Friday, August 11, 2006

Miss Warsaw and the Star

Today I performed lighting and grip duties for a friend's photosession.
We'd spent several days setting it up - a two model studio shoot featuring several old mirrors moodily lit using only flashes. I'd taken well over 150 test shots to make sure the unpredictable combination of flash and mirror would lead to no surprises. We were now all ready for our two stars' arrival...

But by 10am (the start time) we had only one heavily pregnant stylist and zero models to show. An sms arrived - one of the girls (a 21 year-old former Miss Warsaw we were told...) had taken hormones (?) the night before and wasn't feeling 'OK'. She promised let us know how she was feeling by 11. Perhaps then she might come...

Moments later another sms landed - our second model explaining that her mobile, money and documents had just that minute been stolen and she was now on her way to the police station! A Warsaw version of 'my dog ate my homework'.

The poor stylist (working for pictures not cash) sat on her makeup box holding her swollen stomach protectively and stared grimfaced at the news. We now had a standard issue low-budget production crisis on our hands: no subjects to photograph. We called the hormonal Miss Warsaw and conveyed with force:

"Taxi will come. Just get in."

Most young models just starting out seem to respond best to commands that provoke feelings either of journeying upwards in the world or the immediate anticipation of it. Stardom it seems, can be made to feel like just one taxi ride away.

Soon enough, all 190 centimetres and 5 kilos of her arrived. She had one of those eerily deep voices caricatures of models often have. (The reason for the hormonal treatment perhaps?)

As she was keen to show - she had the body to match many a Warsaw chick - but her face needed Work. While I and another assistant fought to adapt the mirrors to our single subject the feverish fingers of our heroic stylist performed miracle upon miracle on the loveless face of Miss Warsaw. Soon we were set.

The flashes flashed. The film began to roll. Shooting medium-format meant every shot had to be very carefully positioned. Miss Warsaw was given precise commands "Tilt your head 10cm to the left, keep your eyes on the camera, don't blink".

It quickly became clear that something was wrong. It was like taking pictures of a puppet battling with its own strings. Our Miss Warsaw couldn't keep control of her movements, continuously breaking position to lurch into different poises as if enacting a beach shoot for Pirelli. "10cms to the mirror" would result in a jarring jerk towards the glass and then back again, a few variations and then a default 'looking towards the light' poise complete with opening her lips slightly รก la Angelina Jolie. She seemed to have been pre-programmed with 'top tips for success'.

2 hours, 4 costumes and 5 films later we wore her down and she got the hang of holding still. Another hour later we were all done. After which we went straight to a cafe and downed a litre of beer each - and lamented our luck with laughter.

The films will be developed tomorrow. I am not optimistic, but whatever comes out of the whole affair I think we should try to convince the stylist to accept some payment. She truly was a star.


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