Posts by: Heidi Volpe

California Is A Place

- - Filmmaker

California Is a Place is the creative brain child of  Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper. They were both working PAs and met in 2004 on some forgettable commercial job. Zac showed Drea where to park and the rest is history. Their films offer a quick glimpse into the people and places of California. Their  subtitle is  Tales from the Golden State, though the narrative arcs are not always severe blue skies and sunny. Their most recent film is Aquaettes and just came out last week.  You can follow them here and here.

Heidi:  What is your role specifically and what is Drea’s?

Zack: It’s pretty simple. Drea and I both produce, direct and shoot. But Drea is our editing machine. And we outsource the music.

How did the project come about and what was your first film?

We had talked about working on a project together for a long time but were never in the same place long enough to get something going. In July 2009, A friend of mine mentioned the foreclosure skater story. On a whim, we hopped on it. We called Josh Peacock on a Wednesday and by Friday we were in Fresno shooting our first film, Cannonball.

About three weeks later, I sent Zack the first cut of the edit. We were both super excited and immediately started discussing what we were going to do next and how these films would connect and be presented. Seven months later, the site went live with our first four films.

Most of your films are about 10 min. Do you have plans to go longer?

Yes and no. Of course, we’d like to tell longer format stories but I’m not sure if they would be for California is a place. Maybe they would. It’s hard to say.  We generally shoot until we have enough to tell the story we are trying to tell. At this point, those stories tend to be shorter than 10 minutes. I guess it comes down to intention. Our goal with this series is to make short personal stories about people in the Golden State.

Is the amount of shooting hours about the same in order to get 10 min, meaning is it relative?

Not at all. There probably is a minimum amount of shooting needed but there is certainly no maximum.

So far you have eight films out, which was the most ground breaking for your creatively and why?

It’s hard to say. When I watched the first rough cut of our first film, Cannonball, there was definitely an “a-ha” moment. I knew then and there that the work was good and that we needed to make more.  For that reason, it was the most ground-breaking.

Which film taught you both the most about your weakness and abilities?

For me personally, coming from a background in documentary photography, the transition to motion wasn’t overnight. It’s such a more detailed and nuanced medium than photography. And tedious. I was lucky to have Drea for a partner.  He’s been making and studying film making for almost a decade.  Plus, he’s an editor. There was so much I didn’t know about producing a film that he was patient enough to show me. Without him, I’d be lost.


Aquaettes is your latest release, how did you know that was a good enough idea to move forward? What were your initial hesitations if any?

That’s a good question. We knew it was ready because we just knew but there are always doubts. There is always something missing. There is always something we could have gotten more of. But we have yet to put out a film that felt incomplete. At least not in our eyes. If anything, I think a few of them could be fleshed out a bit more. The Aquadettes are a perfect example. That film could easily be longer than it is. But for now, we are very happy with where it is…

How do you find, discover develop your ideas?

Any way we can. Local news, international news, friends, family, random conversations we’ve had, random relationships we’ve made and once in a while, from own intuition. Generally, we know what types of stories we are looking for and are interested in, so we often know where to look. For example, the Big Vinny film started with Drea and I just shooting empty used car lots in Alameda. We had no character and no story until someone told us about Big Vinny. From there, it’s all phone calls and reading and talking and research.  Same with Borderlands. I went to photograph the funeral procession of an Border Agent murdered by drug smugglers. I met some minutemen there and they invited us down. But when we got there, it turned out that the story wasn’t the minutemen who’d go there once or twice a month. Instead it was the locals that lived at the border that we were interested in.  You never know until you go…

How much pre production/research do you do before you decide the idea is worth it?

Some but we’ve found there is only so much planning you can do until you get out there and meet people and see the world. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call or an email to know. Other times, you’ve got to drive 3 hours at 5am to know if a story is any good or not. And more often than not, what we find is totally different than what we anticipated. It’s never easy to find good stories and good characters.  In 2 years of working on this project, we’ve only found 9-12 stories that are worthy. It just shows how rare they are…

Uppercut for example, that is very underground, violent and esoteric… tell me how that one got developed.

That story came from a friend of Drea’s that was actually a local fighter. Drea knew him from high school and this guy had gone to a few of the Fight Club nights. He put us in touch with Gints, the man with the plan. From there, it was just finding the time to go and shoot…

After that came out, do you know if the subjects had any fall out or collateral damage? Is a fightclub legal?

Not yet. As far as they can tell, you can do what you like in your garage on a tuesday night as long as no one gets hurt. I think they were more fearful of losing their Silicon Valley Jobs than they were of being arrested.

Did filming that make you want to try a fight?

Yes! But fighting isn’t my thing so I passed. Although I completely related to what drove these guys to participate. Which is exactly what I like about making these films. Generally speaking, most “normal” people disapprove of underground clubs or being a minuteman on the border or sneaking into foreclosed homes to skateboard in a swimming pool or smoking weed but our characters have their reasons. And often those reasons are pretty solid and authentic.

How do these projects get funded?

They don’t. We self-fund. Hence the need for day jobs.

I know you have a photography career as well and an interesting organization to your portfolio section. Most if not all begin with a description narrative, are these all self assigned projects? Do you feel the text adds your ability to story tell and has that then translated and transcended into your motion work.

Most of the work on my website is self-assigned. Some was shot on assignment (eg. Pakistan) but the rest was just me wanting to shoot and tell stories. They have led to me getting plenty of paid work but paid work is often so unfulfilling. I always admire photographers that get great photos for their portfolio while on assignment. I’ve rarely been in that situation. Normally, someone pays me to shoot something fairly mundane and then I parlay that money in to a project I’m interested in. It’s a terrible business model but I’m happy to work that way…

What are your hopes with this project? What is the end goal besides a creative outlet?

Honestly, I’m not sure. The success of the project is already beyond my wildest dreams. I suppose I’d like to see it get sponsored so that we make films like these all the time. This American Life being the best model I can think of.  But overall, I’m not even thinking about that too much. All I want to do is tell good stories and make nice images. I think that’s been my goal since I became a photographer. Shooting is my therapy and it’s something I’m going to do no matter the circumstances. Lucky for me, the circumstances right now, are pretty good.

Whats next after your latest release, are you already on to your next production?

We just keep it moving. We already have another film shot that just needs to be edited. We’re in the process of getting another story going. And then of course, there is the always exciting game of getting paid work. Unfortunately, California is a place doesn’t pay the bills.

Are you discussions with any studios?

To make films? Not at the moment. The obvious next step would be to make a feature documentary. But as I said, good stories aren’t all that common. Without a good story, you can’t make a good film.

The Daily Edit – Monday 8.8.11

- - The Daily Edit

 


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Afar

Design Director: Jane Palacek.

Art Director: Steven Powell

Director of Photography: Tara Guertin

Photographer: George Georgiou

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted. 

Heidi: Are you shooting a lot of travel now?

George: I don’t often shoot travel assignments, the last time I was in Jerusalem was during the beginning of
the 2nd intifada, when the City was very tense with a lot of clashes. So it was great to see the city relaxed,
with all the tourist returning and Arabs and Jews moving in each others areas without fear.

I know this was shot during Purim, how much of a gathering collected to listen and watch?
Where the streets bustling and were people responsive to you taking photos?

I had arrived in Jerusalem around 4 in the morning and was staying in East Jerusalem, the Arabic side.
 I got up around noon and decide to walk around the City to get a feel of the place, I had no idea it was Purim until
I started to notice a few people dressed up. I headed towards the city center in West Jerusalem, which was full of people
dressed up and generally partying and having fun. Shooting was easy, as is usually the case when people are celebrating.

Where were you to take this opening image?

I knew fairly early on that an image of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock would be perfect as both
are unmistakably symbols of Jerusalem and illustrated the main theme of the feature, Jerusalem stone through the ages.
 I walk around trying to get onto as many rooftops as possible to find the right angle and light, in the end I took this image
from a spot that is accessible and popular with tourists. The photograph was taken at the beginning of the Sabbath on the Friday evening, just as the sun is starting to set and the floodlights are switched on. During the Sabbath, photography is not permitted by the western wall, so it was a perfect time to step back and make a landscape. I managed to get to this vantage point just before the tourists, by the time I left there were rows of people waiting to get to a glimpse of this view.

Newly Formed Agency Avec Artists

Recently launched Avec Artistsis a new boutique photo agency run by Carrie Ferriter in NYC. This new agency is part of Bruce Kramer’s growing fiefdom, the Kramer Creative Group which is set to launch this month along with a relaunch of JAW (Just Add Water ) as Selected to be run by Rebecca Fain former photo editor of XXL Magazine.

Heidi: What was your concept when developing this roster? 
You have quite the range from editorial, advertising, documentary, personal, and fine art.

Carrie: I wanted to create a company that appealed to advertisers but also take on photographers that had a range and were involved in other aspects of photography, whether it be fine art, publishing, directing, etc. I find that when photographers are involved in projects other than commercial work – they are in turn more interesting.

( Stephen Toner) 

What made you select someone like Stephen Toner and decided to open his book with the landscapes, do you see that type of work applicable for car advertising or….?

I have known Stephen for many years and have always felt strongly about his photography.  We originally met through an old friend while I was living in London and I have worked with him throughout the years with EXIT.  I wanted to work with Stephen because not only is he an excellent photographer he is very much tapped into the pulse of what is happening in the photography world. His work appeals to creative directors because he is a creative director and has also founded and runs a really respected and award winning magazine called EXIT.  I approached him to join Avec because his photography has never really been shown in this sort of outlet.  It’s almost as if I’m introducing someone very new but also very established at the same time.

The reason I opened with Landscape is because the pictures are stunning.  They grab your attention.  That’s also the work that he loves and wants to shoot all the time so I thought I would just put it out there from the very start.  Whether or not it’s applicable to car advertising I’m sure going to approach all car advertisers along with everyone else.

( Perou ) 

Are you the only agent?

Yes, I am the only agent but Avec is part of the Kramer Creative Group which is a group of agencies my partner Bruce Kramer owns. Bruce is fully involved  with avec and all the agencies in the group. Each agency is unique and has it’s own style of talent. It’s great to have that because we all really work together and help each other out.  For example, I work alongside another agent, Bridget Flaherty, who runs Bridge Artists. She represents stylists, set designers, hair and makeup. Her and I are constantly feeding ideas off of each other and helping each other out with clients.  It’s a great team.

What kind of content will be on your news section?

It’s going to start with mainly news on the photographers.  I would like it to be a very visual blog but eventually I want it to grow into something a bit more and allow the photographer to contribute on it.  I want it to be accessible to people on my roster and give them the freedom to post whatever they would like.  Avec translates to ‘with’ so the essential core of this agency is to be ‘with’ the artists.  This isn’t an agency about me, it’s very much about them and I want the blog to showcase that.

Where were you before this agency?

I started my career working in production at an agency called JGK, after that I worked for Moo Management (now Trish South management) and then for a more commercial agency in NY.   Working at Moo was a great springboard to where I am now – the roster there was great and really allowed me to develop my own working style and eye for type of photography that I feel strongly about representing.

( Lauren Ward ) 

How would you describe your roster? and who are your premiere clients, mostly European?

My roster is a group of photographers I feel passionately about and enjoy working with.   There is a definite fine art and documentary feel to avec but once you look a little deeper you will see that there is a good range than can appeal to many different clients.  My clients are across the board –  I wouldn’t say that they are mostly European though.  Throughout my career, the agencies I have worked for have all been European or have had European founders so that definitely comes into play but I’m heavily targeting clients in the US.

As an agent what do you think is the single most important aspect in getting your photographers to work in the current economy?

Target to the right client, be persistent, be genuine, follow up consistently but in a way where you are respecting the clients time and space.  Sorry, I realize that was more than one thing!

( Cyrus Marshall ) 

What will you do differently with this particular agency?

I’m launching as a traditional photography agency but competition is fierce so I think it’s important to stand out and be a little more modern in my way of thinking.  I try to stay on the pulse of what is happening industry wise – blogs like ‘A Photo Editor’ are a huge resource.    I really want avec to grow and as the industry changes I will adapt the agency accordingly.

When did you launch?

Just this month!

The Daily Edit – Thursday 8.4.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Men’s Health

Creative Director: Robert Festino

Director of Photography: Brenda Milis

Deputy Director of Photography: Jeanne Graves

Photographer: Stephen Lewis

Prop Stylist: Elizabeth Press

Heidi: How long did it take to assemble this still life?

Stephen: This shot took about an hour or two. There was a lot of playing with different foods trying to come up with a shape that worked. Generally I like to start out loose and with this shot things got a little messy. The fish shape didn’t come until I had tried a few different ideas. It turned out that Jeanne Graves (the Photo Editor) wanted to see something like this so we continued to pursue this idea until we came up with the photograph that ran.

Were the items editorial driven? meaning how did you pick those food pieces?

The items were editorially driven. The article was on “FrankenFoods” or foods that combine ingredients with ostensible health benefits in different ways; i.e. putting anti-oxidants in sugary drinks. So the stylist, Elizabeth Press, with the direction of Jeanne Graves at Men’s Health, picked up ingredients that either made health claims or were suggestive of such claims or suggested ridiculousness in some way. We played it a little loose as we were going for a feeling more than a literal approach.

Who was your food stylist?

My food stylist wasn’t a food stylist but a prop stylist - Elizabeth Press. I usually do shoot with food stylists on food related jobs. Since this story didn’t actually involve cooking and there was (hopefully) a humorous element here, I chose Elizabeth because I knew she’d understand what we were looking to accomplish.

The Daily Edit – Tuesday 8.2.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Fortune Magazine

Creative Director: John Korpics

Photography Director: Mia Diehl

Photographer: Gregg Segal

Heidi: Was the subject hard to open up? What did you ask him at this very moment?

Greg: It wasn’t difficult to get him to open up because, coincidentally enough, we’re from the same small town in Ohio (Marietta, population 16,000). I googled Moynihan before photographing him and discovered this. I’d had a friend in junior high, Pat Moynihan, who I found is Brian’s younger brother. So there was plenty to talk about. At this moment, I may have been reminiscing about Mr. Peacatch, the assistant principal at Marietta Junior High, a small bald man with a Hitler mustache and a thick rural accent who’d whack you with a wooden paddle if you got out of line. I was probably telling Mr. Moynihan the anecdote about my brother, who walked into the bathroom on the first day of school and found Mr. Peacatch sitting in one of the stalls, which had no door, and couldn’t help but stare. “What’s a matter,” said Peacatch, “ain’t you never seen someone take a shit before?”

What is the biggest challenge about photographing “regular” and very busy people?

The challenge to photographing very busy people is keeping them engaged because even if you have them for 30 minutes, they’ll get antsy in half that time.

Did you set up in his offices?

We set up in a large meeting room adjacent to the trading floor at B of A’s headquarters in Manhattan and had to turn the space into a studio, hanging immense panels of black cloth all around us so as not to disturb traders.

The Daily Edit – Monday 8.1.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Women’s Health

Design Director: Theresa Griggs

Art Director: Lan Yin Bachelis

Photo Director: Sarah Rozen

Deputy Photo Editor: Irene La Grasta

Photographer: Levi Brown

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.

The Daily Edit – 7.26.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Vibe

Creative Director: Tischen Franklin

Art Director: Jason Claiborne

Photo Director: Alan Ket

Photographer: Emily Shur

Heidi: Why the popsicles and how much dialogue was there with the make-up artist/Amber about color?

Emily: The photo editor came to me with the idea of an “oral fixation” type of shoot…lollipops, popsicles, candy, etc. This shoot was for their Sex Issue so he really wanted to push it in terms of the sexuality. I went shopping and bought a few different things that Amber could put in her mouth…all of them were colorful and visual. My main goal was to make the shoot interesting looking and not just sexual. I did speak with the make up artist about using bright colors to go with the brightly colored food, and we had colorful backdrops as well. I felt if we could get an overall look going it would modernize the pictures and add an element to the shoot.

I know you started your career shooting a lot of bands and music has a strong influence on your life. Your husband just supervised the soundtrack for 30 Minutes or Less do you two collaborate on projects? How much music do you shoot now?

I actually don’t shoot as much music as I used to. I still love music and love photographing musicians, but I seem to get more calls to shoot actors or other notable types (writers, politicians, chefs, etc.) lately. I’ve also been shooting more advertising work which has been great, but less geared towards music. In terms of my hubby, yes, he just music supervised 30 Minutes or Less which is very exciting! I’m very proud of him. Music supervision is a perfect fit for his music snobbery…I can’t really think of a better job for him. We do collaborate on projects. He has been instrumental in many aspects of my work, but mostly he comes up with great ideas and pushes me to complete projects and not be lazy. My series Nature Calls was his idea, and he always comes with me when I photograph for that project.

Do you use your blog like a loose portfolio? Your Alaska rough scans are a great series, but did you not work on them at all? Is it easier for you to post on your blog, meaning, its not your book, but you know people are looking. How picky are you?

I like to use my blog for lots of things – self promotion, a diary of sorts, a place to show my personal work, somewhere to write about my feelings on photography, the photo industry, and what it’s like making a living as a photographer. I do post images on my blog that I have no other real place for at that moment; pictures I’d like to show people or see together in a group, but I could never put every single picture somewhere in my book or on my website so it’s nice to have a place where the edit doesn’t have to be so tight.

My “rough scans” (Alaska included) are images that I scan at home on my crappy scanner and do a little light color correction, curves, etc. on so I can see which images are worthy of a drum scan and professional post production. It’s nice to put little groups of images together and also nice to get people’s feedback on images. I’m fairly picky about what images I scan and show on my blog. For starters, it’s time consuming to scan stuff at home and use my mediocre Photoshop skills to make images look presentable. Second, I don’t show images, both commercial and personal, that I’m not proud of or find interesting in some capacity.

The Daily Edit Friday –
7.22.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Harpers Bazaar

Producer: Laura Brown

CG Supervisor: J.J. Blumenkrantz

Still photography:Jeffrey Westbrook

Special thanks to Sony Pictures Animation

Creative Director: Stephan Gan

Design Director: Elizabeth Hummer

Photo and Bookings Director: Zoe Burns

Heidi: How did this collaboration work? Did you get sketches of the Smurfettes in order to shoot the products at the right angle? Were the accessories shot on a model or a form built to scale for the Smurfette?

Jeffrey: The whole thing started with an idea and some rough sketches from Harpers Bazaar and Sony Pictures. Harper’s fashion dept pulled some accessories together to create 4 different looks and the idea was to shoot the accessories on a live model in the desired poses from said sketches. Basically I would light each look for the accessories, then the designer from Sony would step in to shoot a 360 degree view of my set to recreate lighting angles in post on their Smurfette. He would then collect my raw files along with his 360 shots and toss them to his team, who would strip out the accessories and place them on their digital Smurfette. The shoot happened in Hearst’s digital studio and we all had a great time.

The Daily Edit – Wednesday
7.20.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Popular Mechanics

Design Director: Michael Lawton

Director of Photography: Allyson Torrisi

Photographer:  Joao Canziani

 

Heidi: Was it hard to to manage your equipment on the boat?
Joao: I had big ambitions to bring a big portable strobe like the Profoto 7B onboard, but that was not possible, and would have been impractical.

Just you and an assistant?
Due to space, not even my assistant could come. (So he had a nice day off.)
It was just me, my camera, and a Canon Speedlite on top of the camera.

Tell me something challenging about the shoot.

What I love about being a photographer is that you’re allowed to enter a world very unlike your own, for a brief period of time perhaps, or for as long as it needs to be for you to cover the story. Being out on a fishing trawler in the middle of the sea is a very calming and zen experience. Life is reduced to just the essential, and the tasks at hand. There’s not twitter or facebook there! So my photographic world was reduced to this smaller square footage with three other individuals. The challenge was finding interesting compositions with only these elements. It became about the lives of these men at that moment, and the interaction of the light at dawn, the reflections, the sea, the mechanics of all that equipment, and the fish.