Shoot Production: MGM National Harbor

Dec 21, 2017
Consulting Case StudiesShoot Production

We spent almost three weeks in a brand-new casino and left with the same amount of money in our pockets as we came in with. Impressive, right? The one thing that was in our favor was that the casino wasn’t open yet and all the table games and slot machines were yet to be played. The scenes were set for our interior and exterior architecture shoot at MGM National Harbor casino and hotel in Oxon Hill, Maryland. We worked with local photographer Tracey Brown and the amazing marketing team at MGM to capture the state-of-the-art facilities and amenities that the casino is now offering. MGM hired us to manage the shoot that required 30+ architectural and detail images of guest rooms, suites, restaurants, gaming rooms, spas, etc.

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

Production crew in the Presidential Suite. 

The plan was to shoot everything over nine consecutive days, two weeks prior to the grand opening. We had to wait to shoot close to the opening because many of the features were still being installed, and the construction and design crews were working around the clock to get it done. It was amazing to witness everything coming together and to see the progress day by day. Unfortunately, my almost perfect shoot schedule was completely turned upside-down because construction deadlines were not being met and we couldn’t shoot incomplete features. That’s when having an easy-going attitude and backup plan came in handy.

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

Producer Julia Hanley making sure all of the smallest details are taken care of.

Our small crew of five was top notch, we worked great as a team. Our photographer, Tracey Brown was a delight to work with and her attention to detail was truly inspiring. She had two local assistants, Kady Dulny and Chris Birck, who helped the shoot run smoothly especially with their lighting expertise and quick equipment packing skills. Three of us from Wonderful Machine traveled to the set including myself, Alex Subers and Matt Lander.

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

Photographer Tracey Brown lining up her next shot. 

Our first order of business was heading to the security department in the casino to get Vendor badges. Without the badges, we wouldn’t have the necessary clearance to enter certain areas of the casino and hotel, and due to our tight deadlines, we needed as little interruptions as possible. One of the most interesting aspects of this shoot was seeing the inner workings of a casino and how many individuals and teams it takes to make everything run smoothly. We had the pleasure of working with the amazing MGM staff, everyone was so welcoming and friendly.

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

Blurry, but security approved vendor badges.

Once we passed the security check, completed our tech scout and had a tentative shot list for our nine days, we then found out that a video team would also be shooting at the same time as us and had an extremely similar shot list. After I was informed about this, I immediately reached out to the EP on the video crew and we tried to coordinate schedules so that we wouldn’t be working in the same space at the same time. Although our crew was small, the video team was much larger and had a crew of about 15+. So, working in the same facility at the same time wouldn’t work. Again, even though we had a tentative shot list we knew that things were going to change every day due to construction schedules.

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

Construction workers putting the final touches on the hotel.

Out of our 30+ shot list, about 70% were in public areas, or areas with high foot traffic, while the rest were in secluded areas with little to no people. Once we had our shots set and ready to be captured, we then had to either ask people to not walk in the frame or re-route a different way. We weren’t the only people working with a deadline, so often we would get some resistance. But, for the most part, everyone was friendly and when we explained that it would only be a few minutes, they waited patiently. We also had a lot of coordination between us and the MGM staff for the restaurant and hotel shots. We needed to make sure that all tableware was set prior to us shooting and that rooms were cleaned and linens were pressed. The MGM staff always came through and really helped us achieve our daily shot list of three to four images.

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

Assistant Kady Dulny and Producer Julia Hanley catch a quick nap during lunch. 

Despite some of the difficulties we faced, this shoot was a blast! I learned a lot about patience. The team at MGM was amazing and we couldn’t have pulled it off without them. Also, fun fact, we saw Sarah Jessica Parker in-person for her store opening at the casino! We couldn’t stop to say hi, but we did see her in passing which was pretty cool.

Here you can see a few of the final assets: 

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

mgm national harbor, oxon hill, maryland, julia hanley, wonderful machine, tracey brown

To learn more about our production services, please visit our shoot production page. We’re always happy to chat as well, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line at 610.260.0200.

Tags: julia hanley maryland mgm national harbor oxon hill shoot production tracey brown wonderful machine