Thursday, October 23, 2008

Michael Bonvillain


Cinematographer Michael Bonvillain earned an Emmy and a second nomination for his work on Alias, as well as two Outstanding Achievement Award nominations from the American Society of Cinematographers. It was my privilege to photograph him for an advertisement for Clairmont Camera. Clairmont Camera is a motion picture camera and equipment rental house. Clairmont is a big player in the camera rental business with offices in Hollywood, Vancouver, Toronto, Albuquerque, and Montreal.

I was contacted by Mardrie Mullen from Clairmont Camera to create images of Michael Bonvillain that establish a new creative direction for their company advertising. Mardrie wanted to do something more cinematic and dramatic than what they had been doing. She wants to showcase Cinematographers who can give a testimonial type endorsement for Clairmont Camera's equipment and customer service. Michael had recently shot the pilot for a new series called "Fringe". It has a modern, dark and edgy feel to it. Michael also has "Lost", "Alias", and "Cloverfield" on his list of film credits. The idea was to shoot something a little grittier and urban, instead of a DP sitting in the studio behind a camera.

Our shooting schedule was quite narrow because Michael had a very limited time with us. He had flown in from Europe late morning on the day of the shoot. Initially we had scouted a few spots at Clairmont Camera's building, but I soon realized that our time wouldn't allow multiple setups on different floors. Oh and to add to that the roof was a great spot but there was only stairwell access. Lots of fun with camera carts and capture computers and such. The day of the tech scout I found the underground parking at Clairmont. Right away I knew that it would work great.

On the shoot day Curtis Marzinzik and I arrived a few hours early to setup. Curtis is a Marine Corps buddy, the owner of Bouquet Pools, and trusted comedian. Anyway, we set up the Profoto strobes with a large Mola dish and a few grids and ran a few test shots to balance the background color temperature. This was a few weeks back when the humidity in LA was like 110%. It sure was hot three floors down. You would think that it would have been nice and cool in the subterranean concrete parking structure. Noooo! I think they turned on the heater to see if the two jarheads could take it.

By then Michael had arrived and we got started. He is a very nice guy and he was very up front when he said he didn't like his picture to be taken. Being the resourceful DP that he is, he came prepared with a solution (in a brown paper bag) to ease his reluctance. I only wish I had thought of that! We started to shoot a little and my producer Laurie, whom I tricked into marrying me, showed up to check on us. She had brought our kids to set and Michael, Laurie, and my oldest daughter Makena immediately hit it off. Once Michael started talking to them he completely forgot about me and relaxed. At one point he asked Makena to pose with him and he then asked her give him some direction in front of the camera. He wanted her to come up with an idea for a picture. She was a little embarrassed because everyone had stopped what they were doing and looked at her. She came through like a pro and told him to play with his hair and make it "stick up" (she tells me the same thing at home). Thanks to Makena for this one.


Michael saw the monitor after I did a quick B/W conversion in Lightroom and said he loved it. He said it captured the essence of what he feels like in this business. Kind of crazy, a little nutty.

We shot a few more set ups and reviewed the images . At that point we decided to wrap it up. We had created everything that Clairmont needed and Michael was set free. Michael is a great talent in his profession and quite charming. What I liked about Michael is that he knows about creating and lighting a scene, and he got what we were trying to do.


In the end we created some great images and the 17x22 proofs are beautiful. I had the great opportunity to photograph a very interesting person and produce a great job for Clairmont Camera.


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