Behind the Scenes of Serilda Summers-McGee

For our latest project, we were tasked with creating an interview video. Interview videos are fairly common, and they tend to be all fairly similar—light someone in the corner of a well-dressed house or office, and let them talk. That’s easy, and it works, but it makes a project more fun for me to try to think of new ways of approaching a common problem. So I began to look at photos for visual inspiration. I keep an album of photos to look through for inspiration, and I found a few that kicked off some ideas.

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What if we borrowed from music videos, art photography, and created a look like this—slick, clean, and simple? I spoke with our gaffer/DP, Toby, and after some discussion came up with a plan.

It involved some challenges. In order to achieve a look like this you need a lot of space. It’s not enough to simply put the subject in front of a black wall; you will still see the wall if it is close behind the subject. In order for light to fall off into black, you need space. But where do we get that space? Where could we find a space big enough and quiet enough to get the look we needed while also being able to record dialogue?

I called around 15 to 20 places over the course of two weeks, until we found a perfect spot—Headwaters Theater, on the train tracks just off Farragut. Being some distance from any busy roads it was extremely quiet (minus the occasional train) and with its black walls and large theater space it was the perfect place for our shoot.

The setup itself is fairly simple: A big, soft light on the subject, a hair light, and lots of flags to help shape and craft the light. This was the end result:

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I thought it looked pretty good. And it came straight out of my dome piece and ended up here. How weird is that?

—Andy

Andy Jordan