As some of you lovely readers know, I recently underwent some surgery wherein I basically received a brand spankin’ new right knee, and as a result, I’ve been a bit under the weather for the past few weeks. So before the Hydromorphone fully sinks in, I shall kick off this blog post.
What some people outside of the industry may be surprised to learn is that there exists a phenomenon called “pre-shoot meetings” (or phone calls) that every professional photo subject I know regards wearily. In short, this ritual consists of the photographer suggesting that he (and in my experience it is always a he but I really don’t mean to generalize) and the model in question “meet up” as a way of “breaking the ice” and “highlighting expectations” (although I’ve heard it put much less eloquently) before a shoot. In theory, I suppose, the model sees it as a casting of sorts. That is how I justified the few meetings or calls I subjected myself to, at least.
In reality, by and large, this meeting/phone conversation consists of said photographer bragging about his accomplishments, bad-mouthing every other photographer in their respective city, yammering about their car/dog/penthouse/ex-girlfriend, and specifying why their artistic vision is so mystical and special…before going back to bragging about past accomplishments. And ex-girlfriends (always models).
Below is a run-down of a pre-shoot meeting that I had the “pleasure” of attending many years ago (how I lament this experience, but it does make great fodder for my blog, now doesn’t it?) I swear on all that is holy, this anecdote is 115 percent true.
Photographer: rushes into hipster coffee shop of his choosing several minutes after the agreed upon meeting time. Looks around cooly for someone resembling my pictures. Notices me and saunters over. Does not remove oversized aviator sunglasses. Air kisses ensue. Sits down. Orders a large, skinny vanilla latte with extra foam. Still does not remove sunglasses. Plunks fancy BMW key ring on table with fancy BMW keys attached. Right. In. Front. Of. My. Nose. BMW symbol facing up. Always.
Me: “Drive a BMW, do ya?” (trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to contain sarcasm)
Photographer: (looks sheepish and snatches keys away, jamming them into the pocket of his 7 For All Mankind jeans) “Heh heh. Yep”.
Me: “So…the shoot?” (referring to the supposed reason why we are together in the first place)
Photographer: “So what do you know about me? (no pause) I suppose you’ve heard of my work for _______. Well, that was commissioned by ________. They are very important people. Like, THE most important people in the French fashion industry. They ONLY work with me now. The owner, _______? Well, he drives a BMW as well. Although not as nice as mine because of _______. You’ve heard of ________? Well, I discovered her. I MADE her career….” (conversation goes on…and on…and on. And by conversation, I mean me half-listening to him explaining why the entire fashion industry revolves around him and why everyone I have ever worked with in the past can’t hold a candle to his talent and charisma).
Me: “I have a really long drive home and it’s approaching rush hour…”
Him: “Oh of course!” (proceeds to talk for another 45 minutes, ignoring subtleties like me glancing at the time, shifting my feet, attempting to get up, etc. Finally claps his well-jewelled hands upon the table and states loudly enough for the three surrounding tables to hear “Well, I’ve got an important engagement at 5 pm. I’m really sorry my dear, but I will have to leave you now”.
Little to no actual discussion of “the shoot” he was supposedly hiring me for actually took place, no matter how many times I tried to steer the conversation in that direction. Was I perhaps a bit naive? Of course. I would never agree to such a meeting (or phone call) anymore.
So what is the lesson that I learned? If you don’t want to be trapped on the phone or at a coffee-house for hours upon hours with a Chatty Cathy whose favourite subject is he, himself and him, always send all pertinent details via email. Offer polariods, references – whatever the other party requires to make them feel comfortable. Offer to call, if truly necessary, but set limitations from the get-go, like stating that you are between engagements and only have ten minutes to discuss the shoot. Because really…what details need to be discussed that take more than ten minutes?
The problem with these solutions is that the pre-shoot meeting initiator (ie. photographer) has never, in any case that myself or a colleague has experienced, actually been serious about hiring for a shoot in the first place. This is evidenced by the vague terms that are used to describe the potential “shoot” and by a total lack of all pertinent details. So why would the photographer bother? I figure it comes down to ego stroking and the opportunity to hear themselves talk about their favourite subject to what they feel is a captive and impressionable audience.
I am in no way discounting actual casting calls or phone calls to firm up details of a real job. I can be quite social (sometimes so social that memory loss ensues, but I digress…) and am unafraid of the telephone. However, there is an obvious difference between these legitimate discussions and a superfluous “pre shoot meeting” or phone call that lasts the entire afternoon…for a shoot that doesn’t exist.
Near as I can figure, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.