Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hanging Lights

Electricians Wayne and Charles hang lights, 1975. I am glad I shot these photos.

For many years my Dad, Raymond Wagoner, Sr., and his business, Wagoner Electric Company, would hang the downtown Christmas decorations for the City of Reidsville, North Carolina. Imagine long strings of lights on gold and silver tinsel that were strung from the street lights back and forth across Scales Street. Giant red bells with lights in them hung from the strands over the middle of the road.

Now for me, this was a major event in my calendar of cool things. On the big day I would wait with as little patience as one can imagine to get out of school and go downtown. I would get to help in any way that I was able, depending on my age at the time. When I was very young, that meant tagging along when my father went for coffee, but in time I was handing lights or tools up to the men on the ladders. By the time I got to high school I would work on the ladder myself, which proved to to good training for my career.

The other part of the job that was great fun and seemed at the time to carry a great deal of importance happened a week or two before the light hanging day. We would go up into a warehouse space that was over Davis Pharmacy to test all of the bulbs, and replace the ones that were burned out. OK, I know it does not sound like much, but trust me, it was big fun. See, it involved getting to bust the old light bulbs! Oh, and when you changed a bulb, if you got the aluminum tinsel into the socket (by accident, of course) the bulb exploded - like I said, big fun.

Around 1970, the Chamber of Commerce made a major change in the Christmas lighting plan for Reidsville. They decided to go modern and replaced the old gold and silver strands that were strung across the street with these "things" that just hung on the poles of the street lights. Heresy I say!

I do not know how many years my father's company did this job, it started before I came along and ended after I had moved away from Reidsville, but it always gave me a sense of pride that my father was asked to oversee what seemed like such an important task for my home town. These are moments that I cherish and will always remember.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Magic... behind the scenes

In the beginning, there was an idea. Mark had an idea for a scene of an enchanted forest, perhaps at dusk or in the evening. Over the course of several months, three days of shooting, 720 still photographs, and 500 snowflakes, this idea developed in to "Christmas Magic," a stop-action animated short that we are very excited to share. We were pleased to have Natalie Jester and Kelly Swanson at Ink Production Services collaborate with us, and you can see their artistic touch throughout. You can see the video on our channel.

Although the final product is only one minute and 30 seconds long, months of research and planning went into creating this piece. One of the most difficult parts was finding the right elements for the scene. Trees from model train sets and miniature villages were tested for size and shape. Also, arranging the trees to create the perspective of depth in the forest took careful planning. The snowflakes in the scene were arranged on three different planes, also to give the illusion of distance. Finding tiny decorations to fit our hero tree was another challenge. Eventually, lights and ornaments intended for a dollhouse Christmas tree were located. (and the transformer required to provide electricity for them, without burning down the studio!)

Finally, our deer was assembled by Kelly and Natalie, with articulated joints to let him walk, jump, angle his head to look at the tree, and of course, wiggle his ears and tail!

We hope you enjoy viewing the final result as much as we did creating it!

Letters to Santa... behind the scenes

"Letters to Santa" includes footage shot for a series of commercials with our friends at G-Force Marketing. Mark wanted the results to show "classically beautiful lighting and camera movement" to give it a traditional, yet timeless, feel. He re-cut the footage to showcase the results into this short film, which can be viewed on our channel. Here are a few production stills from the shoot, showing all the work it takes to make something look natural and effortless!

Mark shot the film using the Letus camera attachment, which combines still camera lenses with the video camera. This allowed for the shallow depth of field and critical focus pulls that give the video a very intimate feel.

The crew rented a real, lived-in home for the day, rather than build a set, for a variety of realistic environments. It made it a tight squeeze for the dolly and track, but they were necessary for the camera motion that contributed to the classic look.

Actors don't always appreciate the time it takes to get everything set just right... But we think it's all worth it in the final film!

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16th, 53,33,42

Thirty-three years ago today I went to work at my first freelance photo job after finishing college. I remember that day because it was my birthday, I turned twenty, and it was the day that Elvis died, he was forty-two years old. I have never been much of an Elvis fan, but I seem to remember that day in a "where were you when" sort of context.

I was at Bill Ellis's studio on Edwardia Drive in Greensboro. I printed some black and white fashion photos and shot a picture of some cedar ice-cream makers. After a few days working there, I had a call for a full-time job at Glen Godfrey Communications in Raleigh, that started in September as I recall. A year later and I was back at Alderman's where I had been an intern, then in 1982 I was off to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 18 months. When I returned to the US, I had so many options, but in October I rented the building that still serves as my work space and started the company that is now known as Mark Wagoner Productions.

Today I went by Bill's old studio and sat in the parking lot and reflected on all of the experiences and travels of the past 33 years. I have made many great friends and relationships that I cherish. There is not much I would change.

Friday, August 13, 2010

MWP wins the Greensboro 48 Hour Film Project

Mark Wagoner Productions and Monkeywhale Productions teamed up to produce a short film titled "The Adventures of Martin Dockery, Horologist" under the MWP Collaborative moniker, for the 48 Hour Film Project. This is the third project for MWP this year. In addition to winning best film, we won best costumes, best acting, best graphics (this was for the stop motion paper animation work), and best directing.

The story is told in the serial film format; it is a good verses evil science fiction film, with touches of western movies and a nod to the late Ed Wood. It will be shown in Las Vegas in October, and if it wins there, it will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Teaming up with Harvey Robinson and the Monkeywhale crew has been a very rewarding venture, not only because of awards, but primarily because of the experience. Film making is a team project, and the goal that we have as a team is to create a space for us all to produce work at a level that surprises us. For the 48 Hour project we put together a team of 35 people, which produces its own logistical problems but opens so many possibilities. I am very grateful for all of the hard work that the MWP team put into this film.

MWP has several more projects in the works right now, stay tuned...

I've got roids, and it's fun!

I have been excited for a few months now waiting for a chance to shoot some of the Polaroid film from the "The Impossible Project". These folks are mostly past Polaroid Corp. executives and staff, and they took on the task of re-engineering Polaroid film after production was stopped. The companies that made the dyes and some of the other chemicals had closed out the production when Polaroid canceled its light-sensitive photo products, and so it was necessary to come up with new solutions for instant film based photography.

There are several new films for the cameras that shoot 100 type: SX70 and 600s. The new film is not the same as you may have used in the past. I have tried 5 films and would say that the 100 type sepia film and the PX70 color for the SX70 are my 2 favorites.

Here are some of the first results.



Natalie and Kelly



Watermelon Rinds

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Catching up...

It's been a while since we've updated the blog, but we promise that we have an excellent reason. We've been busy working! The past 2 months or so have included shooting video on 24 commercials and 12 how-to videos, putting the finishing touches on a promotional piece for a non-profit, continuing to shoot and edit the Proximity documentary, and some still photography jobs, too! Here's a peek...

On set with the lovely and talented Taniya Nayak for Mohawk Flooring. You might recognize Taniya from the HGTV show "Designed to Sell." In case you were wondering, she is just as much fun in real life as she appears to be on her show...

Back in his Greensboro studio, Mark recently shot a cover for one of AAA's regional magazines. He still shoots stills, when the occasion calls for it, and the studio's wide loading door came in handy for getting that motorcycle onto the set.

We visited our good friends at Viewpoint Studios in High Point for a video project for Lane Furniture. Mark's new wide-angle Canon lens does a great job with those big room sets.

Mark recently put the finishing touches on a collaborative project shot with Monkeywhale Productions for the youth fitness program, GO FAR: Go Out For A Run! You can see the full video on their website.

... and that's just a few of the projects that Mark's been working on lately! We hope this little taste whets your appetite for even more visual goodness to come. Stay tuned!