Authentic, Genuine, Honest & Natural

I’m excited for the opportunity to work with Precision Effect and Biogen.

This is my absolute favourite type of commission - I get to tell real stories of peoples lives and the journey they are on. There’s no make believe here, just authentic, engaging imagery and interview to illustrate how Spinraza improves these lives. 

This is an opportunity for our ambassadors to reflect and enlighten us on their journey and to leave us charmed with their openness. It’s my job to encourage and coax out that honesty in our subjects and release their full potential in front of our lens. Combining my two loves of photography and documentary filmmaking seamlessly, I found the whole previous endeavour with Spinraza incredibly fulfilling, getting to meet these incredibly strong individuals. I and my team left with complete admiration for them.

It’s my job to encourage and coax out that honesty in our subjects and release their full potential.

The power of photography (both stills and film) to provoke emotions has always been powerful. Most obvious in news photos and film, but empathy and connection can also come into play in subtler ways. Empathy can be present in the connection between photographer and their subject, facilitating an intimacy that resonates in the images. Roger Ebert, the famous film critic, once called movies ‘empathy machines’ and I couldn’t agree more - stills and moving image both share this potency.

There’s no make believe here, just authentic, engaging imagery.

In a world where a hundred million photos a day are uploaded to social media; where platforms commoditise the very notion of stories, it’s our job to convey these remarkable real stories and connect with our audience. Let’s illuminate people with these narratives.

What follows is how I believe we can best do this. Having had the benefit of filming some ambassadors before I think I believe I gained valuable insight into what could make the process smoother and more efficient which should ultimately give us even better results and evolve the work! I believe my treatment should be as thorough and honest as possible, informing our production and not a sales piece. It’s easy to just brim with positivity but for me to be very specific is key.

It’s our job to convey and connect with our audience these remarkable real stories.

It’s our job to convey and connect with our audience these remarkable real stories.

Rapport, Collaboration & Trust

I think this is paramount to getting the very best from the shoot. I’d really advocate meeting the subjects prior to the shoot. I had the opportunity to meet Lauren in London before the shoot. When we had a coffee and a nice chat she told me she was hesitant and nervous about the whole process but I was able to walk her through how it would unfold and put her at ease. I remember asking her at the end of the production if she had enjoyed it and if she felt I’d informed her well - she had enjoyed it very much and was pleased we had met previously as it eased her into it and managed her expectations.

I’d really advocate meeting the subjects prior to the shoot.

I’m convinced this is the best way as I’ve now conducted hundreds of interviews with people in my documentary filmmaking and there is so much more of a connection if you are already at ease with that person. We have to remember how intimidating and nerve racking it can be to find yourself front and centre in a production. These are people with their own specific needs and totally unaccustomed to being the star of the show. You are not just revealing yourself to the photographer but to a whole crew of people.

One of the most important factors last time was assessing the ambassadors energy levels. A production is always run on such a tight schedule it’s imperative we have some indication of their energy so we don’t mismanage our time and make sure we get the very most when they are at their best. It’s one of the things I got to talk about with Lauren before hand.

There is so much more of a connection if you are already at ease with that person.

There is so much more of a connection if you are already at ease with that person.

As mentioned in your document the ambassadors would provide interests to help define locations. This plan could be finessed on my initial meeting and is very important with regard to authenticity. I believe we should pool our ideas on this together for the very best outcome. If meeting them in person is not possible for some reason at the very least I’d like to set up a Skype call one on one. It gives them a sense of familiarity and me the opportunity to assess their strengths and weaknesses in terms of ability in front of the lens/ microphone.

I’d like to collaborate as much as possible with the agency in the pre-production stage. Everything I have ever won an award for has always been the result of harmonious partnership between agency, subject and photographer!

Photography & Cinematography

My photography has always celebrated the everyday. I find such honesty and authenticity in what to some could seem like mundanity.
Observations of life are beautiful. Someone washing the dishes for example with pleasing light falling on their face can be more charming to me than something more exciting.

This is not Lifestyle - this is Life!

Captured moments like these, as uncontrived as possible make such genuine photographs. If we can bed this campaign in reality with a warm twist then we will engage deeply with the audience. Intimate and immersive vignettes where the hand of the photographer can’t be perceived.

Captured moments as uncontrived as possible.

We will create a considered harmonious colour palette, this runs through considerations in wardrobe and props. I’ll grade the finished images myself giving everything a very cohesive look across the campaign. I feel it’s of paramount importance that the images have a very naturalistic style. Anything that looks very post produced, a style where images are over worked and colours tweaked too much, immediately looks fake.

Locations & Scenarios

As mentioned earlier I think we take our lead from our ambassadors. I think we should attach great importance to this as it is key. The less the scenario is a construct, then the more comfortable the ambassador will feel and this will shine through clearly in the images. I really feel on this production we should be mindful to keep our ambassadors in situations where they feel truly comfortable. It’s good to have them interacting with those around them, but I’d try to keep those numbers manageable and comfortable.

Let’s celebrate their lives in the everyday. Let’s drive with them in their car, let’s go to the store - if these are things they do in their everyday life, then these are possibilities. If they go to the beach that’s great too. Let’s be a fly on the wall with them. If it’s the swimming pool, we are with them up close. We should collaborate here as closely as possible to help facilitate the best possible work. We need to consider environmental factors such as weather and travel times and be ever aware of energy levels.

The Interview & Filmmaking

The filmmaking part of this process is actually a very complex part of the production. I’ve shot many ad campaigns where we have integrated stills and motion, usually in the form of a 2-3 minute documentary. Sometimes in extremely challenging conditions in places such as Russia, China and Alaska for Exxon to flying around the US for an educational charity, Communities in Schools, interviewing and photographing teenagers.

This has taught me many things with regards to the workflow of the production. I’ve often used multiple cameras in action. Sometimes 2 or 3 motion cameras and sometimes a mix of stills and motion. This provides a very efficient workflow making sure we have multiple angles in the motion side of things and plenty of cutaways in editing. My documentary filmmaking and hundreds of hours editing a feature film have schooled me and my team well in what we need for an editor to be able to produce something great. We have to maximise these kinds of efficiencies as it really helps with gaining maximum potential from our ambassadors and not over tiring them.

I’d like to keep the interviews loose and free of rigidity. Talking heads can be nicely lit and be very effective but casual interviews seem so much more relaxed at times. I’ve done interviews in cars whilst the subject drives for example or just sat a a table in the home. As long as you see the person talking to camera initially - then you know who the voice is coming from - you can then run interview along with general picture of someone going about their day.

Let’s drive with them in their car, let’s go to the store.

Let’s drive with them in their car, let’s go to the store.

A new technique I now like to employ regarding audio is to place a small clip on mic on our subject well in advance of any formal interview, probably when talking to them about how an interview will unfold. Experience has taught me that you can sometimes get priceless natural dialogue this way. When you begin to interview people formally there is inevitable stiffening of the speech pattern. We work to make this as natural as possible of course but it’s great to have these other bits of dialogue as well. Most subjects, although aware they have a microphone on will relax about it and talk to you in normal conversation whilst off camera.

I’m very happy to ask the questions myself or work closely with the creatives. I realise some of the questions can be very specific and relatively medically complex, therefore prior collaboration with the creatives here will make this process as smooth as possible.

If I’m honest I felt some of the interview from the agency last time was very rapid fire at times. I feel it is important that you must listen well to answers and give appropriate breathing space, especially where emotions are involved. An interviewers reactions are very important, it’s essentially a conversation!

Visually I’m not a filmmaker who employs a Director of Photography. I’m keen to keep the stills and motion totally consistent and cohesive and believe the work should be the result of one eye throughout. The motion film will look cinematic and be filmed on high end cinema cameras - not DSLR’s. I’m very fortunate to work with a fantastic team to make this happen.

Why Me

Authenticity is a much desired quality in advertising, the emotional connection more important than ever in the crowded information landscape. As our audience has become more savvy in the ways of production etc they can instantly feel out the non genuine.
We of course have a great advantage here in that we are not using actors but dealing with real subjects. This is what makes me tick. I’ve worked with hundreds of actors on shoots, and while challenging and stimulating, nothing for compares to working with real people for me.

My whole photographic and film career is built around engaging and interacting with real people, often total strangers who I ask if I can photograph or film. Whenever I’m not shooting a commission my time is spent working on documentary stills projects or documentary filmmaking. I am passionate about what I do.
My photographs have hung in various National Galleries and my first feature length documentary is currently entering the film festival circuit. I chose to tackle a sensitive and emotional subject for this feature - a relationship film following a couple who become homeless in Las Vegas for 7 years.

Workload & Team

This imminent production is a big and demanding one. The previous productions were more spread out so I’m acutely aware of the challenges. For that reason I’m delighted I’ll have such a great team with me. I intend to work with the same producer I used previously as he is totally aware of the Spinraza ambassadors needs and conditions and is a very considerate individual; calm under extreme pressure (we have worked in dangerous parts of the world), he brings a quiet efficiency and an enjoyable mood to all shoots.

I’m blessed to have a digital tech colleague who posses the same degree of calm and brings the same efficiency to proceedings and is also a talented cinematographer and photographer in his own right. We have worked together for 10 years with a great understanding of what is needed visually in both stills and motion. Between him and myself and our longstanding stills and motion gaffer/ assistant we rotate roles seamlessly all picking up cameras throughout the day.

Post Production

I will work with my post people of many years to set the tone on hero shots and happily liaise with any local vendors for retouching library materials.
Motion post production and editing I’d be happy to discuss further. Incredibly happy to look after all this also.

Many thanks for reading this rather long treatment! If anything is left unanswered please be sure to ask.

My last experience with Biogen was memorable for all the right reasons and I’d be delighted to collaborate once more and evolve their campaign!

All images and video David Harriman