For most of our readers who are also Star Wars fans, today is a big day – Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres today. The movie cast has been under the spotlight for the past few weeks, giving interviews and being photographed. Photographer Jesse Dittmar got to capture their group shot for The New York Times, and he only got two minutes to do it!
Last week, the cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi was being interviewed and photographed for various publications. The New York Times hired Jesse Dittmar to capture a group shot of the cast, and they got 30 minutes in the Echo Park room of L.A.’s Intercontinental Hotel. As it turned out – it was 30 minutes to take the photo and interview eleven people. So, in the end, Dittmar only got two minutes to take the shot.
As he tells PDN Pulse, this meant two minutes to photograph “eleven egos, six of whom were palpably unhelpful.” What made the situation even more stressful was a peanut gallery full of PR reps and hair and makeup stylists who were trying to get their say.
While Dittmar was planning the shot, he knew there would be many elements out of his control. However, he focused on those he could control, in order to be prepared as much as possible. He called the hotel and pretended he was interested in renting a conference room, so he could see where the shoot would take place. They showed him the Echo Park room, and he says it was gross. He rented a 20-foot foldable backdrop, some wooden flooring, and primary and additional lights.
The night before the event, he spent three hours building the set. The following morning he spent another three hours working on composition and lighting and used his crew as the stand-ins for the actors. Other than setting everything up, Dittmar’s prep work went even further. He did a research on the actors to get a sense of their personalities, so he could know what to expect. He also researched their heights in order to plan where each of them was going to stand. I’d say he did his homework very thoroughly.
When the big day came, The New York Times journalist finished the interview with the actors, leaving Dittmar ten minutes with the cast. However, only taking them into the position he planned took eight minutes. Some of them didn’t want to stand where he wanted them to. Dittmar had to do his best to speed things up, yet get the results he wanted. He says charming people into doing what you want doesn’t always work, so he had the plan B ready and managed to position the cast after all.
When the actors took their positions, the next challenge was to get their attention and capture that perfect shot. And getting eleven people to look at the camera without anyone blinking isn’t such an easy task. Dittmar called on every actor by their name, asking them to make small adjustments in their positions. He says it’s very important to memorize everyone’s names, as it makes a big difference. If you call on even the least famous actors by their names, it means “you’ve done your homework, and you have a confidence that people respect.”
With so little time to get the shots, there was no time to waste. Dittmar used a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-70 lens and managed to shoot a total of 42 photos. On December 8, The New York Times published the photo along with the interview, and you can read it here.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 9, 2017
According to PDN Pulse, the speculations arose regarding the gap between the actors in the middle of the portrait. Some users claim Dittmar left it for Carrie Fisher, who passed away last December. The photographer says it’s a great theory, and he’s just going to let it sit. As far as I’m concerned, I choose to believe this place is reserved for her.
In the cases like this, you can prepare up to a point, but there will always be situations you can’t plan ahead. As Dittmar says, he was “acting on his instincts and preparations,” and I think this story shows exactly how important it is to combine planning with instinct. You definitely should plan everything you can, but always have in mind that something could mess your plan up. Always have a plan B, and be prepared and willing to adapt to the given situation.
[via PDN Pulse]