Saturday, October 6, 2012


"Driver" was featured in the September 12 edition of the Hartselle Enquirer. Here's the spreadsheets.
The very last shot of the movie involved a lot of mechanic work. The DP, Ryan Sims, and his wife and co-producer of the movie, Gwena Sims, were hard at work. You may be wonder why I wasn't helping... Well, I was taking this pictures!

Monday, July 9, 2012


Big weekend for "Driver." Two 14-hour days (Sunday was actually 15 hours for the crew because we had to pack everything up and do a bit of cleaning). It was exhausting, but a lot of fun at the same time. And with this, I'd say 80-85% of principal photography is now over! Many, many, many thanks to everybody involved, from actors to extras to NEW crew members to family members, who patiently waited for long hours for their actors to be done. Also, special thanks to Parkway Medical Center, which allowed us to shoot at the former Hartselle hospital, particularly to Tina Weeks, Kathy Goodwin and Blair Brothers. It was great to have among the extras some people that worked for years at Hartselle Medical Center before it was closed down. Thanks to the two security guards for their help (Erin, one of them, even performed as an extra during her time off!). But my biggest thanks of all goes to production assistant/set dresser/get-all-we-need/do-it-all Patti Hutchinson without whom all the weekend filming would have been simply impossible.
I know that some of you who were at the hospital that weekend are expecting to see here pictures of two particular scenes. I'm afraid I can't oblige. I've left those out because they would give away some key aspects of the plot.
As I review all the pictures I've taken, I can't help thinking how hard Gwendoline's role is. Not easy for a seven-year old to spend the whole movie lying down on different surfaces: a couch, a hospital bed, a gurney, an operating table and the front seat of a truck. What makes her work even harder is the fact that she says only TWO words in the entire film (if you really knew how much she likes to talk, you'd perfectly understand what I'm saying...)
From left, Joseph Frank, Ryan Hunter and Gwendoline Jory.
From left, Phillip Spratt, Ingrid Felts, Kevin Meier, Ryan Sims, Joseph Frank and Ryan Hunter (or simply "Hunter").
Unfortunately, the only area where the air conditioning wasn't working was the top floor. The operating rooms are on THAT floor. Add the gowns, drapes, head and shoe covers, gloves and, specially, the two huge lamps and you'll understand why Hunter was using the slate as a fan for Gwendoline between takes. If you wonder why Ingrid was checking her iPhone during such delicate moments... well, she was actually reviewing a surgical procedure on Youtube she had been studying over the previous days. That speaks volumes about her professionalism and dedication.
Jace Haggermaker before shooting a scene he didn't know would demand so much physically from him and how much he would sweat.
Jace after the above mentioned scene...
Mamie! Why are you laughing during such dramatic scene?!?!?
Now, that's muuuuuch better.
And this is definitely my favorite meanest look of the whole movie!
See you soon, gang!

Monday, June 25, 2012


All I can say is: This movie is taking shape! The 3rd. day of shooting came with storms and rain. That would have been fantastic for the story if the other days had been the same (the story happens in less than one day; so, all the outdoor shots have to match). Of course, the unavoidable Murphy's Law took good care of it and the other days were as bright and cloudless as anyone could expect. Probably we'll have to re-shoot at least 50% of the footage of that day. Anyway, it was GOOD, but a little hard on our 7-year old actress Gwendoline Jory, who in spite of having to be wrapped in a blanket inside "Angelina" for hours, did an awesome job. A big thanks goes to both my colleague and friend Mike Wetzel, who drove the camera truck, and Courtland police officer Steven Terry, who not only blocked one lane of a road as we were shooting from the other lane, but also drove some cast and crew to the police station for a bathroom break. Mike also took the pictures below:

From left to right, Ryan and I plotting the next take, and Kevin (at the wheel of "Angelina").
Gwendoline and Kevin inside Angelina, and Ryan and I shooting from Mike's truck.

I don't have any pictures of day 4. That was the most difficult shoot so far. It was in downtown Decatur and, besides directing the whole thing, I also had to coordinate traffic with police officer Chris Moffett (thank you officer). So, there was no time for pictures, but my friend Joseph Frank took a lot of behind-the-scenes video footage, so we'll be able to see all the crazy things we did some day. He also drove Angelina that day as a double for Kevin. My colleague Stephen Johnson drove the camera truck, which doubled as a safety car.

I asked Ryan to stand-in to check the light and the framing of the very first scene. Eventually, we added a light in the room at the back to both give more depth to the scene and get rid of some of the green cast.
With 6 young actors on set, day 5 was probably the most fun ever. The big THANK YOU of that day goes to Ryan's parents, who allowed us to shoot at their home.
For sure Gwendoline had much more fun that day.
Actors Gavin Henry, Nathan Couch and Michael Felts.
Kevin and "his" five sons. I asked them to act badass for this picture and they complied...
And, finally, the whole gang (except Gwendoline, Joseph and myself).
On day six (last Sunday), the crew was down to its bare bones: camera, sound, one actor and director. Somewhat it was a bit of a relief compared to the previous days, but the heat was so bad that I think we ended up much more tired than in the previous shoots.
Seth and Ryan.
Tom Kennelly and the hearse. We definitely need to find a name for that hearse, which by the way is provided by Reynolds Funeral Home. Another big thank you to owner Mr. Dexter Elliott.
The moment I saw Tom coming into the room where we had the casting sessions, I knew he was THE MAN for the job.

Monday, May 21, 2012


In my previous post about the movie, I forgot to mention that the title is "DRIVER" (how's that for forgetting stuff? It must be the old age...). Last Sunday, we shot the opening scene of "Driver." Here's a few stills I took between takes. Sorry, folks, I couldn't take any photograph while we were actually shooting. I guess that has to do with the fact that if I'm directing it, I've got to do what I'm supposed to do and be really focused on the acting and the camera work. I guess next time I'll have to call for "another take for stills only!" Anyway, it was hard work in a quite hostile environment: an auto shop with no AC, in 90 humid Alabama degrees and with a whole army of mosquitoes and flies that loved our legs and arms very, very, very much. A big THANK YOU goes to the cast and crew for their hard, passionate and enthusiastic work, and to Santiago Salgado for not only letting us to shoot at his auto shop, but also for spending 7 hours of his Sunday just being there.

Lead actor Kevin Meier

Actor (actually, this is the first time he acts) Mike Overall getting ready for the next take

Our sound man, Seth Facundo

DP/Co-producer Ryan Sims practices a smooth dolly shot.

Some take a cigarette break, others take an iPhone break

Thursday, May 10, 2012


A few days ago, a reporter and I were at a campground doing a story about the upcoming season. I had been taking pictures, she'd been interviewing people and we were pretty much about to leave when I saw the scene pictured here. The reporter was telling me something and I interrupted her, "I gotta photograph this. Forget about everything I shot earlier. This is THE SHOT!" So, after taking the picture, getting the name an so on, we finally headed to our cars. At that point, the reporter asked me, "So... How do you photographers know before hand that something is going to make a better picture than something else?" My answer was very simple: "What's no to love about a lovely girl?" What's not to love about a puppy? What's not to love about a bright yellow car? What's not to love about all of the above together?"

Saturday, April 14, 2012


The reason why I haven't posted anything here for more than two months is that something else has taken up all my time outside of work. That "something else" is my very first fiction piece (if you don't count the shelter commercial). Yes, I'm making a movie! or, at least, trying to make one. I had already worked on a short as a "B camera" and assistant to the DP, but I wanted to make my own film. So, the first step was to write it, and believe me, that's a real pain in the ass, specially if you haven't done it before. Oh, I can't even start telling you how much I admire screenwriters now! Well, once that's finished and revised, and re-drafted, and re-revised again and re-written and changed and re-re-revised and..., there comes all the pre-production stuff: casting, scouting for locations, getting props, crew, costumes, vehicles (including a hearse), permits, knocking on a lot of doors, story boarding, finding a composer for the score and whatnot. Now, if you have a decent budget to make a movie, you'll also have people doing a lot of that stuff for you, but when your budget is "0" (zero, or a we say in Spain, "cero pelotero," which means less than zero) and all you have is a friend (Ryan Sims, who co-produces and shoots it) who is as excited as myself about the project, then your life gets awfully complicated and you start wondering over and over again why on earth you even wanted to make a movie in the first place, even if it's a short one.

To be honest, I have to admit that I wrote the story because I wanted to SHOOT it myself, but now I'm perfectly comfortable with just being the writer-director. I've always heard that a movie is the result of a big team effort, but only now I've realized how true that actually is and, after all, I not only absolutely trust Ryan as a DP, but we also work very well together (his wife told me the other day that he's never seen him work this comfortably because it's the first time he's working with a director who happens to be a photographer, too).

Anyway, we finally got started with some 2nd unit photography with actor Tom Kennelly, and these pictures here are a few grabs from the camera's footage (except the last one, obviously). A big THANKYOU goes to Andy Scharein for allowing us to shoot in his house and to Rachael for making Violet, the dog, stay on the exact spot where I wanted her to stay.

I've made the resolution of posting updates here. So, if you're interested in this sort of things, stay tuned. Oh, and if you see someone driving around like crazy or banging his head against a wall or shouting in the middle of the night or similar stuff, don't worry: that's just me enjoying the movie-making process.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

LONE RANGER: Another light painting

I had to take a portrait of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely for a story about how few democrats are running for office in this year's elections in the Tennessee Valley. With Blakely being almost the only dem in his county and considering he's a real cowboy (I think he's the happiest person in this world when he's riding a horse), the idea of the "Lone Ranger" came to mind while I was driving up to Athens. But I wanted to avoid the obvious, that is, taking a picture of him riding into the sun or something like that. This idea of not having him on a horse was even reinforced when I went in his office and he told me he'd had knee surgery a few days earlier. As I was struggling to come up with something really fast, I noticed the huge amount of "cowboy" artifacts he had in there and also the beautiful color of the office walls. It was then when I decided to use "light painting" in order to get something with a moody feel.

The first task was to move things around a little bit. What originally hanged on the wall behind him was some kind of framed picture with glass that I had to remove. Then I used one of his baseball caps to hide the air conditioning's thermostat and placed a rope around it. The "cow skull" was the only thing I found around to fill the empty space left by the frame we had previously removed. I used one of my super-handy bungee chords I always carry in my camera bag. Because of this, the skull was hanging much lower, but I didn't mind it since that position created a nice diagonal line with the sheriff's head and the cap/rope. Then we brought his saddle from a corner and place it there and, finally, the rifle on the left.

It was a 15-second exposure, so he had to keep really still during all that time. First, I "painted" with a flashlight from behind the camera (first of these two pictures). It was OK, but I wasn't too excited about it because the spots of light were too obvious. Then I thought I could try to recreate a window light as if there were a window off camera right. So, I changed position and painted from there, leaving some seconds to move back and paint only the saddle and the rifle from another angle (2nd picture). I liked this second one much better and thought the use of light painting was more justified and suited the story better. The weekend editor (the picture was to be published on Sunday) liked the first one better because he could see the whole face, but I chose the second one for publication for the reasons written here. I also included that one in the portraits section of my website (

Which one would have you used? Opinions/comments welcome!