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Traveling for Photo and Video Shoots — 12 Mission Critical Tips for Travel Packing

Pack it up!


So you’re going on the road to shoot photos/videos for fun or for a client? Kate here again, Executive Producer over here at Team Chase. This is part 3 of 4 on how to pack like a boss. Check out the last two posts in this series:

10 Mission Critical Tips for Booking Photo and Video Travel – getting there
12 Mission Critical Tips for Pre-Production – tips BEFORE traveling

Now it is time to hit the road… to bring or not to bring? That is the question. More is certainly not better, but you have to have everything you need… so where is the magic line?

12 Tips for Travel Packing

1. Make sure you have your ID and all necessary documents!

2.Pack early. This will give you time to think about what you may have forgotten and purchase anything needed. Keep a packing list by your stuff so you can keep adding to it and check off packed items.

3. Limit what you bring. Bring the essentials and backups of those essentials. Leave those fancy shoes and other not-so-useful stuff at home.

4. Carry on ALL mission critical items. No exceptions. When you pack a bag to check, pretend you may never see it again. You should have a working photography kit to get you through in a pinch as well as one spare outfit, your technology, any medications, extra pair of prescription glasses/contacts lenses and anything. Wear your heaviest pair of shoes while you travel… just make sure they are easy to remove for airport checkpoints.

5. Follow the rules when you are flying. Check with your airline and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines for packing your baggage. You don’t want to be stuck with extra charges or overweight bags. Carry-ons have lots of limitations including pocket knives and liquids (3-ounce bottles only in a quart size zip top bag).

6. Clothing essentials. Pack appropriately for the local weather and bring layers. Some essential items to consider are wrinkle-resistant, comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, versatile pieces that can cover a range – totally caj~ to fancy, and a coat.

7. Your gear. Check out this video all about packing photography gear:

8. Carnet for your gear? If you are traveling internationally with lots of gear, you may need to go through an expeditor and get a carnet (passport for your gear – try www.atacarnet.com).

9. Bring backups for critical gear items. You may have to leave your underwear to bring an extra battery charger.

10. Charge everything before you leave. That means your computer, your phone, your camera batteries. Confirm you have all of your chargers and extra batteries for when you arrive.

11. Electrical. If you are traveling internationally, bring the correct power adapter. Each country has its own unique plug configuration, so be sure to read the label for a list of where the power adapter will work. Apple makes a World Traveler Adapter Kit for an Apple products, which is convenient. http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB974ZM/B/apple-world-travel-adapter-kit
Secret tip: we like to bring a power strip that we can plug into a transformer with the local plug so you can have many open outlets… this can save on space.
CAUTION: Be VERY careful about voltage so you don’t fry your gear or your self. Read the small print on power strips to make sure they can handle the voltage.

12. Take a production kit with you. There are some essentials that can be a pain to try to track down. Depending on where you go and what you are doing the kit varies, but here are some of my favorite go-to items:
_Mobile Wi-Fi. I fell in love on our latest trip to Cape Town! Up to 5 devices can remotely connect the internet?!?! Heaven: http://bit.ly/JZVID4
_a local phone + number
_cash… yes, people still use it. and it can often unlock doors or “make it rain” when in a pinch.
_a tiny printer + ink http://bit.ly/Ogv3Bj
_a tiny scanner http://bit.ly/LBkacJ
_hard copies of your lists, call sheets, paperwork, etc in a production notebook
_sharpies and pens
_sunscreen
_talent releases
_some way of organizing your receipts
_travel book/language guide
_power strip

I’d love to know what goes in your location production kit or in your bags! Leave your ideas below.

In the next post of this series, I’ll have some tips for your arrival. Stay tuned.
Best, Kate

Traveling for Photo and Video Shoots — 12 Mission Critical Tips for Pre-Production


So you’re going on the road to shoot photos/videos for fun or for a client? Kate here again, Executive Producer over here at Team Chase. This is part 2 of 4 on how to make it happen. In my last post, I shared 10 Mission Critical Tips for Booking Photo and Video Travel, which focused on getting you there. Now it’s time to dive in to your production.

12 tips for your Destination Production

1. Plan early! I am a firm believer that, with time, you can solve most production challenges. So, do yourself an enormous favor and allow yourself as much time as possible. Here are some of your very first to do items when you pull the trigger on traveling.

2. Do your homework. Educate yourself about where you are going. The more you know, the better off you will be. Read, talk to people, get recommendations, look at maps. Cast the net wide and gather information about the city, getting around, the lay of the land, time change, phone and internet, the kinds of electrical plugs needed, language, currency, local customs.
Great sources of info:
_US Department of State Travel Site: http://1.usa.gov/d3pk4n
_local film commission where you are headed. They promote and regulate filming in their area and can provide info on services, permit process, locations.
_www.productionhub.com a production directory & guide

3.Budget to Build in some Contingency Funds. Whether you are working for a client or doing personal travel or work, you should make a budget and try to stick to it BUT also allow for a buffer. When you are on the road, opportunities come up, problems need to be solved and things will change. It’s best to plan on it and know how much wiggle room you have.

4. Get in with the locals. Local production companies are the bomb!!! A local production company can give you access to knowledge and resources that would take literally years to accumulate. These folks are solid GOLD and can help you create amazing work and save tons of money and work!!! Two of my favorite international production companies with which I’ve had the pleasure to work are:
_One League in South Africa. Celeste and Marli are the best! www.oneleague.co.za
_The Search in New Zealand. Phil rocks! www.thesearch.co.nz

5. Production Details. Whether you are working with a local production company or you are on your own, there are a number of shoot logistics to consider early on. If it is possible, a scouting trip in advance is a great way to recon a new city. You can meet people in person, start building relationships, check out locations and really dig into the local specifics. Here are some to do items that you or the production company may be tackling:
_visas
_crew bookings
_casting
_talent bookings
_location sourcing
_film office communications
_permits
_dining/catering
_daily schedules
_ground transportation

6. Keep your options open. If our team has a hard decisionchoices on any matter, for example 2 different locations or 2 different talent, I always try to reserve or hold both and cancel one later. It’s a much smarter option than being stuck with no options. Sometimes, to keep an option, you may need to pay a ‘kill fee’ or cancellation fee to be able to hold the dates as you get closer to the shoot. Balance that benefit against your budget.

7. Make up your mind. This is the polar opposite to the above, but when you can, don’t waste your time, money and energy. Just make sure that you have buy off from the client to lock in the details.

8. Be a stickler for the details. When filling out any official forms, spend the extra time up to do it correctly the first time (it may be your only chance!). The most common reasons for delays on location permits, visas and other official paperwork have to do with missing information or lack of organization. Read and reread ALL directions. Call and ask questions. Browse the website for additional information. Proofread your application. Have someone else proofread it too.

9. Make sure people know how to reach you. An auto responder for your email and/or a custom voice mail while you are gone are both great ways to keep people informed. When you are not available, it is best to be able to provide a backup contact. Let people know the preferred way to reach you while you are gone: email, call, text, hotel.

10. Phone/Internet. Talk to your provider to see about plans that will cover international travel for calling, texting and data. You may even want to buy a local rechargeable phone/sim card and even a mobile wifi device like this one: http://bit.ly/JZVID4.

11. Back yourself up… just in case.
_Leave copies of your itinerary, passport and visas with family or friends.
_Locate the closest gear rental company and retailer before you travel.

12. Be flexible. As you are scheduling your activities, allow enough space in your plans to allow for organic opportunities to emerge.

In the next post of this series, I’ll have some packing specific tips for packing, for yourself and for your gear. Stay tuned. Until then, be well! Kate

Time-lapse Photography on the Quick & Dirty [tech]

_How many seconds of time-lapse video can be produced in two hours?
_How do you set up your camera for time lapse?
_What kind of gear do you need?
_What kind of results can you get with a $200 camera vs a $5,000 camera?

I sat at the top of Signal Hill in Capetown, South Africa a few weeks ago to shoot some timelapse for a video project I’m working on. In the process, I thought we’d bust out a video to demonstrate the possibilities. I explain in the video above. We shot a Nikon D3s, a Nikon D7000 and two GoProHero2′s to create four different angles. Enjoy!

Traveling for Photo + Video Shoots [10 Mission Critical Tips for Booking Photo + Video Travel]

Photo: Erik Hecht

So you’re going on the road to shoot photos/videos for fun or for a client? Kate here again, Executive Producer over here at Team Chase. I’ve been thinking a lot about shooting (for work or play) on the road. Whether you are traveling 100 miles or 10,000 miles, whether on a budget or with a budget, here are some tips I’ve learned over the past 10 years producing photo shoots away from home. This is part 1 of a 4 part series on Traveling for Photo and Video Shoots: Booking your Travel.

10 tips for booking your photo/video travel.
Everything can seem important when you decide that you are headed out on a trip, but nothing is more important than making sure you can actually get to where you are need to go. These tips will get you headed in the right direction:

1. Confirm that all travel docs are valid. Whether you’re traveling abroad or just to the next state over, certain docs are likely required… ID, driver’s license, passport, carnet (passport for gear) or other required documents. Make sure yours are up to snuff.

2. Research your destination. You can dive deep later, but initially you need to find out the essentials: how to get there, requirements for entry, vaccinations, and special considerations. A great source of info for traveling abroad is the US Department of State Travel Site.

3. Decide who will travel and how will you get there. If you’re a one-man or one-woman show, the ‘who’ is easy. But, if you have a small team traveling with you, make the call on who will travel, when, and if these people are available during your prospective travel window. For the how – weighing the pros and cons with respect to cost and efficiency will help you determine the best way to get to your location.

4. Apply for visas. If a visa is required, START THIS ASAP!

  • Gather information. how long will it take, where do you apply, what is required?
  • Gather the assets needed. the application, passport photos, letter of invitation if needed, travelers’ information.
  • Apply. To apply on your own, work directly with the embassy or consulate. If budget allows, you can explore two options for support:

-expeditors such as www.cibt.com can take care of the process for you.
-local production company where you will be traveling can help you gather documents if they are needed. (I’ll discuss more in part 2 of this series)

5. Get vaccinations and medications. If either of these are required, take care of that early. Some times there can be a wait period before they are effective. The CDC has helpful information: http://1.usa.gov/mg0vvE

6. Gather travelers’ information. For all travelers, you will likely need the names of each passenger, exactly as it appear on their travel ID (driver’s license, passports), ID number, date of birth, gender and mileage account information.

7. Book flights/trains/cars. If you are traveling by either plane or train, you can save tons by booking early, BUT make sure you know the penalties for changes or cancellations before booking. You’ll need to balance your savings with possible fees.

8. Book accommodations. You can often save money by booking early and paying a large deposit at the time of booking… this goes for small hotels, vacation rental sites, and longer term housing. Just be careful because these places usually come with hefty cancellation and change fees. Whenever I feel like the dates are likely to shift, I book through large hotel chains that have very flexible cancellation/changes policies. Some — like the Hiltons, Hyatts, Marriotts, Westins– will allow changes without penalty as late as the day of your scheduled arrival.

9. Book ground transportation. Even if you are traveling by plane or train, you will need to think about getting to and from the airport or train station. A ride from a friend, taxi, subway, booked car… all work, just make sure you allow enough space for the gear you’ll need to bring.

10. Research your Insurance Coverage. Think about what you will be doing and ask questions if you have new elements. For both your business and medical insurance, work with your provider to find out what is NOT covered. There can be lots of exclusions, such as, limited liability coverage for international travel. You can up your coverage for the duration of the trip or buy additional insurance. www.imglobal.com provides a ton of additional medical coverage for a great price.

Once you’ve checked these items off your to do list, you’ll know WHERE you will be, WHEN you will be there and WHO will be with you… the basic skeleton. That’s when I always feel like I can relax a tiny bit. But stay tuned for the next post of this series, I’ll have some production specific tips (ie – for shooting and making the arrangements to get your shots) at your destination. Until then, safe travels! Kate

5 Tips for Shooting Photos & Video from a Helicopter

Sometimes shooting from the air is essential. While there are increasingly more options besides a helicopter (we’ve shot more with R/C helis in recent years – click here and click here to see some of the highlights of these fun toys) sometimes there is simply no substitute for a good old-fashioned chopper. For example, the shoot we’re currently working here in Cape Town with Mike Horn and crew demanded that we take to the air for the shot list we’re working on.

Top 5 Tips for Shooting from a Heli:

1. Book with the right operation. Go with a well-recommended outfit. An operation that has pilots who understand photographer/filmer needs is essential. We photographers and filmers have unique time pressures around light and weather considerations – it works out better when your pilot and ground-team understand this.

2. Make sure that the doors can come off for photography and filming. And then make sure they are off when you arrive.

3. Dress warmly. No matter what time of year it is. The rotors make it chilly.

4. Use a safety harness. Attach yourself to heli at two points (eg: the frame and floor) plus your seatbelt. If you do not have a harness – tape the seatbelt clasp liberally with gaffers tape. Ideally you can move about freely. Note: a regular climbing harness and carabiner will work in a pinch but a the full-body roofer harness is preferred.

5. Use camera exposures of higher than 1/1250s. Ideally 1/1600s or greater. This will insure that your shots are free of motion blur. There is lots of motion see inside a heli that you can see and not see (both high and low frequency). Adjust the rest of your settings (ISO/Aperture) to get the proper exposure around that shutter speed.

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[As another point of reference - some of you might recall the video I ran a couple years ago that was a visual run-through of my pre-flight. Check that out by clicking HERE.]

Photoshoot Secrets: Why Model Talent is Crucial & How to Cast For the Best

Hi friends, Megan here – I’m Chase’s primary on-staff producer. We just wrapped up a commercial shoot for a major sporting goods company and it required a monster amount of production. These tips are fresh on my mind and since it was a highly specialized sport shoot on a short time-frame (ie: challenging from a production standpoint) I thought I’d talk a little about the casting process for this type of job.

First, as you start to think about casting, you might want to consider the specific factors that are most important to both the client and photographer.

The LOOK (ie 6′ tall and blonde with blue eyes and long flowing hair)
If so, you probably want to start with your local talent agencies. You can find these online under ‘model’ or ‘talent’ agencies. They are abundant in most major metropolitan areas.

The SKILL (for this job it was athletic ability/running) 
If so, you may want to look for top-tier athletes in the given sport. You could reach out to local athlete groups, yoga studios, for instance, or running clubs. If you were shooting an ad for the circus you might need to find a juggler. There could be specific experience that your models need. You could also consider enlisting the help of a seasoned casting agent, who will be able to source potential talent from a variety of places. They, like model agencies, are abundantly available in most metropolitan cities worldwide.

The BUDGET.
Depending on your budget, you might be able to go world class with the talent from said agency above… OR…you may want to consider casting “real people.” That is, folks who probably aren’t represented by an agency and will work for a lower day rate, depending on their level of experience. These can be friends, part time models, or people you spot on the street who have a look you’re after. REMEMBER when sourcing these people: they usually have no experience, so you’re trading experience for a look. Sometimes that works great – other times it can cost you a lot because your production doesn’t move along as well as it should, as quickly as it should, with the right facial expressions, experience, etc. It’s a balancing act – and you usually get what you pay for.

In our most recent case for the job at hand, it was a combination of the above factors (and it often is…). We needed to find talent who were trained athletes with some experience modeling so they were comfortable running for a photographer – and within a well-defined budget. There’s a difference between folks who have been competing in track and field or marathons for years, and those who understand what it means to do it in front of a camera. Trust me. Athlete does not mean model and vice versa. The experience of understanding the need to repeat or hold certain body positions for the photographer comes from experience on photo shoots and will make the day run like clock work.

Since we were tasked with finding nine runners, we needed to be conscious of how quickly talent fees would add up. Enter Sports & Lifestyle Unlimited, an agency with branches in Portland and LA that represents highly skilled athletes. We were able to negotiate a fair rate for all parties involved…the model, the agency, and us. This was aided by the fact that we booked all but one of the models through them; you may have heard the terms “most favored nations” (everybody gets the same rate) or “economy of scale” (the more you use form one source or at one time, the easier it is to book for everyone, so there can be money saved…) used to describe our approach to this situation.

(other items that affect budget if you’re traveling models in for a shoot or having them for mulitple days or shoots for the same project…)

Travel days – what will you pay them for the time it takes to get to the shoot?
Shoot days – what is the daily rate for working in front of the camera?
Down days – what is the price for weather days or days when they’re at the shoot, but not in front of camera?
Per diems – this is a flat rate of money that you give models or production staff for non-shoot related meals. Guides for these amounts vary by region and are somewhat standardized… plenty of info on the ‘net.

Again, most agencies will work with you on these rates to arrive at something fair and reasonable.

The kicker to REMEMBER about BUDGET: Model agencies, like the rest of us, do work to make money. As such, model and talent agencies will add a 20% fee on top of Travel, Shoot + Down days, so be sure to factor that into your initial estimate. This is standard, fair practice and how agencies get paid.

Back to our story… Once we had received the talent + model specs from the client (i.e. age, height, ethnic diversity, “look”), we contacted SLU and requested a package of guys and gals that fit the bill. One of the things that was absolutely mandatory for us was running ability, so we asked to see a video of each of the talent submitted in addition to their portfolios + current snapshots. This is standard practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for this. The last thing you or your client wants is to get a good looking model on set that either a)doesn’t look like the shots on the talent website (ie shaved their head or similar) or b)can’t do the thing you need them to do as well as was represented when on the phone during booking.)

In addition to video, you may want to ask really specific questions of the talent (usually via the agent, but can be direct to talent on occasion…) that relates specific to the jargon of the activity you were told they were “an expert” at… For example if you’re looking for rock climbers, ask “what kind of climbing shoes do they own?” or “what level do they boulder at?” For runners, it might be “what was the last running event they ran in?”. You get the picture.

Our selections.
After Chase reviewed all submissions, we sent our recommendations to the client for consideration. After carefully considering who would work best for each of the shots we were tasked to shoot, they sent their selects to us for booking. At this point, if you have a shooting schedule already mapped out, it’s relatively straightforward to figure out the which talent you’re shooting on which day. In our case, the schedule depended entirely on locations + weather, so we ended up booking all nine talent for all shoot days in order to give us maximum flexibility. This isn’t the most cost-effective solution, but in this case, it was the only option for our situation.

When it was all said and done, our running talent was top-notch and total sweethearts, to boot. Worth every penny!

Let me know your success stories, failures, or — of course– if you have any questions. In production, it’s all about resources and who you know, so Kate and I are happy to share what we’ve learned throughout the years as best we can here on the blog :)

Bio of a Commercial Shoot: 9 Days in 4.5 Minutes

Last year during our winter photo/video campaign for REI, Chase asked me to shoot a few behind the scenes stills every day to contribute to his Diary of a Shoot blog series. The following is what he got in return. This is what happens when you ask the video guy to shoot stills.

Too fast for you? Take spin through Chase’s blog series for the daily play by play of the shoot. It’s packed with useful information.

The music is “Eyes Be Closed” by Washed Out. If you dig it, you can buy it here.

Photos as Physical Art Objects — They’re Not Going Away

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Photo: Michael Shindler

On Tuesday my post on backing up your digital data elicited hundreds of responses online. Many of you had a good quip on a time-tested methodology on how to back up your most treasured memories: print them.

What a concept – the photo as an object. As our culture ebbs and, largely FLOWS to just some bits and bytes on a hardrive or server somewhere, an actual physical photo unmistakably elevates in value because of scarcity. I love art as artifact – it’s so damn meta.

Click through the tabs above to see some stylish examples of a very physical photography: tintype photos.

Tintypes (as you might guess based on the ‘tin’) are images that are exposed directly onto a stainless ferrotype plate. As physical as it gets. To see a behind-the-scenes video (via our friends at Cool Hunting) on how these were made at the Photobooth studio in the Mission District of San Francisco click HERE.

Priceless Data: Apple Faces Lawsuit for Lost Baby Photos

"I'm backed up baby..." Photo: Hilary Camilleri

I’ve said it before, but it would be remiss not to mention it again: Back up your data.

Sad reminder of this again when I saw a recent story on PetaPixel about a guy who is taking Apple to court over lost baby photos, saying the failure of a storage device caused him to lose priceless memories. Perminder Tung used an Apple Time Capsule to back up his photos. The Canadian man claims that the device failed and that Apple subsequently told him that data was gone forever. Tung, a lawyer, says the data included the birth of his child and is now suing for $25,000 to compensate for the lost memories. Sad. But is this really Apple’s fault? Hell no. Drives fail. As photographers and filmmakers who depend on the retrieval of data not just for nostalgia – but for our living – we must accept this fact and take the necessary steps to avoid being int the position of the forlorn Mr. Tung.

This is one of the most important fundamentals–not just for professional photographers and filmmakers like us–but for anyone with valuable digital content that’s worth backing up. You can review my workflow video on how to back up your data here.

The workflow video I hinted at above, under the link “said it before” walks you through steps you can take to NOT be this guy. This may well be the most important behind-the-scenes video we’ve made, not because it’s fancy or sexy, but because it covers arguably the most essential information on a set of topics that every photo and video person should understand: workflow, storage and backup of your precious images. This video covers all the ins and outs, the theory and the details of our complete photo and video workflow from capture to archive and everything in between. It’s a tad dated, given some updates in technology, but the theories are crucial and sound. So whether you’re a seasoned pro, an aspiring amateur, or just starting out in photography or video we’ve worked hard to make this worth your time.

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Too cute baby photo: Hillary Camilleri and Angela Smith

Snapshots from Brazil

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Talking with the engineer Jacek

Here are some behind-the-scenes snapshots of my time here in Brazil with Mike Horn. Although we are almost done here, our collaboration with Mike and the Pangaea is just beginning. Much much more to come. Pay attention for our next trip to South Africa in a few weeks. Click through some of the above photos to see what we’ve been up to.

Best Photo Locations: Abandoned Six Flags In New Orleans

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© Christopher Dame

If you’re primarily an on-location photographer or filmmaker, then you know how much value a great location can add to the shoot. So today I’m introducing another Series (ala the ‘Emerging Talent’ and others…) where I feature supercool locations around the world. Stuff I discover, stuff that other send me, places I’d love to shoot. Of course feel free to chime in, share, link, or otherwise contribute in your own way. Onward…

After being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Six Flags New Orleans has been completely abandoned, left to be pounded by the weather and nature without anyone around to care for it. Rickety rollercoasters develop rust, forgotten carousel horses look upon the empty pathways with sad painted eyes, and concession stands will never again feed a hungry child. While the general public is strictly forbidden to trespass on this post apocalyptic dream scene, a few brave photographers have risked arrest and dangerous conditions to shoot some incredible photographs of this now surreal place. Click through the gallery tabs above to see for yourself. Stunning opportunities abound…

Anybody shot here or know someone who has? I’m curious.

If you’ve got other locations you want to share – fire me off a few photos and some info and I may feature it in the future.

[...and Don' Forget...While I have pushed boundaries on shooting at special locations in my career, I am not advocating that YOU break the law and shoot here or at any 'off-limits' location. What I can say is that creativity and collaboration with others can often get you through some hurdles that are not overtly "open" locations... And most people who wrangle "closed" locations are interested in...um... money and other possible perks that letting you shoot at a particular place might afford them... Getting access to special locations is something I've done regularly with good results - it's an art not a science. Generally speaking, all commercial photoshoots should be permitted and paid for and trespassing is illegal. If you go Rambo on this, or any location I'll point out in this future series of posts, you may get a high five from somebody, but you're doing so under your own free will. You may or may not get some incredible shots. ]

RE-Watch of High Speed / Slow Motion Fashion Shoot with Superfad on Chase Jarvis LIVE

3 weeks ago, I put the $150,000 Phantom Flex camera through its paces during an experimental fashion shoot with my good friend, director Will Hyde from Superfad. We had an absolute blast. We also had superhot female talent, an epic wardrobe, do-it-yourself solutions mixed with the highest end pro gear, and more than 50,000 watts of light. While the shoot went on for 6 hours, this here re-watch has been trimmed to include all the highlights for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy. Share if you dig it.

[The finished edit of our work is coming soon as well, stay tuned.]

——–

chase jarvis live superfad phantom

10 Essentials to Go the Extra Mile (for Your Clients + Crew)

extra mile 1Hello, readers! Megan here, Producer at Chase Jarvis Inc. We’ve just returned from an amazing 6-day shoot in Aspen, CO. You perhaps read about it here, here, or here. It got me thinking about client/crew relationships and customer service.

One of the ways you can set yourself apart as a creative professional is to really go the extra mile for both your client(s) and your crew. This applies to YOU, whether you’re a photographer or director producing your own jobs with a small crew, or a producer wrangling a hefty crew with a lot of moving parts. Here are some things to think about before your next shoot:

1. Flights: We do a lot of traveling around here, and we all know that flying can be a pain in the you-know-what. Lines, waiting, more lines, more waiting. Knowing whether people prefer a window or aisle, bulkhead or exit row, goes a long way to make the experience that much better. Be sure to include frequent flier numbers, when applicable. Also, how is everyone getting to the airport? Can you arrange for a car service to carpool some folks that live close to one another? Or should everyone cab it individually and bill the cost along with their final invoice?

2. Hotels: Whether you’re staying in a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel with tons of amenities, or a low-budget motel off the highway, providing the front desk with some details about your stay can really help things run smoothly.  Be sure to let them know how many of you are traveling together and if you have any special needs (early check-in, late check-out, meeting space for your pre-pro, printing capabilities, wi-fi access, breakfast, gear storage, etc.). Ask for dining recommendations or the location of the nearest grocery or drug store. Additionally, since you’re perhaps spending a serious chunk of change with the hotel, you might be able to wiggle into a few extra benefits as well that could help your shoot – early breakfast, discount rates, or extra rooms for gear/meetings. Also remember: the front desk is there to help, if you let them. You can show your appreciation by generously tipping the staff, the shuttle driver, bell hop, housekeeping, etc. Upon checkout, we like to leave an envelope at the front desk for housekeeping. Generally, the rule of thumb is $2 to $5 per day per room.

3. Rental cars:  Think about what kind of space you need:  you may be traveling with so much gear that an SUV is a necessity or maybe even a cargo van.  Or maybe your client wants a convertible if you’re shooting somewhere warm and tropical. Which company should you use?  There’s a balance to be found between price, convenience and reliability. We are usually hurrying off to a pre-pro or a scout and need to know that our car is ready and right. Whenever possible, we go with a company with whom we have a preferred account for fast service and a location in the main terminal.

4. Food: I could go on forever about this one. Food is often an undervalued aspect of a shoot. Keeping your crew well-fed and watered can go a long way to making a tough day feel less tiresome.

  1. Know food allergies and/or preferences. Is anyone allergic to nuts, gluten-free or vegetarian?
  2. Snacks are an easy way to make people happy. Our crew likes Peanut M&Ms, red Swedish Fish, beef jerky and string cheese. What does your crew like to have handy?
  3. What kind of restaurants does your client like to eat at for dinner? Sushi? Mexican? Find out so you can make a reservation in advance. We always love a spot with a private room for large parties. In many restaurants, there’s not even an extra charge!

5. Community: Make sure you get to know your clients and crew well; nothing brings a crew together like an off-duty meal. It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk about things other than the j-o-b and really get to know everyone on a personal level. Your client’s wedding anniversary is next month? File that tidbit away so you can be sure to send him or her a card and perhaps a bottle of wine.

6. Follow-through: Make sure everyone has received and read the call sheet you emailed by following up with a phone call to confirm. It sucks when a key member of your team calls bright and early on shoot day frantic because they don’t know where to go and when.

7. Organization: If there’s one skill that every producer should have honed, it’s organization. It can be tricky to keep track of all the moving pieces, but if you have a good system in place, it can help out tremendously. Try centralizing your information into a production book, with the creative, contact info, schedule, shot list, talent, locations, permits, calendar, travel confirmations, etc. that you can constantly reference. Not only is it super helpful for you, but it instills confidence in your client that you know what you’re doing and that you have everything under control.

8. Details: You know what they say, the devil is in the details. It’s often the little things that make the difference between an okay shoot and an awesome one. Is there a concierge we can leave our skis + snowboards with at the hotel? Is there a hotel shuttle available to take us to the location? Did you remember to get that radio to the 1st assistant? Or make sure everyone has their lift tickets on them? There are a million of these little details to think about on any shoot. The more you can anticipate in advance, the smoother your shoot will go. And the more you’ll impress your clients.

9. Communication: Words to live by, friends, “over-communicate.” Make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what the expectations are. Just had a conference call with your client? Summarize what transpired and who’s responsible for what in an email. I promise you, this will save your behind at one point or another during your career. This is also an effective way to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

10. Be (sincerely) nice: This might seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten myself out of a jam by simply being really nice. I’m not suggesting that you overdo it on the saccharine; in fact, no one likes a kiss-ass. This can sometimes be easier said than done, but don’t forget that we’re lucky to be doing what we love for a living. You’ll find that people (both clients + crew) are a lot more eager to work with you on a long-term basis if you just be nice :)

Thanks for reading! For more production tips, be sure to check out Kate’s awesome post here.

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