When “A” Camera, “B” Camera, and the Boom Operator are all working together, you will find me there as well, out of the Actor’s eyeline, but striving to capture that Decisive Moment, when the essence of the scene or film is captured in a single frame.
What is exciting for me, was seeing how many of my images shot on set were utilized in every aspect of the marketing of Every Day. For example, this became the new cover of the novel the film is based on when it was reprinted. It was also used as a poster and each image has been reproduced on social media. Want some trivia? In the upper left corner, in the image of Chemistry Class, you can see my daughter Sadie’s head behind Angourie Rice. Sadie was an extra on set during film making!
There are moments when I am shooting that I am terrified. The fear is not over personal safety but rather of disturbing what is going on. It is difficult to describe but sometimes a scene is so intensely personal and the moment so real that I am terrified that my shutter click will escape the blimp and disturb that connection the actors are sharing. It is agonizing for me, the truth be told. Others in my small brotherhood seem to shrug it off but I struggle. Despite all this inner battle, I often do shoot it or sometimes I decide that the better course of action is to watch, decide when the unfolding scene is strongest and then ask permission of the actors, director and D.O.P for a take of my own. In this scene from The Kennedys, I chose the latter. Barry Pepper and Tom Wilkenson, gracious and generous with me, agreed to give me the moments when Bobby apologizes to Joe over the death of JFK, something he feels responsible for and I made one of my favourite images of the show.
This show was a six part mini seriesand as such I was able to watch the actors develop the characters they played and get comfortable being them over the length of the project, in this case almost five months. Here Greg Kinnear plays JFK and Barry Pepper becomes Bobby Kennedy. I think they both knocked it out of the park. In this particular scene, we did many takes until the nuances of each personality came out in the performance to the satisfaction of both the director and the actors. It always seems to me to be a privilege to be part of these moments.
It is extremely exciting for me when one of my unit photography images, those I shoot while the action is occurring on a film set, gets turned into a billboard. At that point, they go beyond publicity and become advertising. Somehow it becomes different in my mind. It is one of those times you can look up and say, "I did that." This one was displayed in Times Square, NYC.
Pausing between takes for me to make this portrait gave the ladies a change of pace as they had just been dancing throughout a massive and wonderful party scene. Jessica Lange sang a classic jazz piece to the delight of us all and her "daughter" Drew Barrymore. The image became a show favorite and is used as the splash page for the film on HBO's web site. See http://www.hbo.com/movies/grey-gardens#/movies/grey-gardens/index.html
I think Drew Barrymore is one of the most beautiful people I have ever photographed.
Cheaper By The Dozen 2
The hottest summer on record took place when we were filming Cheaper By The Dozen 2. The outdoor cottage scenes were all shot in Burleigh's Falls, Ontario and the crew swam every day at lunch time to stay cool! Steve Martin is incredibly funny but also a pro that I never heard complain, even when having to wear a full neoprene wet suit out of water. Trivia fans, that is a young Taylor Lautner in the boat, long before the Twilight films were even thought about!
Cheaper By The Dozen 2
"The Move" Seemingly caught in the act in the theatre, Steve Martin tries to show Eugene Levy how young boys yawn as an excuse for putting an arm around their date's shoulder. Two great comedians at work, delivering lines and physical moves that one can both identify with in real life and yet guffaw with laughter.
Cheaper By The Dozen 2
This shot is an example of why it pays to have a good relationship with the 1st AD on a film set. Danny Silverberg had just called wrap for the day but seeing how great the opportunity was, gave me an extra five minutes with the young cast before releasing them. If you build up a relationship of trust with a crew, they come to realize that you wouldn't ask favours lightly and not unless it was really important. This was one of those times. Danny is a prince among 1st AD's and soon after this steered another big Canadian feature, the remake of Hairspray.
102721_075 -- TRUMP UNAUTHORIZED - "Trump Unauthorized," ABC's much-anticipated dramatization about legendary real estate developer Donald Trump, will air TUESDAY, MAY 24 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. The telefilm, starring Justin Louis ("Missing," "Hidden Hills") as Trump, is based on Gwenda Blair's acclaimed biographies, Donald Trump: Master Apprentice and The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire, as well as other sources. (ABC/PETER STRANKS)
A Raisin In The Sun
I was able to work with Phylicia Rashd and Sean Combs (PDiddy) on this remake of the classic Sidney Poitier film. It was a very tiny studio set, which emphasized the claustrophobic surroundings that the characters were living in during the performance. No doubt this helped as a number of them were method actors. It was very challenging for stills however, as with two camera crews and a sound department, I struggled to maintain the invisible presence I normally strive for. This image, used as a wallpaper download to promote the film was shot on one of the location days, making it much easier to get one of those decisive moments that tells the story.
Raisin In The Sun
A poignant moment at the end of the film... a peace offering between mother and son. The key with this sort of image is to let the actors do what they do and not over direct them. Once they understand what you are looking for, step back quietly and shoot. The look in Phylicia Rashad's eyes to Sean Combs says it all.
American Pie "The Naked Mile"
My second time working with Eugene proved to be as wonderful as the first. Quiet, professional, gracious, a pro in every sense of the word and very, very funny. As an audience you see the take they want you to see but we have the fun of seeing all of them. Sometimes the best stuff never hits the screen! Seen here chatting with the lead actor of American Pie 5, newcomer John White.
The Path to 9/11
Harvey Keitel portraying John O'Neill looks up as he is investigating a suspected terrorist lair in The Path to 9/11, an ABC mini series about the events leading up to September 11th. I so wanted this image! Visualized in my mind, I knew the steel beam must not block his eye but that it would lead the viewer right into Harvey's intense stare. The bird's eye point of view puts the viewer in the position of the quarry hiding from the law.
Path to 9/11
Donnie Wahlberg and Mido Hamada pause for a moment to consider their situation during a scene we shot in the Atlas Mountains of Morroco. Both actors were very accommodating of stills, knew of it's importance for publicity and were generally nice guys all around. It was an intense five weeks though, the hardest and most dangerous shoot I had ever been on but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
1237_36_15 - BRIAN'S SONG - UNIT
PAULA CALE, SEAN MAHER
1237_15 BRIAN'S SONG -
PAULA CALE, ELISE NEAL
1237_3_34 BRIAN'S SONG -
1207_5_23A THIEVES - Meet Johnny (John Stamos) and Rita (Melissa George). They’re high-class thieves. Lightning fast, smooth as silk, Johnny and Rita are about to pull off the biggest diamond heist of all time… If only they hadn’t locked the keys inside the getaway car. Caught red-handed by the FBI, Johnny and Rita can avoid the pen by recovering "missing" government property. It’s a lifetime sentence to avoid a lifetime sentence, and the only thing hotter than the merchandise is the sexual tension between this dynamic duo. "Thieves" will air on Fridays at 9:00 p.m. on the ABC Television Network.(ABC/Peter Stranks)
MELISSA GEORGE, JOHN STAMOS
64445 (7/11/00) - THE MIRACLE WORKER -- Hallie Kate Eisenberg and Alison Elliott star as the legendary Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, in a re-telling of the touching, timeless story of triumph born of tragedy, "The Miracle Worker." In this compelling story of unconditional love and perseverance, Annie’s determination leads Helen to a climactic breakthrough allowing her to discover the world through the eyes and ears of others. Growing into one of the most extraordinary women of any time, Helen served as an international leader for the disabled, with the assistance of the lifelong friendship and support of her teacher and mentor, Annie Sullivan, whose groundbreaking techniques for teaching deaf and blind people are still being used today. "The Miracle Worker" airs as a presentation of "The Wonderful World of Disney" on SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12 (7:00 - 9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Photographer: PETER STRANKS
The Miracle Worker
This version of an American classic was shot in 2000. I shared the duties of Stills Photographer with a great shooter, Michael Courtney. This was one of my images and I include it because it represents a classic image for publicity. At the reins (pun intended) we have the incomparable David Strathairn, his wife played by Kate Greenhouse and an excellent young actress in Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Helen Keller.
Street Time was a gritty series featuring Rob Morrow, Scott Cohen and Erika Alexander. The cameraman for the pilot was Jonathan Freeman with Marc Levin directing. It was beyond a doubt the best pilot I have ever seen. The feel was that of a documentary, a specialty of Marc's and in Jonathan's raw lighting, powerful.