Showcase: TJ Scott
T.J. Scott grew up as an actor in Canada, and then he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career behind the camera. He has worked in Hollywood for the past 15 years as a Director/Writer/Producer of Films and TV Series. T.J. has always been intrigued by and entrenched in the world of fine arts, including painting and photography.
Where are you now and what’s the weather like?
Earlier this week I was in Auckland New Zealand, where they are having a fabulous spring. Then I stopped at home in Los Angles for 24 hours, where it’s hot and sunny – and I have just landed in Toronto, Canada, where they are having an unusually warm Fall… so I guess I have been lucky with the weather lately…
What is photography for you? When did you start?
I got my first camera when I was about 5 – a Kodak Brownie. It had a big influence on me, and from that point forward I think I have always seen the world in ‘frames’. As I walk though life it doesn’t matter if I have a camera in my hands or not – I’m snapping images in my head the way I would like to photograph them – editing the frame and re-arranging it to look more Cinematic.
The Cinematic style is “the signature” of your photos and being a film director must have contributed to this style.
I like my Photos to have a sense of ‘Story and Balance’ within the frame – and when I am shooting Portraits I try to give them a ‘Cinematic Mood’, so I guess being a Film Director does influence my Photographic Shooting Style – and conversely my Photographic work informs my Directing.
Is it more difficult to be behind a camera or a cine-camera?
When I am behind any type of camera I am completely at home and happy – in my ‘comfort zone’ and it’s never ‘difficult’. It may sound crazy, but cameras just make me happy, so I never see any of the work as a ‘difficulty’ I see it as a ‘challenge’. The biggest challenge with photography is capturing a single frame that can make people stop and stare. The biggest challenge in cinema is creating moving images that remain compelling, intriguing – and yet are always driven by ‘story’.
Who are your models?
I shoot quite a few Fashion Models… a lot of Actresses… the occasional Actor… and many People I just come across in the Streets.
What relationship/connection do you look for during the photo session?
Many of my cinematic street images are in Silhouette and the subjects don’t even know that I am photographing them…
But when I’m in the studio I consider each shoot to be a ‘collaboration’ between the Subject and me. My goal is to make them comfortable enough to share a side of them not always seen – to make them feel safe enough to take some chances – to trust me enough to create a ‘moment of intrigue’.
The way I normally achieve that, is to sit with my Subject and go through photos that have a similar look and mood to what I want to shoot with them. It puts us both on the same page and gives us a common vision. This system really helps if we are doing a shoot with any element of nudity or implied nudity in it. Even if we have never met before the shoot, we create a strong bond based on our mutual agreement to collaborate on a particular artistic pursuit. Then we set about putting our own ‘spin’ on the look we are going for.
And again, do you prefer shooting models or actresses?
What I really like shooting is people I know. I have Photographed a lot of Actresses that I have previously Directed. Having worked together in the past gives us a level of trust going into the photo shoot, which allows us to dive right in. I have also made some enduring friendships with Models that I have shot, over and over again. I love shooting the same people time and again.
Tell us a story about one of your pictures? What is your favorite shot and why?
Can I tell the story of one Cinematic Photo and one Portrait?
1. I was shooting a magazine editorial featuring actor Christopher Shyer. We had planned on doing a 40’s- type look with Christopher playing a writer who was trying to conjure up ‘a Muse’. Unfortunately the ‘Muse’ we had booked for the shoot had to leave early for a second booking – and we still had one set up we really wanted to do – a bathtub shot that would work for both the editorial and my ‘In The Tub’ coffee table book. We were lingering after the shoot lamenting the lost opportunity, when my wife, actress Victoria Pratt, arrived home from shooting a movie on location for two weeks. We all realized that our new ‘Muse’ had arrived on the scene. We quickly sent Victoria to Hair, Make Up and Wardrobe – then threw her and Christopher in the Tub and shot the photo entitled ‘She Is The Best Muse’. I love this image because of convergence of elements that created it.
2. I was shooting a CD cover for my friends Juliette and Sean Beavan’s band 8mm. They liked some Silhouette photos I had shot on a desolate roadway in Death Valley, California. I realized that I had shot the images, which had the sun rising at the end of the road, almost exactly a year before, so I knew precisely where the sun would rise if we were there a year from the day of my previous shoot. We drove out to Death Valley from Los Angeles (a 4 hour drive) and spent the night in a fleabag motel, that was the only accommodation anywhere near this remote location. We got up at 5:00AM and waited in the freezing cold desert for the sun to rise. Poor Juliette almost froze to death in her tiny thin dress, but the sun did indeed come up at the right spot and we captured the magic moment of Sean playing guitar mid-road as Juliette danced. Our prep and planning paid off. I’ve titled the photo ‘He Plays – She Dances’.
1. The Nikon D4 is finally announced.
2. I get a Hasselblad Camera for Christmas one year.
3. Greece doesn’t default on its national debt.
What’s the last book you read?
I spend less time ‘reading’ and more time ‘looking’ at the books of inspirational photographers. On my night table right now are books of works by; Matthew Ralston, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Rankin, and Margaret Bourke-White.
Your favorite movie and director?
Can I have ten of each?
Movies: Lawrence of Arabia, Blade Runner, La Femme Nikita, Bridge On The River Kwai, Se7en, Alien, Terminator 2, Day For Night, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Diva.
Directors: David Lean, James Cameron, Luc Besson, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Francois Truffaut, Sergio Leone
Are you working on a new project at the moment?
I have just finished directing an episode of the ‘Spartacus’ TV Series, and I am currently directing the new series ‘The Transporter’, based on the movies.
In my Photographic life, I am focusing my energy on shooting a coffee table book called ‘In The Tub’. It’s a series of Portraits of Actresses, Actors, Recording Artist, Models, and Artists all using a ‘Bathtub’ as the common connection. Profits from the book are going to Breast Cancer Research. It’s a passion project of mine that I have been working on for the past year and I am loving it.
What’s the question you wish I had asked? …And what is the answer?
Who would you like to photograph?
I would love to do a shoot with Marion Cotillard (Inception, Nine, La Vie En Rose). She has such a wonderfully mysterious and intriguing quality.
What makes you really happy when you shoot?
If someone sees one of my photos and says they ‘wish they were at that shoot’ then I’m happy – because I know my Subject and I have collaborated to create something special together.