Posted by: Noni | June 9, 2010

Who’s the Biggest Person You Ever Shot?

Who’s the Biggest Person You Ever Shot?

Someone asked me that recently…

I thought for a few moments then decided upon Shaquille O’Neal.  Apparently they didn’t mean bigger, literally… but in the greater sense of the word.  Well, it’s all a mater of perspective and opinion.  I like to categorize my “Big Shots” according to occupation.   I should also mention that it’s generally not a good idea to refer to it as “shooting someone” which can easily be misunderstood.  (better to use filming or taping)

Since I have a very expensive habit (Indie Film and Documentary Production) I’ve been forced to support my addiction over the years by freelancing as a shooter, (aka=camera operator) and have spent time in the company of some proverbial giants.

Here’s a list of some political figures whose likenesses I captured:

Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bob Dole, Al Gore, Colin Powell, Arnold (the Terminator) Schwarzenegger and his lovely wife Maria Shriver, Rudy Giuliani, Tony Blair, Desmond Tutu…etc, etc, etc.

For most of these gigs I was required to undergo extensive security screenings, high level clearance and various measures to ensure public and personal safety.  Funny to think that for most of those engagements I was working in the States without proper authorization.  Just how deep does the security check go?  Or was I hired solely for my exemplary skills and charming personality?

On his 96th Birthday

Hall of Famer (for playing and coaching) - John Wooden

As for sports heroes (besides the Shaq, who I adored!), the most impressive man I worked with was Coach John Wooden (passed away June 4th, 2010) The former UCLA basketball coach was a mentor and inspiration to not only his players but anyone he came in contact with.  I was deeply moved when I learned of his passing and blessed to have had the opportunity to hear him speak on several occasions.  He gave me a copy of his book,  My Personal Best : Life Lessons from an All-American Journey and looked me square in the eye saying “I think you’ll enjoy this even though you’re Canadian”  We shared a special moment and I will never forget how quick-witted and clear-headed he was at such an advanced age.

My favorite freelance gigs were lavish fundraisers for various Hollywood sponsored charities.  These events always included musical entertainment of sorts ranging from Paul McCartney to Seal.  I remember one show at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with Howie Mandel as MC and James Brown as featured performer.  The show rundown designated that The Godfather of Soul was to sing 2 songs.  What it didn’t say was that they’d each be over 20 minutes long.  I was hand-held at front of the stage and my muscles ached from the 47 minute non-stop presentation.  I figured, if he can sing and dance for that long I better be able to hold my shot steady.

Other musical legends on my list of favorites include engagements with Elton John, Moby, Elvis Costello (I have prized footage of him telling me that he wrote Alison just for me) Sting (someone stole my signed photo of the two of us) Janet Jackson, Black Eyed Peas… Did I mention that I love shooting live music? I witnessed Tony Bennett singing “Take Me to the Moon” a capella in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel during a fundraiser for Heather Mills’ Adopt a Minefield charity.  His voice blew me away! Literally and figuratively.

Obviously since I’m a filmmaker I’ve worked with  lots of shining stars from the big and small screens.  I won’t bore you with a long list of favorites but will tell you that an event I covered for the NAACP was one of the biggest treats of my career.  Martin Scorsese was being honored for his contributions and I found myself star-struck for the first time ever.  (He is my absolute, all time favorite director, although some of his films are not necessarily to my taste)

The only other time that I was at a loss for words, glued to the lens and unable to think beyond my viewfinder was with Sophia Loren.  During rehearsals for an awards show (Costume Designers Awards) she floated (there’s no other way to explain her entrance) with supreme grace across the stage.  I wanted to peak under her long gown to see if she was on a dolly since her movement was so smooth she appeared to be gliding on thin air.  Such intense presence I have never felt again.  It was like a spiritual experience being in her proximity.

When asked about the celebrities I’ve been blessed to be in company of, I try to explain that really, they’re all just regular folks.  Some more humble than others, some more demanding and difficult to work with, but all of them put their pants on one leg at time just like the rest of us.  Perhaps with the exception of Sophia…

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