Case Study: Lighting for Commercials

Tim Civan runs down the lighting setups of four of his recent shoots.


Shot on Alexa Studio with Zeiss Super Speed MK I lenses. This is the Alexa with the optical viewfinder and Spinning mirror shutter. It’s wonderful having an optical viewfinder, feels so much better than an EVF.

This shoot really is a great culmination of many elements. We shot in the Presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, with Victoria’s Secret model Sarah Stephens. How could we go wrong? Beautiful talent, beautiful location, beautiful camera and lenses. Jennifer, our director, is one of the fastest and best prepared directors I have had the pleasure of working with. She got access to the location weeks before the shoot, and shot an iPhone previs with Artemis shot by shot, then animated it so it had a sense of pacing. This meant that I had the advantage of being able to know exactly how long each shot needed to be. Thus, we could focus on making each of those moments as perfect as possible. The catch on this shoot was the fact that we only had 6 hours to shoot the whole thing, load in to tail lights. Having concise shots, and frames already established just let us focus so intensely on exactly what we needed and nothing else. I used the latitude of the Alexa to its fullest using the natural sunlight, and shaping the contrast in the room with black floppies and a 1.8K ARRI M18 with a Chimera as selective fill.

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The Psychology of Cryptomnesia: How We Unconsciously Plagiarize Existing Ideas

Maria Papova covers cognitive psychologist Ronald T. Kellogg’s theory on writing and originality.


“Any experience the writer has ever suffered,”William Faulkner told a university audience in 1958, “is going to influence what he does, and that is not only what he’s read, but the music he’s heard, the pictures he’s seen.” This notion — that “our” ideas are the combinatorial product of all kinds of existing ideas we’ve absorbed in the course of being alive and awake to the world — is something many creators have articulated, perhaps none more succinctly than Paula Scher. This fusion of existing bits into new combinations is a largelyunconscious process, and for all its miraculous machinery, one serious downside is that it often obliterates the traces of the original sources we unconsciously fold into our “new” ideas. Helen Keller experienced the repercussions of this phenomenon when she was accused of plagiarism, Henry Miller questioned it when he wrote “And your way, is it really your way?” and Coleridge often tripped over the fine line between unconscious borrowing and deliberate theft.

In 1989, decades before legendary neurologist Oliver Sacks explored why the mind is susceptible to this, psychologists Alan Brown and Dana Murphy coined a term for this phenomenon: cryptomnesia.

In the altogether illuminating 1994 volume The Psychology of Writing (public library) — which also gave us the conditions of the perfect daily routine and ideal creative environment — cognitive psychologist Ronald T. Kellogg defines cryptomnesia as “the belief that a thought is novel when in fact it is a memory” and examines how it arises.

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Susan Gregg Koger: Being a Rookie Is an Asset

When she co-founded the online clothing retailer ModCloth, Susan Gregg Koger had never worked in retail and had no connections with the fashion industry. She had no experience that helped her write a business plan or how to source inventory for her site. But being a “rookie” turned out to be asset as she built her company without the constraints of tradition or routine. Since founding the company in college, Koger and her team have innovated in the online retail world with unconventional tactics like asking her customers to select what dresses to stock, and using user photos on product pages.

“Approaching a problem from a rookie point of view enables you to innovate just because you don’t how its usually done,” she says. The result? The company now is located in three cities and boasts over $100 million in sales. Not bad for a newbie.



13 Frequently Used Phrases That Make You Sound Like A Hollywood Rookie

Stephanie Palmer covers 13 cliche phrases that make you sound inexperienced.


If you have looked for information about how to handle yourself in a pitch meeting, you know that there isn’t that much available. Episodes of Entourage. The opening scene from The Player. Pitch meeting parody videos on YouTube such as this, this and this.

You see the pitchers acting slick and sales-y. Pumping up the people who are listening. Using insider lingo like “This is really high concept. We’ve had lots of interest. Tom Cruise was attached….”

Having participated in thousands of pitch meetings as a studio executive at MGM Pictures, many pitch meetings are like this—and they are not successful.

The issue is that what you’re seeing on TV and film is good for storytelling, and is a version of what often happens. However, it is not an accurate representation of what happens when a pitch is successful.

1. “High concept.” If your idea is high concept, it’s obvious. If it’s not, saying it is won’t help.

2. “We’ve had a lot of interest.” To a decision-maker, this is code for, “Lots of people have read this but none of them have liked it enough to get involved.” This is related to how people try to amp up the decision-maker in advance of the pitch by saying positive things—the most common pitch meeting mistake.

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How Bill Hader went from Production Assistant to “SNL” Hero to Leading Man

Joe Berkowitz chronicles Bill Hader, a A Saturday Night Live star for eight seasons before switching gears in The Skeleton Twins.

Bill Hader

Bill Hader is known for doing impressions, but right now he’s about to change your impression of him.

In his eight-year tenure on Saturday Night Live, during which he earned an Emmy nomination, Hader ably assumed the forms of a staggering array of personages, from Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, and Vincent Price, to the UPS guy and Julian Assange. (He also co-created Stefon, a Weekend Update correspondent whose musings on New York’s hottest and most preposterous night spots became a cultural phenomenon). Surprisingly, though, the man of 1000 faces never set out to do impressions. He only discovered an aptitude for them during the SNL audition process–which came early enough in his career to make some comedy lifers bristle with self-loathing. In fact, Hader originally set out to be a filmmaker. But judging from the outcome of his shift toward sketch comedy, it’s easy to imagine he’ll flourish in his next creative role.

The actor and writer, who left SNL in 2013, can currently be seen in two films, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and The Skeleton Twins. Neither is like any project he has appeared in before, but it’s the latter that will permanently alter public perception of him. Skeleton Twins, which won Best Screenplay at Sundance last January, is a heartbreaking film about family and suicide that also manages the neat trick of being deeply funny. In his first lead role, Hader plays a Hollywood outsider whose failed attempt to take his own life leads to a reunion with his estranged twin (former SNL-cohort, Kristen Wiig), who has problems of her own. It’s a revelatory performance that builds on the comedic timing and expressive nuance he cultivated at SNL, and hints at big things to come.

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The Art Of Saying No And Keeping A Client Happy

Peter House explains how to learn how to say “No” to a client which could mean better customer service.


Finding clients is a challenge all by itself so when we are fortunate enough to have some in our corner it is a natural reaction for us to go above and beyond the call of duty to keep them happy. While this is admirable from a customer service point of view it is not always feasible to say yes to every request. Here is how I have learned to overcome my fear of saying “no” to a client.

It has always been hard for me to say no to people, not just in business, but in my personal life as well. In my younger years I took some pride in going out of my way to help those around me. I would gladly give up my time and plans to help another human being out and it rarely mattered what the request was. Perhaps it was my youthful stupor, the fact that I had too much time on my hands, or maybe because I would have preferred to do just about anything other than studying for my classes.

As I transitioned into the working world this part of my personality followed along and became quite detrimental to my success. I have always been a really big believer in good customer service and it was hard for me to come to terms with the idea that I might have to say no to someone and leave them without help. Saying no to a person was perceived by me as a failure to deliver good customer service.

As a result I made it a policy to say “yes” just about EVERY time, but instead of being rewarded for it, it seemed as though I was being punished. The more my clients heard “yes”, the more they demanded, and the more chaotic my life became. It was quickly apparent that I was being perceived by clients as a pushover and they were there to take advantage. Who can blame them really? I had devalued myself due to my own fears.

So what are the fears that drove me to be a pushover?Fear of losing a client
Fear of a bad reputation
Fear of hurting feelings

I wanted my clients to like me. I wanted their referrals. I wanted them to believe that I could do anything. Soon I ran into a problem that I could not have foreseen.

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