"In the beginning, I was so focused on making these cameras work and building new rigs and putting them in helicopters that I completely didn't have time to think about story or the heart of the film," he says. "There were many films where I would arrive on set mentally exhausted from figuring out how to make these cameras work and reconfigure them on some rig, that by the time I was on set, I had no juice left to be director."
Surrendering control of the camera to the director of photography and other duties to members of the crew was an important lesson for Laforet, the filmmaker. His career as a photojournalist had sometimes revolved around problem-solving, especially resolving technical challenges involving the use of a tilt-shift lens or shooting from the open door of a helicopter. Now, he was discovering that his ability to tell the story would involve using his experience and skills in completely new ways.
"The biggest lesson that I've learned over the last three years is about taking care of preproduction," he says. "You always see directors sitting in that director's chair in front of a monitor with headphones on and not doing much of anything except nodding or saying no or occasionally walking up to an actor. It would seem to be the easiest job in the world. But then you realize the reason the director is sitting there is that they have done everything that they needed to do before anyone else set a foot on set. That's the biggest lesson."
Adds Laforet, "As a photographer, you can be reactive. You can put your camera around your shoulder and walk out and find that light and that unpredictable moment. As a director, you have to make the ray of light fall just where you want it. You have to have your character dressed a certain way and walking in a specific direction. Everything has to be prepared and only then can you allow chance to happen. My job is to prepare for everything and then be ready for the magic to happen."
Leaving The Race BehindThis change in Laforet's career also has resulted in him leaving his beloved city of New York and raising his two children in Southern California. It has meant a change of scenery, as well as a way of life that satisfies him both as a director and his role as a father.
"It has changed my life in that it has brought a lot of peace into it. I was the type A personality during most of my life in New York," he says. "I was always in a rush. I was so often stressed out of my mind between the pressure and the deadlines that I regret not taking the time to enjoy it more. I was so focused on the end results at all costs. I felt like I could never let my guard down. I felt like I was racing my whole life as a photographer toward a goal that was being erased as I was racing toward it."
Adds Laforet, "After writing this book, I realized the importance of slowing down and savoring the moments a little bit more. For the first time, I'm more focused on enjoying the process.
You can see more of Vincent Laforet's still photography and motion projects at www.laforetvisuals.com. Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer and educator. He's the host and producer of The Candid Frame podcast, www.thecandidframe.com.
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