Assassin's Creed - First Look
Image courtesy of Kerry Brown
Michael Fassbender's first look in Assassin's Creed.
This image has been published a while ago, but so happy to finally able to talk about this! First of all, needed to clear this up I DID NOT shoot this (of course I wished I have), but I had the second best thing, was to assisting on this shoot for the veteran film still photographer - Kerry Brown, for Michael Fassbender's first look in Assassin's Creed!!!
Definitely one of the most important shoot I have ever attended in my life, not only because the biggest film star is involved, it was because I have learned so much from assisting Kerry.
First of all, allow me to introduce Kerry, if you haven't heard of him yet (but you really should have).
Kerry has been a film still photographer for 2 decades. He shot for many amazing projects including Ridley Scott's Prometheus, The Proposition, Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut - Quartet, and Martin Scorsese's Silence! And a lot of his work either ends up becoming the movie posters you see in tube stations or in the street, or they became the promotional images for the films all over the internet! So you have probably seen a lot of his work already, but most likely you had no idea they were shot by him. A bit of an unsung hero (to the public audience) if you ask me, but he's definitely one of the well known names in the industry.
Film Stills Photographer - Kerry Brown
We shot this Assassin's Creed first look of Michael Fassbender at Pinewood Studio back in August 2015, took place in one of the smaller (warehouse type of) building. When I say smaller, it doesn't mean small, it is still a nearly 3-storey high warehouse, with approximately a thousand feet to mess around (if not even bigger). To demonstrate in terms of scale, one of the biggest building at Pinewood - for example, the 007 stage, is as big as a football pitch, and stand 41 feet high. And the studio we shot at, is one of those that is in front of the 007 stage shown in picture below.
Pinewood Studio, London, UK
We arrived there very early in the morning to prep the shoot, and unlike any other normal photoshoot take place in a photographic studio, this is definitely another level (for me).
Me and Kerry were actually not allowed to handle the lighting equipment (owned by the studio)! The reason being that they are not normal lighting equipment, they are actually film set lights, not only each weights a ton (that's exaggeration, but they are super heavy), each light would require at least two person to set up and are super expensive as I was told. On the day, we had 3 lighting specialists that works for the studio to set up the light for this shoot, and all I could do was to listen to Kerry to instruct the specialists to set up these lights for different desire results. And a few other crew members to set up the (platform) stage and backdrop. All super heavy work!
Similar type of lighting were used on this set.
Sky Panels were used on this set for backdrop lighting.
With bigger equipments, it takes more time to set up. And we have two "stages" to set up! One is with a stormy background (very beautifully hand painted on canvas), and the other one is plain white. Each background actually nearly as tall as 2-storey high.
One of the set background on the set.
Eventually all was set up, and we managed to get some breakfast in the meantime, then we began to set up our table for the computer and the cameras. We didn't shoot with Michael Fassbender straight away, (No, no, no, big star's time is too important/expensive to mess around!), so we began with his body double to test for lighting and trying out different results.
Fassbender's body double was very professional, you can see he put a lot of effort to make each shot count! I gotta say he did look really good in almost all the shots (shame no one can show those images, and they are probably going to be buried forever!). A really hard working guy, and I'm sorry I've forgotten your name Mister, (it has been so long ago!), but I really hope your hard work is going to be paid off one day!
After testing for a couple of hours, Fassbender himself, the director of the film - Justin Kurzel, the director of photography - Adam Arkapaw, and the first Assistant Director - Phil Booth along with many other people finally arrived to the set. It took probably another hour discussing many options for the style, until we finally got to get Fassbender to be on stage in his full Assassin's Creed outfit and start shooting!!
Watching Kerry and Fassbender working was amazing! There's something very sexy about a man very focus in his work and sweating out a little! As everyone stood there in silence watching, although I wish I could join the group in the corner just watching and drooling, I had to stay alert and assisting Kerry whenever he needed a change of lens or camera, and to load images for him to show to the directors. Pretty nervous experience!
Needless to say, Fassbender was very professional and hard working just as anyone who had worked with him would describe him. And I agreed his success is very well deserved! And he has this very special air around him, I guess it must be the combination of confidence and stamina about his ability or capability as an actor, and for that reason why he is often being cast as the lead in films.
During the shoot, although we were in some kind of comfort being inside a studio (sheltered from cold and rain, yes it was chilly in August in London!), it was not easy to work giving the condition was SUPER hot under those lights, on top of the multi-layers armour he was wearing (as seen in the promo picture above), fans would be pleased to know that it had never stopped him throwing all the Assassin's Creed move nor did he ever asked to stop to rest!
Those were really awesome images, and his (real) sweat definitely add some grit to the character in the release image you see! So now you know the glow on Fassbender's face wasn't make up! (And I could imagine all the Fassbender's worshippers would die for the spot where his sweat showering out like holy water!) The other amazing thing I've learned that day is (although I knew for quite a while already), but to confirm the belief, it's all in the lighting! Most people would have thought that the promo image (attached) has gone under extensive photoshop!
I can tell you definitely, No! It's not!
Promo image - Michael Fassbender - Close Up
Although originally was against a white background, Michael Fassbender's image was pretty much already looked like the promo image you see. I can testify that because I was the first person to load the images onto the computer screen to show the directors. (There are definitely some post-editing done to it, for example, increasing the contrast). But the success of the image was all done thanks to the great lighting the team has put up under Kerry's direction. And of course, choosing the right lens for the job and you had to have Kerry's experience to orchestrate the whole shoot.
What I am really saying is, a great photographer relying on setting his lights right, not photoshop, not post-editing. And to me, that's a sign of what a great photographer is, and it really motivates me to become better in the lighting department!
On the last note, very sadly to say, although there was this idea that I could assist Kerry for the whole Assassin's Creed project, even a chance possibly of shooting on my own to support the secondary filming unit on location... it is too difficult to leave my young child behind to be abroad for a few months. And Kerry seems very understanding at that, so I suppose I won't (even try) going into film stills photography probably for some good few years. The thing is, working in films mean that you have to have the flexibility to travel, since almost all productions required to film location abroad of some sort. And for me, if I couldn't commit myself 100% fully, no point of getting to it. But when I get to it, I would only wanted to commit 100%. I'm just hoping I might still get that chance one day when timing is right.
Last but not least, the most special thing for me, of course was being scouted by Kerry. And I have never been scouted in my life before! I gotta say it does make you feel pretty special ;p But having such a great photographer to scout you, being told he liked your work, it is definitely one of the greatest pat on my shoulders in my photography career by far! The cherrie on top was that Kerry is a very genuine person, down-to-earth nice guy, who is very generous in sharing his knowledge. And I would like to thank him especially (again), for the opportunity he gave me, in which allowed me to raise my bar, inspired and motivated me, and I have since been enjoying better quality of work being produced! Many thanks again Kerry!
Kerry Brown (photographed by Deborah Smith)