Sunday, August 28, 2011

Transformers Dark of the Moon Stills by RZ

Michael Bay has just posted a number of my photographs from "Transformers Dark of the Moon" on his official website,  This is rewarding to me because my goal is to make imagery that energizes the fanbase and attracts viewers to this film and franchise.  However, the reality of how things work at the studio is that only a few key images are used in promoting the film.  Therefore, many great images that excite the fanbase would normally never see the light of day.

Already in the first couple of days since this posting, there has been a very positive response from fans. 

One fan wrote in about wanting a boxed set of coffee table books showcasing a my imagery from all three "Transformers" films.  I'm going to try to make this happen.  If you'd like to see this, please post a comment saying so.  Thank you!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

School Visit in Pacoima

I made an after school visit recently to the Discovery Charter Prep High School in Pacoima, where my friend Jackie teaches (here's me with three of the students and the art teacher - we're all wearing similar glasses ;-). Ostensibly, I was there to talk about photography and my work as a photographer for Hollywood movies and celebrities. My game plan when I do these visits is to integrate talk of my work into the bigger, long term picture of life. It's been my experience that the students are receptive to this, to the deeper aspect of things.  For example, a few years ago I was in New Jersey with my Mom and my Sister Patti, who's in a wheelchair with paralyzed legs and very limited hand ability. I was set to do a return visit to Montgomery Upper Middle School near Princeton to speak with students age eleven to fourteen. At the time, we were putting leg braces on Patti so her feet/ankles wouldn't turn in so much (pronate).  Patti suggested we wait till we got to the school and show the students how we put on the braces. We got there and I started my presentation, which at that time consisted of my hooking my laptop up to a projector and showing images from my work in the movies, as well as my celebrity portraits.  While the students liked this, I could sense they were unimpressed.  Some of them seemed more interested in their own desktop computers. But I went through it and then, at the end, I introduced Patti, who had been sitting quietly in her wheelchair beside me in front of the classroom. "This is my sister Patti, everybody, and she used to be a teacher's aide in day care centers, but now she has a degenerative condition they call Spino-Cerebellar Degeneration. On the way here, Patti suggested we show you how we put on her leg braces. Is anyone interested?" In unison, with great interesta and enthusiasm, every student got up from their seats and formed a semi circle around Patti and me!  One girl, who told us she helps care for her sister with epilepsy, kneeled down and put Patti's braces on her legs! In other words, these kids were much more interested in real life stuff that matters over movie talk.  I got a similar impression from the students at Discovery. I spoke about my work on Hollywood films and showed them pictures, but they were much more interested when I spoke about and showed them Kindsight, using photos and writing together to illuminate the richness of everyday life. They all were interested in doing their own Kindsight pieces, so I made a commitment to return within a few weeks and get them going on doing their own Kindsight pieces. At one point, in the middle of photography talk, I asked for a show of hands to the question - "How many here have seen people who blame their problems on somebody else?"  At least half the students raised their hands. "Well check this out: When you blame somebody else for your problems, you give away your power to that other person.  But if you take responsibility for your life and situation, then you maintain the power to change it, to make it better." I could see most of them nodding in agreement, that this made sense. At the end of our time, most of the students left, but a couple of them stuck around to talk or ask questions. I told Jackie, a college classmate of mine who does every day what I do once in a while, that I'd come back within three weeks and we'd start having her students do their own Kindsight pieces.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blue Carpet Reception in Downtown L.A. to benefit the Chrysalis Organization

This coming Sunday, December 19, 2010, there will be a Blue Carpet Reception at the Ultimate Life Living Lounge in downtown Los Angeles featuring Portraits by Robert Zuckerman and benefiting the Chrysalis Organization.

For more information and to RSVP to attend, please go to:

And for Sponsorship information, please go to:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Movie Posters

As a photographer on film sets, having one's pictures become the main element of the film's poster (aka one sheet) or paid advertising is, at least for me, a prominent objective.  In fact, it is something of a mantra, an inner chant that influences my choices and attention through the course of each work day.  I'll see something that will trigger the thought: "This is a 'money' shot that could be a poster and help draw people to seeing this film."

All of my photography (also referred to as "art") is turned in to the studio (ie Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros., Fox etc) where people in the Creative Marketing department scrutinize it, also on the lookout for images that to them fit the bill of being poster (one sheet) art.  Sometimes, often in fact on big budget films, they will do a separate photo shoot apart from what is done on-set (which shoot may be done by the on-set photographer as has been the case with me several times but usually commissioning a different photographer for this in order to get a complementary look or to cover more portrait style imagery of the film's stars that the on set photographer may not have been able to get). 

But even when a photo shoot is done, it does not ensure that imagery from the shoot will become the poster.  At the end of the day, the creative marketing team will use what works best for them, the marketing executives, the filmmakers and others in the chain of approval in creating "key art" (the art making up the poster) that does what in their view is the best possible job of marketing (drawing people to see) the film.

In my twenty one years of doing photography in the film and entertainment industries, I have worked in both capacities - as the on-set photographer (known as the Still Photographer) and as the photographer doing the photo shoot.  Sometimes I have done both, but usually, it's one or the other.  There have been times when I was the Still (on set) Photographer and a 'big name' photographer was brought in to do a photo shoot where the poster ended up being one of my on set photographs. Examples that
come to mind are "The Crow," "National Treasure" and "Deja Vu."  The image for The Crow, of Brandon Lee walking thru the cathedral doors in a shaft of light and enshrouded by smoke, became a defining, much emulated image.

On "Training Day," Warner Bros hoped that I, as Still Photographer, would get in Denzel Washington's good graces and persuade him to do a photo shoot (which he is not crazy about doing). Fortunately, I did get on his good side but he told me "for this film, the poster shot is going to come from the street."  Near the end of filming, Denzel said, "I'm going to give you your photo shoot."  We did a photo shoot with lights and a backdrop, etc., but sure enough, the poster ended up being a picture I had done on set (downtown L.A.) on the very first morning of filming, here again a defining, iconic, much emulated image.

There have been films where I've been the on-set unit photographer and a 'big-name' photographer has been brought in to do a photo shoot and my photograph (or photographs) from the set win out to become the poster image, The Crow being one of them, also, National Treasure, Bad Boys 2 (the six month teaser campaign) and Deja Vu among others.

There are instances where I have been brought in as that 'big-name' photographer to do just the photo shoot, which is not only more lucrative, but considered more prestigious as well.  Although I can tell you that, having worked in both areas, on-set photography demands at least as much, if not more, experience, know-how, tenacity and ability as doing a photo shoot.

On the poster shoot for "I Know What You Did Last Summer," for Sony Pictures, in which I photographed four young stars at the beginning of their phenomenal careers, I was hired through Intralink, one of the leading film design/ad houses (designing posters and cutting trailers for films and tv shows). Working with Intralink's prime force Mark Crawford, we went to Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock filmed "The Birds") and found a local photo studio where mostly product photography for incense and the like was done, and had a great, albeit challenging shoot, but that's another story.  I was told that the resulting poster, also iconic and emulated, was among the highest test marketed posters for Sony up to that point.

On "Pursuit of Happyness," for which the great Zade Rosenthal was unit photographer, Will Smith personally requested me for the poster shoot.  In the year leading up to this, I had photographed his "Lost & Found" album cover as well as done family portraits at his house. Will has keen radar into the world at large and keeps his eyes out for talented artists (including directors) with whom he wants to work. I've been blessed to be among those. Filming was being done in a large warehouse-like structure in a shipping yard area near Oakland, CA. The film sets were built on one end of the huge industrial structure, so me and my team set up diagonally at the other end, beneath a bank of thick, semi transluscent windows that diffused the incoming light. These windows gave me an idea. I set up a bank of strobe lights outside these windows, pointing in from high up and angled down, to create a warm, sunlight effect coming through the diffuse windows.  This created a light that was natural, beautiful and strong enough from the strobes to be top quality exposure-wise.  For the image that became the final poster, Will and Jaden stood together, holding hands, with the warm strong light coming through the windows giving a natural rim-backlight effect while also, bouncing off the concrete floor to create a natural reflected front light on their faces, front of their bodies and clothes.  So while the light source was studio strobes, the effect and look was natural, warm and real. Also, good fortune was with us as a little glow-y starburst of light perfectly surrounded Will and Jaden's clasped hands - which burst may or may not have been enhanced by the wizards at BLT, the company which designed and finished the poster - and bless you BLT for keeping it simple, clean and real.

Around the time the film came out, and even still to this day five years later, I receive lots of praise for this image.  I was told that in a Writers' Boot Camp, almost an entire session was spent discussing how this image/poster served the purpose of a three minute trailer in conveying the essence of the film.  I was told that in New York, people were observed just standing and gazing at this image. And I was told even that even recently, this poster/image was discussed in a classroom as effective advertising imagery for a film.

To me, this kind of feedback is the best affirmation one can get - to do something that helps the client's success and makes filmmakers, actors and viewers feel good, be attracted to and remember this project/film.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


The other night I went to the crew screening of "Unstoppable." It's been nearly a year since filming completed and I've just been through the whole experience of working on "Transformers 3", so seeing all the crew members and watching the finished film brought back memories and stirred feelings, all good. 

Every film job is a unique experience and working on "Unstoppable" was just that, a unique experience. It was filmed in freight yards, railroad tracks, on moving freight trains in the rolling countryside of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York State from late summer, through beautiful autumn into winter, under the direction of the great Tony Scott. I say "great" not only in reference to his ability and career as a director, but also to who he is as a human being - magnanimous, caring, considerate, loyal, protective, loving and so much more.

Many people on Tony's crew have been working with him on and off for decades and want to always do their best and be there for and with him on his missions.  And it shows on the screen.  Tony's films are visual, sensual and tasty, down to details of gesture, palette, sound, movement and dialog, brimming with energy and everyone's passion, care and professionalism.

As I said, everyone gave their best on this film.  From production, to locations, to spfx (John Frazier and team) who did an unbelievable job recreating full size trains, to the AD department and the loyal pa's who stood watch all day long in the middle of nowhere along a ten mile stretch of country road, to the grip, electric and of course the camera department (led by DP Ben Seresin):  with his bank of monitors and through intercom, Tony talks with care and passion to each of his camera operators during the takes, referring to them by his affectionate nicknames: "That's it Chief," "Go Skotch," "Brilliant Marscher!" and more.  I could cite each and every deparment here and I know I'm leaving out some key ones, but they're all there.  Transpo, catering, crafty, the railroaders (professional railroad people who moved the trains for us on command), the chopper crew, the Pursuit vehicle, Gabriela the amazing, caring publicist, makeup and hair, wardrobe, so much more! Oh, and Gary Powell and his stunts team - amazing! And of course Denzel, Chris, Rosario and the entire cast, producers, office staff, the list goes on and on. The sound department, Bill Kaplan the wizard, getting clean dialog on a freight train moving 45 mph on the tracks in the rain.

Each morning and at the end of the day, Tony, our general, would stand by a makeshift table, a plywood plank on supports, in the middle of a field wherever we were, and, using miniature trains and helicoptors, would plot out and choreograph the day's movement of trains and choppers in relation to the moving trains.  The movements of these tiny trains and choppers in Tony's hands would then come to life in full-scale realization across miles of rolling countryside.

One time, while I was standing at the roadside near Eldred, PA, waiting for the train, choppers and police cars to round the bend, a large black bear emerged from the woods about 200 feet away from me.  It went and put one paw on the rail, as if to feel if a train was coming, paused, looked at me, then turned and went back into the woods.

Often, at the end of a long day's work of humping over rail tracks and climbing up on freight trains, which for me, because of my disabiltiy, was quite challenging (here again, thanks to fellow crew members who where always there to help me)then having to drive thirty or more miles back to the hotel through the rolling, tree-lined roads at dusk or even nighttime, i'd light up a cigar to help get me through the long ride home, and in honor of Tony Scott, "mon général."

All photographs are by Robert G. Zuckerman and are © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, All Rights Reserved.