Well here we are the last installment of the “FREEWORLD Trilogy.”
Que the sound track from “Star Wars… Dunta dunta dahh…” For those of you who are just joining in I will do a quick recap.
And here it goes. “Read the first two installments…” Told you it would be quick!
OK. So we just finished the epic-driving journey to Calvinia to shoot the “Desert shoot.” Got back and shot the rest of the elements for the shot and we created a beautiful piece of work! (See last installment for kick-ass photo)
So onto the “Train shoot.” Check out the Layout…
How sweet is this going to be! Oh, Yeah!
Only one thing…. This layout was created in the mind of an artist, not in reality! As the Gautrain has not be completed as of yet. So “how are you going to shoot this” you might be thinking? Did I ever tell you that “great minds think alike?” This is EXACTLY what I was thinking to myself as I was sending an email to Sam, the producer, and Damian, the art director from King James- the agency.
They call me the next day and we meet at the agency to go over a strategy on the best way forward. After a few laughs and a good cup of coffee we get down to it. We decide on getting a location scout in Jo Burg to start the initial hunt for platforms, tracks and the train depot so we can shoot the train itself. I let everyone know that realistically this will be a “comp” shot, as we need to stay close to our layout. We then spoke about casting our talent up in Jo Burg and clothing, time of day and mood, treatment…. blah, blah, blah… At the end I was “hoping” it would be a “4-way comp job.” The idea being: The people and the platform would be 1 shot. The tracks and foreground 1 shot. The train and its track 1 shot and the sky and background 1 shot. I always shoot extra elements on locations to use incase we need more “stuff” to make the shot work…. But I was thinking basically 4 shots and we would be there. So we all agree and everyone heads out to get all this going.
I get back to my offices and I figure out my side of the quote. It was pretty basic, but still a little complex in costing it correctly. So it is me, two assistants, camera equipment, computer equipment, grip equipment flying to Jo Burg. Once I scouted the location I would order lighting up in Jo Burg to be delivered to location. So pretty simple in theory, but lets remember something here. All this depends on what the location scout finds out on our behalf. We send thru the quote and wait to hear.
Mean while all this is going on, there is a job I am prepping for the next day on location. Then we are in studio for 3 days after that, not to mention all the other quotes I need to get out so we can keep the work coming in. Little to say life is good…. at the moment.
I want to regress for a moment here. This is something I don’t think many people, except people who are self-employed realize, is that as a professional photographer I really don’t have a job. That’s right… hear me out for a second. I only work when there is work to be done. So if I don’t work next week because there are no jobs to be shot, I don’t get paid anything for that week. I do however keep getting the bills for that week and all the costs of running my business, not to mention my personal bills. So those of you who have a “real job” where you get a paycheck at the end of each month that will be a “certain” amount should be very happy! As there are some months that when I get “what is left” of the money, there isn’t much left for me. And as we all know as professional photographers this business has its ups and downs as I work with advertising agencies and the economy has a lot to do with how people advertise and how they spend. Little to say, it is not all “glory and hot chicks” like everyone thinks it is… Well at least not for me anyway…. Not all the time…(big smiles).
Ok… So a good week or so goes by and I get an email from the location scout. He is telling me he is waiting on permission from some “Gautrain contractor person” so he can actually get to go and photograph the locations. He tells me that there is security at all the stations in and around town and the depot is guarded with police. I think for a second while reading this, “why in the hell is everyone so protective about a public train being built and photographed?’ Then it comes to me as I hear the most horrific noise out side my office window. (It was a vuvuzella by the way!) The F^%king World Cup was in about a month! That is when it hit me…. “Oh my f#@k… we might not get permission to shoot this ad!” I grab my cell phone and give our location scout a call. He tells me that security is so tight that he cant even walk by the stations or park anywhere near them to get any type of shot. I tell him to keep me posted daily on his progress and I then call Damian at the agency.
“Listen bro, I just heard from Gary, our location scout, and he is saying we might not get permission. We need to think about another plan now just in case we don’t get permission.” Damian tells me he will let the Sam know and see what everyone thinks and get back with me.
Gary gave me a call a couple of days later and lets me know he finally got thru to someone and he is on his way to scout the location at the depot where the train is. I am relieved, as the alternative plan is not an easy task to do.
Later that day Gary sends me thru his pixs from his scout and I start to see what I have to work with and how I can do the shoot. I put together all the images I like and build a bit of a slide show so that I can show Damian and Sam what I have in mind.
We meet the next day and go over the game plan. We are having our meeting with Gary on speakerphone so he can be a part of it all as well.
We are going thru everything and I ask Gary about whether we can shoot next Wednesday or Thursday. He gets kind of quite for a second…I look over a Damian and Sam and I say loudly, “Gary? Just tell us…” Gary proceeds to tell us that just before having our conference call he received a call from the woman in charge saying that the Gautrain will be handed over on the 1st of April to…. (Wait for it….) Local City Government… That date turns out to be one of the days we wanted to shoot. So I ask Gary, “What does that mean?” He assures me that the woman he has been dealing with say it will not be a problem as we are in the depot area not at the stations.
So we all work out the schedule and decide that next Thursday we would all fly up and do the location scout and then we would shoot on Friday.
That was on a Wednesday the week before we are planning to be in Jo Burg.
I get a call Monday morning from Sam saying we will have to put the shoot on “hold” as they needed to wait for the train to be handed over to the city before we could shoot due to the timing schedule.
Also another interesting thing about being a photographer is how “up in the air” life can be. My schedule changes about 2 or 3 times a day. So you always have to be ready for anything at anytime… This makes “making plans” quite impossible and this doesn’t go down well with “girl friends”!
I will just leave that alone for now.
So lets fast-forward…a lot. All that happened the first week in April.
I then get a call from Sam about 2 weeks later and she informs me that the city will not give us permission to shoot. Ok…But stop for a second. It is not that simple now. Here’s how it works with photography and agencies…. When you quote on a job and the quote is approved, the costs are the costs. You really can’t go back to the client and ask for more money, because the job has been signed off. So because the costs were all ready signed off and now the job has changed, I must do the same costs with totally different ideas, locations, timings ect…. This can be VERY tricky!
I let Sam know I will give it some though and we will “make a plan.”
Meanwhile I am in Jo Burg shooting the new Reality Show called “ Sharp Shooter” and I don’t know when I can get a few days off to get back to Cape Town to scout and shoot this…. So this was going to take a lot of planning and prep to make this go well.
Fast forward a couple of days and I am back in Cape Town. I have sent thru my idea of how we can do this. We had to get a local location scout to do the scouting for me, as I could not make it back due to my filming schedule in Jo Burg. So I get back on a Tuesday early morning flight. Go straight to the office and pick up the camera and my assistant Lebo. We then head out to the locations I liked from the location scouts pixs. Damian was swamped with work so he could not come with us, as I wanted him to be there to approve everything.
6 hours later. Almost arrested in Malmesbury for photographing train tracks on private property, which I was told by my location scout that it was “no problem to shoot them.” Then harassed at Spier train station for walking on the tracks…which are on the side of the public F&^king road! Not to mention the weather was being “VERY CAPE TOWN!”, raining in Malmesbury and sunny and hot as hell in Stellenbosch.
I get back to the office and give Damian a call. “Listen bud, we are not going to get permission to shoot the tracks like we planed.” The guys who almost had me arrested told me this himself, as he works for the train yard company. “So what I did was I had my assistant talk to him and keep him busy while I went ahead and photographed everything we needed.” Damian started laughing, “Are you serious? So you got all the elements we needed for the shoot on the location scout? Then we don’t need to shoot tomorrow then?” I tell him, “No, I feel really good about what I got and I know we can make it all work!” He then proceeds to tell me that the Gautrain Authorities have supplied him with a shot of the train we must use, since we cannot photograph it. I said, “Cool” and he says, “Cool” and there is a sense of relief between us both. I send shots thru to Damian and he loves them.
Now as a rule I usually take my camera on a location scout / recce so my art director can look thru camera and see what “we will see” when we shoot. Also if the location looks great we will document it just because we can. And it is this that saved our asses on this job because we were able to “stay within the budget” that was already approved for the shoot because we didn’t have to go back and shoot the locations again. We got lucky on that one…
So the following day we shoot in studio for the people who are on the platform. All goes great and we got some really cool options of everyone.
I then do a quick comp layout for Damian to look at. A big smile comes over his face and he says something like, “Dude, we have it…”
So after a couple of days of some serious retouching and crafting, we ended up with this…. It turned out to be about a 12-way comp job. Not 4… This is where you really have to know what you are doing.
Check it out.
Moral of the story…. Plan for the unexpected. Always have a back up plan and then another one. Work with great people. And always believe in the work and it will always work with you.
For all of us at Locker 14, thanks and we look forward to the next “ Rare Opportunity.”
Next installment will be how “Sharp Shooter” became a part of my life….
It’s pretty funny…