Saturday, August 12, 2006


No, no, no...I'm not talking about this Stills:

I'm talking about the other kind of stills. The ones that get you the IMDB credit known as Still Photographer. Yes, it looks like I've added another flower to the potpourri I loosely refer to as my career.

Actually, I "broke" into the film industry as a still photographer. Short-lived as it may have been. I was hired to shoot stills on Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. (OK, stop laughing.) And then I was fired. Yes, it seems the professional rock 'n' roll photographer couldn't hack it as a set photographer. Well, not exactly.

I think I better tell you how it really went down. The head of marketing called me into her office. She had one of those silvery home screens that she pulled down from the ceiling and a slide projector with a rotating slide holder so she could hit the thumb button and scroll through the slides. The overhead lights were off when I entered the room. Her wickedness sat behind the desk. Her face eerily illuminated by the light spilling from the projector.

"Have you seen your pictures?" she snarled.

Why did she ask? She knew I hadn't. I picked up the unexposed rolls of film from her and returned the exposed rolls of film to her. She had them developed. I was not allowed to see them.

She flipped to a picture. "What's this supposed to be?" she cackled.

"Ah, it's a picture of the ground. Obviously the first picture on the roll. That's what happens when you load the film," I politely offered.

Her thumb presses the button at warp speed, "Look at all these pictures. They're no good. They're all out of focus."

"If you wouldn't mind, could you stop on a picture you think is out of focus?"

She stops on one. Then I hear the projector focus adjusting back and forth. The picture goes in and out of focus. But I couldn't accuse her of sabotaging the focus, even thought I knew she was. I blamed the loose hanging screen. "I think the screen is moving from the air conditioning," I suggested.

She jumps down my throat, "I looked at them on a light table. They're out of focus. Every single shot. They're useless. And so are you. You're fired."

Well, okay then. What can I say?...other than it took several weeks to remove her from my throat. Thank God for that surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.

So, why did she really fire me? Turns out she just didn't like me. After that firing, I got a job at the same film company as a freelance production artist in the art department. I was mysteriously let go from there as well. Sure enough, I found out later that she threatened the art director, forcing him to stop calling me in for work. A few years later, I ended up being hired as the art director. Nothing she could do about it. I was suddenly her equal. And I had spent the better part of two years devising several torturous methods for her ultimate demise. But being the team player I am, I let her previous behavior slide. And sooner than later I won her over. I hate to admit it, but we even became friends. (Please don't tell anyone I have a soft side.) Uh oh, I just rambled on with a story I had no intention of sharing...ever. I guess the point of it was I didn't get a still photographer credit on Breakin' 2. (As if I cared.)

But I have a credit now. What? Yup. It recently showed up. I never even thought about the credit when I offered to shoot stills on a short film, currently titled Easy Winners. I got paid the same as everyone else on the film. Food. But it was a fun shoot with a lot of nice people. The film stars Mehcad Brooks (Desperate Housewives, Glory Road) and was directed by the very cool actor Harry Lennix (Commander In Chief, The Matrix[s]). It was written by and also starred Reggie Nelson, as a vehicle for his acting - and although I haven't seen the rough cut yet, all reports say he did a great job - and exec produced by some friend of his who directed him in a play...I think his name is David Schwimmer. Did I mention they had amazing food?

Here are a couple of "stills" (can't show any of the actual production or DS 'cause that would probably require endless approvals):

Fancy HD camera. Helps when you have a budget.

Relaxing between takes.
That's Mehcad on the left and Reggie second from the right.

Jesse, the 22 year-old DP with an amzing eye, is on the left.
Definitely my first choice for the movie I wrote and will produce.

The guy in the middle is director/writer/producer/friend Peter Basler. Since I volunteered him for the behind-the-scenes on Easy Winners, he volunteered me as the still photographer on Big Heart City, an indie feature he is currently producing. Wow, my second still photographer credit in the past six months without even trying.

My first day on the set was today - an easy two hours at Union Station. I walked in the building and immediately felt the ghosts of decades past.

I think that's one of them on the right side of this photo.

Check this place out. I'm surprised they let you visit for free.

I have no plans to pursue a real career as a still photographer and I promise this won't turn into the first set photographer blog on the internet. After all, I'm writing that book called Everybody I Shot Is Dead and a bunch of screenplays.

So, why am I whoring myself out as a still photographer you ask? Is it for the money? Uh, no.

I call it networking...and then there's always the enhancement to my social life...sad but true.


Brett said...

LA Union Station is one of those weird places that surprises you in that "how come I've not heard about THIS before?" sorts of ways.

I found myself wandering and gawking at Union Station back in 1990 or so as I traveled to LA to watch the Aggies (gig'em) beat Bill Walsh's Stanford squad in the Disney Pigskin Classic pre-season bowl game spectacuganza. On an ill-advised lark, we (wife, me, Aggie pal) took AMTRAK to LA from Houston (and yes, kids, THAT is an epic descent into hell that rates greater detail, but not here, not now...).

We exited Hell Train into Union Station and just... gawked. It is an amazing building, the sort of place where it would be cool to set some sort of Gaiman-esque tale of long-lost never-was Hollywood and the ghosts who linger from such legendary times. It just doesn't feel like one of those rooms which exits into our modern world.

Electric Boogaloo. heh. Did you get B Shrimp's autograph? Surely that's worth at least a buck-oh-nine on eBay.

Maybe less.

Harry Funk said...

I'm sure they would have stuck with you on "Breakin' 3."

Anonymous said...

please tell me you swiped a Electric Boogaloo coffee cup off the craft services table? It could be worth a fortune on ebay one day.
Congrats on the credit