Posts in Category: commercial

At the Barbershop

On a recent shoot I directed for Esquire Network and Schick, it became very clear to me during the location scout that the concept presented to our production team at Moving Parts, Inc. was one that required a highly stylized approach on a limited budget.  Part of accomplishing that goal meant communicating, as clearly as possible, what we were trying to accomplish so the entire team was on board before we ever hit record on the cameras.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any money in the budget to hire a storyboard artist, so I took on the task of drawing boards and constructing an animatic of the spot to present to everyone during our tech scout.

The other big challenge was creating a specific look for the barbershop beyond what the practical location had to offer.  Producer James Uribe did a wonderful job of bringing together a top notch team for the job.  Hats off to Keith Mitchell and his team for dressing the space beyond recognition and to to DP Byron Shah and his team for lighting us the perfect mood.  On top of that, we had to create the bathroom set in the existing barbershop, against the existing mirror, which require a few flats and a dramatic lighting shift.

Combine those elements with an excellent cast curated by Esquire creatives, Omeed Boghraty and Jedd Scher, and we were able to shoot every frame I boarded on schedule (on a hot day, in a space with no AC and all windows blacked out). Not every frame made the final cut as the script changed a bit, but the animatic process helped the shoot move efficiently.

On a side note, Generation Gap, the barbershop quartet, was a fun addition on and off camera, providing entertainment to the crew in between takes.

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  • Producer James Uribe standing in
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Images that MOVE

Audrey K Boutique was chosen to be one of the vendors for the Disneyland Dapper Day Expo… quite an honor! And one that she needed to capitalize on.

We had a very short timeframe to create an image that would stand out amongst the competition to showcase her beautiful, retro, but somewhat edgy style. She chose a model that could pull off a retro look and her original clothing designs, and I suggested instead of making a single static image, that we create an animated GIF to pull the viewers’ eye.

 

(click on the image to start animation.) 

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Plus, we got a few awesome stills while we were at it.

 

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BEHIND THE SCENES NOTE: With our quick turn-around and limited pre-pro, we opted to shoot on white so we could decide the best dress & action on set and add background color and logo in post. Definitely a good choice!

PHOTOGRAPHER/POST-PRODUCTION: Jen Serena
MODEL: Winter Fate
WARDROBE: Audrey K Boutique

 

Contact Jen (jen@serenacreative.com  818.568.4976) for ideas on how to creatively tell your photography story within your budget

See more of Jen’s creative commercial work

Jazz Violinist: classical to modern Nora Germain

Truly honored to have Nora Germain – jazz violinist  – and already a sensation at the age of 23 ask me to shoot her portraits. She’s hip, yet grounded and wanted to get a range of images to showcase her versatility. Youth, talent and style all in one package.

It was a quick session, but we managed to capture 4 setups and 3 different looks. She’s such a natural beauty that we didn’t want to go extreme with any of the processing or setups, but wanted to share her youthful vibrance with bold color, her sleek style with bright white, her natural easy-going nature with an outdoor setting and the classical stage vibe to harken back to her intense training and serious passion for her art.

 

 

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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena

 

(Side note: I was stoked to finally paint a wall in my studio for a session. So far, we’ve brought in backdrops that have sufficed, but this time I went for a bold purple wall that rocked. I fell in love with the stage setup so much that I ended up using it for a later shoot with Stephnie Weir for her 1-woman show poster image. More on that zany and awesome project later! )

Read more about Nora and give her a listen here. If you haven’t heard of her, no doubt you soon will.

 

Contact Jen (jen@serenacreative.com  818.568.4976) for ideas on how to creatively tell your photography story within your budget

See more of Jen’s music photography here.

Powerful SuperGirl spot

There are some shoots where you plan every shot, every detail, and work your hardest to achieve that look.  Then there are shoots like the Supergirl “Powerful” promo where you can’t know exactly what you’re going to get, so you need to plan on a macro level and trust your talented team to know what ultimately is needed to build a spot.

 

The Premise:
CBS invited 400 moms and daughters to attend a sneak preview of their upcoming show, Supergirl, on the Warner Brothers lot.  Our production team worked in tandem with the CBS Creative Directors and WB Event coordinators to ensure that we could shoot a promo of the event, all the while making sure that attendees never felt like they were there for anything but a premiere screening.

Creative Roles:
My role as a director on these types of assignments is frontloaded.  Because I can’t be everywhere at once during the event/shoot, the most important job I have is to orchestrate where and when our team needs to be, and make sure everyone is on the same page about what we’re trying to capture.  Because we were shooting a 4 hour event for a :30 second promo, one would think “we’ll definitely be covered,” but when it comes to capturing the human emotion in a real setting, you have to roll a lot to capture those few moments that make the spot stand out.

Melissa Benoist and all the moms & daughters were energetic and enthusiastic to say the least.  Melissa’s excitement and gratefulness to all who attended was not an act.  I was incredibly impressed by her engagement with the girls even when she was being swarmed.  It shows on camera, but only because it was real.

And the team I had made capturing the emotion of the event entirely possible; because once we started rolling, I knew everyone had the end goal in mind and could work independently.  Romi and her production team at Moving Parts (including Wendell and Jake) always do an incredible job of handling the logistics of a shoot so that I can focus on the creative.  Andy & Lombardo (our two Assistant Directors) not only help me stay on schedule, but were so good with all the families that there were times it felt like our production was part of the entertainment.  I can’t credit them enough, because when you’re trying to get powerful reactions from real people in a short time, it all comes down to your brief relationship with each individual.  I learn from the two of them often.

Our DP/Operators, Kim & Brian, and their ACs, Ian & Chris, were able to move so quickly in an ever-changing environment – crowded with excited families – and still capture the cinematic look we were going for.  The majority of the footage was shot on the Sony F55 (one camera dedicated to 60fps), but we moved to a Sony A7S during the actual screening to capture the audience’s reactions under very low light.  And our sound team, led by Stan, pre-planned with the location to make sure we were able to get the best possible audio at every stage in our shoot.  He’s also meticulous about providing the best guide track to the cameras (which are often times ALL over the place) and back up audio files that sync’d in post with no hiccups.  It’s often undervalued the role a great sound department has on set, and shoots like this are all the more challenging.

But my biggest hero in this piece was the CBS editor, Brian Retchless.  Because post-production had such a short turnaround, Brian was on set with us (quietly observing), to get a sense of the order of the day’s events so that when he sat down with the footage it wasn’t quite as overwhelming.   As an editor myself, sometimes it’s hard to watch someone else’s cut of your material.  It’s healthy for sure, but still hard, because I have ways of doing things that may not be consistent with another editor’s.  It’s not bad… just different. And then there are times like this, when another editor brings SO much to the table that I’m able to sit back and say, “s/he did this way better than I would have,” and it’s a great feeling.  In this instance, Brian knocked it out of the park.

I am just one component in a craft that requires the skills and voices of many, and when I have a team that I can trust, it makes the job a lot more fun.

HoMEGRoWN: KleanSpa

We’ve been pretty busy around here, but there are still more businesses to share from our HoMEGRoWN photo series! So, in honor of National Small Business Week, here’s the latest… this time on Jennifer Hardaway at KleanSpa.

First, I have to admit, I’ve been dying to make my own scent ever since I stepped into the shop. That DIY attitude, helped by a scent mixologist (I think I just invented a title) could only mean great things.

Jenn is an incredible salesperson. Not because she’s big on sales, but because she obviously LOVES her products. And they actually hold up to all of the excitement! From innovative scents in perfumes, colognes, soaps and lotions, KleanSpa puts you in the scentual driver’s seat.

I asked her for a word of advice on starting your own business, and here’s what she said:

 

Our conceptual image features a blending of Orange Blossom and Sandalwood.  Makeup artists had fun gluing on earthy materials onto our model, and the finished product is full of tiny details that beg to be found.

In her tiny workroom, it was a great challenge to keep everything as light, airy and colorful as she, and her business are. I think we absolutely got it! all the way down to incorporating her orange & green colors in the concept image.

 

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PHOTOGRAPHER:  Jen Serena, Serena Creative

MODELS:  Elle Jane Hounsell &  Chris Pavlik

HAIR & MAKEUP:  Alexandria Storm & Miss Cassanova

WARDROBE STYLING:  Drelyn, Beyond Image

CONCEPT & SET STYLING:  Jen Serena

Learn more about the HoMEGRoWN project here.

HoMEGRoWN: Audrey K

The first business owner I approached for the HoMEGRoWN project project was Audrey.  I had worked with her on a campaign celebrating all of the different body types that women can have, and knew I wanted to highlight her for this project.

Her store is full of beautiful things… to wear, to look at, to covet. Audrey is queen of customer service and wants everyone who enters to feel special and well cared for.  (And a side note… her window decorations for the Magnolia Park holiday event always rock!)

Audrey felt a little self-conscious during the photo shoot (as she’s usually doting on someone else and not the center of attention,) but she handled it with grace and a winning smile. I count myself lucky to have worked with her, and wish only great things for her future.

 

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For her conceptual image, I wanted to combine her retro fashions that have caught up with trends for today. The model is the same on the magazine cover as the one holding the magazine. My only regret is that you can’t see the beautiful neckline on the dress designed by Audrey in the image.Conceptual+image+for+Audrey+K+Boutique-+bringing+retro+fashions+into+today

Photographer: Jen Serena

Portrait Subject: Audrey K, Audrey K Boutique

Model:  Elle Jane Hounsell

HAIR & MAKEUP: Alexandria Storm, Miss Cassanova, Ciara Pisa

WARDROBE: Audrey K Boutique & Drelyn, Beyond Imaging

To DP or not to DP.

That is the question.

 

I’ve been in love with visual storytelling for as long as I can remember.  I love directing.  I love editing.  And I love shooting.  As my career began shifting from editing to directing, I would often shoot my own projects mostly because I hated asking others to give their time and creative resources up for little to no pay.  Kia Kiso, a friend and colleague, helped me get over that mindset, convincing me there were DP’s willing to give their time and resources because they believed in my prospect as a director.

And as my directing career progressed, I was given the opportunity to  work with some incredibly talented directors of photography including Tyler AllisonTim AnguloSalvador BolivarTom CamardaJohnny DerangoChuck OzeasByron Shah, & Jake Zortman.  There is nothing like creatively gelling with a DP on set, completely in sync with one another as to the final look of the piece.

I still shoot on my smaller, personal projects, not only for budgetary reasons, but because I like to stay knowledgeable of the photographic process, to better help me communicate with the camera department when I’m on larger jobs.

I recently put together a reel of my camera work to send out on the relatively rare occasions I’m called to shoot.  I struggled with what to call the reel.  In my opinion, my work and skill sets are nowhere near the DP’s I’ve worked with.  My lighting skills are limited as I fancy myself more of a documentary style shooter.  Initially, I settled on “Shooter’s Reel,” however, a few of my favorite DP’s responded with the note that it should be listed as my DP reel, even if I’m not necessarily pursuing that path.

I’ve gotta say… that felt nice.

I love shooting.  But even more, I love collaborating.  They both have their place in the future of my work.  I’m certain of it.

On that note… here’s my DP reel:

A collection of footage Ric Serena has shot on a few projects over the years. Music by Matt Bowen http://mattbowenmusic.com

Ric

HoMEGRoWN: Tony’s Darts Away

Happy New Year!

To kick it off, let’s raise a glass at the next stop on our HoMEGRoWN Burbank small business tour: Tony’s Darts Away.

Located dangerously next door to our studio, it’s our favorite local pub, with an all-California craft brew lineup (including Tony’s own Golden Road line) and bar fare that’s worth writing about (including truffle tater tots and vegan sausages.)

We met Tony a while back when we were gearing up screenings for our film, MIle… Mile & A Half, and even discussed having our release at his Golden Road location. So, it only seemed fitting to include one of our favorite entrepreneurs in this series, and even with his busy schedule, Tony was game.

I only had 12 minutes to shoot 4 different setups with him, and although he says he’s not comfortable in front of the camera, he came off as cool and friendly as he is in person.

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For the conceptual photo, I commissioned Sara Macias of Eclectic Visions to craft a dress made of Golden Road beer cans. The vision was a modernized Americana with our model holding one of TDA’s signature franks. Using all practical elements, including poly-fil clouds and turf, the post-process helped create the hyper-reality.  The dress & image will soon be on display at Golden Road so keep your eye out for it, should you stop in for a bite or drink.

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And here’s the initial design for the dress.

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Photographer: Jen Serena

Portrait Subject: Tony Yanow, Tony’s Darts Away

Models:  Elle Jane Hounsell

HAIR & MAKEUP: Alexandria Storm, Miss Cassanova

WARDROBE: Sara Macias, Eclectic Vision & Drelyn, Beyond Imaging

HoMEGRoWN: Frenchy’s

The next stop on our HoMEGRoWN Burbank small business tour is at Frenchy’s. The hip, rock-n-roll salon features pin-up decor and tatted-up stylists, and the owner, Lacey Walker always makes you feel welcome.

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Frenchy’s stylized conceptual image focuses on their “cutting-edge style.”

Sorry, I had to say it.

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Photographer: Jen Serena

Portrait Subject: Lacey Walker, Frencky’s Beauty Parlor

Models:  Elle Jane Hounsell

HAIR & MAKEUP: Alexandria Storm, Miss Cassanova

WARDROBE: Drelyn, Beyond Imaging

The Other Director(s)

It’s often said that there are two kinds of directors: The actor’s director and the technical director. Because I started as an editor, I come by the latter description honestly.  I feel most comfortable on set in a technical capacity, knowing what I need in order to construct the story in the edit room. And while I’ve come a long way in the past 2-3 years of directing, the early years were fraught with uncertainty as to how to talk to the actors.

 

That’s why it’s always fun for me to edit for other directors even as I’m pursuing a directing career of my own. Not only do I love editing and fully intend to hone the craft in the years to come, it allows me the opportunity to see and hear his or her directing styles… what works, what doesn’t work.

 

I recently edited some commercial spots for the directing team, The Clyde Brothers. The spots were incredibly easy to cut because A) they’re talented and B) they made sure to get plenty of coverage.  Editing the spots ultimately came down to having fun with the variety of performances by the main actor from one take to another. Our time together in the edit room was mostly spent finessing the edits to what we all thought the agency would want to see, while still holding firm on their creative decisions.

 

And what’s the beauty of working with an editor who also directs?  Since I’ve been directing more frequently, I’m certainly more understanding of the challenges of production and why we may not have “that shot.”

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Watch the 5 finished spots here