Val Lutsenko is the owner of Lutsen Films, a video production company that specializes in shooting and editing wedding events.
A Russian-speaker born in Ukraine around the time of the Soviet Union collapse, Lutsenko and his family immigrated to the United States when he was an infant, but the departure was not a planned ordeal.
“My parents had just finished building their dream home [in Ukraine], so they didn’t expect to move to the United States, but it was an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime,” Lutsenko explains.
Growing up in the United States, Lutsenko appreciated the predictability that subjects like math and science offered, but it was while taking art courses that Lutsenko really tapped into the creative side of his talents.
“I loved to draw and listen to music. I was fascinated with art, and anything that had to do with not having a black-and-white approach, like math and science,” he says.
“I liked having that freeform ability to create something out of nothing.”
After graduating from high school, at the behest of his parents, Lutsenko enrolled in nursing classes, citing his parents’ belief that the health and medicine sector would always keep him gainfully employed, but after just one semester, Lutsenko was emotionally exhausted.
“I wanted to learn, but I had no desire to pursue nursing, so clearly it wasn’t the subject matter for me,” he notes.
That realization led to Lutsenko leaving college and soon after going into sales for Wells Fargo.
Lutsenko eventually returned to school and earned an associate’s degree in business marketing and management, but by that point he was already flourishing at Wells Fargo, amassing sales numbers that put him in the six-figure tax bracket, so it didn’t make sense to continue pursuing a degree in higher education.
“I decided to bet on myself and bet on my hustle,” Lutsenko recalls of that period in his life, and while Lutsenko seemingly had everything he needed to remain financially stable and one day support his wife and a family, the creative spirit that he once possessed suddenly began to make a resurrection.
A lifelong Tony Hawk fan, Lutsenko had spent time watching videos that skateboarders used to generate sponsorship opportunities, and even though Lutsenko never envisioned himself popping ollies on a halfpipe, the idea of producing videos for aspiring skateboarders appealed to him.
“I just wanted to get good enough [with video] to where I could submit one to a company, and then maybe I could get sponsored,” Lutsenko says, a desire that his parents couldn’t fully embrace.
“My parents definitely didn’t sponsor that idea,” Lutsenko remarks with a chuckle.
Lutsenko never did see his skateboarding video aspirations come to fruition, but in 2016, his repressed passion for videography was finally given a platform, albeit in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Lutsenko describes feeling helpless the night before a friend’s wedding because he didn’t know what gift he should buy the bride and groom.
Sure, he could have gone the conventional route and bought his friend an air fryer or any of the other items that were listed on the gift registry, but Lutsenko also wanted to give his friend something meaningful, a keepsake that would last far beyond what any tangible item could.
After much internal debate, Lutsenko decided that he was going to make his friend a wedding video.
“So not only did I let my friend borrow the fancy car that I owned at the time, but I also went to Best Buy and bought a camera for $600, and then showed up the next day and filmed as much as I could before the battery died,” Lutsenko says.
Post-nuptials, Lutsenko went over the footage he shot and put together a highlight reel of his friend’s wedding.
“I delivered him the finished product and he absolutely loved it,” he says, and from there Lutsenko received several requests from others who wanted his keen vision to capture the biggest day of their lives.
And like many story arcs go, the inquiries kept coming in, which led Lutsenko to register Lutsen Films as an LLC and become a full-time operation.
In the years since, Lutsenko’s videography skills have taken him around the country, but his primary focus is on weddings.
In 2021 alone, he shot and edited over 35 weddings.
“It’s something that is so rewarding and gratifying, but of course it’s also a lot of work,” acknowledges Lutsenko, who shoots and edits every video, which allows him cinematic control at every level of the creative process.
Lutsenko’s goal is to eventually ascend into the upper echelon of wedding videographers in the United States, and based off the way he markets his brand online, it is quite clear that Lutsenko has found a niche that best suits his strengths.
“The content that you see on my Instagram and YouTube is related to weddings, and the reason I’m deploying that strategy is because I want people to be able to go on my feed and see that I’m serious about weddings, and that I specialize in them,” he explains.
That being said, Lutsenko doesn’t advise other videographers to emulate his approach, and he also emphasizes that creators don’t have to specialize in just one industry, like weddings.
Rather, Lutsenko recommends that future videographers tailor their business to their best qualities, especially if they’re looking to scale and outsource some of their work.
“As you grow, you should identify what you want to do and what makes sense based on your passion and your skillset,” Lutsenko says.
For example, if you prefer to edit footage instead of shoot video, then partnering with a talented cinematographer would be an effective way to grow a business, although that strategy also means that each creator will have to compromise when it comes to finalizing the finished product.
That is one reason why Lutsenko currently works alone, but Lutsenko insists it’s also what enables him to be unique and implement storytelling techniques into his work, a blueprint his clients have grown to love.
“I always try to present my subject in a way that’s most favorable to them,” Lutsenko says when asked to describe what differentiates him from others in the videography profession.
“In the context of weddings, if you’re trying to show the love between a couple, you have to use shots that build a story. That’s why I take the time to set up the right shot and put everything into frame.”
As for the future, Lutsenko understands that one day he will need to cede at least a semblance of artistic control in order to expand Lutsen Films into the nationwide enterprise he believes it can become, and that a failure to do so could stifle his business’ potential.
“I think that anyone who is staying in one place is not growing, but actually slipping backwards,” Lutsenko proclaims.
“You always need to have an idea that you’re working on and a goal that you’re working toward in order to better yourself and grow.”
At present, on the cusp of another wedding season, the process of relinquishing control so that Lutsen Films can elevate has already begun.
“I’m looking for help with editing. That will hopefully give me more time to handle things on the back end of the business,” says Lutsenko, who adds that in the near future he will also be looking to hire more shooters so that he can transition into a managerial role.
Ultimately, the goal is to continue delivering high-end video content to clients, only with Lutsenko not directly involved in every step of the production process.
If that evolution is successful, then further developments within Lutsen Films can occur.
More specifically, in the next five years Lutsenko hopes to raise enough capital to construct a venue that can host weddings, seminars, and other events, the idea being that his company can profit not only from renting out the space to other companies and vendors, but also from shooting various events that are held on the premises.
“I have some ideas for what that concept would look like, but right now my focus each day is on continuing to grow and build my business.” QS
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