, I would just put a light on myself, and think that was good enough while ignoring the background, when in reality, if you want to stand out and look good from the background, you have to have good lighting for the environment as well.

As for music, I’ve always said that music is the driver of the emotion of any film. If you want your audience to feel a certain way, music is what’s going to help them get there. If it’s a happy song, that will help the audience be happy. If it’s a sad song, the audience will hear it and start to feel sad. Song choice is so critical.

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

For a story to be compelling, it needs people, and they ideally need to be people that the audience cares about. You have to introduce them as characters, make the audience feel what they are feeling, and then they are hooked and come along with the story that you want to tell. For wedding films, it’s guaranteed that people will be involved which helps make things easier. But it also means that finding conflict and making your characters and story compelling is more difficult. You really have to dig deep into getting to know the couple to understand their story and be able to communicate it through the film. 

Wedding filmmaker filming a bride and a groom

How important is music in your work? 

I spent weeks before looking for the correct song for a wedding film and nowadays, my wife enjoys doing that a lot more, so I passed that task along to her. She spends a decent amount of her free time listening to Musicbed songs that we can use in our videos, and I would say that her playlist lengths are definitely longer than most people.

All that to say, music is incredibly important and without it, films would have much less emotion.

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

The best way to develop your skills and grow your voice as a filmmaker is to film as much and as often as you can. Film as wide of a variety of things as possible.

When I got started, yes, I filmed weddings, but I also filmed a lot of promo videos, commercials, music, videos, heck, even a talent show. Filming all of these things gave me great insight into what I enjoyed filming and what I actually wanted to film, as well as being able to work with a lot of different people and learn from them.

How do you find the balance between pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

This is such a fine line because ideally, you want to create something that fulfills you as a filmmaker, but you also need to make your clients and audience happy. Because of that, at least for wedding films, I prefer to get to know my couples as much as possible ahead of time, to learn what they want to see in their wedding film, and also set their expectations for the type of film that they will receive. I’ve spoken to many wedding filmmakers over the years. That said, a couple was upset with them, when the situation could’ve very easily been avoided with a simple conversation before the wedding ever took place. Once you explain to a client where you were coming from, and what you were trying to create, if you can get them on board with that, the sky is really the limit for how far you can push your creativity.

Wedding videographer at work

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

For me, it is definitely a work-life balance. I’m a dad now. I have two kids and because I work from home, I have to find a way to balance being a present father, while also disappearing for a few hours to get some deep work done. Lately, a lot of that has manifested in me, waking up several hours earlier than the rest of my family to have time to work, and I’m even doing it now, answering these questions, while my family sleeps. The main thing to remember is that if things are important to you, you will make time for them. I wake up early so I can make time for my business, which gives me more free time during the day that I can spend with my family.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

My most favorite, recent project was where I went along with Justin Porter and filmed him as he filmed a wedding. That dude brings more equipment than any other wedding filmmaker that I know, and it was super exciting to be able to see how he worked and to be able to share that with other people. As far as other favorite projects go, I’m very thankful that a good chunk of my time when not filming weddings is spent creating YouTube videos. While it is a treadmill of work that never ends, I really do enjoy the process of creating every video.

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

In an ideal world, you would have someone like my wife who listens to most of the new music and helps pick out great songs. But if you do not have someone like that, which you probably don’t, and in that case, playlists are your friend. If you have even a rough idea of what you are looking for, you can usually get a lot of inspiration from the playlists on Musicbed, and it’s thankfully updated very often. In addition, I wouldn’t be afraid to use Musicbed’s song search feature where you can ask them for ideas and they will send them to you. This can save you a lot of time!

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work? 

I truly believe that Musicbed has the best library of music to use in videos, especially wedding films. I often find myself looking for a specific style of song that will affect the emotions of my audience as they are watching the video, and Musicbed always has what I’m looking for.

Explore a curated playlist of Matt Johnson’s go-to music for his films and see how Musicbed’s exclusive music can help make your films unforgettable—start your free 14-day trial today.