Thursday, September 3, 2009

Salvatore Totino

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

Over the past year I have been shooting quite a few ads for Clairmont Camera. They have all been part of an ongoing campaign for Clairmont that showcases various Cinematographers in "testimonial" type ads. Our latest Director of Photography was Salvatore Totino. Salvatore has an incredible list of projects as a Cinematographer that include Angels & Demons, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code, and Cinderella Man.
We had been trying to coordinate with Sal for some time to set up a shoot day but because of everyones hectic work schedulale it looked like it might never happen.

I was sitting in the back row of a friends graduation at the American Film Institute. Clint Eastwood was giving a great speech about being a creative in this business when I got a call on my cell phone from Salvatore Totino. I am so Hollywood! A Hollywood legend and total man's man in front of me and one of the most sought after Cinematographers in the Biz on my phone. Good thing I had it on vibrate, not that it mattered much, there were tons of people on their phones throughout the ceremony. A few didn't have the courtesy to turn off their ringers! What nerve! I wanted to go fantasized that Clint would go over and slap them upside the.....I digress. Anyway I got up and went far enough away to speak to Sal and still be close enough to see my friend get his diploma. Congrats LMB!

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

The ad had a deadline that was just days away and Clairmont thought it was too late to pull this off. "No!" I shrieked, "we can do this". "When will we have another chance with Sal?" I asked. Could be never I reasoned. It was time to seize the moment. Alright short story is we met a few days later at the Clairmont basement my kickass studio. We were under a super tight deadline and had to have selects chosen on set and printer ready art by the next morning. We set up a pretty basic lighting set up against a white seamless.

The kick ass HMI hot lights and Parabolic reflectors were provided by B2PRO in LA. Tristan Fitzpatrick from B2PRO arranged for us to have an awesome lighting package sent over at short notice and he sent along an amazing Gaffer named Tyson Smyer to keep us Profoto goons from looking like knuckle heads with the HMIs. I have to admit that on the Cinematographer ads I am always a little curious to see what the subject has to say about my lighting set ups. I secretly hope that they show up with a crew of twenty Grips and Gaffers and Electricians and a couple of semi-tractors full of gear and light the whole thing so I can show up and act like a rockstar. Hey, this is Hollywood, the land of dreams!

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard
Not this time I guess, Sal showed up with his assistant and no one else. No entourage, no production trucks no dream teams and the best part no attitude! Well so far I haven't had any complaints or critiques from the DPs which means I must be doing something right, or they are just too nervous about being in front of the camera instead of behind it and they don't notice it. I am going with the first answer.

I shot tethered to the camera cart with a huge monitor(monitor rotation is killer) for editing on the spot. Sal and I took a look after shooting a couple of frames. Sal understood what I was trying to do right away and he was on board. What a great guy Sal is. Laid back and cool. Next time some home cooked Italian food would be nice. (big hint)

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

Sal and I both like images that are a little more Avant Garde. He has quite a few music videos that he shot including artists like U2, R.E.M. and Radio Head to name a few. They are all very creative and visually interesting. His videos were one reason that I was excited to work with him.

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

I shot most of the images of Sal with Canon's 90mm tilt and shift lens. I love the effect it gives when it is used for portraits. Tyson had brought enough grip and lighting to shoot a major set but we ended up only using one or two main lights.

B2PRO lighting 44 Umbrella

My new favorite light is the little B2PRO 44 umbrella. It's an umbrella that can take HMI, Tungsten, or strobe heads. The killer part is that it's focusable. The head pushes in and out of the umbrella allowing you total control over the quality of the light. The light quality is insane. It is beautiful on skin and it falls off quickly but smoothly. The shoot went quick. It took us longer to set up than it did to shoot Sal. It only took a few minutes to edit down the selects and soon we had the final. After that Sal sat down for an off set interview with Mardrie Mullen from Clairmont and I had another coffee.

I want to thank Sal first off for making time in his busy schedule to shoot with us. Curtis who was assisting with this shoot was top notch as usual and is always fun to have on set. He is like a big sick twisted teddy bear Jarhead and he can carry more than a pack mule. My beautiful Producer Laurie for taking care of everything that I hate doing, behind the scenes and after the job is over, when the hard part(office work) begins. A special mention goes to Tyson from B2PRO who is a model of professionalism. Every time I thought of something and turned around Tyson had it set up and was ready to go. B2PRO is a one stop shop for any production needs in Los Angeles or NYC. They can handle everything from supplying lighting equipment to full blown production staffing needs and anything in between. Tristan Fitzpatrick (323.960.2424) is a gigantic resource in this industry and he is constantly trying to improve awareness and production skills with seminars and demos for new products and techniques. Check out their event calendar! Last but not least I want to thank Mardrie for giving me the opportunity to work with some of the industry's brightest Cinematographers and let me have the room to be creative. Mardrie understands very well the benefits and value of great images and art direction in advertising, especially in a creatively fueled business like film making.

Peter Lee skate boarding. Photographed by Scott Shepard

In case you're wondering, that guy on the skateboard is Peter Lee. Pete is a talented Camera Assistant and surfing buddy who I challenged to bomb down the parking structure through a machine generated smoke cloud on my longboard. Nice one Pete! That makes only two people that I know of who have bombed the basement at Clairmont Camera.

P.S. If you have done it, leave me a comment.

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  1. Ok first off... great work! Always an admirer. So... what lens were you using to take shots of your quasi studio? Do you own or even believe in primes? Can I be your apprentice? No joke. Family always comes first :). xoxo.

  2. Scott ... the shots are fantastic! You're giving me a ton of inspiration man!

  3. Scott,

    LOVE your work!!! And I love reading about it as well! :)