I knew I had to do it sometime, and I was dreading it.
In this best-of-all-possible, wired/multimedia/rich-content world, photographers are being asked to shoot motion in addition to stills. What? But I shoot decisive moments and artfully crafted tableaux! Video is outside my comfortable bubble!
Then two friends of mine, a husband and wife who have written for television for years, asked me to be director of photography on their new project: a trailer for their screenplay. I read the script, a noir thriller with a bit of horror and a darkly comic edge. Not my bright, poppy commercial work, but the kind of thing I love to watch. I signed on. Forget getting your feet wet; this was total immersion in the deep end.
I began with research and testing. Then the lighting design from the ground up. Then the look and feel of the footage. Then came the immersion: 25 long days of filming, some of the best working days I’ve ever had. Distilled to the two minutes below, whose every second I lit and shot. I also worked as second-unit director on all the B&W segments of the trailer, creating the scenes and directing the actors in addition to handling the lighting and cinematography.
And I realized: You know why people make violent movies? Because, in part, they are a lot of fun to make. It’s pretty mind-blowing to capture a room being lit up by machine-gun fire or bodies being being buried by car light.
I’m omitting the film’s and actors’ names at the request of its creators, who are still editing it. It’s going to be great, and not for the squeamish.
The Huntington Beach ad agency Innocean recently hired me to do a lifestyle shoot about and for the agency itself. The goal was to portray the agency as a modern, fun, creative place where interesting people work on interesting ideas. Which wasn’t hard, since it’s a modern, fun, creative place where interesting people work on interesting ideas.
The hard part was shooting eight setups in a single day, which took rigorous pre-production, a ton of lighting, a great crew and an art buyer doubling as a talent wrangler.
You know what this shoot made me realize? People who work in offices have it really good. They take breaks, get an espresso, chit-chat with their colleagues, flip through graphic-design books, maybe even shoot some hoops if the office is that cool.
See what I mean? They don’t even know how good they have it.
Look how psyched he is. Because he works at an office.
That guy in the center really does bring his surfboard to work. Not many freelancers I know work across the street from one of the best breaks in Southern California.
Dusk comes late here in the summer. Everyone’s gone home except me and my lights. I wrap at 9:45 pm and get a huge burger down the street. Life is good.
Ever owe a friend a letter for a long time? And the longer you wait, the harder it gets to write back? Because you have so much more to tell?
Well, my friend, I’ve owed you a post for a long time. And I have a lot to tell. But I’m going to pretend that we just spoke, and this is simply a casual addendum. That way this whole thing is easier to write.
Last time I wrote to you, the 72″ panoramic of the San Francisco bay was my masterwork. Well, there’s a new one — the ad I’m running in Vol. 3 of Luerzer’s Archive, which is being mailed out right now. (If you don’t know Archive, it’s a magazine about and for the advertising industry, and most of the ads in it are from photographers). This time I decided to do something different with my ad.
Don’t sweat it if you can’t read all the text. Just know that it involves my new agent, a poem Andy Dick wrote for me for $1, a collection of 1970s sports trophies and a vintage meat cleaver. All brought together by the amazing Oksana Badrak and her brilliant-as-usual design. If you really want to read all the text, send me an email for a larger version: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up: another post! So much to tell!
I shot this international campaign for Casio watches a while back, and it’s time to show some finished images. The shoot began without concept or content, just a long list of watches to feature and a reminder to make them look great. Over the next few weeks, Kesha’s label and I came up with five concepts that would be doable in a single day while she was on tour.
The concepts also had to work with her tribal/pirate/hippie/punk aesthetic, which is no small feat. Kesha nailed every setup.
Notable moments from the shoot:
- Hearing Casio executives exclaim excitedly in Japanese as the images appear on the monitor.
- After spending most of the day with my standard electronica soundtrack, Kesha asks us to “play something with some balls.” Who knew?
- We switch to Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes.
- For the final setup, prop master Shannon Amos busts out the glitter gun, raining metallic confetti down on the set.
- I continue to find glitter in my lighting cases for the next several months.
Many thanks to Casio America, Sony Music, my crew and Kesha’s glam team, who always make her look great.
If you don’t know the Knowledge Is Power Program, they are a bunch of idealistic, tireless miracle-workers who by now have opened 109 charter schools in 20 states. You may have seen them in “Waiting for Superman” or saving kids in an underserved neighborhood near you. They are the schools to which all other charter schools aspire.
They’ve also hired me for seven years straight to shoot their entire image library. State by state, school by school, we shoot ads, the website, each year’s annual report, marketing collateral. Every class is memorable. At least once a day it is magical.
Allow me to present a few ads from the past two years, plus one proud baseball player from the annual report. Thanks to the fabulous Rachel Young at the KIPP Foundation for gathering these and for running the baseball kid full-page. Thanks to Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin for starting it all.