A few weeks ago I produced character portrait photography on set at the Samet Media/Gullberg Productions short “The Interview (Business is War).” Recorded at Fat Chimp Studios in Overland, this short tells the story of an American military veteran and his attempts at assimilation into modern work culture upon his return from active duty.
I was working to capture character portraits for general promotional purposes, and a really strong image of our main character for the main movie poster. I love doing character/set work, because the energy of movie sets and theaters is wonderful and inspiring, and because I am able to capture images that differ from my everyday business headshots. I love adding really unique dramatic portraits to my portfolio. Hilariously, aside from the main character, all the other actors were dressed as modern business professionals, so my images ended up looking like… all of my corporate headshot work! (Well, at least I was working in one of my main areas of expertise!)
The lead was played by St. Louis born, now Atlanta based, actor Mick Austin. He had two main wardrobe looks, one with traditional fatigues and dog tags, and one with a business suit and military style helmet plus a bandolier of rifle cartridges.
Due to the tight filming schedule I only had about 20 minutes with the lead, so I had the high-key lighting set up beforehand, and got right to shooting when Mick became available. I wanted to shoot two main images in each costume, the thousand-yard stare of a man who’s seen some things in combat, and a primal scream/war cry.
Now, shooting stills on a film set can be tricky. You want to flash your strobes – but the DP definitely doesn’t want you to be flashing bright lights anywhere near the set during filming. You want to talk to your talent and make noise and whoever is running sound is going to frown on that. You want to take time to pose and light everything just so, and the director tells you that you have 20 minutes with the lead. So why not go all out and have your main talent screaming and almost losing their voice mid production WHILE you flash lights?
Photography on Set Gallery: Mick Austin
See there are two main differences between directing models and directing actors. A) actors have a natural aversion to looking into the camera lens, since they’ve been trained all their careers not to do so B) models know that there’s no sound in still photos, so when you tell them to “yell” into the camera, they’re not going to yell out loud. Mick let out a blood-curdling scream, which kind of froze everyone on set in place. It was hilariously awkward, and I did have a significant moment of panic that I’d inadvertently caused the lead talent to lose his voice halfway through filming. Happily, no actual productions were harmed in the making of these photos.
Once I was done with Mick I was able to capture some headshot-style photos of the other main cast members, and that was a wrap for me. I am excited to see the finished short, and see how these images end up being used in the film’s production materials!
Tech Specs: Shot with one Flashpoint XPLOR 600 in a Neewer 46″ Umbrella Softbox as key and two Flashpoint Zoom Li-on speedlights bounced into a Fovitec 6.5′ collapsible white background to blow it out and provide rim light.