The job description stated that "if you're shy, then this isn't the job for you." Well, I am shy, but I can fake outgoing and people-friendly when I need to. And someone was offering to pay me to point a camera. That someone was a company called PhillyPhanPhotos, which appears to be part of MLB Fan Photos, and the website's something called Printroom.
They were going to pay me about eight bucks an hour to run around Citizens Bank Park with a Nikon and a kit lens, and take photos of willing fans. The fans who agreed would be handed a card with a code on it, and a day or so later they could browse the website to find their photo. Which they could then purchase: $14.95 for a 5x7 print, $29.95 to download the image, and higher-priced variations of frames and layouts (including a calendar).
The guy on the phone explained that there was a quota I'd be expected to meet: I'd have to take 350 photos a night. Once I made that quota, I'd be paid $10 an hour, and there were higher bonuses when I passed higher numbers, or was the most productive photographer (the "MVP", inevitably). And I'd get a piece of the online sales of my photos-- five percent which, as you can figure from the prices above, meant that occasionally I'd could enjoy an espresso without guilt.
What could I say? That this was beneath me? That the pay and bonus structure was pretty much ignorable, since I probably wouldn't make quota and the money was chump change anyway? No: I needed money, and anyway, the job could be a fun way to spend an afternoon. I mean, work at a ball park? Get into the games and get paid for it? And maybe I'd be good at this. So I listened to the money talk, asked a question or two, and finally told the guy on the phone that I'd be there, bright-tailed and bushy-eyed , to be part of his stable of paparazzi.
(Teachable Moment: The word "paparazzi" to describe the hordes of celebrity photographers comes from Fellini's film La Dolce Vita, and the photographer friend of Marcello Mastroianni, whose name is Paparazzo.)
I took the subway down to Citizens Bank Park and arrived around 4:00 pm. The employees' entrance is located on the side of the stadium furthest from the subway, so I basically had to walk halfway around the stadium to get in... and then back the same way inside, to reach the Phan Photo station located behind Home Plate. But it's fun to watch the stadium getting ready: lots of electric carts zooming about, food vendors pushing hand trucks loaded with food and ice and stuff to their stations, and the Phils down on the field doing batting and pitching practice.
And CB Park is one of the nicest pall parks around. It's human scale, close to the field in most places, and unlike Vets Stadium, it's not walled off from the surrounding world. Gigantic breezes filter through the concourse and keep the air nice and fresh. The upper levels are reached via gigantic ramps and open stairways, so you can stand on a balcony and gaze out at the city, the plane landing at the airport, or the football and hockey stadia nearby. Early arrival to the meant that I could start to appreciate the place's design.
The Phan Photo station's in the stadium's concourse, located behind home plate. I introduced myself, and was given a quick orientation: here's your Nikon, go shoot pictures.
I learned more from the other people on the crew, so here's what the job is like. We arrive at the stadium between 4 and 4:30, and pick out a Nikon from a big box of'em. We load the Nikon with a freshly-charged battery, and the bosses would hand out freshly-formatted memory cards. Now, these are older Nikons: I can't find the model they use on the Nikon site. The main reason they use Nikons is that they offer the ability to annotate images with textual information, and they use that to track which photogapher took which picture.
So when we're getting our Nikons, we're also picking up decks of cards, which we're to hand out to the fans we photograph. The cards have code numbers on them, in batches of 50 or so, and we use the Nikon annotation feature to slap that code number onto the photo files.
At 4:30, we're presumably loaded for the hunt. The stadium opens its gates, and that's when we can go out among the arriving fans and ask them if they want their pictures taken. If they say no, then we move on. If they say yes, we snap off a few pics, and hand them a card so they can check the website for their photos later on in the week. We continue to do this until the game begins so, while everyone's standing with their hands on their hearts, we're scurrying back to PPP Central to hand off our memory cards. After that, we continue to work the crowds until 8:30, but we're not allowed into the stands unless it's during an inning change.
There are a few variations on this routine. A couple of people are handed cameras on monopods, equipped with LCD screens, and they go out to offer a kind of deluxe package for people that can be bought at the PPP desk. This job is more labor-intensive, involves a lot more salesmanship, and I'm glad I'm not doing it. They also had a green screen set up at the main desk, so people could get themselves 'shopped onto a nice-looking background.
So what about the actual photos? Were we given any kind of guidance here? Well, a little: "Try to get the field in the background" was one very important bit of advice. Or, failing that, the scoreboard. The management was happy with our using the camera's Auto settings (which did get decent results), but other photographers had some good pointers as well as far as locations, settings, and strategies went.
We pretty much had to use flashes, which I usually don't like: they blow out people in the foreground, making them look phony and green-screened from a fashion shoot into a nice, bucolic ballgame background. But, as it turned out, flashes were required because you'd get harsh shadows across people's faces, and the washed-out quality of flash photos also disguised blemishes, wrinkles, and other deficiencies. And the point was to sell the photos, not compose portraits. So our baseline was to turn the flash on and, if we were using manual settings, calibrate so that the foreground wasn't too blown out, and the background was still vivid. (Usually 100 ISO, a 1/200th shutter speed, and an f-stop of 13, at the start of the game but after the sun went down, Auto was fine.)
So out into the world we went, searching for photos. We had a few limits. The seats behind home plate? Don't even think of hitting those. Do not approach the players, and do not take their photos. (I suspected that their faces were the property of Major League Baseball.) I was told to watch J------ in action to see how it was done. This was advice both good and bad. Johnny was pretty much the group's champion: he could sidle up to people and become their best friend with almost no visible effort. I expected to develop a sale pitch that'd be my standard approach, but for J-----, every approach was unique. He was someone with that knack for people. Watching him was good because it was encouraging, but it was bad because you just knew that this was a talent he had while your own approach would be a skill you learned.
I didn't notice any alpha-male territoriality at the job. You'd expect that; if someone found a prime fishing spot where the fans practically begged you to take a picture, wouldn't a photographer stake that spot out and defend it like a wolverine? Not here. Closest to that was the Harry Kalas statue, where you could approach people and ask them if they wanted a photo taken with ol'Harry. I mean, you just know that some people are eager to be photographed next to a big bronze Golem holding a baseball bat. That was D-----'s usual spot, but he wasn't protective or defensive about it.
I have to admit that I went into the job just knowing that I'd never make the 350-picture quota. Even if I wasn't shy, the quota was one of those "motivational" things employers set up; just outside of realistic, a nice hedge or lever against an employee ("sorry we gotta let ya go, but you weren't meeting the requirements..."). And if you did find anyone who could hit it regularly, so much the better. As it turned out, the Phils had been losing a lot of games, and this was after the playoffs. Game attendance was WAY down, so almost nobody made the quota. I found out that 200 was a more realistically attainable goal.
(I know what you're thinking. Why not shoot lots of pictures of the people? Why not take ten shots of the same family pose? Well, they urged avoiding "duplicate" pictures, and offered a "duplicate ratio" that one had to keep low. So I generally took two or three photos of people, one Portrait orientation and one Landscape, and I'd try to frame things differently for that third photo. Anyway, it was a challenge to get higher numbers without gaming the system.)
So here's how my evening would go. At 4:30, I'd trundle myself on out to the 140-150 seats, which are at the far end of left field. That's where the first fans would head, because that's where the baseballs land during batting practice, and early arrivers can scarf up authentic MLB Baseballs if they stay alert out there. Kids usually gather at the front row because they try to beg a free ball from one of the players hanging out in the outfield. And when they actually GET a ball, well, there I am, ready to capture the moment and photograph them with their proudly-held prizes.
There are also adult regulars who park themselves there with gloves and sharp eyes, and on a good day they can grab two or three balls for themselves. You can't help disliking these guys. Not only are they depriving kids of a chance to catch a ball, but a lot of them were pretty crabby when I'd offer to do my photo thing. Not that I let on, of course. But the one time I got a ball, a kid asked me for it, and I gave it to him. You gotta keep your baseball karma positive.
I could usually rack up about a hundred photos by 6 or so. I'd start to move around a bit: a pass through Ashburn's Alley would get me some shots from the balconies. This was also when the spectators started turning up in the 101-107 seats, far off in right field, which also got a slew of batting-practice balls, usually from southpaw batters. From there, I'd finally gravitate into the bleacher seats, the 108-118 and 129-139 sections along the first and third base lines. These were the last to fill up, but they offered great shots of being Down Close to the Field.
For some reason, the bosses always insisted on working Ashburn's Alley. Which wasn't the best advice, because the only good spots there were the balconies above the 147-148 seats: everything else had a wall between it and the field.
My usual sales pitch began with something like "How about a photo for the Phils website?" Which as technically true, as our sales site is accessible through the Phils site. But it got people to agree and pose. I'd joke, chat them up, ask them if this was their first game or not. The I'd show'em the pictures and hand'em the card. Early on, I'd offer to re-take a photo if they didn't like it, but that didn't happen often: I wanted to move on, and they wanted to get back to their lives.
Of course, it got tougher as time went by, as they became more likely to have been photographed by one of the other photographers. So I'd throw in a jokey follow-up to a refusal, ("Nahh, you don't want that guy's photo of you. Mine's much better.") and sometimes, I'd manage to get someone to do a second photo.
As I said, the start of the game meant that we had to turn in our memory cards. But this also meant that our chances of shooting photos were severely reduced. This was because, as I also said, we were not allowed to venture into the seats while the game was being played-- okay, we could run down while the innings were switching over, but that was kind of a snatch'n'grab approach. So when the game began at 7 pm, the opportunities for taking photos were severely reduced.
After 7, we usually wound up wandering around the concourse, cadging photos off of people who were waiting to return to their seats. Ninety minutes of boredom and halfhearted attitude. Or, sometimes, we'd venture up to the upper levels (the 300 and 400 seats), where we had two advantages. The first was that these people were so far from the game that they didn't mind a little interruption. The second was that the high angle over the game field made for some spectacular compositions.
I'm taking a break from the job right now. The season ends this week, and between some task I need to catch up on, and some video shoots, I've told them that I'm not available for a few weeks. I have another job in the day, but that doesn't prevent me from doing the photo thing in a few weeks. But I might return in October, because they also work the Flyers games at the Wells Fargo center, and those might be a different kind of fun.
We've established that the job's pay scale was best suited for teenagers living rent-free. But the job was fun. It felt great to go out into the crowd and just Be Friendly, even if it was of the sale-pitch variety. You go out, trade a joke or two, and if you make people laugh and feel welcome, it makes the job go by very pleasantly. Sometimes I'd run into people who were enjoying their anniversary ("Next year he takes you to someplace YOU wanna go, right?"), and sometimes I'd find a huge group of people who were likely to rack up good sales for the photos. One time an office party asked me up to one of the private boxes to shoot the gathering, so we got everyone onto the balcony and shot that. Which might mean about twenty sales... or one sale, and an office color copier getting a workout.
But let me pass along this little story. My last night at the Park, the game had a big rain delay. When this happens, the bosses' advice was "Work the Concourse." This isn't exactly encouraging, because the concourse is a lot of food stands and foot traffic and shitty lighting and prestressed concrete. But I went into the baseline stands and saw these three men sitting together, watching the tarp being pulled over the field.
And I had a brainstorm. I went up and said, "Gentlemen! How ya doing?" (They grunted.) "Listen guys, we usually try to get pictures of the fans being happy, right?" (Grunting.) "Now, look at this. Mind if I get a picture of you guys looking miserable?" (Happy grunting.) "I mean, like this--" and I give'em a frown-- "with that tarp in the background, it might be funny." So they got up, frowned, held an umbrella limply, gave me big Thumbs Down signs, and loved the photo.
So I spent the next hour going around the concourse, going up to families, and explaining my whole "Let's look miserable!" scheme. They nearly all went for it. "Look like you just learned you're NOT getting a puppy for Christmas!" I'd say, and the kids would be laughing so hard that they couldn't look miserable. One kid asked if this was "acting." "Yep, sure is!" I said. "Sanford Meisner technique!" and his FATHER burst out laughing. I'd also insist on a happy photo, too, but that approach netted me about sixty photos, plus a lot of customers who got a quick bit of entertainment during a really sucky time at the park.
I owe you a more detailed account-- including a longish account of a job I held briefly, which I may return two next month. The pay was terrible, but the experience was kind of fun.
But today, I'm going to stay at my computer and catch up on a LOT of work.
More to come. Really.
I'm taking a break from what's shaping up to be a massive and, I think, a very impressive job. You're going to love it.
Earlier this month, Josh Hitchens directed a production of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, starring West Philly actors trillian_stars and Ryan Walters. The entire play was staged within the parlor of the Ebeneezer Maxwell House, a preserved Victorian-era mansion up near Germantown. The photo above shows Trillian, who plays Nora, and Peter Zielinski as Torvald, and the gent smiling in the background is director Josh Hitchens.
I know what you're wondering: why was this photo not taken by kylecassidy? Well, Kyle was busy taking cast photos, as well as prepping a project to capture the entire play on video. So he contacted a local who did this sort of thing a lot (yeah, me), and began laying groundwork to capture A Doll's House in a way we hadn't tried before. After the play completed its run, we'd go in with the cast and some cameras, and shoot the thing as close to an actual movie as we could.
This was going to be an epic job. Because we could get the mansion for only two days, a Thursday and a Sunday, six hours each. And not all of the actors could be there on each day: in fact, one actor could only be there on Sunday, another on Thursday, and a third could only come in very late Sunday. Actual movies usually take at least a month, sometimes three. So we had to move very, very quickly.
One thing that sped the process up a lot was that both Kyle and I were cameramen, so we could set up two cameras and shoot scenes simultaneously; we were both using Panasonics, and once we matched our settings for framerates and white balances, our footage matched pretty well. (The room was gorgeous enough to begin with. I mean, look at that still above. A little bit of fog, and it'd look like Geoffrey Unsworth shot it.) I used a third camera as a sound recorder, attaching a microphone to it and setting it on the floor as the actors performed. Kyle set me up with a fluid-head camera mount, which enabled some very smooth pans and tilts.
The still above was shot during a dress rehearsal, which I recorded so I could look it over and develop a shot list to follow. But it's been my experience-- on this and one other shoot-- that shot lists go out the window very quickly. Sometimes the set isn't as accommodating, sometimes the blocking requires it, but sometimes the note to "shoot from behind the xmas tree and from the piano" just isn't feasible. So Kyle and I scrambled to find angles that gave us enough to work with during the editing. There were two or three places which gave us great general coverage. One location made for gorgeous shots in particular scenes. Certain moments required putting the cameras close to the ground. Some scenes we relocated to other parts of the house. All of this was a contest between two points of view: both Kyle and I wanted the best images we could get, but we also faced the simple fact that even if we got that, we'd have nothing if this was only 95% completed.
(I funked my responsibilities on a few occasions. Everyone else, including Kyle, had been living with this play for weeks, so they pretty much knew all of the blocking and dialogue. Me, I'd basically watched a movie I'd shot, only once or twice. So towards the end of the shooting sessions, I started to lose track of what was what, so I followed everyone else's lead on what was going on. If I were an actual director, I'd have to be on top of this; but since the director job was Josh's, with Kyle and I conferring on angles, my unpreparedness wasn't too much of a detriment.)
And let's be blunt about something. Shooting a movie isn't easy for actors. Okay, it's rough work for everyone. But would you like to be doing a scene, and you're really getting into it, and suddenly you hear my nasal whine shout "Okay, cut, guys, I gotta shift the camera six inches to the left?" And then you gotta do it again? Everyone worked very hard, and everyone got along, but I kept thinking that everyone would much rather do the whole play in one continuous run like they're fucking USED to doing. But everyone put up with the (minimal) retakes, and everyone understood that some scenes required them simply for the camera angles.
(For example, there are several scenes where two people sit in chairs beside each other. It'd be ideal to cover those with three cameras: one simply facing both chairs, while the other two cameras shoot across each person's shoulder at the opposite actor. It's not easy to set that up so that the cameras don't see each other. So, there'd be a take for the wide shot, and a take for the closeups. Get the idea?)
So how'd the shoot go? Well, we spent six hours on a Thursday and about seven on a Sunday, which means that we shot an entire movie within 15 hours. I'm reviewing the footage, and it looks wonderful; I've even edited a scene so that Kyle can build a Kickstarter to help finance this project. Contributors will receive either a DVD or a Blu-Ray of the project, which should be done by Christmas.
"MailOnline can today reveal the first close-up pictures of the Church of Scientology's 'alien space cathedral' built in a remote part of the New Mexico desert.
The mysterious building which leads to an underground vault sits next to two giant symbols carved into the ground - believed to be markers for the religion's followers to find their way back from the ends of the universe after humanity is destroyed in the future.
While no one knows the definite meaning of the pair of overlapping circles, each with a diamond in them, it is believed to have been trademarked by the Church of Technology, a branch of Scientology."
You know what's funniest about this? It's the fact that this place is so _ugly_ looking. Religions have been messing with our landscapes for centuries. And from those efforts, we get to enjoy the Pyramids, Chartres Cathedral, St. Peter's Basilica, The Sagrada Familia... so many joyously beautiful places to witness.
But here's Scientology, with a wide-open landscape of desert and brush, with no interference from the local authorities, and massive amounts of money to spend on the eternal resting place of its founder's documents, inside of a monument that's supposed to be the Sum Total Announcement of Civilization to whatever aliens might discover our world... what do they build?
An ugly facade of a Toll Brothers McMansion. An empty highway. A gigantic logo without any charm or inventiveness or complexity or beauty. All to point aliens to a monument of paranoia-- a sunless vault under a mountain in the middle of a no-man's-land, housing pages of a crackpot's gibberish.
Scientology claims to have lots of artists, creatives, and visionaries among its membership. Did David Miscavidge decide to design this thing himself, and reflect his own stunted and arid vision? Or did he recruit Scientologist artists, and this is the best they could do? If you need proof that Scientology is an intellectual desert, creating nothing of art or beauty or genius, make your pilgrimage here and ask no more.
There's only one way this could be made uglier: if they interred a hundred Scientology pre-clear "volunteers," wrapped in tin foil and propped up like terra-cotta soldiers to stand eternal vigil over a vault of bullshit.
There's a small problem. The company doesn't seem to actually exist.
Here's my story. I went to the site, and set up an account for myself, entering my employment history, uploading a resume, etc. And then I hit the links for applying for open positions. Seemed simple enough.
Except that I'd never hear anything from Unique Advantage. No replies at all. I eventually found their phone number, and asked about maybe coming in for an interview so they could see what a great employee they'd be offering around Penn. The phone receptionist told me to simply keep applying, and I'd be contacted.
Which never happened. And their open positions lists never changed.
More recently, I decided to update my resume. I uploaded a newer version... and only then did i find that their software didn't offer a link to allow you to delete the older resume. Not only that, but the link to delete the _newer_ resume simply didn't work. This crippled the ability to even apply for a position.
And a Google search found me an older version of their website that was still active (http://www2.uniqadv.com/), but _those_ listings dated from 2009.
So we have a company that uses an online application system that doesn't work, that cripples itself, that refuses to meet with clients, and amazingly, offers almost no ability to contact anyone at the company: two officers are listed, but only one phone number, and no email.
These are clearly NOT the sharpest knives in the drawer.
- Current Mood:Peeved
Anyway, I talked them into paying me some money to capture the performance on video. My plan was to enlist a cameraperson and shoot one performance from two, perhaps three vantage points, and edit them together into something rich and strange. And I still plan on doing that on Saturday: But as usual, I've complicated the project a little.
The first problem is the weather. We've had some cloudbursts in the last week or so, and last year, some of SCP's performances were cut short because of sudden drenchings. So there's a chance that the day I choose for multi-camera shooting would be one where the skies might open up. That's kind of a risk. And as usual, there's always the possibility that some Major Moment will elude all of the cameras (especially since my cameraman hasn't seen the play yet, and doesn't know what's happening next).
So I've decided to do my usual routine of shooting multiple performances from different places and editing them together as one. Mainly as insurance, but also because this is one of my first paying gigs, and these guys do wonderful productions, and I want to do this right. Maybe next year they can budget more for me.
I have one terrific advantage this time. SCP usually uses wireless mikes, so that the actors's voices can be heard by the audience, and their sound designer was kind enough to make a sound recordings straight off of his mixing board. (He also gave them to me so that the vocals are on one channel, and the music on another. Nifty.) Editing live events is tough, and sometimes the soundtrack can complicate matters: but, since I have tracks of the ambient area, PLUS isolated soundtracks of the voices and music, I have a higher degree of flexibility going on here.
But it's more complicated. Now I have video from multiple cameras, plus audio from different sources, and the whole process of mixing and matching might slow things down. And I really mean Mixing and Matching-- Mixing the various sound elements for maximum effect, and Matching them to visuals selected from five or six performances.
Strategy Time, then. I'll take each video stream, and then render it with the mixing board's vocals soundtrack. This will give me video streams that are easy to edit for performance. I can then add the music tracks later on. As for the ambient sound of the audience...well, I'll worry about that later.
Hella Fresh Theater presents
The Gambling Room
(Phòng Giải Trí/ Salle de Jeux)
Reeling from the death of their father, two young Americans attempt a coup d'état from a rooftop in Saigon. John and Jack, rising stars in the US diplomatic corps carry out their father's final command- meet the embattled President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem and furnish him with a list of American journalists to be silenced. Risking their lives and charges of treason, the brothers vie for glory, prestige and their father's immortality. Set in the fall of 1963, the tumultuous days leading to the falls of Presidents, The Gambling Room witnesses the end of a diplomat's family and the birth of a new era in Vietnam.
Starring Dan Tobin, Calvin Atkinson and Sebastian Cummings. Written and directed by John Rosenberg.
According to Wikipedia, "the United Methodist Church holds that "homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth." In other words, all individuals are of worth to God. Nevertheless, in keeping with historic Church teaching, it considers the "practice of homosexuality [to be] incompatible with Christian teaching," For this reason, the "United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality" or allow "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to be "certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
Well, obviously, there are many Methodists who want to change that language, and Calvary, being an all-inclusive church, has a lot of'em. So I was asked to shoot video of several members of the congregation reading personal testimonies about the need for change within the Church, the importance of the Church in their lives, and how the Church's current doctrines have impacted them as gays or lesbians, or as relatives of gays and lesbians.
Last year I shot three of these videos. There's no attempt to be fancy or dazzling: it's just people talking about their lives. I was told that they became part of a video package that's been circulating among Methodists. (I'm told that videos _opposing_ pro-LGBT changes exist; I'd like to see them if only to assure myself that the other side has lousy video skills.) This past week I shot a fourth segment, and was told that the first three were up on YouTube for all to see. So, here they are.
Back in November, kylecassidy and I shot a video of a play that starred trillian_stars and actor/playwright/director John Rosenberg, called Alp d'Huez. I've posted about this before, and if you want a recap, go read:
Well, this weekend, John Rosenberg had me shoot video of his latest play, The Gambling Room. He and I talked about what to do with these videos, and he said his plan was to just make them available on the Web. The Gambling Room is still in progress (Im copying the files to my computer as I write), but last night I uploaded the entirety of Alp d'Huez to YouTube. That's it, above. And it's in hi-def, too.
Great subplot of Joan trying to bring in a client of her own, and breaking agency protocol to do it. Here's hoping the whole scheme succeeds, and wipes out everyone's memory of how she became a partner. And when it is NOT great to watch Joan and Peggy in an uneasy, angry, potentially-destructive alliance?
Some more insight into Bob Benson, and his motivational records. The guy may be an opportunistic creep, but I sorta feel sympathy for his trying to reform himself to the situation. The scene where he rallies Ginsberg was a small gem; a patently fake man rallying someone who's verging on mental illness from looking at reality. In an office built on fakery.
Another gem: the scene with the reactionary Carnation executives.
I have a hard time believing that this was Pete Campbell's first hit of pot, but if it is, then good on him for taking the first step.