Shoot Production: Kwikset Shoot with Clark Vandergrift
Last spring, IMRE Baltimore asked photographer Clark Vandergrift to submit an estimate to shoot a new campaign for their client, Kwikset Residential Door Hardware. Clark brought me in to help determine and negotiate licensing fees and fine tune the production expenses he had come up with. After a somewhat lengthy negotiation, with numerous rounds of revisions, Clark was awarded the job and hired me to produce the campaign.
We were charged with capturing three unique ads with common composition uniting them (each was shot from the outside of a home, looking in through a partially open door). The concept was production intensive, requiring location scouting, RVs, casting, catering, set building, plus prop and wardrobe styling as well as hair and make-up. Thankfully, we had a generous amount of time to produce the project—a full month from the award date.
My first order of business was to develop and disseminate a comprehensive production schedule. Working from the shoot date, I set deadlines for location scouting, casting, propping, wardrobe, pre-pro and the final walk-through. In addition to the basics, a good production schedule will go even further, outlining spec, feedback, approval & file delivery deadlines. Here’s the production calendar I put together for this shoot:
Before getting too deep into the production, I put together my expense spreadsheet to track every penny received and spent. Although I’m as precise as possible when building an estimate, it’s inevitable that certain production expenses will come in higher than estimated, while others may come in lower. Using this document allows me to keep an eye on the costs at a glance.
Next came the crew. We wanted to make sure we had our preferred people on hold as soon as possible. Since this was our first production together, I connected with Clark to find out who he wanted to work with and which crew and production items he wanted to handle himself. Clark booked his assistants/grips, reserved a grip truck with Serious Grip and Electric and left the rest of production to me.
Casting and Talent:
We decided to hold the casting at the Wonderful Machine studio. Since we’re located just outside of Philadelphia, we hoped to draw a large talent pool from New York to DC, but assumed the majority of the talent would come from Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Art Director Ben Meyers provided the casting specs for the 17 required talent, which I consolidated into a casting call which I sent out to 20 of my preferred talent agencies in DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and NYC. We ended up photographing 400 talent for consideration, which gave IMRE solid options for each of the roles. I booked the talent and passed along the location info and call times. Our wardrobe stylist contacted each of them to coordinate sizing and the wardrobe options we hoped each talent could bring along.
After doing a bit of research on scouts and location libraries, I contacted Model Locations. They had an extensive library of properties within our budget and could handle additional custom scouting if necessary. Based on our specs, Model Locations pulled images for 16 locations. After some discussion, Clark, IMRE and Kwikset narrowed it down to two in Silver Spring, MD and Hunt Valley, MD, one of which would work for two of the concepts.
Even though we would have total rein over the locations we’d secured, it was important to have a base of operations for the talent and client, agency and crew to rest and regroup—and for hair, make-up and wardrobe styling to set up. Typically, I wouldn’t hire any crew or resource that didn’t have a website, but in this case, I made an exception. I’d met Lee Carrick and had the opportunity to utilize his spacious and utilitarian RV while tag teaming on a still/video production a little over a year ago in Baltimore. Lee was a pro maneuvering his 35′ rig in tight spaces and making the shoot as comfortable for everyone as possible.
The set construction was straightforward enough that we could handle it at the Wonderful Machine studio. It simply required the sourcing and finishing of three different exterior doors and construction of a short false wall. Before sourcing the doors, I checked to make sure Kwikset didn’t have any door partners that I had to use or that would be able to provide discounted doors. They didn’t, so Ben and I discussed the options and jumped in. Luckily, Ben is a Photoshop rockstar, and by the time I’d begun construction had created an detailed comp using the scouting images and quick grabs of doors. When building the wall and choosing finishes for the doors, I was able to match the scale, sizing and color in his comp exactly. I had our office neighbors, Rinker and Brown, drill out the doors and install the Kwikset hardware. Once everything was complete, I rigged up the door and false wall in the studio using c-stands, arms and super-clamps and snapped some shots for agency/client approval. They were thrilled with my handy work so I packed it all up in the panel van for transportation to the shoot.
My preferred prop/wardrobe stylist in the MD and VA is Neely Dykshorn. She came to me through a recommendation by one of our DC members, Robb Scharetg. Along with her assistant Jeff, Neely handled wardrobe and supplement props (rugs, pillows, art, plants) and knocked it out of the park, as usual. The only detail we had to pay special attention to was the selection of props for the handyman concept. Should any power tools be visible on his tool belt, they had to be a brand made by Kwikset’s parent company, Black and Decker.
Brooke Leidner was a recommendation of Clark’s. She’d handled a hair and make-up for him on a few other recent projects and was a great addition to the team. Since we would only be prepping for one shot at a time, Brooke was able to handle the HMU on her own. Had the schedule required that she prep another group of talent while the first was on set, we would have needed another stylist.
To help me out during the shoot, I hired a Brad D’Amico, a photo assistant that had assisted on a project I’d produced in Baltimore a while back. He was a fantastic, willing to jump on any task I assigned to him.
Once all of the details, locations, talent, and schedules were confirmed, I built the production book. When you have 17 talent, 11 crew, 6 agency, 1 client, 2 locations, 2 shoot days 3 concepts and 7 different call times you need to consolidate all of the important information. I included contact info, shoot schedules, location info, talent info, comps, scouting shots and product references. The result was a 12 page document available for quick reference just before and throughout the shoot. Here’s a copy of the production book:
Walk-through and Shoot:
Clark and I did a walk-through of each of the locations the day before the shoot. This was to confirm that the angles that had been selected during the scouting would indeed be the best for the concept, and also to check for any unanticipated issues related to lighting, loading, parking, etc. Thanks to a great client, killer agency, stellar talent, a fantastic photographer and a rockstar crew, the shoot went smoothly and the ads turned out great.
Behind the scenes:
The final ads: