Bits & Pieces?
Here I am, heading home from a pretty big still shoot for a national client—something I do often and something I still can’t believe I get paid to do—when I get an e-mail from Jen Kuhn, “Wanna do a TV spot?” it reads. “Sure,” I reply, “how do I do that? I’ve never done one.” That simple e-mail, coupled with my love for Jigsaw through a past project, was all it took.
So the journey begins. I had heard about TV shoots. And some big ones, with directors from @Radical Media, the company that represents me. Through that connection I had a lot of impressions of what I thought shooting TV would be like. This post is about my ideas on what I thought a TV shoot would be like and the reality of creating something wonderful out of almost nothing (a tiny budget). A trait I respect (not the budget part) from my friends at Jigsaw.
Day 1 - I think, “Shooting TV is going to be glamorous.”
My plane lands at Milwaukee International Airport on a cold November morning where I am expecting to be picked up by Kinkka, Steven Wold’s stunning, Icelandic personal assistant. Then we’d take the Jigsaw helicopter back to the agency for a pre-pro. Well, I guess expectations were high. It is actually Kip, a local PA who picks me up. We drive back to Jigsaw in his beat up Subaru. I am wondering if it has floor boards or not under the tattered floor mats. I start to get the picture, we must be putting all of our money into production, not pampering the director.
Day 2 - I think, “TV shoot days are long so I’ll be in my personal trailer quite a bit.”
For the first time in my career I am late for a crew call. I place the blame squarely on Jigsaw for booking us into a sketchy hotel and not giving me a personal assistant. But, instead of heading to my trailer for a latte, the next 14 hours pass by in a blur, because we don’t stop moving. In order to maximize the somewhat limited budget, the producer has scheduled almost everything today. So we arrive at a location, I take my camera out of the bag, and the producer tells me we have to move to the next location in 15 minutes. It being that this is my first commercial, I take it all in stride and pretend I know what I am doing. I don’t. But somehow, we get the shots. Including an awesome time-lapse of some high school students spelling the word “hope” out of luminaries set among the bleachers at their stadium. It is really, really cold outside, I am left wondering why anyone would want to live here now that Brett Favre is gone. Oh yeah, I never see anything resembling a trailer all day.
Day 3 – I think, “In TV they can “fix anything in post.”
Somewhat more manageable than day two, we only have to stuff a ten hour day into five hours. But we run into a little road-block. One of the shots is of a bicycle messenger with a tattoo of a wheel chair on his calf. Trevor, at the agency, has designed an awesome wheel chair logo which they have printed with an ink jet printer to make a temporary tattoo. At least that is the idea. But it’s not working, it’s backward. When I ask where the tattoo expert is, Steven points at Jen. When I ask where the art department is, Jen points at Steven. When I ask who the hell is responsible for this mess, they point at each other. When I ask, “Can we fix it in post,” they both say, “not on this budget.”
Day 4 – I think, “ TV Directors are respected and even feared.”
Hey, it’s my first spot, I am excited. And I went out and bought new toys just for this shoot. Like my new “Cineslider,” that allows me to shoot small dolly moves with pans. It’s kick-ass. But you know how you get that new sweater, or pair of shoes—and you want to wear them all the time? By Day Four I knew if I said, “bring me the slider,” one more time, I was going to have to be able to digest it, because one of these guys is surely going to shove it down my throat. So much for being respected and feared.
Day 5 – I think, “TV production is filled with experts for everything”
We’ve got some shots to pick up, so we drive to a park to scout a location. Not only do I not get a driver, but Jen’s driving now, because I was fearing for my life with Wold behind the wheel. We park and go find our spot. Coming back to the car we are surprised to find the driver’s door wide open. In a crowed parking lot. Jen says, “Hey, but it’s locked!” Now I start to wonder if I am safe with either one of them, driving or standing still. Later I get my confirmation when we come back to a parking structure and Steven can’t find the car keys. Ahhh… but the keys aren’t lost, he just left them in the car. This time it’s unlocked. With all my equipment. I don’t know if it is proof of their incompetency or proof that Milwaukee is an honest town. Well, one I know for sure.
Day 6 – I think, “Wow, that’s not the way I thought it was going to be.”
On the trip back home, I ponder about what I thought doing TV was going to be like and what it was actually like. My expectations were big and elaborate and I expected there was only one way to do it. But this was different. The production was small. The extravagance was replaced with passion. The pomp and circumstance was replaced with camaraderie. When I thought about it, I hadn’t just learned the way to do a TV spot. I once again experienced “The Jigsaw Way” where there isn’t one way to do something, where it isn’t the same way as everyone else’s way. For instance, who the heck would hire me to shoot a TV spot? Well, Jigsaw did. “The Jigsaw Way” is a pathway that twists and turns, and even doubles back on itself sometimes, but always takes you someplace wonderful and magical. And I can’t wait to go that way again.
Thank you Jen, Steven, Madonna, and everyone else for a great trip. Enjoy watching the spot as much as we enjoyed making it.
Michael Prince is a prominent photographer who has had solo exhibitions in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. His work is in the Library of Congress, several museums and many private collections. In 2000 he began shooting commercially, quickly gaining a broad clientele. Although this is Michael’s first TV commercial, he has been experimenting with video for the past year. Michael currently lives near Boston with his wife and two children. For some strange reason he loves Jigsaw. We are not sure why.
Time-lapse footage courtesy of Michael Prince
It will be one year tomorrow since our “Hope is” project made it’s debute in Green Bay, WI. It will also be one year to the day that I watched my dad begin his downward climb in his own fight against cancer.
Ask anyone who’s had it and survived. Who’s watched someone battle it, victorious or not. Ask anyone who’s come anywhere close to even the word “cancer” and the likelihood is, at some point in conversation, the word “hope” was used.
They’re like two peas in a pod. Hope and Cancer. Cancer and Hope. Why are they so connected? Because in terms of cancer, hope means that we accept the fight. Hope means that one day we will conquer this disease. Hope becomes the one thing we can hold on to and something positive that connects us.
So sure a year ago we made a large wall, a traveling exhibit and an experimental minisite. But most importantly, we made a community. A community of hope. A place where strength and encouragement can be found and left behind.
Let me leave a few messages from the site as your inspiration to use a HOPE message and to leave one behind. Help us grow the community — because in the fight againts cancer, we stand stronger together than we do apart.
“HOPE IS found within me.” — WiYan, WI
“HOPE IS acreditar na vida e nas pessoas” — Bruno, MA
“HOPE IS a smile from a stranger, a child’s laugh, a dog wagging its tail, a homemade cupcake, a cure.” — Shawna, CO
“HOPE IS knowing you are not alone in your journey with cancer.” — Wayne Konitzer, WI
“HOPE IS believing you can, even when everyone else says that you can’t.” — Steph, WI
“HOPE IS detecting it early.” –Diane Banaszynski, WI
“HOPE IS believing.” — Michelle, NJ
“HOPE IS the only sustainable fuel to run the world on.” Laura, MA
“HOPE IS knowing that hardship is never permanent.” — Jared, UT
“HOPE IS feeling confident in good things to come.” — Brian Hurshman, NM
“HOPE IS a lifetime of springs.” — Sue Northey, WI
“HOPE IS knowing that you are still breathing.” — Khadeeja Alkaff, NY
“HOPE IS the real deal. Hope may be all you have. Take it a way and nothings left.” — Toni King, KY
“HOPE IS talking with someone who has been where you are…and survived.” –NGW, KY
“HOPE IS knowing that I will see him again…miss you so much dad.” — Beth Paprocki, WI
“HOPE IS knowing that God has your tomorrow in his hands.” — Elizabeth, PA
“HOPE IS empowering.” — Janet, NY
We made the shortlist. And made the exciting trek to NYC for the big announcement. And lo and behold, behind a backdrop of thumping dance music, our name was called. Jigsaw was honored for the second year in a row with a Clio Healthcare award, this time for work we did for St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center at St. Mary’s Hospital in Green Bay. This time the competition was even more fierce, as entries were opened up to international agencies this year.
The piece that was awarded the bronze Clio was the Hope Wall — which you can see here.
Frankly we are truly humbled by the award and are truly grateful for the opportunities our clients present to us. And best of all, we came out of The Big Apple unscathed. Hopefully we can make it happen again next year.
Featured Blog Posts
Given two studies on preference for mobile web versus mobile…
Anyone can be creative. Often the biggest obstacle to innovative…
I’m involved in a couple of professional groups that are…