[ October 12th, 2009 ]
Brook Pifer, photographer and video director, works with celebrities, commercial clients and magazines worldwide and keeps studios in NYC and Orlando. Her success doesn't stop there as she has won many awards, most recently a PDN Self-Promo Award for a viral video, a lip dub to "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. We sat down with her to find out what motivates this master of mediums.
Tell us how you made the transition from still photographer to video director.
It really was a natural evolution, very organic. My years in the music and entertainment business really helped prepare me for taking on directing. Be it a still shoot or a video shoot, you have to motivate the people around you and the artist to perform for the camera. With video you have a lot of the same elements to keep in mind, subject, lighting, composition, if you master these basic components then the move from one medium to another is effortless. I never let fear of the technical aspects get in the way of where I wanted to go in this business. For example the first video I shot was filmed entirely with a Canon 5D Mark II. Photography and video are converging at rapid speeds and having experience with cameras like the RED ONE and HD-DSLRs make it that much easier.
One of your projects included Sean Kingston and MTV. How was that?
The job itself came together in 48 hours. We arrived in Miami the day before the shoot to finalize pre-pro. My producer had made arrangements with Hotel Victor as our primary shooting location. Initially we were limited on where we could shoot and what areas we could control public access. That quickly changed when I got a call from MTV saying they were coming to the shoot to film it for an episode of My Super Sweet 16. Hotel Victor bent over backwards to give us what we needed and what we needed was the Penthouse. It took up the entire top floor but it was booked the day of the shoot. Honestly a stroke of luck and some begging and pleading allowed us to have access to the Penthouse. Turns out it was booked by an NBA team who wouldn't be there until the evening. Come shoot day we were ready for action. At 7am we had six different lighting setups pre-lit and ready for Sean WAY ahead of time. Wardrobe, hair and makeup people were ready to go and as with all celeb shoots, there is a bit of a waiting game. Around noon Sean arrived with his entourage and we all got to work as quick as possible. We had an hour with Sean and for a celebrity shoot that is a luxury. We had Sean out on time and both he and the client were beyond satisfied with the results.
What was your shoot with Akon like, what did you guys talk about?
[Laughs] He's a pretty chill guy but we had a good moment laughing about ugly cell phones. One of the cools things about that shoot is Akon personally thanked everyone at the end of the day. That's a classy move in my book. He also gave me one of the jackets he wore for the shoot so I guess I made him happy.
What has been the most challenging photo shoot for you?
Hard to say but each job has its own set of challenges. Be it production, casting, deadlines, it's something you have to deal with. One thing about my personality is I thrive under pressure. Maybe its the intensity I learn from cycling or just my own competitive spirit, I like solving problems, impressing people and showing them you can get anything done. I know its cliché but within each challenge lies opportunity.
You've shot everything from celebrities and rock stars to commercial ad campaigns, how do you bridge the gap between such extremes?
Well, the commercial clients that I do work with usually want something with a youthful edge to it. It's not that far of a leap when you think about it like that. What I enjoy is bringing my approach to a commercial client and melding their needs with my style. I like being stimulated in that regard. One thing I do draw inspiration from is advertising. Be it a CA photo annual or my tradition of ranking Super Bowl commercials, I get so excited when I see something I love, no matter the industry or medium.
Tell us 5 things you like to do outside of photography.
Long walks on the beach [Laughs], seriously though, cycling, yoga, movie marathons with my husband, pug time, reading a good book, but I rarely have time for that one.
If you weren't a photographer, what other career would you attempt?
I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger but now I think, hypothetically speaking, I'd like to be a break-dancer.
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