Visit Me on Set With Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction

Even though I grew up listening to top 40 music, the sound of Perry Farrell's voice from Jane's Addiction was something I could easily recognize within seconds of hearing his voice. Then, I went to Lollapalooza, not knowing the impact this man had on one of the most successful music festivals of all time. Then, well over a decade later, his team called me about photographing Perry with his wife, Etty. 

How does that happen and how can I use the experience to help other photographers? That's what this video is about.

Perry Farrell by Walid Azami
Perry Farrell by Walid Azami

Booking a Studio

I had two subjects to photograph and two major productions on the same day. We had Perry and Etty, each with their own team members, wardrobe, and glam team. We had two productions to fulfill on the same day, which included photographs for an upcoming box set and then video assets for his upcoming tour. While the video goes into detail about all the studio requirements, here were three main puzzles to solve when it came to booking the studio.

Studio Size: Could the studio fit two glam teams, all the wardrobe racks, provide multiple backgrounds and settings, and hold us all together during a 12-hour day? 

Studio Versatility: Would the studio and its surroundings provide enough versatility for our needs? Would we have space for a green screen, anything with height, natural light, a white cyc, a variety of other backgrounds, and were the streets something we could use as backgrounds? 

Crew Needs: I had two glam crews, a wardrobe stylist who came with two of her own assistants (plus multiple racks of clothes), and three assistants myself. Then, I had a manager, a publicist, a lawyer, a creative director, a DP, and a gaffer, and they had two PAs working for their department. I had one social media content creator stepping in for a few hours and then, of course, the two stars of the shoot. I needed a studio that would fit all of us, accommodate our needs, and allow us to maneuver the best we could. 

On top of that, we needed a studio that would provide easy access and safety for our personal gear, easy parking (if that is possible in Downtown LA), and something that provided some gear, such as C-stands and even fold-up tables. 

Solution: We booked the two studios side by side in downtown Los Angeles that are shown in the video. 

Perry Farrell in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, by Walid Azami
Perry Farrell in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, by Walid Azami

Using a Mood Board

I needed a center point where the creative minds gathered to exchange ideas, to see our inspiration, and to use as a guide for the entire process. That means putting our mood boards on the wall to reference whenever needed. Here's an example of how the mood board helped me, the photographer. 

Often, I'm excited about a lighting setup. I want to try it and attempt to convince the creative director of jumping on board! Then, I remember the boundaries set by the approved mood board. The idea might be amazing, but we need to stick to the original script and get the intended looks down. If there is time left at the end, we can try something new. 

The same boards helped my wardrobe stylist, hair, and makeup stay on task. Putting your mood boards up on the wall helps everyone have the same mission and stay on target. Creative minds wander, and it's easy to get off track. 

Staffing a Set

Here is a lesson I've learned the hard way. Staff more people than you might think is necessary. There will be a moment that someone gets lunch or another is running an errand while you need an extra set of hands to hold a reflector. The majority of times, they may be sitting around, but you're staffing for those few crucial moments. Never let the client see you sweating, unprepared, or understaffed. That $200 you save in cutting out a PA might cut thousands from your pocket from the loss of future work. 

Perry Farrell by Walid Azami
Perry Farrell by Walid Azami
While the video contains far more detail, I want to point out the obvious. No matter what job you book, proceed with gratitude. Your clients could be world-famous or a star in the eyes of their loved ones. Treat each client with respect and proceed with gratitude. They could have any photographer. They chose you. 
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