Troy videographers can make anyone a star

News-DemocratApril 28, 2013 

Mark Bassler and Jennifer Hay wanted their wedding images to reflect their love of St. Louis Blues hockey, so they posed for photos and video on the ice at Scottrade Center.

"I was in a tuxedo, and she was in a wedding dress, and we were both on skates," said Mark, 30, a Belleville firefighter. "We did some creative shots with hockey sticks, and then we had a race on sleds (with the wedding party)."

The video was quickly edited and shown at the couple's reception at Bel-Air Bowl.

It was part of a same-day package offered by Switzerfilm, a young, creative team in Troy that is taking wedding photography and videography to a new level.

Their lobby doubles as a home theater with comfy leather couches and surround sound. They turn down the lights so couples can see their work on a 100-inch TV screen.

One video from a Disney resort in Hawaii includes sweeping views of mountains and beaches, dramatic music setting the tone and behind-the-scenes images of the groom getting dressed, the bride applying makeup and attendants toasting champagne.

"We have been to some amazing locations," said Ashley Stewart, 28, of Troy, an editor and sales rep at Switzerfilm.

"We have been very lucky. But just because a wedding is local doesn't mean we lose our enthusiasm. If anything, it challenges us to give it even more to make it just as amazing."

Ashley is engaged to company owner Joe Switzer, 34. Other team members are videographer Mark Wiemers, 28, of Troy, and photographer Katie Long, 29, of St. Louis.

Even they seem surprised by the market for their high-end services, which range from $5,000 to $20,000 per wedding. They book a year and a half in advance.

"Some couples spend more on (photos and video) than they do for food at the reception," Joe said.

Why? A final package that's part documentary, part music video, part magazine spread.

The Switzerfilm team spends hours getting to know couples before weddings so they can incorporate their personalities, tastes, hobbies and dreams.

Then they stick to them like glue on the big day, starting early in the morning.

"Our job is to tell the whole story," Joe said "You can't do that in two hours. You can't do it in six hours. It takes all day."

The team often works with pets or props, ranging from yachts to vintage cars, cowboy boots to Converse sneakers, guitars to footballs.

Garon Cooper and Sara Johnson got married at Mill's Apple Farm in Marine. One of their most striking photos shows groomsmen juggling apples in a grassy field next to the orchard.

Garon and Sara did more than plan the wedding. They functioned as co-producers.

"We designed a lot of the elements specifically with photos and video in mind," said Garon, 26, of Collinsville, a photographer and videographer. "People enjoy themselves at weddings, but when it's over, all they have left (are the images). We wanted them to be as visually appealing as possible for years to come."

The roots of Switzerfilm go back to the early 2000s, when Joe was working as a salesman at Ultimate Electronics in Fairview Heights.

His friend, Shawn Voegle, asked him to film a wedding he was photographing in Highland.

"I had nothing to lose," said Joe, who had experimented with video in college using an amateur Sony camcorder. "It was $150, free chicken, free beer, mostaccioli. It was a blast."

Within weeks, Joe had landed several more wedding gigs. He spent five years building up the business before quitting his retail job in 2006.

Switzerfilm got a big break two years ago, when it started getting contracts through Disney Fairy Tale Weddings. One shoot took place at Magic Kingdom in Florida.

Last year, the company invested $20,000 in an "octocopter" with a camera for aerial shots. It's been fine since it crashed behind the office.

"It broke the camera, the lens and a few legs on the copter," Mark said. "It wasn't that bad. It think it cost $300 to fix."

Beyond weddings, the team has produced videos for corporate clients such as Scott Credit Union, Truck Centers and Miller-Coors.

A friend in Wisconsin hired them to document game day with the Milwaukee Brewers, filming players in the dugout and locker room, fans at tailgate parties and in stands, vendors selling food and groundskeepers spraying the field.

For Joe, the highlight was the "sausage race" after the seventh inning. Brewers employees dress like giant brats, and people bet on who will win.

"I'm in the middle of the field, and everyone's cheering, and I'm running with the sausages," Joe said. "It was just cool."

For more information, visit www.switzerfilm.com or call 618-667-6940.

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