“It’s not the same as hiring talent where you can do take after take. With high-profile talent, you have to make sure your entire productions decisions are right from the beginning.” - Bjorn Amundsen, Cinematographer.
Most people dream all their lives of meeting world famous celebrities, but filmmakers aren’t most people. That’s not to say we don’t want to meet them. In fact, for some of us, working with high-profile talents is part of our jobs. And while your friends might be freaking out at how lucky you are to work with a certain celebrity, you know that these shoots aren’t all fun and games.
Bjorn Amundsen had the opportunity to shoot with 4 high-profile talent that you might have heard of: LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Lindsey Vonn. He shares how this production was different from anything he’s shot before.
What We Shot
“A new nutrition company called Ladder hired Human Design to produce a series of videos announcing their new brand. Blaine Hogan (Director) called me up and said, ‘Hey, I’m writing this script for a company owned by LeBron & Arnold Schwarzenegger. Do you want to come DP?’ When I heard this, my first thought was that I was being pranked or something. But sure enough it was legit.”
“They wanted 8 different spots with 1 super-cut. Each of the celebrities was featured in a short video of them doing different activities. They wanted to highlight different aspects of the people who might use Ladder’s products: athletes, people interested in wellness, and people interested in being fit.”
Why This Shoot Was Different
“LeBron showed up an hour early to his shoot, and he only had 2 hours before he had to be somewhere else. Originally I was planning to use that extra hour of time to tweak set lighting, but since he got there early, we had to start right away. Luckily, we had gotten there extra early and had done a basic pre light before he arrived. It still caught us off guard though and we were playing catch-up with his schedule.”
“When we filmed Arnold, we had ideas of what he should do for his commercial. But then we found out he recently had heart surgery so he couldn’t do the exercises we planned for him. We had him doing curls, but we had to change it to bench presses. That changed the location, so we had to light the new location instead. In the end he did the curls, and we used the bench press shot for another video.”
“We had very limited amounts of time with each person - roughly 2 hours per talent. With such tight timelines, we had to work around their schedule. And they often had ideas when they got on set that we have to adapt to on-the-fly. So we really had to be flexible with our plans, but also quick on our feet to get all the shots we needed before their times were up. Every take counts.”
What to Take Away From This
“Having the right tools was super important for this. When you’re shooting with high-profile talents, you don’t get many chances for reshoots, and you definitely can’t waste time with gear that’s unreliable. We had a Bolt 500 on our Alexa Mini sending wireless video to several SmallHD 703 monitors for the crew and 1st AC, and a 703 Bolt that our director used around set. You have to have gear that’s reliable and flawless. If my focus puller is using some janky off-brand system, he’s not going to be able to keep things sharp. Don’t take chances - nail the shot every time.”
“What’s also important is being able to pivot your ideas at a moment’s notice. Our talent all had input on what they could and couldn’t do. Then the director might make sudden changes, which on the production side means changing everything about the setup. You need to be several steps ahead and make sure you have things waiting on standby.”
“You also have to work much faster than you’d probably like. In fact, one tip is to be rolling the entire time. The more time you’re rerolling between takes is more time spent not shooting. Another tip I found out is instead of saying ‘cut,’ you say ‘reset.’ Because when you say ‘cut,’ the talent thinks that we’re done with the take and can move on. Saying ‘reset’ allows them to stay in the moment a lot better and you’re wasting less time.”
See more of Bjorn Amundsen's work at:Instagram: @bjorn_amundsen_dp