Posts Tagged: Los Angeles

Ric Serena directs “Making of” films for NBC The Voice’s music videos

Ric was asked to Direct a series of spots with a fast turn-around to highlight the creation of  NBC The Voice’s top 4 talent’s music videos, sponsored by Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card:  Adam Wakefield, Alison Porter,Hannah Huston, and Laithe Al-Saadi.

With extreme deference to the the other production team creating the music videos, Ric was able to create unique pieces that stand alone and share the personality and excitement of the different musical artists, while getting us excited about seeing the final product.

Check them all out here:

AdamWakefieldBTS

AlisonPorterBTS

HannahHustonBTS

LaitheAl-SaidiBTS

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.

 

 

  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    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.

Musical Muse

There are these amazing moments when capturing someone’s personality, or trying out new ideas, when everything is working, and you just don’t want to stop shooting.

This happened when I got the chance to photograph KOTOMI recently.

(This also makes it SO difficult to edit down your selects.)

When listening to her music, I realized that she is able to be both transcendent and approachable, synthetic and earthy, and this beautiful blend works throughout her music. Hoping to capture those different sides, we ran around on-location and in-studio to bring out her vibe. I still believe that the images could use more layering – as is shown in her music – but I was so captivated by her presence in some of the shots, I didn’t even do any post work on them.

Take a look, and a listen, and I think you’ll be drawn in as well.

 

  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
  • Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena
    Kotomi: music photography by Jen Serena

 

A little BTS note: All of the fog was captured in-camera: a great combo of luck and timing. And the flowers were quick snips from our garden pulled into a mesh headband. voila!

 

 

 

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.

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.

-Ric
PREMIERED: 6/2 at DANCES WITH FILMS
PRESS: MY BURBANK
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  • SCI 21015 01_BillCzappa-0026

 

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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The Beat Goes On

When Canadian drummer Jeff MacPherson contacted me to create stylized music portraits, I asked him to send me some of the images he was drawn to, so that I could get a sense of his style preference and offer up some ideas for the shoot. We knew our time was somewhat limited as he was in the Los Angeles are touring with Book of Mormon, and as always, wanted to maximize our time for the shoot at my Burbank photo studio and on location.

Together, we honed in on several concepts, (I love to provide a wide range for my clients so they can have multiple uses and campaigns,) that would show him in action, with the drum kit and as an artist, aside from his instrument. And then I threw in one more (the flaming drumsticks… just for fun.)

Jeff has a great look. He’s definitely a rocker. So, for some of his images we concentrated on a classic cool. In studio, we shot on a grey on grey set for a monochromatic feel with dimensions in corners and angles.

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This drum set is a personal favorite of his, so it only made sense to show them in action and keep them on set for his headshots as well. Even with a single setup/props, we were able to create 3 different looks thanks to our light sources: 1) bright contrast in studio lights, 2) moody fog with constant lights, and 3) natural light streaming in through the doors. Plus, he’s sponsored by Zildjian so we highlighted the cymbals in another quick shot right outside.

  • drums 1
  • drums 2
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Finally, we moved on location. Lines were even more important to me in this shoot as they helped echo his drumsticks and bars of music. We were again able to focus on one of my favorite things: just go for the cool.

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At the end of the session – From bright, poppy, white, commercial images, to clean and personal headshots, to moody creative portraits – we gave Jeff a diverse set of music photos for his portfolio. And the icing: we had a great time doing it.

Breathing New life into Older projects

Passion projects are good for my soul.  They challenge me.  They keep me honest.  They force me to be ultimately responsible for every decision that ends up on screen.  And so it’s these projects that I’m most proud of and want to represent who I am as an artist and storyteller.  Two of my short documentaries on artists Dave Lefner & Jeremy Thomas continue to surprise me with the new audiences they’re reaching.

Dave Lefner was chosen to have his work shown in the lobby of the Laemmle Royal Theater in Santa Monica as part of the Laemmle’s Art in the ArtHouse series.  For the duration of his three-month exhibition, my trailer for his documentary played in the lobby as well as a preview before their film screenings.  And during the opening night event, the full documentary screened in one of their theaters.  Dave Lefner’s piece, with music by Quiet Lights, was also selected as one of the Vimeo Staff Picks.

And my piece on New Mexico sculptor, Jeremy Thomas, was invited to screen on the New Mexico PBS arts program, COLORES.  In order to air the program, I had to have the film re-scored, so I reached out to friend and collaborator, Matt Bowen, to compose the new soundtrack.  Together with percussionist, Jo Pusateri, and engineer, Will Hampton, they breathed new life into the documentary about inflating metal and polished what had been somewhat of an un-finished piece for three years prior.

And both pieces were responsible in my being chosen to direct a series of short documentaries for Esquire Networks.  The short pieces, produced by Moving Parts, Inc., will hopefully be released this summer.

 

Someone once told me that instead of having the single that shoots to the top of the charts, he’d rather be the song that people continue to sing in shower years down the road.  I like that thought.

 

And I like singing in the shower.

 

 

-Ric