Andrew Easson and I go way back. In fact, everything I know about assisting I learned from him. But that was a long time ago; since then, Andrew has successfully parlayed technical expertise and a keen sense of entrepreneurialism into CM&P, the only full service digital capture company in Toronto. Andrew counts many of the town’s best and most successful shooters as clients. If you poke around on his site you’ll find some behind-the-scenes footage from the Mark Zibert Adidas set in Bejing and this shot of me blowing a dog on a Chris Buck shoot.
In February, Andrew decided to give something back, partnering with Lucky Boy Productions, Pinpoint Locations and Donna Irvine to sponsor Supercreative09, a fantastic opportunity which would provide one lucky photographer access to gear, locations, stylists and all manner of support to shoot that crucial but cash-strapped of all things: a Creative.
I wanted to know how Supercreative09 was conceived so I asked Andrew:
Honestly it was a super cheap promo for the 4 of us. It cost nothing, drove a lot of web traffic to our sites and got a lot of people talking. Way better that a mailer.
But this was what i was thinking the moment before i had the epiphany for the cheapest promo ever->
It was the beginning of February and a lot of photographers were all depressed, sitting around not doing any work, not motivated, not inspired. Originally Donna + I were chatting about making use of the studio and all the gear that cm&p has. Matthew Stylianou had been in doing a couple of creatives in the space and I was thinking about Graf and the really large scale personal projects that he has taken the time to do over the past couple of years. Not everyone is capable of taking on the scale of productions that he undertakes, but what kind of a creative could someone produce if they had all the gear and support that they could possibly imagine? We put it out there. What would you shoot if you had a tech, a producer, a prop stylist and a location scout at your disposal?
We didn’t really think about it at the time, but we were really impressed at the response that we got from some of the people who’s pitches hadn’t been selected. People still wanted to run their concepts on their own. Maybe it was a scaled down version of what was pitched, but it got a lot of people inspired to get it produced.
As the proposal deadline approached (early March), I was shocked and appalled at Andrew’s increasingly desperate pleas for submissions. Surely Toronto’s photographers aren’t so flushed with cash that the chance to have their dream Creative paid for is of no interest? I asked Andrew about this:
Very disappointing initial response. Not a lot of volume. Considering that at the very least, we were giving away 1500 in gear rentals and 3000 in production value. Pete kept asking for pitches and I had nothing to show him. I don’t know. Bunch of slackers out there. Nobody was shooting anything at the time. There was loads of time for typing it up and getting it over too us. I think there were only six or so pitches in the day before it closed. Everything really came in on the last day. 42 photographers with 54 concepts. Some were simple emails and other were full production pitches. I must commend Lee Towndrow and Finn O’Hara on their fine presentations.
In the end, Angus Rowe McPherson’s pitch was just crazy and ambitious enough to work (he’s apparently getting 12 final shots out of it all). I asked Andrew how they settled on Angus:
He’s just so damn super hot. Check out the videos! He’s wearing an H for hotness sweater and a rising sun bandanna on his head, rocking to eye of the tiger all day long. I couldn’t stop laughing, watching all the playback on Monday morning. It was really tough to choose. There were a lot of spectacular concepts and only wanted produce one initial piece. We ended up with 54 pitches from just over 40 photographers on the desk. Everyone just did a read though, starred the ones they liked and then we narrowed it down. It was a bit of a feasibility study. “Ah, no we cant get you a horse, animals are out, No, its March and your location needs an outdoor pool, Well, Steve can get you a plane, but its only a 737, and I don’t think it’ll be big enough” Some were just too complex for our initial production, other too costly. We can pull some favours, but you can only get so much for free. His just fit. It wasn’t overly complex. It was a single obtainable location, with very reasonable production costs. + it made us laugh. Not as much as Anthony Pileggi’s though, his was really funny.
This was a huge shoot. Andrew couldn’t really put a value on what Angus got for free but told me this:
The assistant cost alone would have been $1800. AND they hauled a lot of gear up that amsterdam ramp. It was steep. Here’s what Angus got for free:
- all of cm&p grip and location support
- anything he wanted from headshots
- the full cm&p digital package
- a complete red cam kit + a tech from ps
- a soild 4 days of propping with donna
- peter d. from lucky boy, on set + on pre-production
- a day of casting from matthew morgan
- 2 days scouting with pinpoint
- 5 assistants on the day
- 2 assistants for a prep day
- 2 assistants for returns
- dee daly and jordanna maxwell from judy for hair+M/U
- all the wardrobe from berman + co
- his 18 or so background extras
- a day in an editing suite
- + some large format printing from jones house
Then he spent a bit of cash on:
- A stellar location at the amsterdam brewery that was under $200
- The 20′ cube and parking at absolute
- Lunch and craft for the crew
- crew beer
- + 3 main talent at an exceptionally reasonable rate
At the moment, Angus is still in post-production on this series (this was just shot last weekend) but agreed to put finishing touches on one shot to share in this post:
Wild! I asked Angus about the shoot:
This concept was part of a larger series I’ve been working on. This installment was a series about a gritty and vicious underground sporting event with two ridiculous (but sympathetic) characters battling for the championship. I ended up with a ping pong match almost by accident — it is graphic and goofy and easy to stage. The concept really was all about the characters — our insecurely overconfident young hero versus the over the hill, former champ who lives to take down young challengers. We meet them as they make their final preparations for the showdown, and as they play out their match surrounded by an unruly gambling crowd.
So, yeah, it was a pretty ambitious concept. I really ended up pushing the production envelope. It required a fantastic location, lots of extras, extensive props and wardrobe styling, and an insanely solid producer. Everyone put forward their best effort — we had 7 assistants lend their time (Mike Smith, Dustin Parr, Neil Wysocki, Ian Patterson, Ian Perch, Ryan, and Sean Sprague), Dee Daly and Jordana Maxwell on make-up and hair respectively, 20 extras to be crowd, and Headshots Rentals donating any gear we didn’t have. That’s in addition to Peter Dell’Agnese producing, Donna Irvine styling, Steve Conner location scouting, and Andrew Easson doing his amazing digital thing.
Just check out the number of people involved in this production:
This is a fantastic initiative because showing Creatives in your book is really important, especially when you are in the early stages of your career. Creatives show me that you can organize a production, find talent, locations, stylists and work with a team. And it shows me that you have ideas, vision, and can tell a story. The best Creatives make the Art Director say- I wish I’d thought of that. It’s personal work with a budget. Trolling through Angus’ website, it’s clear he feels this same sense of importance. I asked him about this:
I love shooting creatives, and I shoot them whenever I can. The ability to shoot my own work is the reason I do what I do. It gives me the ability to play and make stuff I love. I try new techniques, and explore the ideas that I find interesting — even if they are often ridiculous. I really push the envelope with my creatives: we’ve built 20 foot wide caves in studio, travelled to the remotest corners of the continent with pro wrestlers, come close to being arrested with a prop time-bomb, been in a yachting accident (not my fault), and had twins on set many times. All of which has given me a chance to make images I never would have otherwise.
Creatives are work that I find really fulfilling, and it is the stuff that excites art directors They see the work you can do when left to your own devices, and hopefully it inspires them to work with you — it is the work I love to do, and it tends to be stuff that brings work to me.
Absolutely! Let’s check back with Angus when he’s finished the rest of his series. In the meantime, get to work on your proposal for the next Supercreative09 (coming up in the summer says Andrew).
I want to end with my favourite Angus image. Everything about this seems deliberate. The angle, the setting, the time of day, the model of car and it’s position, the wardrobe, the blank expression. It’s like a simpler, more direct Gregory Crewdson.
With or without sponsorship, work like this is fantastic and can serve you in a whole bunch of ways.