Thursday, March 25, 2010

Michelle Akers photo shoot

Sutton, Ma. – Producer Heather Lombardo was drawn to a story about Michelle Akers, the retired soccer great who has turned her life to the rescue and care of abused horses.

Lombardo’s youth as a competitive rider, and now as a recreational rider, made her a natural for the story. And when she saw Akers’ photos of the abused horses, and of a heroic rescue during a flood last September, she was hooked.

But how to tell it? She knew Akers’ still photos would play an important role because they were the only visual record of a crucial part of the narrative. Her challenge was to use the photos effectively.

“I wanted to try and stay as organic as possible,” Lombardo said.

Most still photos are filmed in a studio. But Lombardo decided to film the photos outdoors, and to try to copy the feel of Akers’ Florida farm. Photographer Tony Melfi suggested Waters Farm, which was settled in 1757 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lombardo, Melfi, and grip Eban Hathaway arrived at noon, as sun broke through and wind rustled trees and bushes impatient for spring. The non-working farm was deserted.

They looked over the 120 acres, the stone walls and wooden gates, the 2-bay and 6-bay wagon shed, cook barn, and shingle mill.

Lombardo chose a weathered gate in front of a stone wall, and applied tape to the back of the photos. Melfi set up his Varicam DVC Pro HD.

Soon, thirteen still photos, taped to the gate, fluttered in the wind. Melfi dropped in a Tiffen filter to darken the sky. Lombardo watched the HD monitor and asked Melfi to come in tight.

Later, more photos were filmed against a gray fence next to the 2-bay wagon shed. Still later, another set was filmed inside the shed, in the shadows. Melfi shot through a hole in the shed’s wall, while Hathaway held a reflector above the photos, for minimal light.

“These photos are somber,” Lombardo said. “The background should be somber.”

- posted by Steve Marantz, March 25, 2010

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