I recently had the privilege to collaborate with Variable and photograph the campaign for National Geographic Channel’s feature film “Killing Lincoln”, based on Bill O’Reilly’s book of the same title. My good friends at Variable produced all the promotional video for the TV commercials and I shot the stills for the print advertisements. By combining both the advertising photo shoot and the video into one large production, we could work in a more elaborate set and obtain the highest production value possible. This type of collaboration can only work if the photographer and the filmmakers are on the same page. From the production’s early conception, Variable and I were working together with National Geographic on mood boards, lighting references and even the compositions we wanted to include in both the promo videos and photography. Without a collaboration like this, the filmmakers and photographers would work on separate productions. They might try to re-create the same set, or work at different times and obtain visuals that don’t have the same cohesion that you can get when working together. In this case, our collaboration was definitely the best option.
I can’t take credit for the ideas and concepts of the photos. Creative director Andy Baker at National Geographic and his team came up with the concepts of photographing Lincoln and Booth together. Historically, this is a very odd pairing. To see them standing beside each other, posing for the camera is very unusual. However visually, I think it’s quite a captivating idea. Instead of a traditional re-creation of Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth, we wanted to create a highly stylized visual metaphor. You can view the entire gallery of images here, while this particular blog post is meant to be more light-hearted.
Test Subjects VS Real Subjects
In almost every photo shoot I do, I have these kind of bizarre outtakes somewhere in my session folder of images. On productions like this, I often pre-light the entire set before calling the main subjects over to have their photos taken. This way, productions can flow smoothly between setups, and no precious time is wasted spent fiddling with lights. For “Killing Lincoln”, we all wanted to be test subjects, (perhaps for Facebook photos and bragging rights?) In the end, none of us ended up looking nearly as cool as actors Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth and Billy Campbell as Abraham Lincoln.
Above: Creative Director Andy Baker and Christos DeVaris from National Geographic Channel summon their inner Booth and Abe. Fun fact: In the background you can spot Joseph Sciacca, (the set designer) putting the final touches on the wooden floor. Click image to enlarge.
Above: Another variation of the same pose.
Above: You can see that did a last minute tweak on the composition and light for the final photograph. I also played with shifting the focus on Lincoln or Booth.
Above: Before the shoot, a firm production schedule was created to budget time for executing as many concepts as possible. This gave the National Geographic Channel many options to choose from when finalizing the direction for the campaign. The image above was one of the many concepts photographed on the day of the shoot, but eventually wasn’t used as part of the bigger campaign. After the Newtown shooting, The National Geographic Channel chose to slightly alter the campaign creative out of respect for the victims of that tragedy, and picked options where the weapon wasn’t being fired.
Above: The hat changes everything!
Above: Here’s the same concept as before, but with Lincoln and Booth swapping positions.
Here are some other misc images from the shoot:
Above: Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth.
Above: Billy Campbell as Abraham Lincoln.
Above: One of the last setups of the day.
Above: All of these people made it happen!
Above: Some billboards advertising the movie in Time Square, NYC
And of course, I’ll leave you with Variable’s video promo and a behind the scenes video.
Above: A 30 second teaser cut.
Above: A behind the scenes video shot by Jon Connor.
Client: National Geographic Channel
Title: “Killing Lincoln”
SVP/Group Creative Director: Andy Baker
Design Director: Christos Devaris
Production Company: Variable
Creative Development: National Geographic & Variable
Director: Jonathan Bregel
Producer: Tyler Ginter
Cinematographer: Khalid Mohtaseb
Production Designer/Art Director: Joeseph Sciacca
Photographer: Joey L.
Post Production: Goodpenny
Executive Producer: Rasha Clark
Editor: Eric Wais
Assistant Editor: Matt Hartman
Color Correction: Matt Schwab
Flame Artist: Carmen Maxcy
Titles & Motion Graphics: Maha Mohtaseb
Composer: John Kaefer
Music Produced & Mixed By: David Wolfert
Sound Design: Goodpenny
Above: Another trailer which mixes in footage from the actual film, produced by RSA.