The cinematic world of Bad Choices

Andy created a dystopian world inhabited mainly by strong/interesting/dimensional female characters. This project is called Bad Choices—which is also the name of the town at the center of this conceptual story.

He set his goals high: “I was tired of photographing happy people holding
happy products and pointing at happy screens. I wanted to challenge myself, get outside of my comfort zone”. 
One of Andy’s shots from a shoot for Best Buy
He went well beyond any comfort zones. Andy’s photography always tells a story regardless of the assignment, but to create a personal body of work that he could really sink his teeth into he needed something bigger. Many of his personal tastes and inspirations comes from the world of sci-fi, so he decided to start there. The project began as a character study with 12 different actors, and quickly became a full blown dystopian screenplay with overlapping story lines.
Early stages mind map
From each actor study, Andy started by painstakingly concepting and creating the key poster art for each character. One by one, the story has slowly revealed itself. He’s taken the project through 2 artist retreats on Anderson Island— using mind mapping, film research and creative brainstorming, all funneling in to the creation of the conceptual photographic scenes.
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He knew he couldn’t attempt this project by himself, and so he reached out to a crew of talented artists to ask them to contribute to the project. He first reached out to Hair and Makeup Stylist Terri Lodge to help flesh out and design FX driven makeup to represent each of the characters.
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Costume designer Rebecca Therkelsen was then quickly brought on to collaborate with Andy on the costuming, digging into the backstory of each character, to create a unique wardrobe for each of them.
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Art Director and Prop Master Ron Skrasek jumped at the chance to play in a post-apocalyptic world. His ability to transform words into key prop and set pieces have been critical to the visual storytelling.
Location scouting for our very first scene of Bad Choices.
Camera Assistant Galvin Collins was brought on as a key resource, contributing to all areas of production, including prop-making.

 

Naturally, Therese was responsible for logistics and project management, with critical help from Production Assistant Misty Post, who also worked as a prop wrangler and prop maker.
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Designer Adam Murdoch also gave significant time and guidance to Andy and the project. His combination of graphic design and brand experience gave the project an immense amount of focus. Adam’s unique process created an amazing brand story and design for Bad Choices.
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What’s next for Bad Choices? 

We are very excited to announce that in less than 2 weeks, we are shooting a new phase of the project, this time with the support of Lensbaby. Andy will be shooting with some of their top secret gear, and we’ll be taking the talent to the location. We can’t wait to add to this project. Until then, you can see all the images from the world of Bad Choices here!
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6 of 7 completed character portraits from the series. 5 more to go!
And now I have a treat for you. Because you just read the entire post! That deserves a bunny!
Bunny don’t F around! You’re welcome.

What to do when it all goes wrong?

I was so excited to get the call from Dudley Brooks from the Washington Post Magazine. My father (who passed in 2016) loved this pub, and always saved the magazines for me. He didn’t know the first thing about photography, but he knew this pub always featured the best. When the assignment landed, I really, really wanted to call him and ask him “GUESS WHO WE’RE SHOOTING FOR?”

We pulled together our best team, and set to the task of building the cool conceptual set that Andy envisioned. Dudley was down with the idea from the start. Andy described it so vividly, it was impossible to not be drawn in. Here’s a little bts video of our set.

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How did you show the scale of one man’s fight against the soda industry?

“Godzilla and King Kong movies were my inspiration. Crossfit founder Greg Glassman standing in Soda City as a heroic giant, ignoring the attacks of the Soda City military. My goal was to flip the script—the city crushing monster as the hero, facing impossible odds and winning.” ~Andy Batt

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Ron Skrasek was our set designer and primary prop builder. Galvin Collins was our secondary prop builder and set assistant. I went to the store and spent $700 on soda, and it would be worth it. The vision was driving us all!

We didn’t have much time. Our first production meeting was Monday, and the shoot was Wednesday afternoon. Ron took off after the meeting to create the soda tanks. We all met on Tuesday afternoon to begin building Soda City. At 7pm, Andy’s vision was taking shape and we all toasted our success with a delicious beer.

Wednesday morning, we added the final touches on the set. Galvin’s soda planes were rigged, and it was all coming together. We stopped for a burrito lunch when I got a message from the editor. CALL ME.

My stomach sank. That’s never a good message to receive, especially 2 hours before we’re to begin shooting. I got on the phone with Dudley and was told our subject doesn’t want to leave his house. Ugh.

Dudley asked “what are our options?” This was our moment to shine. This was when 22 years of experience comes into play. Anyone can take a picture, but can they produce under this amount of pressure, for a dream publication, with less than 2 hours to go before it’s shoot time?

OPTIONS:

  • we photograph him at his house on a seamless background, and place him into our Soda City set in post
  • we change the concept completely and shoot an environmental portrait
  • we get him on the phone and try to change his mind

I had so many questions rushing through my brain, but the most pressing one was…where is his house? What if the travel time exceeds 45 minutes? Turns out, he’s less than 10 minutes away, just over the bridge.

We decided on the first option. It wasn’t ideal, but it most closely matched our creative vision. We had to hustle to get to his place, but did it in record time. We built a studio in his driveway and photographed him on a white seamless (luckily, it didn’t rain).

We were so rushed it was scramble to remember all the gear.

Galvin and I had to do a little “shake it off” dance before we left, to let out our frustration with the situation. The last thing we wanted to do was arrive at his place with an  angry cloud over our heads.

Our technique worked, the shoot went mostly great, and we were back in the studio, where the retouching heavy-lifting began.

The final piece turned out great, but keep reading…

Final art of Greg Glassman, before the WaPo lawyers got involved.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.

2 weeks before publication, we got another call from Dudley. This is when it really got weird. Our image was reviewed by the WaPo lawyers, and they were concerned our image was too ‘Coke-heavy’.  I really thought these kinds of problems only existed in the advertising industry!  Once again, we had to consider our options. The ‘Soda City’ set was mostly pulled apart, but the background was still up. We could reshoot a Pepsi tower and add another composite to the shot. Ultimately Dudley had one of his retouchers change one of the Coke towers in post.

Sometimes you have to choose your battles. We decided this wasn’t a battle worth fighting. If we had more time, we might have done it differently, but overall it’s still our shot on the cover of The Washington Post Magazine, and I think my dad would be really proud.

 

Bucket list assignment!
interior spreads

Here’s a little ‘behind-the-scenes’ treat for those that scrolled all the way down!

January birthday. February Robbery. What will March bring?

January started slow, as all attention was on throwing Therese (me!) an outrageous, over the top, detail-rich 50th birthday party. This was mostly a surprise, and understandably, not much got done on the business side of our life! Here’s the Photo Booth, just a small part of a huge party.

February, we got down to business getting more business, for exactly 9 days. Why only 9 days? Because on the 10th day, Andy’s office window was smashed, and $50,000 of gear was stolen. It’s a really strange experience,and the effects echoed for weeks afterwards. From paranoia about it happening again, to looking forever for that one cord, then realizing that was part of the theft.

The good news, though, is that we’re supposed to have a settlement check this week. So that’s something! A huge shout out to Tom C. Pickard, our insurance agency, and to Great American Insurance, our insurance company. It didn’t move as quickly as I would have liked, but they did right by us in the end.

$50,000 hammer. This is what the thieves left behind after smashing our office window.