“One of Those Rare Opportunities.5 – “Freightliner- Raising the Bar.”
Well, I know it has been awhile, but I am back with another installation of “One of those Rare Opportunities.”
Now we have had some amazing shoots in between. Just check out the site and you can see. Everything from “dead people under water- NSRI” to some kick ass car stuff and of course some very humorous people/ product ads.
But it is only now and then do you get a job that you know will change your career after it is “out there.” And this my friends is one…
This job started in October of 2011 when a client of mine sent me a brief. His name is David and he is a very talented and creative Senior Art Director. So I received an email from David saying something to the effect, “Check out the brief and I need to get a quote from you ASAP.” Now I haven’t heard from David in a good year or so, so this was a very nice surprise. I proceed to open the layouts and a huge smile appeared on my face! Oh, yes! It’s shooting big rig trucks for a Brochure! Woohoo!
I have always wanted to shoot big trucks! It is just one of those things on my “Automotive to do” list. And here I was being presented with such a great opportunity. Thus making it “One of those Rare Opportunities.”
The brand is Freightliner Trucks and they make some really awesome big rig trucks.
So let me share the layouts that I got from David, just so you can see what I saw.
Check it them out…
Ok. So I hope now you can understand why I got a little “EXCITED” when I saw all these shots and the locations and style of photography required.
So it was like a Monday morning around 11ish when I got all this and I emailed David back and said something like, “WOW! I am so excited. When do you need the quote by?”
He replied, “We need it by the end of the week. Preferably before.”
I said, “ We will get right on it and I will let you know how it is all going.”
I hit the send button on my email and took a deep breath and thought to myself, “How in the hell are we going to get all these location costs and timings sorted in 4 days?”
For those of you who are not familiar with the way in which I write stories, I tend to digress and “free think” a lot within my stories… Like right now…
Ok, if you are not use to working in South Africa or Africa in general, it is VERY difficult to get people to get back with you when; and here is the tricky part, “When you need them to!” Not when they feel like it…. This drives me F&^king insane at times!
But “TIA”… This Is Africa! And I am counting to 10 and breathing in and out slowly… As you do.
Ok, sorry about that. Those moments happen when I write so deal with it.
So I go upstairs to my “in-house producer” and ask her if she can sit with me for a few while I walk her thru the layouts and what we need. I basically tell her to get a hold of certain suppliers and start talking to location scouts about possible locations that fit the brief.
At the end of our little meeting she just looks at me and says something like, “when do all the cost need to be in?”
I smile and say something like, “by Friday… of course.”
She just gives me that look of, “are you serious?” But she smiles and says something to the effect of, “then we better get to it!”
Now at this point I have to sit down with each shot and think about quite a few things. It is not just as simple as give a quote for your time and some lights and a location fee. You have to sit down and construct in your head the shots and how they are to be set up, lit, time of day, sun directions, backgrounds, angles of truck and trailer, camera and lens and the list goes on… So let me walk you thru a few for example. First! Do we shoot in Cape Town or Johannesburg? That is my first big question. The agency and client are in Jo Burg. David said it didn’t matter to him, but costs had to be kept down and that would be the big decider in where we shoot.
So I had to get Fagmeda, my in-house producer, to inquire about a location scout in Jo Burg to give us general prices and locations they think could work. While we were doing the same thing in Cape Town.
With the question of “where to shoot” being handled, I then focused on each shot and the mood boards David had sent.
I chose to start with the “static beauties” first. Those would be the “King and Loading” shots. I wanted to start with these layouts because these locations are around Cape Town and it is far easier to shoot and get location permission when a truck is not moving than when it is; generally speaking.
The King shot intrigued me because of what David was looking for. He wanted a city shot from far away with the truck in the foreground. The idea here is that the truck “is the King of the city.” My first big concern was that Cape Town is “architecturally challenged.” I mean that not in a bad way, but our skyline and city is not new looking or pretty by any means. So I decided that I would “create my own version of a city” by shooting Cape Town in 3 or 4 different directions at certain times of the day and “build” my own city to be in the background. Now even though we might do the shoot in Jo Burg, I could still shoot this before and then “comp-in” the truck and parking lot afterwards. This gives me a better “background plate” than just shooting whatever city background would be there on the day. BUT, it also means a lot more work as I have to dedicate a day to shooting the city now and then a day or so in “post or retouching” to build it and make a background plate. So this then is how I started to figure out how to cost each shot individually to create an overall quote for the job. On jobs like this I usually cost per shot, as by the time the agency and client see the grand total, they usually gasp for air OR just freak out! I have seen it happen…
So with that in mind I learned along time ago to cost each shot individually so they can see the costs and decided which shots they want if not all of them based on the budget.
Next I started thinking about parking lots that I could shoot the truck in to use it and the asphalt to “comp into” the background city plate I was going to make. There are two good parking areas around town that I could get a big rig into and have open sky to give good light and minimum reflections. OK…. King shot is on its way.
Now about lighting which matters when you are considering a location. I want to shoot in the late afternoon so I get some nice low light, but I also want the truck to “pop”. So I then start thinking about HMI lighting and what we would need. I wrote down a few lights and grip equipment I would need. Then I thought about camera, lens, laptops and all that kind of stuff as well. Then how many assistants would I need and the list goes on…
I also did this for the Loading shot. Now there are no Harbors in Jo Burg, so it would have to be “storage facilities or warehouses.” Now in Cape Town we have a great new Harbor area. So this in my mind gave Cape Town “one point in its favor” at this point.
I went thru the same kind of thinking as I did with the King shot. Harbor at night would be my location with the truck “in situ”.
Now this was all on Monday. By now it was late in the afternoon and some of the location scouts were just getting back in touch with us. This feedback would be the deciding factors as where we would be shooting and the estimated cost for each location.
That night I sat down with the studio shot list and worked out each shot and it timings. So I would have an overall schedule for the studio shoot aspect of the quote. It doesn’t matter where we shoot it as long as we have a great studio space and the proper lighting. This turned out to be 30 +/- hours for all 17 shots. Then we needed half a day load in and load out of studio to get everything sorted.
Next day we discovered from the Jo Burg location scout that we would not be able to shoot on Nelson Mandela bridge as it was an architectural building of a certain design and we would have to pay a “usage fee” is we recognized any of it’s elements. WELL! If you can’t see the dam bridge what is the point of shooting on it!
SO! The Jo Burg bridge was out! Another point for Cape Town.
Then we heard back from the Cape Town location scout that “no one” is allowed to shoot in the Huguenot Tunnel. SO! That sucks! There are not cool tunnels in Jo Burg either. At this point they said we could shoot in the “access /escape tunnel” but it is not really lit and the road is not maintained.
For those of you who don’t know, when doing a “Rig shot” and I don’t mean a rig as in “big truck”, you need a really smooth and nice surface to shoot on. The reason behind this is that when you stick a “rig arm” off any vehicle is becomes an extension of the cars frame. So if any vibrations or bumps are in the road you will feel them down the arm and at camera. You basically end up with a vehicle that is out of focus or soft. And that just can’t happen.
This is when I realized if we want this shot to happen we would have to create it in CGI.
Humm… This could be very cool or turn out very crap! I will talk to David about this and see what he thinks. Also it is not a cheap way to go either…
Ok, so with out boring you about every location shot you get the basic idea of what I was thinking about.
So at the end I put together a basic lighting package that would work for all my location shots. Then how long I would need for each shot. Then how many days I would need to create background plates for certain shots. And the list goes on…
Oh, by the way. Cape Town won out as a location due to the fact that the locations in Cape Town were closer together which saved us a lot of travel time as well as the locations and travel costs for myself and all the crew would be less if we didn’t have to go to Jo Burg.
Now we fast forward to Friday morning. We are still waiting on the “riggers” to come back to us with a quote. Location scout in Cape Town can only give guesses for location prices and we are waiting for the studio to get back with us on a final quote for the studio and lighting package. A bit stressful around the office would be a nice way to put it… Haa. Haa…
So Fagmeda and I sit down and we start crunching numbers and create a schedule and quote. Slowly over the day we get some answers from some people, the others we had to “create a number” that would cover what they might come back with.
At 5pm we sent it off to David to look over on the weekend and get back with us.
Whew! We did it! We got it all together in 4 days and with very close numbers… Nicely done team! By the way the quote ended up being around R XXX, 000.00 for 5 days on location and 4.5 days in studio. That’s not to bad… And yes! I am not going to tell you what the overall budget was. That is between the agency and me…
Now amongst all this quoting I was busy shooting this whole week with other clients. Which added to a bit of stress considering I was given updates randomly about how it was all coming together.
So we hear from David on Monday saying thanks and he will get back with us. And so a week passes and I give David a call to follow up with everything.
He proceeds to tell me he is “still waiting on the other photographers quotes to come in.” Now I kind of got real quite and said, “then why did we have to have our quote in over a week ago?” That was the time line he gave everyone he told me, but since they have to have a minimum of 3 quotes that he had to wait until the other had submitted theirs. So all that stress and pressure for something that everyone else submitted 10 days later! I really want to say some “colorful metaphors” right then!!!
This I can understand, but if we can pull it off in 4 days, surely 3 other photographers could do the same… CLEARLY not! And that’s when I came to realize that the way in which we (and I mean my team) work is quite rare. And I do believe this kind of dedication reflects in the work we produce as well…
Ok, so lets fast forward about two weeks more and I get a phone call from David.
He says something to the effect that they have been given a budget and we must come in at that if we are to be up for the job. He said client liked my treatment and the previous work I had done with them before, so if we could get the numbers right it would happen.
I then asked what this “magic” number was and I about coughed out loud as I got the numbers…
I think I said something like, “seriously? I will see what we can do… We might have to lose a location shot or two?”…
The number that we had to come in under was R XXX, 000.00 for the whole job. This includes all location shots and plates to create them, all studio shots and costs, and retouching of everything.
Now this is where you sit down and really have to “fine tune” numbers! I told Fagmeda and she just had a look on her face of bewilderment. We needed to trim” R XXX, 000.00 off the original quote and we had about 2 days to sort it all out.
I realize at this point this story is a bit long but I feel it is important to share with you all the things that go on before you get a job and shoot it. Shooting a job is the fun part of what I do. The most difficult part is the “getting the job in or booking it”. The most rewarding part is when you show your clients what you have shot and the final artwork. And the most exciting part is pitching and taking the briefs from my clients. That’s how it works for me anyway…
So we figure out a way to cut everything back. We end up losing one location which would be the bridge or Mountain shot at this point it will depend on the location costs and availability. I re work my location lighting package and studio lighting package. And we nip and tuck everywhere we possible can. We end up reaching the magic number but with some serious sacrifices involved. Like no weather days, no contingency costs, no catering on set and the list is long.
Now last I spoke with David he told me they wanted to shoot the first week in December 2011. It was basically now the end of October and this job would take some serious production to pull it all together. So I decided to pull in my great friend and awesome Producer- Brendan. I have worked with Brendan all over Africa and we get on very well. So I gave him a call and explained everything and asked him if he was keen. He said “Sure. Sounds fun.” So now I had someone to run the “day to day” and handle all locations, crew, permits and the rest of it all.
Ok, now lets fast forward to end of November. To be honest I was super busy, so the month just kinda flew by me and then next thing I realize is that I haven’t heard from David in a couple of weeks. So we give him a call just to check in. He proceeds to tell me that we are going to have to push the job to January, as the truck is not ready.
So December rolls around and I then start thinking about all the location plates I need to build. I start shooting every evening sunset for sky plates. I then start shooting the city from different angles and at different times to make the “king city’ background.
This and all the other jobs keep me busy thru the holidays and into January.
Now the last time I spoke with everyone we had “penciled” the second week in January to shoot all this. So I give David a call on the 10th of January and ask him how it is all coming together on his side. Turns out the Truck is not ready.
Now the problem with “pushing a job around with dates” is that you tend to “piss off” your suppliers. As everyone must move their schedules every time we move the shoot. And it is basically 3 days of location scouting first, then approvals from client and agency. Then “sign-off” and then we prep and start the 11 days shoot. Also I have other clients who are requesting days and we now have to move them or “second option them” for dates. To say the least, I was stressed! And I don’t stress often for the record.
We finally get the quote signed off and we start to location scout on the 12th. We planned on starting the shoot on the 15th, but we found out on the 13th that the truck was not licensed to be on the road… Oh, For F%^k sake! So we had to push all the location days and studios days… As mentioned before, not easy at all at this point!
We get the truck the next week, but then we find out it was sent down from East London with out a trailer. So we have a truck but no trailer… Now we have to call EVERYONE again and move everything around…
I need a moment here. I said this to Brendan, Fagmeda and David, “this job has aged me and I haven’t even started it yet…” And I stand by that. I have a few more grey hairs on the chin now. No doubt! Ok. I just had to share that with you all…
So it is now our first shoot day and we are doing two shots. David has arrived from Jo Burg and is ready to get this thing going. Brendan and I meet at my offices in the morning just to go over schedules and timings. Then Brendan gets a call and he gives me a look. I look over at him with a “what is it now?” kind of expression. He hangs up and proceeds to inform me that the truck “with the trailer” we are going to use is just leaving Beauford West. Now we are to be on location around 2pm to get the location ready and all prepped for the truck. The truck was to be there at 3pm, but now that seems to be in question. And we find out the driver of the “shoot truck” is with the other driver who is bringing down the “trailer”. So we have a hero truck sitting at the dealer outside of Cape Town with no driver, no trailer and no way to get it to the shoot at 3pm.
Now can you see what I meant by “stressful’? Ok, so we let David know and he is not impressed to say the least. But we “roll with it” and keep going as planned.
At around 5pm the “hero shoot truck” shows up and was delivered by the guys at the dealership. Which was great! I still hadn’t seen it, so it was great to get a good look at it and see exactly what we were dealing with here.
Now this location was to be shot between 5:30 and 6ish to give me the correct light and elements I needed to pull off the shot. So without a trailer I shot the truck on the location just to have something as my light was going fast.
At 7:30 or so, the trailer shows up… The sun has gone and the shot is over. So I have a truck with no trailer. No shadows. No reflections… Nada! It then takes over an hour to get the truck and trailer hooked up, as there are no tools to get the spare tire off the rig to mount the trailer. So for all of you out there, who are going to buy a brand new Freightliner truck, make sure you buy a tool kit for the truck. Because it doesn’t come with anything! FYI…
We then prepare for the other half of the shoot which was suppose to be a “twilight” shot which I was going to use for the CGI Tunnel we were creating. BUT, by the time we got the truck and trailer hooked up, it was “night time.” Which was to dark to shoot. So I used this time to test out the rig arm and see if it was going to be possible to shoot it. The thing we were not sure of is because we could not afford a “prep day for the rigger and the truck” due to cutting the budget down, none of us knew whether the rig would have serious vibration or not. So after 3 hours of working on contact points and rigging for the arm, we put the camera on and started the truck. Little to say I thought the camera was going to “rattle off” the ball head! We tried a few driving shots and coasting shots and you name it. But it all was for not… There just was to much vibration in the arm to keep the truck sharp…
So if I sum up the first day of shooting, it would go something like this…. Bridge shot? NO! Tunnel shot? NO! Rig shots for the rest of the location days? NO! One slice of cold pizza and three bottles of water. A sun burnt neck and wind burnt face. A perplexed crew and stressed client… That was my day.
Now I am just going to give you glimpses of the rest of the shoot. This way you can understand the “high’s and the low’s” of all the other shots.
Next day. I now had 4 shots to do instead of 2 because the day before was a write off. The wind was blowing at 50 K’s + which makes it very difficult to do my lighting as the lights have to have someone standing on them to make sure they don’t blow over. But we got all the shots and angles done with the correct lighting and we had an awesome sunset!
Then we went to out night location (the harbor shot) and shot until 1 or 2am. Windy as hell, but a cool shot! Set up every light we had in the wind. Which was a total of about 18 lights and went lighting crazy! Had to listen to a boat walkway next to us “squeak and moan” all night. I didn’t sleep that night because I couldn’t get the dam noise out of my head. It is out of a horror movie for sure!
Next day we were on location out in the mountains. Great clouds and if you look at the reference shots we had the “about to rain or storm” mood! Which was great. Windy as hell! Rained for a little while. Had a great Chinese lunch! Blocked off the highway and made everyone drive around us while we watched and shot until we had it all.
We then had to head back to town and set up for the night shoot which was the “Roadways shot”; it has all the over passes in the shot. More wind! At this point I had more sand in my hair and eyes than a bikini model in the Seychelles! We blocked off two lanes of traffic and pulled the truck and trailer facing into on coming traffic. I would have not wanted to be driving and see this HUGE truck coming at me in the wrong direction! Shot for hours. Decided to do long exposures since I couldn’t do my rig shot that I wanted to. Which worked out for the best as it gave us great options and lighting moments. Ended around 12ish.
Next day was our studio load in day. On a load in day for those of you who don’t know, we set up the studio. We organize and check the lighting package; we hang all the bounce flats. Set up all the bounce fills. Clean the truck inside and out and get everything ready to shoot the same day or the next morning.
We shot for 4 days in studio and end up doing an extra 4 shots! The reason is was that because it was so windy on locations that I couldn’t “fly” my 20X20 bounce to clean and light all the chrome on the front of the truck. SO… I then had to match every angle we did at night on location and light and reshoot them in studio, to drop into the location shots. So more shots to my list that I had not counted on doing. So we start a day behind in studio just because I have to do more shots.
By now I hope you are feeling my pain. But it all went great in studio! Got some amazing shots and the truck looked F%&king amazing! What a beautiful thing to light in studio. Wow!
Meanwhile I find out while we are shooting that the print date is the 27th. They need a week to prep before the print goes to press. So I then realize my “retouching schedule” which was 14 days, was now reduced to 10! Plus I have WAY more retouching to do since we couldn’t do the rig shots properly and I have to comp studio shots into locations shots to make the truck look great. Oh and then I had to “create” a new trailer to put on each truck, as the trailer we used was a “container” not a “cargo trailer”. Oh, did I mention I also lost 4 DAYS of time to do all this!
Wait… oh, there! ANOTHER grey hair just popped out! Argh!
Anyway, I then have to do “two a days” to get back on schedule. So I am up every morning at 4am. In the office by 5am and leaving around 8 or 9pm. I did this for 10 days straight and after doing 10 days on location, which were 16 to 18 hour days each day. Little to say I was “numb and bullet proof” at the end. BUT! David was blown away with the work! Client “loved it all!” and we pulled it off as always…
So that was the Freightliner job! As I told David at the end, “We have made Trucker Porn!” We both agreed we have set “The Standard and raised the bar” for Big Rig photography with this job.
I am so proud of everyone who worked with us on this job. It was amazing! And I hope the work shows it…
Now I am sure you all want to see something now? I would, so I going to give you a little sneak peak.
Wait till you see the whole campaign! AWESOME…
Keep a look out on the site, as they will be up soon.
Thanks for your time and reading my mad stories about what we do to make “pretty pictures.”
All the best,
To view more work visit : Locker 14