The day started very early with a call time, (start time) of 7:00 a.m. for my crew. We had to wait for the TV crew to load-in to the location and then we could get all our gear. (The day before the assignment I went to scout the location with two of my clients and we found the perfect spot for the shoot.) My crew began to set up after I gave them direction on how I saw the day and my concept for lighting. After they set up I reviewed the set and make changes to the lighting so it was perfect.
On this assignment I never know when I will get my subject but it has usually been mid-day after TV has shot there first segment. The TV crew gets the subject for most of the day and I am given about 5 to 10 minuets to get my shots which makes for a very difficult job. In situations like this music and a connection with the subject are very important because I don't have the opportunity to warm the subject up, and with this in mind I decided to wait for my subject to enter the building while my crew set up. When she walked in I was there to greet her and give her a hug and kiss hello. It had been years since I saw her last and I wanted to make a say hi before anyone else. I think it is very important to have a conversation with your subject before they come on the set. I also think it's important to have flowers waiting for them with a note that simply says, "here's to a great shoot" when possible.
In my rush of packing and being on back to back trips I'd left my music in Los Angeles, but I had to have the right music so after getting a new MP3 player I spent the night downloading music to put a list together for the shoot. I felt it was even more important to have music that would help to make her comfortable in front of the camera so I could quickly get my shots. I was up until 3:00 a.m. just working on the music list but it was well worth it in the end.
When my subject finally came to me on the set, I was told I had 8 min. to get the shot, but I also had two camera crews shooting behind the scenes while we were working and many clients all around. After working on ANTM, (America's Next Top Model) I am used to having people film me while I shot so it doesn't phase me at all. I shot 53 frames before my clients said "Matthew, we have the shot"! The music was key in getting her in the right frame of mind fast. I felt we were just getting to the place where I wanted to be when my clients said we had enough, but I kept on shooting a little longer as not to miss the best stuff and I'm glad I did. I ended up shooting 93 frames in about 8-10 minuets and the best images came from the last two minuets shooting. These types of jobs are high pressure but working with the subject years ago made it easier and we got great shots.
Again, all jobs have problems that you can't plan for. We couldn't play our music before the subject came to us, because the TV crew was shooting and we had to be quiet on the set. During the first shot, we discovered as the music played my new itouch jumped out of the dock with each shot. My intern was to sit by the music and take it up or down on my visual command, however because she was new to working on set she wasn't familiar with the pace and need to be swift on set. When the music popped out she just looked at it and one of my assistants ran over and took care of it and held it down so it would play without disruption. It turned out I only got to play two songs but they were the prefect songs and I was extremely happy to have the music.
I only had two shots for the day, but the second would prove to be the most challenging of all. My crew tested, and tested every element of the day to make sure once we had the subject on set we were ready to go. Every job has something that happens that you can not control, but you still must be able to get the shot at the end of the day. My second shot came about an hour after lunch and just as we started shooting the power to the strobes and computer went out. At first I thought we'd blown a fuse, but once we got it up again the power went out again and this time before we started shooting. We quickly learned that the TV crew was turning off the power and unplugging our power cords. Still I only had a few minuets to get the shot. Unplugging a computer and digital camera while shooting can be a big problem, but my tech always has an emergency backup battery in the event we loose power to save the images that have been shot. Still we had to pull the subject off set and my client took her away for a fast interview while the computer and camera came back on line. At that moment I wished I was shooting film, but then again my client had to select a shot to go out via ftp right away on set, so it had to be shot digitally. I still wish I was shooting film! The moment the TV crew pulled our plugs was a moment when my subject was really giving me amazing images and loving the music. She kept singing even when the power went off and I went to sing with her while my crew fixed the problems. Soon we were back online and I spent another 2-4 minuets getting great shots and she was pulled from us. It was a very hard shoot and total time for both shots was about 16-20 minuets total, but you couldn't tell the stress we went through by looking at the images. I am very happy with the shots and I think my clients are as well, but I won't be able to tell until I get the next call for the next assignment.
Always be prepared for anything, because anything can happen on set. Having a great crew is very important and with a different crew the day may have been much harder. Thanks guys for being on top of it!
Camera: H2 Digital
Strobe equipment: 7-Profoto 7a Packs with heads, stands, umbrella's
Main Light: Para 220 umbrealla with bi-tube
one great Digital tech!
Always Dream Big,
Matthew Jordan Smith