Thursday, May 31, 2007
Control Your Casting Call
The process of finding the perfect model is a matter of art , science and more than a little luck
It Just Feels Wrong
There are times when you feel the client is going down the wrong path with their casting choices. That's when things become delicate. I was booked to shoot a box cover for Microsoft. The packaging was to be used globally, so the money for the talent was fabulous.
Shooting a headshot for a box cover requires someone who's shockingly stunning and can move subtly in a confined space. I went to my personal short list of models. As it happened, one of my favorites was attending the University of Washington about five miles from the studio where the shoot was planned. That left one more model to cast. I didn't get approval to fly anyone in from where I was based in Los Angeles, so that left me to find the second model from the local talent pool.
I had vetoed an entire package from one agency because the girls looked too inexperienced or green. I called in packages from other agencies and started to see some strong candidates, when disaster struck. One of the folks at Microsoft had "cast a college play once." He glommed onto one of the models I previously rejected. To be fair, I tried to find something in her that I could work with, but it was evident from her portfolio that her talent was to fill out a bikini. What little movement I saw in her book was receptive and uninspired.
It became a real fight between me and the casting genius at Microsoft, and I wasn't about to back down. As anticipated, the girl gave us a thousand frames of nothing. Meanwhile, the model I cast was smoking the camera.
At the shoot, the art director and the clients decided to use my model for both box covers. Unfortunately, Microsoft still had to pay the model who wasn't working out so well. It will be difficult to gauge when you've arrived at a point in your career when you can fight for what you want.
I tried a similar move about four years previous to the Microsoft job on a commercial I was directing. I came extremely close to getting fired. Still, in the end, you're looking for the best talent for your vision because those ads will get noticed and bring you more work in the future. Also, I'd be a fraud if I didn't tell you there was a little ego involved. When you know you're right, you have to be a confident leader.
When it turns out you were wrong, you have to be a confident diplomat.
I have a short list of models who are my good friends. I try to book them a lot. It's a good thing to work with people you know. The connection tends to produce fantastic work. I also try to book them if they can use a little help, like with my friend, Maili, who was in the shot in the Day in the Life of Hollywood book. Ultimately, she didn't need my help. The image of this all American-looking girl incited an uprising of sympathy for her. She received a huge amount of exposure, including TV news interviews and hundreds of compassionate letters. It turns out she was the perfect model for the shot.
Louis Lesko is a fashion photographer based in Los Angeles. He started his career at the age of 19 in San Francisco and celebrated his 21-year mark last October. All this, and he doesn't look a day over 39. Lesko is also the owner of Blinkbid Software, estimating and invoicing software for photographers.
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