Our senior producer Bryan Sheffield worked with photographer Lucy Hewett to create still images showing off the recently renovated Grand Hotel. The location of the Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan provided some interesting challenges. Especially the fact that there are no motorized vehicles on the island!
Lucy Hewett is a talented Chicago-based photographer specializing in food, interiors, and portraiture. The Grand Hotel marketing team needed photos to promote their newly renovated restaurants, amenities, and guest suites. They fell in love with Lucy’s portfolio when she was referred to them through a colleague. I was thrilled when Lucy reached out to me to help her with estimate creation, creative call planning, and ultimately the on-site shoot production.
Lucy is a master of her craft. Her experience and skill allow her to move quickly from an interior shot to food and still-life imagery, to lifestyle images of talent enjoying a meal. This made her a great match for this shoot. I’ve worked with Lucy for a few years now, and it’s always a pleasure to work alongside such great talent!
Grand Hotel opened in 1887 on Mackinac Island on Lake Huron in Michigan. To preserve the feeling of that era, the entire island is car-free and the only way to get around is by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, or on foot! The hotel was decorated by Carleton Varney and each room (and floor) is unique, each with its own in color scheme and style. Grand Hotel also boasts the largest front porch in the world! Moreover, the hotel is on Conde Nast Traveler’s “Gold List.” They’re listed as one of the “Best Places to Stay in the Whole World.” Additionally, Travel + Leisure magazine lists it within their “Top 100 Hotels in the World.”
After a few revisions to the estimate to fine-tune the length of the project and talent needs, Lucy was awarded the project. So we set off to Mackinac Island for a 2-day location scout. This visit would be instrumental in learning about the property, formulating the shot list, and planning the time needed at each location. The initial scouting trip consisted of Lucy, her assistant Josué, the client marketing manager, two marketing coordinators, and me.
Each evening over dinner, Lucy and I worked to refine the shoot schedule. This included the time of day needs, length of time needed in each location, as well as any efficiencies we saw in placing specific shots/scenes near each other and balancing all of this with the talent schedule and overall budget.
Once we built a production schedule for a 3-day shoot, we shared it with the client so they could coordinate the locations, chefs, food prep, and staff background subjects. After the client approved our schedule, we started casting for our talent and confirming the crew. Because the location was so remote, we brought people in from Detroit, Chicago, and Traverse City, Michigan. Lucy’s team consisted of two assistants, a digital tech, a wardrobe stylist and assistant, and a client-recommended hair & makeup stylist.
We reviewed our shot list with our wardrobe styling team and they made their recommendations for an overall color palette as well as mood boards with wardrobe recommendations for each shot.
With crew booked, locations and talent scheduled, and a lengthy to-do list checked off, our first shoot day approached, and we prepared for success. Our production schedule included a full day of travel for cast and crew and a late afternoon ferry reservation for the quick trip to Mackinac Island. With all hands on deck, we were able to load all equipment, luggage, and wardrobe onto the ferry. Our talent arrivals were staggered as needed over the next three days. I am happy to say that, between all 23 people traveling, I was the only one with travel delays!
We learned a lot during this project, mainly that on this remote island the nearest source for any potentially forgotten batteries and/or charging cables is hours away, and that horse-drawn carriages are rarely prompt or predictable. In the end, it was a great success. We had a wonderful time with a gracious client, a hard working team, and talented cast. After a quick turn on retouching needs, the work is currently out in the world to market and promote Grand Hotel.
Here are a few additional images of us behind the scenes, including our equipment being transported by horse-drawn carriage: