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Kristen McDowell: Capturing Love Stories with Passion

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video tallies more than a million. The continuous motion, lighting, colors, settings and sounds combine to reveal a compelling story, a record for the ages. The impact video brings to an event, especially a wedding, is one to relish, a way to revive that special moment in time over and over again, to relive that excitement in motion for years to come.

Kristen and Phil McDowell, a husband-and-wife wedding cinematography team, created McD Films, a subsidiary of Philm Creative Video and Design Studio, because they love telling impactful stories together. It’s a way for the couple to celebrate their own love for each other every time they capture a wedding. Married for 16 years and together for more than two decades, they enjoy a splendid relationship in love and in business. The resulting positivity is shared with their clients and is evident in the videos they produce.

Intuitive Excellence
“That’s part of what we love about wedding videos, capturing the emotions of you, your family and friends enjoying your day together. This is a time in your life you have people around you that may not always be around. You can take the opportunity to have them in these great videos forever,” commented Kristen. “If Phil and I are going to do something, we’re going to do it with excellence. It’s got to be right. We have a heart and a passion for marriage, and through videos, we have a gift to do something for others. We do give a great product.”

As wedding cinematographers, Phil and Kristen know intuitively how to tell a client’s story. Working through planners or the wedding couple, they expertly portray these special moments, requiring months of planning, that can only be captured once, yet captured in such a way couples will love watching their wedding for years to come.

Kristen and Phil have spent decades working in the video field, honing their craft to the expert state that now exists. Their business began as Philm Creative Video and Design Studio with the couple skillfully telling the stories of corporations and businesses. In 2018, they ventured into the wedding video side of the industry. No matter what segment of the business, the pair prides itself on creating relationships with their clients to produce individualized stories of their special day.

Making It Personal
“When you use a big firm to do your video, you don’t know who your videographer is going to be until they show up. Many times, these firms mass produce the video so it falls in line with their cookie-cutter work,” noted Kristen. “With us, you get a relationship. We meet with you and have coffee with you. We get to know you.”

“We have a passion for marriage. We want to tell a couple’s story through the experience of what we’ve enjoyed in our marriage,” added Phil. “Anybody can pick up a camera and shoot video, but it’s the know-how, the expertise, the passion that makes it the best it can be. No matter if it’s a wedding or business, we want to make sure when we film your wedding, we have a relationship and connect to your story as much as you do.”

McD Films is truly a family business. With Kristen and Phil at the helm, their children, Madison, 15, Evan, 13, and Stella, 9, help with the work. Many times, they carry equipment or help set stages to get the shot. Madison is even growing her own YouTube channel. Since 2012 the family has called the Kansas City metro home; they reside in Olathe, Kansas.

Origin of Romance
The beginnings of this partnership find their roots in Springfield, Missouri, where Phil, from St. Louis, Missouri, attended Evangel University. Phil became a member of Kristen’s church and served as the trumpet player in the worship department. At the end of Kristen’s senior year in high school and his freshman year in college, their romance began with dinner after church. They dated for three years and were engaged for one before tying the knot.

As the big day grew closer for them, a friend suggested a gift to remember their wedding—a video. Kristen and Phil were excited about the outcome, but months down the road this eventually gave way to disappointment. “Back when we were getting married, the emphasis was on photography; videography was just starting. A friend worked for a video production company and said for our wedding gift she would video our wedding. We trusted her and her intentions and appreciated her work,” recalled Kristen. “But months after the wedding, we still didn’t have the video. Then she said she would have to charge us in order for us to get it, but as newlyweds, we didn’t have the money. Our parents went in together and purchased it. Basically, the camera was on a platform, she hit record and walked away. You can’t see much of the church nor our wedding. We sat there and cried as we watched it.”

From this painful experience, Kristen deeply understands the importance of the video story, with only one opportunity to get it right. While her own visual account will never exist, she strives to produce a product that will evoke sweet emotions for many years to come.

Creating a Memory
The couple is open to expanding traditional approaches to wedding video products. Kristen explained a new trend she and Phil are embracing to make the final product as cinematic as they can. “The wedding is like a TLC wedding story. We capture interviews with the couple, telling the story of how they met. We’re going to bridal showers with the bride and going to their college campus and then the wedding,” described Kristen. “The end result is not just a highlight reel of the wedding the day, but the couple’s story. It’s a legacy gift for their children.”

Over the years, Kristen has worked through many weddings. Her observations are keen, and she offers these words of wisdom to brides and grooms when it comes to their big day and their video. “Remember that it’s your day. It’s not a day for friends and family to live dreams through you. Pick your colors and the place you want. The wedding should represent you and your spouse. And remember, a stressed-out bride is not a pretty bride,” she shared. “No matter what happens, that day you’re going to be married. Our wedding cake fell over, but honestly, it didn’t matter, and we still ate the cake. You’re going to be married; that’s what it’s all about.”

“Partnering with someone to help capture the day is one less thing the bride has to worry about,” added Phil. “We’ll get it to the best of our ability.”

As the executive director at Philm Creative Video and Design Studio, Kristen has worked side by side with her husband for years, both pushing through when times got tough for the small business owners. “When it comes to having your own business, I say you shouldn’t give up and hang on. When it gets hard and you’re discouraged, you should have a strong army of support around you that will stop you from quitting,” she remarked. “Networking and building relationships are huge for us in business and in life.”

Cinematic Grace
The story of Kristen and Phil and their wedding video business is one that continues to be written, a love story for all ages. The focus is on creating a cinematic experience for brides and grooms by a married couple with profound emotions and respect for the institution of marriage. This passion is clearly evident in the work they produce.

“We do our best to show and give grace to everyone we work with. When you deal with people, I want to be the one who’s loving and gives grace,” commented Kristen. “When you own your own business with your spouse, it encompasses every fiber of who you are. You don’t clock in and clock out, but there are a lot of really awesome days. When we’re on set, we turn to one another and say we can’t believe we’re doing this. When we’re done filming, we’re exhausted and starving, but we’re happy with what we do. We love working together and being together. We love our kids and our business, and we get to do it together.”