By Qijia Zheng
Toronto photographer Steve Wilkie has shot stills and Gallery shoots on movies all over Canada and has worked with many well known celebrities. Steve studied photography at Ryerson university and began working as a Unit Photographer in the film industry during the mid-90’s. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife and two young sons, Steve continues to shoot both professionally and personally.
We were happy to get the opportunity to interview the famous unit stills photographer in Canada. Steve will be featured in our upcoming magazine Showcase Canada.
Check out our previous edition of Showcase Canada.
Production Paradise: What is it that draws you to unit stills photography? What is the most interesting part of working with the film industry?
Steve: I’ve always enjoyed the fact that what I am photographing changes drastically from day to day. On a Monday I could be photographing a light hearted comedy, on Tuesday a hostage taking, Wednesday a Werewolf movie…..each day is so different
Actors are a very interesting group to work with. The best ones are really a joy to watch. Many are excellent with the camera, very seldom do I need to position actors for a portrait. I’ve seen many interesting locations as a result of this job as well. Also love to photograph in interesting sets. A few years ago I shot the stills on the BBCA series “Copper” and the set was beautiful. It was inside a studio but had turn of the century street scenes and roads. It felt like I was shooting in the real time period. That was a dream job.
Production Paradise: Are there any challenges you face when shooting unit stills?
Steve: There are a lot of challenges to my job. I always say that the photography is the easy part, the difficulty lies in finding a good angle to make great images. Quite often the best angles are taken up by the main cameras and crew, it’s up to the set photographer to find a good (or better) angle. There are also challenges working with actors, not being in their eyeline or distracting them. Extra lenses on set can throw off an actors concentration. The best unit photographers have a way of fading into the background. The best compliment on my job from an actor is to hear them ask me if I’ve been there all day…they haven’t noticed me at all….
There is also very low light on many film sets and a unit photographer must be skilled at shooting in these conditions.
Production Paradise: Who has been your favourite celebrity or actor to work with?
Steve: I’ve had many celebrities that I have enjoyed working with but I hesitate to name names. There are so many wonderful actors I’d hate to miss mentioning any…but my favourite are those that appreciate what I do and understand the importance of good photography. My job is to help sell this movie, a very important part of the process of making it a success.
Check out our previous issues of Portraiture & Celebrity Spotlight Magazines.
Production Paradise: Is there any advice you would share with aspiring unit photographers?
Steve: Protect your neck and back. Shooting for 12 hours a day can take its toll.
Someone once told me that the Still Photographer is the only one on set not involved in actually “making” the movie. You must let everyone do there job, once that is set then you work around them.
Keep away from the craft table….it’ll only increase your pant size…..
Production Paradise: What are you working on right now? Are there any clients you would like to work with in the future?
Steve: Currently I am working on 3 TV series. Orphan Black, Hemlock Grove, and a new one called Dark Matter. Clones, Werewolves and Science Fiction. All great fun to photograph. As for the future? Love to work on a James Bond film or a large fantasy adventure film. Not too often do these come to Toronto but if one ever did….
We’d like to thank Steve Wilkie for taking time to speak with us and giving us an insight into the world of Unit Stills Photography. You can see more of his work here:
If you want to show off your latest work to the industry in the next edition of Production Paradise’s Showcase magazine, contact us now firstname.lastname@example.org