Francis Ford Coppola

8 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

I was awarded the honorable assignment by my fantastic client of many years, Meyer Sound, to photograph Francis Ford Coppola. Meyer Sound is an industry leader in state-of-the-art commercial sound systems. Their products are considered to be the best in the business and they recently launched a new product line for cinematic applications. Francis Ford Coppola and Meyer have had a long-standing, mutual relationship in cutting-edge technology for cinematic presentation. Mr. Coppola has taken a liking to their latest cinema products. The new products have been installed in the American Zoetrope post-production facility at Mr. Coppola’s private winery estate in Napa, California. He is endorsing the product and that is where I come in. Meyer Sound needs location portraiture of Mr. Coppola, for their advertising and they have asked us to help them shoot the imagery they need.

We began collaborating with Meyer Sound and Mr. Coppola’s production staff to start planning the shoot. The first step is a meeting with Meyer Sound and their ad agency at the Meyer Sound headquarters in Berkeley, California. We looked at existing photos of Mr. Coppola and made a creative decision on the direction of this photography. They needed genuine and sincere portraiture of Mr. Coppola. We decided that the best location to do this was at his actual estate in Napa, where the sound system would be installed. The two main reasons behind this are: his estate is where he actually does his daily workand, it is a beautiful setting for photography. Both the Coppola vineyard and his post-production facility are great places to shoot.

The next step is scouting the location. I met with Meyer Sound and the Zoetrope folks at the estate for a scouting tour. We see the whole facility and record compass readings for sunlight angles as we move through all the photogenic locations. We present the location options to Meyer and their creative team and decided on two locations; the vineyard and the post-production facility. These are both great locations, but both will require extensive set-up—we only have one hour to photograph Mr. Coppola. Everything must be set up well in advance to be absolutely ready for shooting the moment the famous subject arrives. I decided to bring in my favorite lighting technician, Jeremy Launais. He is an excellent motion picture gaffer based out of Los Angeles.

With the knowledge that the work would start early in the morning, the Zoetrope folks graciously invited me to stay on the property the night before the shoot. Jeremy jumped on a flight from L.A. and we drove up the day before to begin pre-production and initial lighting set-up. After some successful lighting tests, Jeremy and I had a great dinner at the Rutherford Grill and retired early.

After a great night sleep in the guest house we woke up around 5am to get ready.  Soon afterwards the camera tech, key grip, Larkin Donley, and William Preston arrive. It is still dark outside. As soon as there is a little light out, we move to the vineyard location to set up the 12×12 frames, lighting, generators and cameras.  It is a beautiful morning.

Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

After setup and tests we are ready to go with some time to spare, so, we have some coffee and bagels with the wonderful folks from Meyer Sound.  Mr. Coppola shows up right on time and right away our makeup artist, Hether Beckrest, from Workgroup LTD, begins her magic. Soon afterwards, Mr. Coppola arrived on set. I would have loved to chit-chat with the master of cinema, but, there is not enough time for that. I had already photographed Thomas Mars, father of his Grandson with his daughter Sofia, for Apple Computer’s iTunes. There was not enough time to bring it up and start a conversation, because the job at hand was number one in importance and we had a limited amount of time. We began shooting right away after brief, friendly greetings. Mr. Coppola is obviously very professional and made it easy to work with him.

Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

After shooting at the vineyard we had 30 minutes to move to the next location in all wheel drive vehicles and ready the cameras at the next location, the Zoetrope Library. The lighting had already been setup in the library so we only needed to get the cameras and laptop connected, to begin shooting. Everything went smoothly from then on and we finished right on time. Thank you to Meyer Sound, Mr. Coppola, the American Zoetrope staff and my crew for making this shoot a great success.

A few weeks after the shoot the people at Zoetrope contacted me to inquire about using one of the photos as well because Mr. Coppola was fond of it. It was an honor and we struck a usage deal.