One of my favorite parts about being a commercial photographer is the access that it grants me. It’s like a ticket to some of the best seats and I get to experience things from a unique perspective that is not normally possible if I was not photographing the event. I’ve been able to do things like photograph the Detroit Lions fieldside, go up in hot air balloons, and get front row access at concerts all because I have a camera (that I’m ok at using). This past March, I had another one of those experiences. A production company came to my hometown Frankenmuth and filmed a made for TV movie called A Christmas Movie Christmas. They used the studio I rent as a production headquarters and hired me to be one of the unit still photographers to capture behind the scenes photos to be used for the promotion of the movie.
It was an extremely interesting and exciting job to be behind the scenes of a production of this size. There is a certain buzz that comes with Hollywood productions and I enjoyed having an inside perspective on what was going on. I’m usually more interested in watching the behind the scenes of a movie than the actual movie and so getting to experience that aspect of movie making first hand was a bucket list type of experience for me.
My first day started off in Zak and Mac’s in the Riverplace. It’s not a very big store and so by the time all of the cameras, lights, and people were packed in, I had a very small window to shoot photographs. I’ve photographed a lot of high stress events in my career (for instance, brides walking down the aisle). I can safely say that hearing a director call “action” and knowing that I could potentially ruin a shot if I made a noise was one of the most nerve wracking feelings I have experienced while photographing something. I was located right behind the main camera, so I felt extremely close to the action (and even more likely to mess something up). I think this nervous feeling helped set the tone for my work on set. I realized fairly quickly that the shots I was capturing and my job on set was second to everything else that was happening. My experience as a wedding photographer kicked in and I worked hard to be as invisible as possible while still getting the necessary photos. I enjoyed being able to see the relationship between the director and cast as well as watch how tight the production team stayed to its schedule. Below are some of those photos:
Day two on set was quite a bit different. My calltime was 3:00 p.m. until about 3:00 a.m. because we would be filming night scenes. It was extremely cold because we were shooting outdoors in Michigan. I could tell I was photographing some of the important plotlines near the end of the movie. Movies are not filmed sequentially. It’s been fun since the filming to try to imagine the plot that would connect the scenes I saw filmed on my first day to the scenes I saw on my second.
We were also filming some of the biggest scenes in terms of extras on set during this day, so we had quite a bit of downtime between takes. During this time, I found myself next to the cast and crew. I wasn’t able to research which actresses and actors were in the movie before I showed up. I had no idea who they were or if they were famous. One of my favorite experiences from the movie was a conversation I had with Kimberly Daugherty. We were sitting next to each other watching extras come up to Brant Daughery to take photos with him. I had no idea that he was famous (I've never seen Pretty Little Liars) and figured that the extras just wanted to get photos with all of the cast. I joked with Kimberly and asked what it was like to be engaged to someone so famous. She told me that it gets annoying at times but that usually people are pretty cool with him. I laughed as I quickly realized that I was the only one in the room who had no idea of his celebrity status.
All-in-all it was a pretty unique experience. And, hey, now my name is in a movie’s credits! Not too shabby.
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Above are a few more examples of the photo in use.