NY Commercial Catalog Shoot (BTS Video)

3 days in NYC shooting commercial photography Gregor Halenda as he captured action shots for Scorpion Helmets website and catalog. This film went on to win a WEVA International Creative Excellence Award, one of two we have won in the past 3 years.

The goal for this shoot was to create a compelling behind-the-scenes film that would show prospective clients what it’s like to work with and be on-location with Gregor Halenda. In the weeks leading up to the shoot I was pretty nervous about whether or not I would be able to create something that would live up to caliber of work that Gregor expects for himself. Look at this portfolio and it’s clear that he is a perfectionist. His attention to detail is what separates great photographers from good photographers. I had to keep reminding myself that I was hired based on previous work that I had produced. Of course I also know that what I’ve created in the past has no bearings on future endeavors. Back to being nervous.

Despite my nerves I knew that I had the ability. I knew my gear inside and out, had it all packed and ready to go, and just started driving. When I got to NY my first stop was to meet up with Gregor and his crew for an afternoon shoot in a parking lot along the NY waterfront. After introducing myself and meeting the crew for a few minutes I headed back to my car to grab my gear. Just like with editing, the hardest decisions are usually the first ones. In this case, it was trying to decide which gear to start with.

Not knowing much about how Gregor would be shooting this first set-up made it extremely difficult — but ultimately I went with the camera on a Steadicam. I figured that this setup would keep me mobile and ready for almost anything. Then once I felt a bit more comfortable with what was going on I could then change to whatever I needed at the time.

Ultimately it was the right decision as the Steadicam allowed me to be fluid and to move in and around Gregor without getting in his way. If I needed to be still, the Steadicam allowed me to be almost tripod-steady, yet when I wanted to add movement to a scene the Steadicam made sure the moves were smooth and clean.

This was a 3-day shoot for Scorpion Helmets and Gregor, along with the producer, had the entire shoot mapped out. Locations included parks, bridges, and Time Square. What made this shoot so interesting was that many of the shots were done in motion – some at 70MPH.

Here are a few things I learned over this three day shoot:

Gregor is not only a great photographer, but someone I deeply respect. He knows how to assemble a great team, has a very easy going personality, and is focused on creating the best images possible. When the last location had to changed, not once did I see Gregor sweat it out. He was calm and focused and never once showed the pressure that he might have been feeling.

Be Prepared. This shoot would have been a big bust for me if I wasn’t so comfortable with my gear. Don’t take on any professional gigs, until you know your gear inside and out. Get out and shoot with your gear – it’s part of the job. Spring training, if you will. No matter how much you read and learn, you never really know for sure until you can experience it for yourself.

Practice. If it weren’t for my experience with the Steadicam I never would have captured usable footage for parts of this shoot. The Merlin is small enough to be used in a car or, as I soon learned, out the back of a flatbed truck. At times I kneeled on the back seat and kept my arms and Steadicam out the rear window, while at other times I was out on the bed, trying to film while not tripping over generators, cords, or the photographer and grip.

Get inspired before each shoot. I do this with weddings and I do this with commercial shoots. Go online, watch other peoples work, and get inspired. Finding Inspiration is not only about watching great work from others, it’s also about recognizing the junk that some others have done (and got paid for it).

Bring all your gear. Yes, traveling light is important but so isn’t having the right tools accessible when needed. Plus, having your gear with you, doesn’t mean it has to be ON you. It can stay in the trunk, just as long as its accessible for when situations or needs change.

I can do it. I think we all question our own abilities at one time or another and being nervous about doing a great job is normal. If I ever get to the point where I am no longer concerned about doing a great job, it’s probably time for me to move on and do something else.

Love what you do. All I can say is that when you love what you do, it won’t matter if you work for three days with no sleep. There were about 12-15 of us on this shoot and not once did I hear anyone complain about the lack of sleep. I was invigorated and couldn’t wait to see what the next setup would bring in the way of shots and challenges. I was ready for them. “Bring your body and the mind will follow” is a saying that comes to mind.

Everything about this shoot challenged me as a filmmaker and I loved it. I am also proud of the finished product. To me, it feels as raw and gritty as it felt when shooting it, and hopefully gives you insight to the level of work that Gregor Halenda produces and the lengths he’ll go to get the image.

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