Day 1: Artists’ Essentials Shoot

We have photos! Let your mouse linger over them for captions.

We left my house this morning at 9:15am — about 15 minutes later than we intended. When we arrived at John’s studio, half of the studio audience was already there. We wasted no time setting up the backdrop, lights, equipment and chairs. With four crew members (Todd, Dakota, Ryan & John) we made short work of it. Because we had previously tested the lighting setup in another session, setup was a breeze.

p=. !/images/33t.jpg (Some of our studio audience)! …….. !/images/37t.jpg (John satisfied all our lighting needs)! …….. !/images/40t.jpg (Final setup)!

We then settled the group – 16 volunteers – into their chairs and gave introductions all around. We thanked them for coming, told them what to expect, and asked them to relax. The was instructed to write any questions down that they would like to ask Donna so they could ask her after she finished her explaining. We decided to treat the question and answer sessions separately so there was no interruption of Donna’s teaching “flow.” We passed out release forms for everyone to sign, and I gave each person $1 for their time. They seemed WAY too eager to be getting so little money…

After a quick sound check, Donna slipped into teacher mode and slowly became comfortable with the process. This is the first time she has done this sort of thing for a camera, so she didn’t quite know what to expect. Like most first-time actresses, she loosened up and got comfortable with the process after about an hour.

p=. !/images/34t.jpg (Dakota sets up his shot)! …….. !/images/39t.jpg (Ryan Rusch – our sound man)!

For the first 2.5 hours, energy was high — but lunch was late in coming. Unfortunately, Jodie got sick so our lunch plans changed at the last minute. John went on a run for drinks, pizza, fruit and veggies, and some amazing wraps from Chili’s. We broke at 1pm for lunch, and not a minute too soon. Everyone was pretty hungry by then.

p=. !/images/36t.jpg (Janice Lackey grabs a bite)! …….. !/images/35t.jpg (Craft services)! …….. !/images/38t.jpg (We break for lunch)!

After lunch, we tackled some different setups. I think this tested the patience of our studio audience, who still managed to remain good attitudes toward it all. For example, we set up a shot with oranges and a pitcher to show how reflected light changes the colors of objects. The camera had to be moved close for that one.

p=. !/images/41t.jpg (Todd gets close for a good look at shadows)!

As we progressed to more elaborate setups, it was obvious the studio audience was losing enthusiasm, though they still retained good spirits. Hey, it takes time to set up a couple different gelled lights and get them just the way Donna wants them so they illustrate her point *and* work with the photography. A number of the students remarked they were amazed by all the work that goes into it. A few said they were glad to be painters and not videographers.

However, we did end the day at our planned time of 5 o’clock. By that time, our crowd had dwindled down to 6 — and we still had audience-reaction shots to shoot! So we just turned everyone around to shoot them against the backdrop. We pushed their seats closer together and shot them really tight, so it wasn’t obvious that there were only 6 people.

After all the hard work, I think we were all ready to go home for the night. I’m happy we managed to move right along on schedule and got more than 2 hours of footage in the can. Tomorrow morning, we start again at the same time, same place. We will have much fewer audience members in the crowd — a little more than half of today’s attendance — but it should be a lot more fun because Donna is going to do some painting demonstrations. Since everything is already set up, we ought to be able to wrap it up by mid-afternoon.

I do want to thank all of Donna’s students who could make it out to our shoot today! I hope you had a good time. I know it was educational! But we really do appreciate your time and lending us your heads, faces and insights to add a deeper, human dimension to the DVD. See you tomorrow!


  1. Beth Heidler says:

    Wow! Great job….both crew and Donna with assists from John. It was a new and fun experience to be part of this project and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to participate with all of you. Learning was fun and exciting. Donna was full of information and maintained equality of enthusiasm all day. Tod, Ryan and Dakota are terrific professionals: intelligent, creative, respectful, energetic, aware and attentive to every detail. Thanks so much! Beth

  2. Bill Truslove says:

    I enjoyed the insight in to making a dvd I am a fan of Donna’s

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