Life is full of surprises and you never know what will happen next.
In the fall of 2014, I met Ben Del Guercio and Alex Davis of Pentatonic Productions LLC on the set of the short Sci-Fi film, RUST. They were (still are) talented professionals. For RUST, they served as Camera Operator and Director of Photography, respectively.
In late May of 2015 Ben got in touch with me to request a few BTS (behind the scenes) images for a commercial that he, Alex, and Pentatonic were working on. It was for a new interactive virtual golfing experience named Golfstream. It was great to work with them again and nice to see an LA connection forming.
A couple of months later in early August of 2015, Ben's name appeared in my Facebook inbox and, I directly quote...
"Hey buddy. We are shooting a Gladys Knight music video next Tuesday. Interested in doing some BTS?"
Ha. Haha. I think it was the fact that he said it so straight forward. Nothing starstruck about it. Gladys Knight. 7-time Grammy Award winner. No. Big. Deal. Needless to say I was immediately on board. I received the details and promptly arrived at the shoot's location in Burbank on Tuesday August 15th, 2015. The music video was for her new single entitled, "Just a Little." Billboard.com wrote a piece on the debut of the single and described the track as follows:
"the upbeat track teams the seven-time Grammy Award winner with fellow Grammy winner and producer Symbolyc One, aka S1 (KanyeWest's “Power,” Beyoncé's “Best Thing I Never Had.”) Written and vocal-produced by Knight protégé/R&B singer Avehre, “Just a Little” is the lead single from the singer’s 12th studio album. It’s due next year via the Empire-distributed label WCMC (When Creative Minds Collide)."
What follows is the coverage of that terrific day on set...
[I'm not sure how you are viewing this page/site. I decided that this site is best viewed in a larger format on a desktop computer. No matter if it's on your desktop or phone, just keep scrolling and clicking to view images. Hope you enjoy.]
Gasp. It's her. Ben and company started the shoot with a circular tracking shot, slowing revolving around Gladys while she sand the track's opening verse. On the outskirts of the shot, a few backup singers and child musicians can be seen helping to set the mood. A fun purple tone encapsulates them all. Early on, there was a moment where Ben didn't feel that Gladys was emoting quite enough. She was merely lip-syncing with the audio track playing in the background on the sound stage.
"Gladys, do you mind actually singing for this take.?" "Sure, honey."
I'm not sure if there are words to describe the excitement of getting to hear a 7-time Grammy winning vocalist singing less than 20 feet away from you. Oh yeah, that's right, close your mouth, put the camera back up towards your eye. You have a job to do...
I'm working on being a better storyteller and photojournalist. I still am genuinely surprised when my work will come across celebrities, or notable personalities. The second part of the shoot involved a scene/segment where Gladys is joined by a few famous friends to dance and sing along side of her; a real fun, loose, party moment. Shame on me for not knowing or getting all the names, but I was able to recognize actress Kimberly Elise (Set It Off, John Q, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and more) and singer/actor, Eric Benet:
black and white
Next up were the day's six fabulous back up dancers. They joined Gladys for a verse and chorus all dressed in black and white, with a white background. Classy. Afterward, friends and family members that were on set were invited to join in for a filming of the chorus. It was a nice segment that made its way into the video:
Just the dancers
Gladys then took a break and undoubtedly had another make up and wardrobe change, but in that time, Ben and Co. filmed a few sequences with just the dancers. These six extremely talented individuals brought so much positive energy to the set. It was incredible. You could see from the sweat after each take how much energy it took for them to do their full sequence, but at the end all they said was, "Yeah, we can do another one..." Amazing.
Oh man there was one lighting set up in particular for the dancers that had my heart racing. Check it out here (if you want to finish this page first, there's 2nd link at the bottom as well):
Dj and dance party
I will go back to Ben and get the name of this DJ, that's a promise. But the day ended with the crew setting up this DJ station/booth/table with full turntables and smoke machine. Gladys reemerged in a new stunning outfit, threw on some headphone and spun the tables a little bit. The dancers ended the day in a party circle, cheering each other on and showing of their best moves:
Also in the DJ theme, the opening shot for the entire video featured a young man in a suit placing a record on the turntable...
additional Behind the Scenes
This was probably the image of the day for me. Director, Ben Del Guercio, came out to speak to Gladys before they began filming. He just wanted to make sure she was comfortable and ready to go. You could see their rapport and a level of trust between them. Also, though I had only worked with him a few times, I was very happy for Ben. He seems like a genuine person and very passionate; a well deserved moment and opportunity for him:
I got the play the role of "Gladys Knight stand-in" for a little while in the beginning of the shoot. A true honor. I captured this as the crew was framing the shot. Probably my favorite self portrait to date:
For fun and a shoutout to the group over at Pentatonic Productions, here is the actual video for Gladys Knight - Just a Little. They did an amazing job. It was a lot of fun seeing how the setups from the day were augmented and cut together for the final creation.
Produced by Pentatonic Productions
Director: Louis Benjamin Del Guercio
Producer: Vincent Kelley
Director of Photography: Alexander H Davis