Thursday, April 11, 2013
Photography on the USA Network show THE MOMENT
Airing on April 11, 2013 at 10pm
Once in a lifetime you submerge down the rabbit hole into a mirror opposite world – Wonderland, if you will. Mine started with a simple phone call, out of the blue. The kind of phone call you could never anticipate.
I was sitting in my studio, alone. The man on the phone introduce himself as producer for a new reality television show. The premise was to fulfill the wishes of weekly participants who wanted to resurrect a career they had to abandon earlier in their life. Now I am not a fan of reality TV. Cannot stand the Kardashians or The Apprentice. I have never seen any of those dance shows or singing shows. I watched Honey Boo Boo once to see what all the hulabaloo was about. Even so, I indulged the voice on the other end of the line. They were looking for a "mentor" who would coach the prospective, in this case sports photographer, towards her dream. A decent concept.
I bungled through my next statement, "So you want me to recommend someone who might be good at that?" Dead silence. "No. That's why we are calling YOU." Not taking the hint I told the voice that they definitely did not want me. "I am not camera-ready." After explaining that Sports Illustrated magazine had already recommended me, the production company had done much of the vetting and background checking, and still wanted to know if I was interested.
I always felt I was just one of many the TV show was interviewing. I never for a minute thought they would choose me. I was just going through the motions to find out more about the process, how these things really work. And to assess my "TV worth". Eventually I talked to legal, got myself an agent, signed contracts and sold my soul.
On a parallel reality, I was pursuing another assignment for a corporate client. Both conversations were filled with heavy negotiations. On the one hand, I was suggesting appropriate tests and exercises to hone the skills of their potential TV student. And on the other hand, my studio was applying for the special visas necessary to enter the Peoples Republic of China. The TV producers asked me to use my clout to get Nikon to donate all the cameras and lenses that would appear on the show. At the same time, I was amping up my workouts to build the endurance for the extreme weather, vigorous activities and stamina in a foreign country.
Possibly the worst day in my professional career came within the same twenty-four hours when both "clients" booked me for the same day: one in Los Angeles, the other in Guangzhou, China. Not a viable commute. I was physically ill. On the subway to an appointment I decided to decline the TV show. Turned out this was not an option. But after another series of negotiations, we were able to reschedule both jobs – back to back.
Hollywood was a real eye opener. I have photographed on movie sets, but this time was different. The crews were huge: first and second unit camera operators, soundmen, wardrobe, makeup, craft services. There was no script and we worked extremely quickly from scene to scene.
The host, Kurt Warner, was an NFL Super Bowl champion. He is the spokesman and the one constant in all the episodes. The episode star, Tracie Marcum, lost her wedding photography studio when her life had been turned upside. After the principals surprised her in her hometown with the opportunity to appear on the show, I took over to help her realize the dream of becoming a sports photographer (and to be the comic relief).
After the first day of shooting, I called my studio back in Boston and told Leah, my studio manager, to use my frequent flyer miles to come to Hollywood. There was a lot to be learned by observing production at this level. Behind the scenes was the real education. After all, this was Tinseltown – Hollywood – the Land of Dreams.
Each day my job was to yell, prod and cajole my participant through the multiple skills necessary to become a competent sports photographer. Obviously day after day, the emotions varied like a sinusoidal wave. Feelings ran high.
A while after we wrapped the production, I did some sleuthing and tracked down my costar, Tracie. I wanted to know what had happened to her. Did she get her wish or not? We actually had a reunion of sorts. I was not sure about our disposition because I probably stepped over the line in one of the sequences when I got in her face. Her whole demeanor changed and her face went dark. She told me later that was when she realized what I was telling her and the wisdom I was imparting. We have become good friends and stay in touch with email and FACEBOOK, etc. It is strange seeing yourself on television. The promo ads for the premiere show are in high rotation on television every night. And our episode is the first one to kick off the series. It will air on April 11, 2013 at 10pm on USA Network. I guess they have confidence in our chapter. "We had good chemistry."
Call time on the last day came very early in the morning. In the evening after my last shot, I walked off the set, shook a few hands, thanked the crew for nursing me through the arduous project and got into a limousine that spirited me to LAX where I met my other client. We flew all night to Asia, drove four hours to the first location and immediately began shooting my next assignment. You've got to take the work when you get it.