The Tragic Comedy of Fame

Producer Lara Heintz tapped me to shoot two episodes of the ongoing Vice Digital series Fameish which examines people, mostly in LA (coincidentally?) who are on hopeful grinds that lead them to some strange kind of fame.  While they're not exactly household names, you probably have come across them somewhere in the depths of the internet or late night 24-hour news channels.  Hence Fame-ish.

Personally, my ideal life is living off-grid and having enough time to slow-smoke large pieces of brisket on a weekday so I'm not going to comment directly on my own thoughts about the struggle to find fame and fortune.  Thematically, what that thirst for love and recognition suggested to me is that we treat these folks like icons - lots of commercial, slick photography, camera moves, slow motion, bright sunlight - essentially the most Hollywood, LA look we could create in the day or two we had to shoot each profile.

The crux of this type of camera movement was based on the C100mk2/MoVi combo that I've written about in a prior post.  This time, however, I wanted to explore the use of L Series Canon primes at their maximum aperture of 1.2 or 1.4 - giving a hazy image with lots of aberration.  Doing a quick DoF calculation right now...on the 50mm that would be 1.68 inches at 5' distance.  Not a whole lot.  The reason for overcranking was the autofocus was often searching for something to focus on - giving these dramatic back-and-forth focal racks that, in slow motion, look really cool.

For my A and B cameras we settled on the C300mk2 with a range of zoom and prime lenses and from there I kept the subjects mic'd and looked for opportunities to show their quirks.

I do want to address the call drop in the Sex Tape Broker's video.  As with anything in Hollywood, I'm not totally sure what is real.  The day we showed up and met him, he was very gregarious and seemed to take pleasure in having an insider's knowledge of all sorts of places.  As the day progressed, we kept running into people he knew who would give seemingly prepared statements on how unbelievable and salacious they found his occupation. I lost track of the number of times he said "you can't make this up."  The lady doth protest too much, methinks.  When, in the diner, I noticed that his phone was on the home screen and he was still talking, I didn't zoom in for effect. In truth, I couldn't actually believe it and so I was using the lens to get a closer look.  While the dude isn't someone I would probably be friends with in real life (see above ideal of off-grid bbqing), I never set out to deliberately assassinate his character. I think he does that for himself when he says "these women exploit themselves," and doesn't need my help in doing it at all.

Canon C300mk2, Canon C100mk2, Canon L-Series Primes & Zooms, MoVi Pro

An Insane Trip

Apple keeps an incredibly tight grasp on their supply chain and when a new device - like the iPhoneX - is set to release, they specify a date and time.  Because folks in Australia and New Zealand arrive at dates and times about 18 hours ahead of people in NYC, there is a culture of crazy Apple fans that fly to Australia in order to get devices the day before they are available in the US.  We joined some of these crusaders:

Canon C300mkII, DJI OSMO X3, Sony A6300. Canon L Series 24mm-105mm F4 USM II

Body Modification

I love this video.  We did a bunch of spinning around while I panned a light around.  We shot in 4k for reframing in post.  We did stop motion animation on the spinning human. It was a barebones studio shoot at its very best.

Vic is an awesome dude - fearless and open with everything and it was awesome to work with him.  If you saw him in public, aside from the hair, you'd have no idea what he was capable of. Really a pleasure to work with!

Canon C300mk2, Canon 5Dmk3

Rokinon 35mm Prime

Drag Queens and Their Moms

I teamed up with director Barbara Anastacio to create a series of 3 short films about up and coming drag queens and their "moms."  Traditionally, drag queens new to the scene will find a mom to teach them the ins-and-outs of drag - from painting to performance to persona.  Before the internet, the relationship was necessary to teach the art form as there was no other way to learn.  In the digital age, the mother-daughter relationship is still somewhat practical but largely symbolic. 

Sharon Needles was and is as crazy as people say. The stories are true.

Canon C300mk2, Nizo

14mm Zeiss Prime, Rokinon Primes

Super8mm Vision3 500T

Another visit to the UN

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A little bit about MIT's SOLVE program:

To cover this event, we deployed three cameras across two crews.  The idea was to go deeper with one of the contestants and still get to know a range of them across the various issues. Erica Matson and I took the early shift in lower Manhattan.  While we spent some time observing then interviewing Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din as he nervously prepared for his 3-minute presentation, our second crew including operator Chris Herde hosed down the UN and the preparations there.

During a break between presenters.

They rigged a C300 with a lens doubler and a Canon L-series 70-200 in a press box on sticks.  At the same time, Chris moved around the floor of the assembly room with a C300 and a Sigma 50-100.

When we arrived with Mohsin, we touched base then I joined Chris on the floor for the event. It lasted a few hours can watch the result of Mohsin's preparations below.

I thought it was important to avoid too much polish on this subject - the documentary should be about the initiative young people are taking to better the world rather than acting as an advertisement for a program.  We opted to shoot with Canon L series zoom lenses and keep as much of the photography handheld as possible.

(3) Canon C300mki, Canon L-series zooms, Sigma 50-100. 


A few years ago, when I was a DIT in Los Angeles, I spent a few days working on David Guggenheim's documentary HE NAMED ME MALALA.  We were shooting recreations that ended up playing only for a minute or two in the final film and Malala herself was not on site.  Still, I was super proud to be a part of a project that had more depth than selling mobile phones or diapers.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet Malala in person.  Ariel Wengroff and I were invited to interview her at the United Nations at the beginning of her Girl Power tour.

The aisles of the general assembly slope downwards so we had limited places to set up where Malala and Ari would be on level ground.  We settled on a landing about halfway up the floor.  I lit the scene using two Astra 1x1 bicolor lite panels.  The keylight for Malala had a softbox on it and the I used the hairlight to key the interviewer.

Canon C300mk2 & Canon C300mk1. L-Series Zoom lenses.

Art for Art's Sake

I was tapped to shoot a series of profiles for The Creators Project to be displayed at the Pulse Art Fair in Miami alongside the art of each featured artist.

I love shooting profiles because I love meeting new people and getting to know them. My approach for these pieces was to create visual rhymes between each artists' work and the world that they inhabit.  I wanted to avoid camera movement or calling any attention to the camerawork at all and just have the images flow over the viewer so that they can make their own connections.

Also, extreme closeups were vital for these pieces.  For me, so much of art making is about texture and medium and by stinging together tight shots, we were able to lend a tactile sense to the work.

I tried to stick with available light but we brought a Kino Celeb 201 and a 1x1 Astra bi-color LED panel.  The Celeb is such a dynamic light for fieldwork - it has built-in diffusion and can be dialed in to any Kelvin between 2500 and (I believe) 6500 AND has a built in dimmer right on the fixture.  For documentary work, I haven't found a better key light.

Canon C300mk1, Canon L Series Lenses