Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Scout Is On

After a conference call with Chris Peters, AB, and Liz Ciavarella, the AD, I knew what I had to accomplish with a scout. Not a lot of time, but some efficient spots to get a lot of images in a small area.

First job was to check out my backya
rd, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. After an initial run through, Chris, Liz, and the client narrowed it down further. So I went back with my producer to shore up some of the production details and questions.

The first location would be in San Francisco, an urban park-like setting. After racking up miles on a rainy Friday, I had some options.

"We like the stuff from the Yerba Buena Gardens," said Chris and Liz. Great, so do I. Unfortunately, the Yerba Buena Gardens wasn't down with us.

"Your shots from the DeYoung look great, but the client said no way."

"We like the Conservatory shots, but where are those steps?" Perfect. About 100 yards away.

© Michael Sugrue

We'll also be shooting at the Palace of Fine Arts, in the morning of the first day. Back to the GGNRA. Did a loop through the park, picking up shots to cover each contingency. A smooth shoot could be three locations here, two longer set-ups, AM and PM, with a quickie just before lunch at the third spot.

Found a spot the client loves on a one-way road near Muir Beach for setup #1. No problem. Except no trucks or RVs allowed. Well, park the RV up top and have the talent come down as they're ready. We've got radios and the RV can meet us at the next spot. No cube truck for the gear, cargo van instead. Done.

© Michael Sugrue, Producer Emily Miller taking copious notes on how we're going to make all of this work.

It should all work great, ending with the afternoon shots on the beach. Except the weather's been sketchy, and the waves there have been known to swallow small children and pets. Hmm...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Calistoga, CA

Why wait 50 minutes when you can wait 49?

© Michael Sugrue

Friday, April 25, 2008

Back and forth

So after Chris and I chat for a few minutes, I ask him to contact my rep, Blake Pearson at VISU. Blake calls me with some of the specs and asks when we can get an estimate together.

The next move was the first, best thing I did on the whole job. I called a trusted producer, who came highly recommended from my friend in New York, Shannon Fagan.

Emily Miller was a God-send on this shoot. I knew she would provide incredible logistical support as we went through this, but at the moment, she was out of town on a shoot and can I call you when I get back in a couple of days? Ummm.....

Yeah, absolutely. But in the meantime we had an estimate to come up with and fortunately this wasn't Blake's first trip to the rodeo either. Apart from a few California- and Marin-specific modifications, we were able to bang out a pretty thorough estimate for Chris pretty quickly, and we had Emily on board shortly thereafter to help us smooth out some rough edges.

After some back and forth, a few days longer than we anticipated, eventually (admittedly, I might have been holding my breath a little) Chris called back to say he was holding a signed estimate and we got the job.

"Hallelujah! About damn time, with this job I'm going to book a nice weekend with the lady and maybe a nice dinner tonight to celebrate!!" Then I realized, no, you're not. You're going to get your head out of your ass and produce this thing because we're shooting in a week, 5 locations, 2 days. Plus it's almost tax time, so you can't spend that money anyway, and you have two editorial shoots to do in the meantime.

Quit staring at the computer screen and get on with the scouting.

And then there was one...

I've heard this before, "We love your work and we're considering you for this big, cool shoot. Can you estimate it for us?"

When Chris Peters, Art Buyer at Colle+McVoy in Minneapolis, called me in March and said something to that effect, I was flattered. It's always nice to know some people actually look at and appreciate your work. The first of these types of calls came in the winter of 2006, when there was a particular job in Tasmania with a particular agency in Portland. "It'll be huge," I thought, as I mentally booked my trip to Tasmania, scoured the internet for production resources, even went so far as to ask my doctor brother Pat if I should consider anything specific for a job there. "We're deciding Monday" turned into "It'll be early next month" turned into simply not hearing back until two months later, saying the job had been canceled outright.

Of course, I learned not to get my hopes up for these types of things. Work hard and fast to get them what they want, but don't hold your breath. Not that I wouldn't take it or didn't think it would ever happen. It's just that it's a numbers game. You can't get every single one, so don't waste energy thinking you will. Of course, I'm sure there are a few Tiger Woods of photography that do, but I'm not there yet.

Back to Chris. I showed him my work while on a shoot in Minneapolis last April. We talked for awhile and he mentioned a couple people he knew that used to live in Sausalito. Small world. Show the work and get some face time, don't embarrass yourself, and out the door. Chris was much more gracious than that, of course. With varying degrees, I've managed to get along quite well with many of the creatives I've met with. Of course, you don't get the job because you're a nice guy, but it doesn't hurt.

The lesson learned above, though, can be applied to most meetings as well. "I like the work. Let's hope the right job comes along," could be code for "Thanks for wasting my time, that's 20 minutes I'll never get back." Although pessimistic, the point is that I never let my hopes get too high, or too low for that matter, after meetings like that. I hope for the best, but realize there are way more variables than I can even fathom to worry about it. I did what I could. Next.

Colle + McVoy + Me

A couple of weeks ago, I shot a fairly large production (relatively speaking) advertising job, right here in sunny Sausalito, CA and San Francisco. This job was a new adventure for me. My work has primarily consisted of about 75% editorial and 25% commercial, meaning flying around and producing jobs at the last minute, working with mid- to large-size design firms, great magazine editors, and the occasional corporate client.

My work has evolved greatly since I quit assisting and began shooting on my own in February 2005. I've been very happy with the magazine work I do, but I began seriously courting the eye of larger agencies a little over a year ago. I've had the occasional nugget, a book called in for this or that, even told I was one of the final two or three up for some of them, keeping me and my reps slightly on edge.

Finally, this one landed.

I kept a loose diary during the production and through the shoot that I can now share to shed some light on how the process went for me. I'll take a couple of posts, hopefully over the next week or two, and work through some of the lessons learned (catering is king) and wisdom gained (hire a good producer). Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions you'd like answered, such as:

Why does it take 3 assistants to hold up a scrim?
Why do you need to hire a teacher?
What does Tibet have to do with catering?
When's the right time to leave the bar after a shoot (don't worry Chris)?
Why "copy that" became a catch phrase by the end of the shoot.

All in all, it was a great experience. As soon as this job was done I couldn't wait to get on with the next one.

Video knowledge

I'm probably a little late on this, but there's a video of this year's PDN 30 Seminar here.

Regardless of what you think of their work, it's inspiring to hear photographers talking passionately about what they love and how they got there. As photographers, we all had to make a conscious break from convention at some point, which was, and still is, a huge risk. Each photographer has their own unique way of coming to that decision, and the idea of that risk actually paying off definitely puts some jump in your step.

© Morgan & Owens

Jeanine Fijol, PDN

Mike McGregor
Morgan & Owens
Adam Krause

Amy Lundeen, Budget Travel
Fiona McDonagh, Entertainment Weekly

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Old School Cowboy Photography

Nice piece in today's Times on Texas photographer Robb Kendrick here.

©Robb Kendrick

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

True colors

I don't know who this is, but it's the latest rage in patriotic swimwear. As a former competitive swimmer, I thought this might be an appropriate way to illustrate my pride at becoming an Irish citizen last month. Apart from swelling my chest and slamming a Guinness, I can now work, travel, and get paid much more easily in Europe. Also, when the time is right, I can legally buy property, and there are some heath insurance benefits as well. At the very least, I can become an Irish swimsuit calendar photographer. It looks like there's a job opening.

At long last, I have the new version of my site up here. And of course there's a good deal of new work. Given all the discussion of iPhone websites, I figured I'd update that too. This blog even looks different! I solicited advice from a few trusted friends and colleagues and decided to overhaul my logo and presentation. It's not exactly radical, but a little cleaner, simpler, and of course classier.

Hiring someone to help me with the backend of the site was a great decision. I don't really know the first thing about it, and trying to learn it would be totally overwhelming.

I'm also proud to mention that a portrait I did of the former next President has been chosen for American Photography 24. This is the second year in a row I've had an image in there. Last year was a portrait of Symantec CEO John Thompson.

In addition to some editorial shoots, I'm currently working on two separate projects, one of which is an ad campaign with Colle+McVoy in Minneapolis.