Posts in Category: photography

CZAPPA: TV Repairman and Artist

In the ten years we’ve lived in Burbank, California, I must have passed ARC TV & Repair over one hundred times.  The handful of art pieces in the front window always caught my attention, but I assumed the artist was a friend of the shop owner.
After Jen wrapped up her HOMEGROWN photography project, showcasing small business owners in Burbank, she received a phone call from Bill Czappa, owner of ARC TV & Repair, asking if he could be included in her next round of photography.  She returned to our office after shooting with him and urged me to meet him and consider shooting another [ahr-tuh-zen] project installment on him.
I didn’t have lofty expectations for the end product when I made the commitment to shoot a short piece on him, mostly because I didn’t know how much time I would be able to commit.  However, during my first b-roll shoot with Bill at his garage studio, we got to talking unofficially (I didn’t have location audio with me that day because I hadn’t intended to shoot interviews), and Bill mentioned that he’d always thought Van Gogh had it easy compared to some artists, including himself.  With this passing comment it became very clear the direction and tone the documentary would take.  I was hooked.
In the month that followed, I spent a few hours here and there with Bill. At his garage studio. At his repair shop/gallery. For one of Bill’s recounts about a gallery experience, I wanted to come up with a clever way to visually tell the story.  His retelling was lengthy and required quite a bit of trimming to make it fit.  Because I only shot his interview with one camera, I didn’t have the luxury of a second camera to cut away to.  In addition, I felt like cutting to random b-roll during this story felt unmotivated.  So I took a cue from Bill and decided to use a “different material” than video to tell the story.  I decided to tackle stop-motion animation for the first time in years.  With our awesome intern, Odessa, we cut characters and shapes out of construction paper and created a rudimentary animated sequence to accompany Bill’s humorous art gallery story.
There is nothing like watching an animated sequence come to life.  The icing on the cake was hearing the sound design from my long-time collaborator, Durand Trench of Sasquatch Sound.  All of us were in his office laughing like children.  I have a feeling it won’t be our last animation.
The next step was a crucial one and somewhat fortuitous.  I had been editing the film with no music.  It’s been an exercise of mine recently as I try to avoid temp love (the notion that some producers/directors/editors fall in love with their temporary score so much that they’re unable to appreciate the novelty of an original composition), and I wanted to provide the composer an opportunity to come at it with a fresh perspective.  For this project, I asked Paul Bessenbacher (PB) of Emoto Music to consider scoring the film and gave him the first right of refusal.
Near the end of my picture edit, PB released a track from his then forth-coming solo piano album titled, Equilibrium.  On a whim, I played the track against a section of the film and was blow away.  Everything worked.  Timing.  Tone.  Moments.  PB had independently and coincidentally created the perfect piece for a film he’d never seen.  From there, PB provided some of his other existing tracks for me to place against my sequence to help him determine the tone I was going after.  I was willing to forsake my exercise at the request of the composer, especially considering it was his music.  Eventually, he composed an original score that differed significantly from the temp music he’d provided earlier (save that initial piano track, Bloom, which we both felt was perfect for the film).  I will admit I had a brief moment of temp love the first night, but it only required one more listen of the new score to appreciate the creative approach and cohesiveness it brought to the film.  The musical collaborative process is one of my favorites in filmmaking, and I’m fortunate to work such talented composers like PB.
We went back to Bill’s garage studio to record some additional sound effects for the soundscape of the film, and from there Durand tackled the mix.  This was his first mix for a theatrical setting, and he nailed it.  Sidney Lumet wrote he hated the mix process.  I’d have to disagree with him.
Passion projects can be a bit tricky.  There is a balance you must strike between making something the best you can make it and respecting the  time of your creative collaborators.    At the end of the day, you want have something you all can be proud of.  I think CZAPPA is a prime example of achieving that goal.

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Intern Wrap-Up

We were so sad to see Odessa go, and just as choked up when she sent in this blog post.  Wishing her HUGE success in whatever she tackles in life.

A few words to remember her by…

Over the past four months I’ve been interning with Jen at Ric at Serena Creative. During this time I’ve learned a lot about different aspects of film and photography. During my first few weeks here I was able to go on set for a Survivor Promo shoot with Ric. I also spent a great deal of time working on a documentary. This was where I learned the most of filming and production on a smaller scale. I was able to spend a lot of time with Ric watching him work and learning from how he went about executing this project. It was great to be able to work so closely with someone who’s very talented and knowledgeable.

Ric and I also worked on a short animation. I had never done anything like that before and it was cool to see the process. It was also fun to figure out how to make it fit into the film. Problem solving is something that I enjoy and being able to partner on this and work to create something that turned out really well was awesome. I also find that a lot of film and photography requires creative problem solving and this challenge is really fun.

I was also able to assist Jen on a ton of photo shoots. We shot out on the trails of Griffith Park, in more urban locations around LA, in studio, and on location at a corporation. I got to see how Jen worked in all these different situations and how to think outside of the box. We were able to get shots that were unique even on location without any props. Jen’s eye picks up on all the cool things around her and knows how to translate it into an awesome photo. The time I was able to spend with her taught me a lot about how to look at things but also how to be practical and efficient.

I spent a lot of time on the production side of things, but I also got to do a lot of work in pre-production. One of my big tasks was working on researching things from potential sponsors for projects to other companies in the industry. This was a really important skill to learn because it taught me how to be organized and build a project from the ground up.

To round things out, I also did some post-production work and assisted Ric with editing. I learned some of the basics of using avid and feel more comfortable approaching a picture editing project now.

Overall, my experience interning at Serena Creative was AWESOME! I learned a lot and had a ton of fun. Jen and Ric taught me a lot and made sure I got what I wanted out of the experience. They are by far the best people to work with and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.


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


Learn more about the HoMEGRoWN project here.

Why I Love our Water-Wise Garden

For nearly a decade, we’ve lived in our home in Burbank, and I did the bare minimum in the front yard – concentrating my gardening in the back. Now that we’ve landscaped to create a water-wise garden, I’m in the front all of the time.

It flows with the Spanish-style of the home, it’s the right choice for the environment, AND it attracts the most welcome visitors.

Here are just a few few photos of our new friends we took last weekend. Just in time for an Earth Day celebration



Rockin the Home Town with Christopher Giles

There’s hardly a time – especially when traveling – when I don’t have my camera.

So, on a recent trip to our hometown of Sanford, FL, I was able to take advantage of the cobble streets and open spaces that our hometown has to offer – by photographing a talented, driven and genuine musician: Christopher Giles.

His social media following alone shows he’s business savvy, his responses to his fans shows he cares, and his latest single shows he’s ready to rise the charts. To describe his music, I’ll grab a line from his website, “Chris’s romantic and passionate nature led him to Soul and R & B, still being his favorite genre to this day. His larger than life personality, desire to move and be moved by the power of music also led him to appreciate the rock genre as well. These influential aspects of music have manifested into soulful, passionate lyrics with a powerful delivery.”

And now, we’ve crafted some visuals to match.


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And man… I sure do love a rusted out car.

(Backstory on the car… we were headed to another location when I spotted the rusted out car near a garage. Christopher was game, so we pulled over. I didn’t want to draw attention, so we shot with available light, and man, we really happened to be there at just the right time.)


Around Town with WeirDass

Just running around town becomes an adventure itself when you’re photographing dynamic comedic improv duo: WeirDass (Stephnie Weir and Bob Dassie.) The husband and wife team have such incredible chemistry that you can see it easily in their stage performances… like those at iOWest Theater and improv festivals, their on-camera appearances like their Eleven-Year Itch series (directed by our own Ric Serena,) and their day-to-day life as well.

Here are a few stills from our little run around town.

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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

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.


And here’s the initial design for the dress.


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



We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

- George Bernard Shaw

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.



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