Thursday, December 22, 2011

So You Wanna Assist? (Part Deux)

I spent most of my last update writing about some of the reasons I rarely allow volunteer assistants or visitors to attend my shoots. In Part Deux, I'm gonna talk about what I expect (or don't expect) from those I do allow to volunteer their time assisting or merely to visit one of my pretty girl photo shoots.

As you might guess, the numero uno transgression on a pretty girl shooting set is drooling, gawking, or otherwise ogling the models. Eyes popping out is also verboten. If you cannot be around beautiful, sexy, alluring, naked models without engaging in behaviors that even remotely resembles anything I listed above or in ways best reserved for strip clubs or bachelor parties or in any other ways similar, as an example, to the Roger Rabbit image I've posted to the right, you definitely have no business being at my shoots.

Assuming you're there to assist, I expect you to work, not merely to watch. I expect you to work hard for me even though you're doing so without compensation. That means you'll help carry gear and perform other duties often handled by pack mules. You'll also help set up gear and generally be at my beck and call to assist me in a myriad of ways for the duration of the shoot.

You'll also remain within close visual range and/or earshot of me unless I've sent you elsewhere on the set or at the studio. I don't expect you to be a highly skilled assistant -- you're there on your own time after all -- and I will treat you according to my knowledge or perceptions of what you know how to do. For instance, if you know how to hold a light meter and to read it, I'll probably have you do that. If you don't know how, I may even take a few moments to teach you how to do so. Hopefully, you're a quick learner because, like I said, I'll only spend a few moments teaching you how.

There are only two egos permitted to play, duel, whatever, on my shooting sets: Mine and the model's. If the client is present, there may be three egos at work or play. If I don't seem to be utilizing you to the fullest extent of your creative and technical know-how, go get your own gigs and you can use your personal skills and artistic capabilities to their fullest extent while you're shooting for yourself or for your clients. Quick story: I was the Director of Photography on a video shoot one time. As is my way, I was joking around with some of the cast members, mostly the females. The director approached me and asked if he could have a word with me. He pulled me off to the side. "There's only one funny person on my sets," he told me. "And that's me." With that, he turned and walked away.

If I ask you to find somewhere else to sit or stand while I'm shooting, A) Please don't take it personal and get all butt-hurt and B) always place yourself somewhere where the model can see you. Nothing worse than an assistant or visitor who parks themselves somewhere behind the model. The model will become apprehensive if you do so and the last thing I need are apprehensive models when I'm shooting them. I once allowed a friend of a friend on one of my sets. I knew the guy but not well. I asked him to find himself a place to sit. He found a chair, carried it back to where I was shooting, put it on the floor -- on the seamless actually -- and right next to me. He sat down and stared at the model. Needless to say, he was told to move his ass somewhere else.

As I mentioned in my last update, please don't make suggestions or tell me about some great idea you have. Save your great ideas for when you're shooting for yourself. I might sometimes ask what you think of something and, if I do, by all means, be honest and tell me. You can volunteer what you think about what I'm doing, without me asking that is, but if you do please only do so if you think what I'm doing is awesome or cool or terrific. If it's critical, keep it to yourself... especially when we're shooting. After the shoot, you can ask me whatever you want or tell me what you thought. You know, as in when we're alone and shootin' the shit. That's not to say I expect you to be a JimmyD cheerleader when I'm shooting. I don't. But if you feel you must occasionally comment, only do so if it's positive. To be truthful, I'd prefer you to keep your comments, positive or otherwise, to yourself.

Also, as mentioned in my previous post on this subject, please don't engage my clients, my models, or others on the set with much more than pleasant niceties. If I spot you, as an example, off to the side in a deep, heavy conversation with my client, right or wrong I'll probably assume you're pitching him or her on your work, that is, you shooting for them. Yes, that's happened in the past. More than once I might add. Also, please don't bring along your portfolio stored on an iPad or iPhone or other device and show it to others. I will not appreciate you showing your work to my clients or models. You're there to assist, not to show off you work. I'm a great believer in photographers networking in order to help themselves get work. There are appropriate times and places to do so. While you're assisting is not one of those times or places.

Before you're even on my set, i.e., if you're there to assist, I will already have tried to ascertain what your skill level is so that I can take full advantage of it. I'm happiest when someone who really knows their shit is assisting me. I'm happier still when they know their shit better than I know mine. BTW, everything I listed are my personal expectations for assistants or set visitors. But I'll bet many of them will apply to most any photographer you might be assisting or whose set you might be visiting.

The pretty girl at the top is Penthouse Pet, Tori Black.


Rick said...

As a former assistant to a professional photographer I agree with about 90% of your last two blogs.

The main thing an assistant can be is invisible. My position, when not told to somewhere else, was two-three feet behind the photographer.

As a person on the set when the client is also there, an assistant IS a cheerleader for the photographer. When the client asks questions about the photographer ALL the answers are positive in the photographers favor and after everyone has left I always the photographer what the client was asking/talking about.

Any conversation between me as an assistant and the model or client was initiated by them. Invisibility aint as easy as it's supposed to be.

The photographer an the assistant are a team. One has paid their dues and the other one is paying theirs.

Rovingrooster said...

Everything you've explained in both Photo Assistant articles is entirely in line with the expected set etiquette of any mainstream feature film or TV set. I've made some of the same mistakes myself in helping friends on more amateur photoshoots thinking at times they "were not as serious" and more casual. Over time, I realized I was undermining that photographer's vision. When it's not my shoot now, and regardless of that photographer's skill level, I consider "checking my ego" and "shutting up" to be learned skills. And it's not easy to learn as it's human nature to shine and be important. Great articles as always Jimmy.

Regards. John.