elbow greasing 2.1: The advertising autopsy continues

Dear Ms Crabtree,

Hi, my name is Blaze Hall and when I grow up I’m going to be a photographer/director and a director/photographer who goes to some portfolio reviews. This how I prepared and what I did for my portfolio review:


APA L.A. ( apa-la.org ) has very cost effective reviews so when the email went out, I paid my fee without paying attention to who the listed reviewers were. Ordinarily, I think you should read the fine print but my interests were less in immediate fit and more about the sculpting of professional rapport. Many of my old contacts are no longer in the business or no longer known to me so I felt it critical to restore the habit of meeting new professional people and let some of their directness hit me where it hurts.

After lamenting the loss of Los Angeles Lakers to the Detroit Pistons in 2004 (my daily ritual since), I took a look at all of the reviewer names and set off to check their web sites, adbase, linked-in, facebook, agency compile and whatever else that might clue me in to that person’s involvement in their company as well as that company’s work. That actually took longer than I hoped. As an example, Verneece Robinson at Fox Entertainment had no link and no data on her. I found one reference to her name on linkedin.com or facebook but nothing data beyond that. Also, I didn’t know what division of Fox Entertainment (e.g., theatrical, home video, etc.). Peter Stark at BLT similarly had no direct link on the bill.

Because I volunteer at APA L.A. on occasion, I figured Heidi Goverman (director of APA L.A. and my mortal foe in the martial arts world) would send me a schedule that incorporated me talking to all 8 reviewers and refund my money in full. Instead, she kept my money and assigned me the 3 as mandated. I also had a job land on that date, so I scheduled my assistant to prepare to take the mantle and do the gig solo so I didn’t have to sweat about prep time. After choosing my 3, my first dropped out at the mere thought of having to sit near me so the deck was reshuffled. Then my research told me, you need different shots.

Just in case any reviewer wanted to research me, I eliminated an entire section from my web site and excised it down as I had been intending for months. I still needed different shots. My goal was less to match the taste of the reviewer but have more things that show the diversity of my skills, update for my general relief, and tie in some of the newer focus. I sought to schedule a bunch of photo & video shoots but I wound up getting bombarded by some nagging garbage gigs which ate my time and made my schedule too random to commit to shoot times. Instead I dug some shots from the archives to finally polish and limited my shoots to inanimate objects for some advertising ideas that I had in my sketches. Those still life shots didn’t fly so I put them on the back burner. There’s no reason to show outright half-assed stuff.

My plan initially was to produce some carry away books and print a new portfolio that made reviewers throw POs and checks at me like a stripper but I need more work on my body. That and with no new shots that floored me combined with my miserly ways, I opted to use a tablet. Fortunately, my friend had a Toshiba Thrive that had never been used in the 5 months that she’d owned it. It was going to be my first time showing my images and video on something that wasn’t paper or didn’t run on steam! CPM4EVA!


What I did was show up early. I had settled on the Quik Pic apply to show the images since Android’s native gallery app is all kinds of wack. I took the film off of the screen and arranged images in the order that I wanted to show. I hadn’t had time to put any video on the night before so I used a direct link to download the H264 and open up windows in 3 different browsers just in case. From there I talked to a few of the people there to have their books reviewed so I could remind myself that I was actually there to talk to people.

[I’ve been interrupted and gone away from this post it’s feeling monumentally long. I’ll pushing this rock for a little longer but it’s going to a brief… I think. The rest of this is coming from my notes.]

My first up was Peter Stark, a creative director at BLT. Peter might be the most visually laid back person I’ve seen in a decade. Mellow yet enthusiastic and engaged or energetically focused (struck to not be misconstrued). He spoke of some of the dynamics of shooting their theatrical gigs: frequently the photographer is suggested by the talent, studio, or circumstance. So for me, that means building a more known profile, shooting more celebrities given the city, and saving Tom Cruise’s cat from a burning tree so that we can become friendly and he’ll suggest I shoot the one sheet for Mission Impossible 5. I’m saving that fucking cat tomorrow.

Everyone has their own thing. Peter likes to see a diversity of shots as photography interests him and it provides a sense of range. He said “don’t take this as an insult because it’s really a complement”. He said my lighting was or reminded him of mid-90s album style which he thought helped add to the level of consistency. I excused myself then went to the parking lot and keyed his car. But I felt a little bad afterwards because was listening to Tricky and PJ Harvey on the way there. His comment let me know he was really seeing what I had been doing and scored my internal debate that I had been having about lighting trends and the new desaturation return. You know I like eyeball popping color since the 70s, man.

Next was Talin Gureghian Hall: Principal | Creative Director at ALSO. Aside from having the winning surname, Talin was very personable and sharp. She spoke about her history and being able to work with her husband and other top flight photographers. Also she spoke about people not being able to coast anymore. The talent level and competition is so high now that you really need to work hard and be very good.

Since I refused to do either, she gave me the ice stare until I agreed to do better. (Note: The previous sentence is not true as well as me keying Peter’s car. It was Robert “Michael” Cooper who did it.) Talin suggested I amp it up. Being a branding expert, she hovered around the terms “hyper real” and “gritty”. Her thought was that I go farther that direction and selectively stay the course. I had her my new business card which is more punked out than the one I had been using for the last several years.

3rd was Michael de Wit, art director at Van’s Inc. I had 3 reasons for wanting to speak with Michael. 1, I had intended on adding to my shoe advertising shots but I didn’t like the comps. 2. I liked the liveliness of the photography they use. 3. Van’s is a legendary Southern California company and even though they’ve been sold off that legacy still speaks to me. And you know what? Michael talked about that company with a zeal uncommon for an employee in general. He said that the people who work there are enamored with the lifestyle and subculture. Photography-wise, they have cats who shoot nothing but dudes on boards so you have to be incredibly badass to make an impression with skateboard shots. Also, he presented advice on one of my board shots which was to always show where the jump/skill began as a reference point. My notes read, “Keep the reference of scale and motion in the shot”. The other key element is that Van’s uses shots that are “in the moment”. I’m quoting myself because he agreed to the terminology.

Byron Regej, AD at Los Angeles Magazine. Byron’s appointed review was late so Heidi slotted me in with him. Out of all of the reviewers I was less interested in speaking with the editorial people because I had absolutely NOTHING that I thought would compel them. I had brought ZERO editorial. I explained that to Byron and he agreed with me. I’m actually not being a smart ass. A couple of shots caught his eye but he was gracious enough to say he’d look at new images if I generated shots that I felt would fit his magazine’s style and sent them. That’s all I could ask for under the circumstances so I cut that one short so he could get a break though apparently his late review showed up as soon as I had walked off.

Verneece Robinson: (I forget her exact title) FOX Entertainment looks like one of my sisters so I immediately started  making fun of her. She’s young so I bombarded her with a barrage of age jokes of which she had some very good come backs. Along the course of this I was told how shooting the one sheet for Prometheus 2 was not going to fall my way at this stage of the game. I’m cool. I can handle rejection.

Verneece keyed on a shot where she noted that the model wasn’t quite right. I thought it was astute of her because on that shot I had to do eye and finger replacements because the talent was vacant in every frame. By her bringing it up, I’ll either scrap it or put it back under the knife. It’s a decent shot but it’s always bothered me and decent isn’t getting me in line to shoot Prometheus 3 one sheet, either. There’s another one she commented on but fatigue has bested me. There Shall Be No Spell Check either.

Dig yourself out of the hole – Not deeper

As I suggested in my previous post, my main concern with doing the portfolio review was to meet the reviewers. You build a rapport when you can and cultivate it further when possible. To expect a cornucopia of fruity flavors and big gigs immediately is unlikely. It’s a constant state of paying your dues. I normally don’t use names (e.g., “I ran into one lady at a huge agency…” in the previous post) but I think the comments unique to the person might help someone else gain some understanding who might be in the process of pursuing contact in providing proper context.

Fatigue wins tonight and I’m still bombarded with finishing some piddly gigs. That might be my next post’s subject. It’s similar to Burns Auto Parts podcast about “grinders” except different. I’ll probably cuss a lot on that one. Over and out.