I've been fortunate enough to work with a few high profile folks throughout my career and it definitely adds on a few nerves before ever hitting the record button. My first celebrity shoot was for a combined Denver Broncos-OtterBox in-game ad titled "Salute to Service" which was run during the Broncos regular season at Mile High Stadium. The spot featured Bronco's legendary running back Terrell Davis who played from 1995-2001 and was a Pro Football Hall of Famer and helped the Broncos to major super bowl victories in 1997 and 1998.
As someone who admittedly doesn't watch a ton of football (as in ever, ever, seriously, just the Super Bowl once a year) I felt really awkward asking Terrell questions between takes but I soon realized what everyone secretly knows which is, "This guy still has to put pants on one leg at a time". Translation: He's a regular dude! I instantly began to relax and fell into the mindset of getting Terrell to shine on camera. He took instruction very well and even shared stories about golfing inside of his buddy's mansion in which he, "Broke a bunch of chandeliers and it got pretty wild." Could I relate to this? No. But it was hilarious hearing what the rich and famous do in their downtime.
Flash foward a few years later and I'm scheduled to work with Super Bowl legend Peyton Manning. PFM I thought to myself. A guy who most dudes would sell their soul to hang out with. And here I was, not a football stat to lean on. Luckily but also strangely, Peyton's agent informed us that since he was slated to make big bucks on the shoot, he didn't like small talk. "Seriously. No damn small talk guys." That was the advice we were given when working on set. I get it. The dude is all business and he doesn't want to waste your time or money. Copy that. However, even when the meter is running, there's still downtime moments of hooking up a microphone to his shirt (awkward since I'm 5'4" and could barely reach his neck line) and moments right after takes to provide feedback on how he's preforming as on-camera talent. Oh well, here's a gem for you guys to laugh at. Notice the height difference:
The next few high profile shoots involved action sports stars from the X-Games. I was slated to work with X-Games gold medalist Jarryd McNeil, and olympic athlete and X-Games gold medalist Bobby Brown. Talk about down to earth folks. All of the action sports guys, in my humble opinion, were way easier to work with than any mainstream sports athletes. They had a lot more to lose and put a lot more on the line. As in...well...death. They could die every single time they step out onto the track or the slopes. The same can't be said for football players and you can guess who gets paid more.
I was stoked to snap a selfie with Jarryd right after he won his 2nd X-Games Austin gold medal. The man crushed it. We took him out to dinner as a LifeProof-sponsored athlete and it was really neat to meet his parents and girlfriend who get merit badges for sitting through countless early morning training sessions, over 200 plus days on the road traveling to and from competitions, and for always being the most rock solid cheerleaders for Jarryd. I walked away with a new appreciation for action sports athletes, and even more respect for their families.
The last few times involving celebrities in my career meant meeting Morgan Spurlock at the NAB Vegas Trade show while listening to a talk he gave about his production company: Warrior Poets. He is one of the coolest people I have ever met and he really works his ass off to ensure that each and every one of his films or TV shows has meaning and resonates with folks. Basically, not producing garbage, which 95% of content makers could take a queue from. Morgan took time to meet his fans and really engage with them on what makes content compelling and inspiring. Below is a rookie mistake for Selfies 101. The ole cross-eyed staredown.
Continuing with inspirational celebrities, I was incredibly humbled to work with Erik Weihenmayer, a man who lost his eye sight from a very young age but was determined to continue living life to the fullest. He started rock climbing and kayaking and was the first blind person to summit Mount Everest along with all the remaining 7 summits of the world. Not only that, Erik kayaked the entire length of the Grand Canyon! I have a film about it on my site which you should definitely check out because this man is incredibly motivating. In his spare time, Erik takes veterans suffering from PTSD on mountain expeditions to counsel them on living as handicapped individuals. Very cool.
A few years later, I was fortunate enough to work in Mexico City with Mexican TV hostess Aly Villegas. She played a starring role in our Symmetry Series portion of OtterBox's "Pass it On" campaign. We followed Aly through a day in the life of hanging with friends, sight-seeing in CDMX, as well as a fun shoot that culminated on the helipad of the Hyatt Mexico City. You seriously can't make this stuff up. Aly was very kind and fluent in both English and Spanish which made for a very fun shoot. Here's a photo that Aly took while instructing me on how to take a proper selfie. I swear I'll learn one of these days.