You read about how I came up with the concept of my editorial Regan Returns in this post. Now I’ll discuss the days leading up to the shoot, the shoot itself and some of the post.
The first thing I did after firming up the storyline with my stylist Michel Berandi was to procure a location permit. Mostly this part of the production is annoying and I have an assistant help me with it but I didn’t have an assistant at this point in my life so I had to do it myself. It proved to be somewhat helpful because the District of Columbia wanted me to list every single street and area I would be shooting in. Which helped me really solidify my shot list. A shot list is super helpful to help streamline your shoot and keep you on schedule. So we had this locked down, I knew 2 weeks out what shots we’d start with and how and where we would do our final shot.
Next, I had to choose my team. I like to work with hair stylist David Harrington a lot. He’s not only a great hair stylist, he’s one of my closest friends. That’s always a perk for me, to work with someone you always love. Since my private editorial workshop was the weekend before this Exorcist shoot and David was flying in for it from Los Angeles, I asked him to drive back down to D.C. with me after the workshop and do the Exorcist shoot with me. He agreed to do it. We had to figure out where he was going to sleep but we’d figure that out later. I asked Rachel Toledo to do makeup because I knew she’d the concept immediately and could pull off the sequential looks from Regan going from a somewhat naive and curious 21-year-old to being fully possessed again, this time by her own doing. Michel Berandi and his fiance Max Smith were flying from Los Angeles. They were to arrive Tuesday evening at 6 PM at Reagan Airport, I would pick them up and bring them to my house. My house in D.C. was big enough to accommodate a few of the crew. David opted to stay in a hotel down the street, I put Max and Michel in my basement and Rachel on the couch in the living room. It was like camp! I figured on Tuesday night we’d have a mellow night and discuss the shoot, getting a full night’s sleep and be ready to work by 8 AM call time the next day.
I still didn’t have a model. I found a few girls but their agencies wanted a lot of money for this shoot. Not sure why it was so difficult to find the right girl. I wanted the model to look like Linda Blair, the actress who played Regan, but Linda Blair at 20. I did a ton of research on Linda Blair throughout her career so I could use this as a basis of how Regan would mature. It was a happy accident how I found my Regan. I was actually casting for my private workshop and Surface Models sent me a package. Right smack in the middle of the package was Lyena Strama. Instead of emailing her agent about the shoot, I asked him if I can call him. He wrote back, “You can call me anytime”. This was a good sign. I was dubious because I had been shot down by 2 different agencies and time was running out. After speaking with the agent, who it turns out is just an awesome person, I had Lyena booked! I arranged for her to take the train from Penn Station to Union Station in D.C. and then uber to a hotel near my house on Tuesday late afternoon.
Tuesday, David and I ran around D.C. looking for extra hair for Lyena. Traffic drives me crazy but whatever it takes to make a shoot happen, I’m willing to do it! Around 2 PM I get a frantic text from Max that she and Michel missed their flight and we’re booked on another one getting in at midnight. Okay……..that’s fine……I’ll pick them up at midnight. The model texted me that she was in D.C. at the hotel and all was good. Rachel took the bus down from NYC and I picked her up in Virginia at 9 PM. While waiting for Rachel’s bus, I got another text from Max that she and Michel missed the second flight. They were now expected to be in at 6 AM. They are bringing 5 suitcases of clothes and I have no backup. None. Except for my own wardrobe of black clothing which would have worked, I guess, in a horrible pinch but I really didn’t want to do that. Rachel arrived, we got her settled and then I freaked out all night. I started putting my own wardrobe together just in case.
Wednesday morning the model arrived at my house at 8 AM. David was there setting up, Rachel was already set up. And we started hair and makeup, even though I had not heard from Max or Michel despite all my nervous texts. Long story short, they arrived in Georgetown at 12 Noon. We already did one shot with my own wardrobe because at this point I didn’t think they would make it. Michel arrived in pretty bad shape, he had thrown his back out and was in a ton of pain. Rachel, David, Scott and I ran to the cab to help them carry 5 suitcases into my house because wouldn’t you know, they decided to tear my street up that day and the cab couldn’t pull up to my front door.
This was turning into a crazy, stressful hell in a handbag kind of day. But I had to just focus on getting the shoot accomplished. I forgot to mention that the location permit office forgot to send me my location permit and I didn’t receive that until 6 PM the night before! I think I lost a few years of my life from the stress of this shoot. So much work went in to planning it and I thought I had it all synchronized and thoroughly thought out but shit happens and you either let it take you down or you just stay positive and figure out the best ways to troubleshoot everything!
We got the shots done in 8 hours. Plus the one I shot in my own dress that’s part of my vintage collection ( a hobby of mine ) and I don’t know how I did it without having a complete meltdown but I did it. I even managed to get the guy who worked at the local coffee house, Kevin, to come in and be our priest at the end.
Some shoots go off without a glitch. Some shoots are doomed from the start. Some shoots are well planned out and then the Universe decides to make that all go out the window. I guess shooting an Exorcist inspired shoot would come with some complications. Flying people in and not having a crew already based in D.C. was part of the problem. It’s tough to map out location shoots and get team and talent all in one place at one time.
At any rate, I was pretty happy with the results. Looking back, I would have pushed the model to be more intense. I am really kind to my models and don’t push them to go to a dark place if they aren’t going there on their own. Some photographers push and I guess they get the results. Lyena was a great model, it’s me that wished I would have pushed for more intensity. But I think I was too stressed out from all the other stuff that time was the main important element and I had to work with daylight so I just wanted to get the shots in the can, so to speak.
My next idea is to shoot in Sleepy Hollow and do a headless horseman fashion shoot. I don’t know why I have to do these complicated shoots nowadays. It’s just not that exciting for me to do a normal shoot in the studio anymore. I’ve done so many and it just doesn’t really get me excited anymore. But I kinda’ miss the ease of doing a regular pretty fashion shoot in a nice studio. Ha….we’ll see. I haven’t had the time to plan it out yet so we’ll all have to wait to see what’s next up!