July 23, 2012 3

WEEKEND AWAY

By michael lavine in

The creative process is mysterious and ethereal, and sometimes you just have to go with your gut and change it up and bit. Over the last few years I’ve become more and more obsessed with the filmmaking process, working on lots of little video profiles and short films. Sometimes I think that I might be neglecting my photography but on the other hand I feel strongly about challenging myself and taking creative risks. The two mediums have many similarities but the differences are much greater than most photographers realize. Making narrative fiction is a whole different ballgame. Storytelling language, film grammar and especially the emotional aspects of dealing with actors have nothing to do with photography. To use a different analogy, if photography is like checkers then filmmaking is like chess. It’s exponentially more complicated. I’ve been studying hard, soaking it all up like a sponge and enjoying myself immensely, and in the process I feel like I’ve grown as a photographer.

Right now I am deep in the throes of production on a short film called Weekend Away. I adapted a short story of the same name that was written by Justin Taylor, a promising young writer from Brooklyn. Adapting fiction to a screenplay has it’s own set of pitfalls and believe me, it was no walk in the park. I ended up locking myself in a hotel room for a whole weekend just to get a rough draft. It’s a dramatic piece about a woman who is coping with a breakup and decides to go away for the weekend. Along the way she picks up a stranger and ends up having a one-night stand along with a series of other adventures. It’s a story about escapism and questions the idea of commitment vs. freedom. I have 3 producers helping me, a cast of 5 and a crew of 15. My lead actress is indie darling Sophia Takal who I am very excited to be able to work with. I’ve been scouting for days (notice the scouting stills) and having meeting after meeting after meeting. This week we have rehearsals and hopefully all the final production will fall into place. I feel like Neo from the Matrix, dodging bullets left and right. We are locked to shoot on the 31st thru the 3rd of Aug. Wish me luck.

May 23, 2012 0

Topher Grace For NY Moves

By michael lavine in

My daughter has a wall full of taped up autographs that she has collected over the years from shoots that either Laurie or I have done with teen celebrities. Some old Miley’s and Demi’s are mixed in with some newer more grown up ones like Amy Poehler and Flight of the Concords. On that wall hangs a picture of the cast of “THAT 70’s SHOW” that I shot for the first season back in 1998. So it was pretty fun when Topher Grace came over and signed the print right on the wall. Penny was thrilled! I hadn’t seen Topher in 14 years and it was quite a reunion. I had done a fair amount of work with the cast and that photo was from Topher’s first shoot ever, so he had pretty strong memories of that day. It was cool to see him and get a chance to work together again, plus I think the images came out pretty nice!

May 22, 2012 0

NYC 22 for CBS

By michael lavine in

It may just look like 6 headshots on grey but our shoot with the cast of NYC 22 for CBS was one of the most complex and intricate photo sessions I’ve ever done. Working with the amazing people at CBS photo, Lesli Lawrence, Francis Cavanaugh, Rudi Simpson and Kathleen Prutting, we navigated through a stack of ad comps and publicity comps, creating a grid with an ensemble cast of 8 that rivaled my daughters calculus homework. The shoot was really fun and tons of great images were made!

March 13, 2012 1

Maya Rudolph For Bust Magazine

By michael lavine in

I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that you must tread very lightly into the waters of the blog-o-sphere when it comes to talking about the details of any photo shoot. This is not to say that anything of a controversial nature happened on our Maya BUST Magazine shoot, she was absolutely lovely and charming and beautiful, plus I found out that for a short time, she was a photo major in college. The crew did an amazing job and the studio (SIREN STUDIOS) we shot in was really nice. But of course not everything is as perfect as it seems. I would like to complain to the scheduling gods for double booking me on the shoot day and forcing me to give up a fairly big job with another publication. I’m pleading with you to give me break! I would like to thank Chris Buck for letting me stay at his apartment, but have to say that the unbelievably fierce Santa Ana windstorm that ripped off part of his roof, knocked out the power for miles and kept me up all night was not that much fun. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I am happy to have had the opportunity to work with Maya and proud of the images that we made. Here are a few outtakes that you won’t see in the issue.

March 6, 2012 0

Penelope in Florida

By michael lavine in

Waking up in a tropical paradise after being locked in a dreary and cold winteriness for months is one of the quickest ways to rejuvenate the spirits. This year we did something a little different and traveled to Florida, land of the whiteheads, and took some time on the beach as a family. The weather was balmy and the water was crystal clear and the food was not terrible, and with the exception of one minor meltdown from my oldest daughter, everything went swimmingly. With my younger daughter acting as my muse this series of images materialized.


Read the rest of this entry »

March 1, 2012 0

Car Talk

By michael lavine in

Every year we pack up the car and drive to Cape Cod. One time we stopped at a strip mall to pick up some supplies and there happened to be a “Car Show” taking place in the parking lot. I absolutely LOVE old cars so I had to take a walk through. When I was in high school in the 70′s the 56 chevy belair and the 68 GTO were the hottest cars in the world. The 65 Mustang and the 67 Camero were also pretty badass. Anyway I found this one roll of film mixed in with a pile of other contacts from that trip. I could have sworn I shot more film and maybe someday I will find another roll of these amazing beasts, but this is what I have for now. What’s crazy is how time consuming it is to make scans and adjustments from one roll of film. It takes all day to make 6 photographs! The old Rolli just can’t compete with modern technology. I do feel that no matter how “good” digital cameras get, there is just something unique and spectral about the look of film. I certainly would rather drive a vintage Chevy than any of the numerous un-distinguishable modern plastic toy cars that they make today. One of these days I’m gonna get one for myself!

Read the rest of this entry »

February 28, 2012 0

DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY!

By michael lavine in

I made this video for Mike Edison to help him promote his new book DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY!.OF PLAYBOYS, PIGS, AND PENTHOUSE PAUPERS, AN AMERICAN TALE OF SEX AND WONDER. Mike is a great writer and spoken word performer who tours with a back up band called “The Interstellar Rendevous Band” This particular line up includes Jon Spencer from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mickey Finn from Boss Hogg and Dee Pop from the legendary Bush Tetra’s. We did it in one take and lets face it, they aren’t the most attractive bunch, so I thought that it would be cool to spice it up a little and “enhance” the look with a few editing tricks. Even though the video is chaotic and crazy, the devised formula was fairly systematic in its structure. But who really cares about that? Its just fun to watch! You can also watch mike perform a segment from our shoot called Hugh Hefner Hates Girls here.

February 6, 2012 0

Jeffrey Wright

By michael lavine in

10 years ago I beat Jeffrey Wright at a game of chess. Granted, I got really lucky, plus I don’t think he would ever admit it, but its true. I was hired by HBO to photograph the image campaign for Boycott, a mini series about the Martin Luther King Jr. that Mr Wright was staring in. We were on set in Atlanta and Terrence Howard and Jeffrey had been playing a lot. During one of our breaks I sat down at the table and somehow was able to pull off a stunning checkmate. It was awesome! When I got the assignment to shoot Mr Wright again I was excited, not so I could remind him of our match but because I personally believe that Jeffrey Wright is one of the greatest underrated actors in Hollywood and I was looking forward to having the opportunity to work with him again. I can’t say he remembered me but he did tell me that he met his wife Carmen Ejogo on that production which I thought was pretty romantic. And except when we had to beat back the paparazzi during the outdoor setup, the shoot went pretty smoothly. In the end I didn’t have the nerve to mention our game that day in Atlanta, but working the chess board into the shoot looked great!

January 30, 2012 1

SUNDANCE 2012

By michael lavine in

Waiting in Line, Glamorously

After waiting for years I finally had the opportunity to make it to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah this year and now that this major Rite of Passage has been completed I am reporting back with some images I made while I was there. Sundance is famous for its glamorous party’s but my focus was to be inspired by watching as many films as I could, and I cannot think of anything more inspiring than watching 23 films in a row. I have become fascinated with story structure and obsessed with directing techniques and writing styles so hanging around and talking about film with loads of movie geeks was really fun. I did a blog report for BUST Magazine on some of the women in the festival, which you can see here, and these images were originally posted on Filmmaker Magazine’s blog, which you can see here. Now its time for me to get back to work!

Park City Street Scene

Read the rest of this entry »

December 30, 2011 3

That was then, this is now.

By michael lavine in

My Wife Laurie and I, Palm Springs 2011

When I reflect on the year that unfolded in front of me and now sits squarely in the past, tumultuous is the word that comes to mind. It’s impossible to condense a whole year into a single blog post but as life passes us by the least I can do is point out a few noteworthy markers from 2011. It goes without saying the most powerful force that we all confront in life is death and this last week I unfortunately met him at my door. Three of my neighbors passed away this year and without getting into the details, we discovered that one of them had died alone on Christmas. I was witness to his body and it was unbelievably disturbing. Literally the next day our beloved dog Sunny finally succumbed to a long protracted illness, which was the saddest day I have ever lived through. It’s been a heavy week but it wasn’t all doom and gloom this year for there were a rash of babies being born to many of our friends, most notably my dear friend and ex assistant of many years Danielle St Laurent and her husband Paul, who gave birth to the beautiful Jon Carlo! Also there were several wonderful weddings, including our friends Sheila and Pete’s wedding at Frank Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs. Here is a picture of my wife Laurie and myself in front of the piano shaped pool. We celebrated our 19th anniversary this year, which is nothing to sneeze at. Isn’t life wonderful! My oldest daughter is a senior in high school, which means that we did the college application process this year and anyone who knows me knows that it pretty much kicked my ass. She is a smart kid and will get into a good one I’m sure. Also, note to anyone planning a family: Don’t have your children 4 years apart and live in NYC or you will have to do the college AND the high school application process at the same time. Now you know why I haven’t done a single blog post in the last two months.

And of course I’ve been busy with my photography. I traveled to LA twice just in December, once to shoot the fabulous Maya Rudolf and once to shoot the legendary Ian Astbury and his band The Cult. I had some great assignments this year including the opportunity to shoot the actors Michael Shannon, Kevin Bacon and Jeffery Wright. I had an 8-page fashion story in Esquire with Dominic Cooper and I got to go to Australia to work on the image campaign for the Fox TV show Terra Nova. I spent a fair amount of time working on a short film I made called SWAN DIVE, a dark and tragic tale about a man and a bridge and I loved every second of it. But also this year has been about downsizing and this is the year we sold our country house. We had the house for 14 years and we loved spending time there but eventually it just became too much of a burden and I couldn’t manage it any more. After 6 months of throwing out stuff, packing and garage sales, we finally sold it and moved out. Super traumatic, but what a relief! So yes it was a tumultuous year but now that I don’t have to paint the deck again, all the applications are filled out, and my poor sick dog is resting in peace, I am feeling a strong sense of rebirth and freedom and energy, ready to move ahead into 2012!

October 26, 2011 0

Two New Videos

By michael lavine in

For your viewing pleasure I am presenting two short videos that I have recently finished. Both of these videos were shot while on assignment for stills, but due to favorable circumstances I was able to squeeze in a little video on the back end of each of the shoots. The Gisine video was shot for RunnersWorld in Vermont. Gisine was wonderful to work with and an amazing pastry chef to boot. The back story on Gisine is pretty fascinating: she was a big time Hollywood producer (and she happens to be Sandra Bullocks sister) for many years but couldn’t stand the craziness of the movie business so she quit her job and moved to Vermont to become a baker. More power to ya Gesine!! You can check out her blog here. The Harrah’s video on the other hand was an insane (and insanely fun!) trip down to Atlantic City shooting a “lifestyle” story about how exciting it is to hang out at Harrah’s. All I can say is that I now know where they got the idea for the show “Jersey Shore”

October 5, 2011 0

Terra Nova: Living One Sheet

By michael lavine in

To See the Living One Sheet Click Here!

It’s the fall season and the networks are cranking out the hits. Terra Nova is finally being broadcast over the airwaves and the image campaign that I shot for FOX is plastered all over the city! It’s always thrilling to see a bus drive by or a billboard covered with images that you’ve taken. And believe me, we worked hard on this job, going to Australia twice to get all of these images made. I wrote an earlier post of my first trip down under, which you can read here, but I did go back in May to supplement the campaign. The second time around wasn’t quite as rough being that we had a lot of the gear issues worked out. (and it wasn’t raining!) One of my favorite pieces that we made was a breakthrough of sorts for me, shooting video for a living one sheet!

October 2, 2011 1

Fallingwater

By michael lavine in

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my biggest hero’s. Visiting Fallingwater, the visionary house that he built for the Kaufmann family in 1936, has been a dream of mine for many years. The house sits over a river called Bear Run, about an hour and a half southwest of Pittsburg. My daughter is a senior in high school and luckily for me, one of her top choices for college is Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburg. It’s a pretty long drive but we loaded up the car with the whole family and made a road trip out of it. The weather wasn’t exactly on our side and it was a dark, rainy afternoon when we finally arrived for the tour. Whenever I go anywhere of note, I bring my rolliflex camera. I’ve had this particular rolli since the 80’s and needless to say I am very attached. Right before the tour I was loading a roll of film and I noticed that the aperture adjustment lever was broken. Shit! I waited all this time, came all this way and my camera was broken! I surmised that the camera was in fact still working, but that I could not change the aperture unless the camera was open and I was looking through the inside of the lens. At least though, I was able to set the camera once per roll and thankfully, a fair amount of the images came out fine. Despite the rain, Fallingwater was magnificent and spectacular and beautiful and we had an amazing time on our tour. Now maybe if Olive gets into Carnegie Mellon, I might have to opportunity to come back to Fallingwater on a sunny day, and this time I’ll bring my Leica.


Read the rest of this entry »

September 14, 2011 0

Esquire Fashion

By michael lavine in

The fashion story that I shot for Esquire with Dominic Cooper came out this summer and I couldn’t be happier! Its always exciting to see your hard work on the stands, and very rewarding I must say. I wrote a bit about the shoot in an earlier post which you can see here but in this post I will make a technical point. For the shoot, I used continuous lighting instead of flash and I really think it freed us up to work more fluidly and fluently. I have been using this HMI lighting for my video work and I am loving how it looks so I thought I’d give it a shot. Unfortunately I did not have a second to spare for video, because it would have been really COOL! As it was, just shooting 10 looks in a day is hard enough. (So I made an animated gif instead) Here are some outtakes…

Read the rest of this entry »

August 22, 2011 2

Instagrammar

By michael lavine in

The luster of new wears thin quickly in the fast paced world of social media and lately I’ve been having trouble just finding the energy to check my facebook page or even to post a tweet. Its not that I don’t get it, I get it. I’ve spent countless hours lost deep inside comment chains, visiting with old girlfriends from high school, and watching rare music video posts but after a while the inevitable redundancy sets in and I have found myself with a pretty bad case of SM burnout. Or maybe its just that I spend all of my time on INSTAGRAM now. This summer has been crazy and I don’t think anyone would call me lazy but it sure is easy to post my nicely filtered i-phone photos for all to see. You need to be careful as to avoid killing yourself with clichés, sunsets and cats are the deadliest, but that keeps it challenging. And generally I think the visual language spoken on the INSTAGRAM feed is pretty fun to watch. Here are some of my favs…






Read the rest of this entry »