Our Founding Story
By Kevin Elliott
Co-Founder, Wewa Films
She almost took the class online.
Our co-founder Courtney was a student of mine at Florida State University. I teach communication classes, including public speaking, which 99% of students dread, including Courtney.
Most students take public speaking online to avoid the sweaty palms and heart palpitations. But Courtney had a friend who took the class in person with me a few semesters earlier and told Courtney it wasn’t that bad. She should take the class in person. So Courtney signed up.
That decision is why this company exists (thank you Jeannie!).
Courtney turned out to be an exceptional public speaking student, but that is not the point. The point is that, somewhere along the semester, she friended me on Facebook.
I was scrolling mindlessly one evening (as one does), when I saw a Mumford and Sons concert video. I love Mumford and Sons, so I stopped the scroll. The video was excellent, full of heart, creative angles, sublime lighting, and the timing … chef’s kiss.
I was 90 seconds into the video when I got a shock. In the middle of this pro-level video my student walked into frame (what’s her name again?). My first thought was, “How lucky was she to have gotten into a Mumford and Sons tour video?!” And then it dawned on me. This was not an official Mumford and Sons video created by a big-city production house, which is what I first thought. This piece of magic was shot and produced by Courtney.
That video was as good as any you’d see and it was created by this kid just playing around. She was a genius.
I stopped Courtney after the next class and told her how impressed I was with her work. Here’s how the convo went:
Me: “That video was amazing. I didn’t know you were a videographer!”
Her: “I’m not.”
Me: “I beg to differ. How long have you been making videos?”
Her: “That was my first one.”
Me: “Are you shitting me?!”
Okay, I didn’t say that last line, but I was thinking it. She was a savant and didn’t know it. Trying to be a good professor, I told her she should pursue video production in some capacity, then she finished the semester, graduated, and went on with her life.
But she kept making videos. And I kept watching them.
Confession: I have always dreamed of having a creative business. One where we literally get paid to flex our creative muscles all day. When I saw that first video, the seed of that dream sprouted.
Fast forward almost two years. Courtney and I had not spoken since that semester. I had a corporate job where I made informational videos for transportation agencies and we both were living our lives. But I noticed Courtney had started doing wedding films, then softball recruiting videos, then a hype video for her hometown high school football team. She had pursued video and she was growing. The more I watched, the more I wanted to work with her. Our tastes in video were so similar. I wondered how we would do together on set.
The opportunity finally came. I was on a task force for a local non-profit that wanted to make a PSA video about school attendance. They wanted it to be heartfelt and have high production value but, like most non-profs, they had no budget. Did anyone know anyone who could and would do it pro bono?
I raised my hand.
I told the group about this former student of mine who did video. I hadn’t talked to her in two years and would likely freak her out messaging her to see if she wanted to make a video with me. But I did and, to my everlasting delight, she said yes. She was still calling me Mr. Elliott.
I knew Courtney could turn a nice video, but I didn’t know if we would work well together. Creativity is a funny thing. There’s a reason most artists are loners. They see beautiful things in their head that others don’t understand until the artist brings them into the world.
So how would our creative minds do in combination?
We stepped onto the set of that video, a library in an elementary school, and looked around for good angles and backdrops. I saw a corner where the books were arranged just so, the light was just so, there were bean bags on the floor. I saw the scene in my mind.
I called Courtney over and started to explain my vision for that shot. I got half way through my sentence and she said, “Got it.” And she set up the shot.
Two questions crossed my mind in that moment. 1) Did she just read my mind and see the same potential shot I did? 2) Would the shot be as good as I imagined?
The answer to both was yes, but better. That moment was like a lightning strike. I knew we had a business.
Courtney and I, by some miracle, share a creative brain. We see the same beautiful things in each of our heads separately and bring them into the world together. There is no reason we should have this connection, but we’ve built a business on it. A business we adore and are proud of.
And finally, I’m part of a creative business, one where we get to wake up every day and make people look and sound their best. Wewa Films has grown beyond just the two of us now, but at the heart of all our work is that connection of our two minds.
Geez, we’re glad she took that class in person.