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Miki Johnson: Tell me about what you’ve been working on these days.
Justin Mott: My calendar has been pretty diverse since I began to organize and market my commercial work halfway through 2009. Getting my commercial work organized and branded has eaten up a huge chunk of my free time. Work in Vietnam is pretty diverse so you have to be able to do a little bit of everything.
My assignments over the last two months came from; German Red Cross, the United Nations, Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, three 5-star resorts, Microsoft, the World Health Organization, and the Smithsonian. I shot a wedding and I have been involved with a commissioned book project in Beijing and Shanghai about Chabad communities. I’m also working on my own book along with shooting a few other long-term personal projects.
The most lucrative has easily been the resort work because I’m able to sell packages of both stills and video. Commercial work simply pays more, a lot more, and in this region the market is expanding. I’m still searching for the right balance of commercial work and editorial but I completely love both in different ways.
MJ: Tell me about this video you did for Anantara Bophut (above).
JM: I’ve built up a good relationship with a luxury line of resorts over the past year shooting stills for them. I’ve worked for them in Thailand and Tanzania shooting more than seven resorts.
I first pitched the video as an add-on for a stills shoot I was scheduled to do for them. It’s hard to pitch a product without a good example piece already, so I offered to do it for free, knowing the potential was huge.
I know many photographers get upset hearing things like that, but I wasn’t giving anything away. I was upfront about wanting to show them one piece in hopes of doing a series for them on an agreed price. Without having a strong piece to show them, I had to offer a preview instead. I was also confident that we could deliver them something they would be excited about.
My producer, Camille Faylona, scripted the story for them using stills as visual cues of what the final product might look like. In a face-to-face meeting we talked over the script and about pricing. We also discussed videos that had been done for them in the past and why they were unhappy with them. I was pitching them a different technique with a more TV-commercial feel and more of a story instead of just footage of their facility.
I shot the whole piece all on the Canon 5D Mark II, frequently using a Merlin Steadicam to give a first-person perspective. It’s a new process for me, so we figured a lot of things out on the fly, but overall everything worked out really well. That way I was also offering the client new technology. I could give a cinematic feel to the final piece at a fraction of the former price. They were extremely happy with the final product and we are now discussing a 6 resort video shoot.
An important thing to realize about the pitch is, not only do you have to pitch the quality of the video, but you also have to help the client understand potential outlets for it. With stills they know how they are going to use them for their website, brochure, email promos, etc. For the videos you have to help them see the potential for more than just a video for their website. They can be used as web commercials on travel magazine websites, DVD’s for travel agents, in-room cross commercials, and more.
MJ: You said you see this part of your business’ growth in the future. In what ways and why?
JM: I feel like digital magazines are right around the corner, and with the iPad being released, the potential for video content demand is massive. Editorial and commercial clients need videos as their marketing outlets become more digital, so I see huge potential in both markets. I envision travel magazines doing videos more like a Discovery Channel piece, rather than just a slideshow of images. With new technology it’s affordable and not so intimidating for the photographer.
Video DLSR’s are still in the “wow” stage, and it’s easy to excite clients with their amazing footage when coupled with nice lenses. I’m not saying that the camera will do all the work, but the technology is rather revolutionary so it provides a great head start. Pretty soon it will be standard; but for now I plan to capitalize on this “wow” factor – the feedback so far has been extremely positive.
It also helps that we can offer a one-stop production. Packages from Mott Visuals include stills and videos that have a similar style, so it’s one less thing for the client to worry about.
MJ: Is this the first promo video you’d done with a DSLR? What did you learn from the process?
JM: This was our fist piece using the steadicam and time-lapse, so there was a learning curve to figure out how to use the device technically and stylistically. Plus the whole production process takes more time than with stills. We have to script the story before and get the client’s approval, then we do the same at the end of shooting.
It’s also different because I’m working with a producer who has creative input, so we have two heads instead of one, which is good for video. I tend to think like a photographer; I want to leap from one thing to the next, while she reminds me we need to find a way to get there.
MJ: What else about this project was interesting or challenging for you?
JM: The challenge for me was not having a system in place yet like I do for stills. I know my “go to” shots for commercial shoots; after getting those I can experiment. For video I’m still fairly new, so I’m learning on the fly.
For me, transitioning has been the biggest challenge, making sure I visually lead the viewer from point A to point B. I’ve learned the value of a good producer who understands storytelling — and I also learned I need to pay her more so I don’t lose her.
The other challenge is how to market this work myself, online and through my agency, Redux Pictures. I’m still trying to figure out better ways than to simply include clips and trailers on my website and blog, but for now that is what we are limited to. Hopefully that will make for another blog post further down the road.
Jessica Dimmock, a young photographer who won acclaim while still a student at ICP for her intimate portrayal of heroine addicts in The Ninth Floor, recently released a music video for Moby. It’s an intense piece, an unconventional music video, and interesting new territory for both Jessica and Moby. The Photography Post ran a nice little interview with the photographer about the piece on Thursday.
We’re happy to help spread the word that award-winning photographer Judith Fox has an exhibition opening on Thursday, March 4, at FiftyCrows Gallery in San Francisco, which was founded by liveBooks CEO Andy Patrick. The exhibition will include images from two bodies of work, Sea of Dreams and I Still Do, which documents her husband’s descent into Alzheimers and which was named one of 2009′s best photo books by Photo-Eye.
Apple’s release Wednesday of their new tablet computer, the iPad, had been eagerly anticipated in part for its potential to “save” the struggling publishing industry. Its impact on photography was mentioned several times in our cross-blog discussion about the future of photobooks and is being weighed across the photo blogosphere this week. Fred Ritchin at After Photography calls it a disappointment for content producers and Rob Haggart at A Photo Editor is reservedly excited about consuming magazines in this new way. Bastian Ehl at Black Star Rising takes a less cynical approach, arguing that the iPad’s annoying non-support of Flash is actually designed to force users to pay for content.
One of the first narrative movies shot entirely using DSLRs (Canon 5D Mark IIs in video mode) launched its trailer online on Tuesday. The Coming Soon page for Betrayed was big news when it went up in August, so we’re excited to bring you an exclusive first interview with director Joshua Grossberg on RESOLVE.
Miki Johnson: How did you get involved with the Betrayed project and why were you interested in being a part of it?
Josh Grossberg: My friend, photographer Robert Caplin, told me about this terrific DSLR that Canon had just released, the Canon 5D Mark II, and how it is going to be a great new tool for filmmakers. So a team was put together including Robert and producer Thomas Xenakis. Our goal was to use the 5D to shoot the first five minutes of a feature-length thriller I had co-written and planned to direct called Disappear.
The project grew from there, at which point I tapped a longtime collaborator, Michael Kier, to help me revamp the script. We co-wrote what became a nine-minute neo-noir short called Betrayed, which utilizes the same characters but serves as a prequel of sorts to the feature.
The purpose of the film is to tell a story unto itself while at the same time attracting equity financing for the full-length version, Disappear. Our approach is similar to the strategy director Courtney Hunt used for her Sundance Award-winning Frozen River.
With a gracious assist from Elisa Pugliese, who produced the film August, Seth Gilliam (from HBO’s The Wire), PJ Sosko, and Cara Buono (The Sopranos) came aboard to play the principle roles — a terrific and talented group of actors — and we went from there.
MJ: What appealed to you about shooting a film using a DSLR as opposed to other cameras?
JG: It saved me money, and the opportunity to utilize a brand new, cutting-edge technology was very exciting. The compactness of the 5D, its remarkable cinematic quality, and the fact that it would quickly establish itself as a direct competitor to the Red was another huge draw. And the fact that I would be collaborating with close friends was like icing on the cake.
MJ: Did shooting with a DSLR significantly change the way you thought about directing the film?
JG: Absolutely! Before the 5D, I took a rather dim view to digital filmmaking, mainly because I had yet to see a camera — the Red included — that I thought truly lived up to the persistence of vision that comes with celluloid and that didn’t make me aware of the fact that I was looking at pixels. While you’re still dealing with electronic image processors and mega-pixels with the 5D, the results blew me away, particularly in what the DSLR could achieve in low-light situations. The wide latitude it gives filmmakers allows us to do, for instance, magic-hour filming without having to rent expensive HMIs and other cumbersome equipment to get the exposure.
It also saved us time and freed up the performances of the actors who practically forgot there was this little camera capturing their every line and move. Seeing it projected onscreen in High Def, the quality was just fantastic, especially given this was a no-budget production. The idea that now independent filmmakers can go out and shoot movies with the production aesthetics of a big budget Hollywood feature is truly revolutionary and tears down the wall between expensive A-list productions and indie features.
Of course, at the end of the day, while the technology is wonderful, it’s still subservient to the story — so you better have a good one. I’m happy with the results of Betrayed. It feels like a puzzle picture to me like Memento and Michael Clayton, movies that take you for a thrill ride and leave you coming back for more. I want to figure out the nuances, kinda like my favorite films. And seeing the performances by Seth and PJ in particular, I hope people will really enjoy it.
MJ: What was the greatest challenge shooting this project? Would you do anything different knowing what you do now about the process?
JG: Because we were working with a technology that was relatively unproven on the film front, figuring out the workflow was an issue. And the fact that we were shooting in 30P meant that we would have to later sync sound, which was recorded separately. Perhaps the biggest challenge was maintaining focus during dolly shots and push ins/push outs.
On the post-production front, since very few people, if any, had used the 5D before, editing proved to be a challenge because we had to find an intermediate format, otherwise the raw files were too big for Final Cut Pro to handle. We ended up relying on Pro Res for both the editing and the output and the folks at Post Logic did a great job working with us to ensure quality control.
MJ: I hear you have some meetings lined up at Sundance, etc. to talk about funding for a full-length version. Can you talk a little about that process? What are this film’s selling points?
JG: Until you’re more established, the process is simply: Do whatever it takes to get your film in the hands of decision makers. I’m excited about all the possibilities Sundance brings. I’ll be talking to a host of film executives as well as investors — some of them are major studios looking to develop Betrayed as a feature, others are indies. We’ll be going to Cannes in May as well. But the goal is to cobble together the remainder of the financing and roll cameras on the feature sometime this summer or early fall.
Aside from being one of the first filmmakers to shoot a feature exclusively on the 5D, in our view the other big selling point that we maintained throughout the creative process is the manipulation of words in the script. Every line spoken by an actor is duplicitous by design, since they are intended to be interpreted in more than one way. The double entendres are part of the puzzle and audiences will hopefully have as much fun figuring it out as we had writing it. Nothing is as it seems. Hopefully Betrayed will give people a flavor of what’s to come in the full-length, Disappear.
MJ: Any other important things you learned through working on this film?
JG: This may sound cliche but it’s undeniably true. If you believe in something strongly enough, don’t give up your vision. There will always be times when you wonder why the hell you got into this crazy business, but keep your head down, stick to your guns, and the rest, as they say, is gravy.
Todd Walker is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His “Gallery Hopper” blog has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The San Francisco Examiner. Currently he writes at ocularoctopus.com.
Some of the most interesting suggestions from contributing Future of Photobooks bloggers addressed changes in the way photobooks are “consumed” (the best word we could find to encompass “read,” “viewed,” and “watched”).
Here are a few of their predictions for what it might be like to look through a photobook in ten years:
Images accompanied by audio of the photographer describing the work, their personal vision, and the way the images were made. “It will be like a museum tour where you have your own personal guide,” explains Tomas Ovalle at The PhotoOracle.
Jin Zhu at Shooting Wide Open wishes that photobooks could be more like McSweeney’s publications, arriving with physical goodies like pullout posters, photo postcards, and maps, as well as digital goodies like audio interviews with the subject or “making of” videos on an accompanying DVD or USB.
Shane Godfrey and Nick Turpin both suggested a symbiosis between digital, physical, and downloadable versions of a book. From Nick’s post on sevensevennine: “I can see the printed and digital elements of PUBLICATION complimenting each other in this way as we go forward, the printed magazine on sale for six months whilst the essays from previous editions are archived and made available online.”
We can only hope that these models and more will be explored — again, as creative decisions made by artists about how best to convey their work. Todd brought up another question that relates instead to the “consumer” or audience.
As Radius Books co-founder Darius Himes pointed out in his post, the average photobook only has an audience of around 3,000. Can that audience be expanded by expanding the definitions and expectations of a photobook? And what new requirements will photographers need to consider if their audience is a much wider one including a much lower percentage of “photo people.”
One positive change that might be spurred by a larger, more diverse audience for photobooks is that they be treated with more respect by the cultural gatekeepers. As Alec Soth points out, they at least deserve the same kind of attention the New York Times recently bestowed on graphic books. Or, as Larissa Leclair suggests, maybe it will help us to recognize books as an artform in and of themselves, perhaps even prompting “photobook museums.”
In all our excitement over the idea of a “multimedia photobook” (I hope I’m not the only one who’s excited), we shouldn’t lose site of the possible downsides of this reading experience. As advertising consultant Alan Wolk reprimands at The Toad Stool, “reading” (and I would include still images in that) is an entirely different experience from “watching” something, also highlighted by this brilliant video from the Lens Culture blog forecasting what a digital magazine of the future might look like.
And finally, I don’t think we would call this brilliant multimedia slideshow from Alec Soth a book, but a book was its impetus and a book (and sculpture) are its outcome. What it definitely is, is an enjoyable place to start to stretch our brains about what a photobook could be.
As part of the ongoing discussion examining the Future of Photobooks we’re hosting on RESOLVE in collaboration with FlakPhoto, we’re sharing some of our favorite publications mentioned by the 45+ bloggers who have weighed in so far. These represent the seeds of publishing advances we expect and/or hope to see in the future. Check out our earlier posts as well, on small printers for self-publishing photobooks and game-changing people and ideas from the photobook world.
After two years of research by members Richard Anderson and Peter Krogh, ASMP announced the launch of its dpBestflow.org website at FotoWeekDC earlier this week. Shorthand for “Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow,” the website, part of the three-tier project that includes a book and a traveling seminar series, aims to offer definitive guidelines for digital photography best practices and workflow.
Forbes Media announced yesterday that it has acquired digital magazine FlipGloss and its Digital Glossy Insert photo publishing platform. Launched about 8 months ago, FlipGloss combines search engine capabilities with the experience of flipping through photo content of a magazine, and users can click on objects in the photos to find out where to purchase an item or even be led to an advertiser’s website.
Wes Anderson’s new movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opens in selected theaters today, is a stop-motion picture shot entirely using a Nikon D3 – over 600,000 stills that generate 18.5 terrabytes of data. According to movie review website IMDb, the beautifully art-directed adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic used Nikon D3 because it “offers a significantly higher resolution than even that of full High Definition.” Wired.com has a great “Making of” the movie here.
Google has cut the price for extra storage on its photo sharing site Picasa to about one eighth of what it used to cost. For $5 a year, now you can have 20GB photo storage on the site. “Since most people have less than 10GB of photos, chances are you can now save all your memories online for a year for the cost of a triple mocha,” according to the official Google Photos Blog.