Actor Jon Voight at The 7th Annual Irish Film And Television Awards, at the Burlington Hotel on February 20, 2010 in Dublin, Ireland.

Lights, Camera, Action…


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Last Saturday it was time for the annual film and television awards ceremony ‘The IFTAs’ down in Dublin.
I’ve covered this event for the last 4 or 5 years and considering this years was the 7th, thats not bad going.
Its a long day usually leaving Belfast before noon and rarely getting home before 3 or 4am.
Along with the Meteor music awards its probably one of the most prestigious events held in Ireland and usually attracts a lot of the home grown talent along with a smattering of Hollywood A listers. In previous years the likes of Mel Gibson, Rene Russo and Bo Derek have graced the red carpet.
This year was to be another big year with Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, John Boorman, Josh Hartnett, Matt Dillon, Juliette Binoche expected to make an appearance. As with many things though, what happens on the night can be somewhat different.

Jon Voight

Red Carpet photography appears glamourous, mixing it with the stars, drinking champagne to the early hours but the reality is far from it. Unlike other places where you have to get up at an unfeasibly early hour of the morning and put your name down on a list for a slot on the carpet, at the IFTAs its first come first served and for the last 2 years I’ve been first down.
Sad to say the 2-3 hour wait in your spot isnt particularly glamourous, lots of moving lights, moving backdrops, laying the red or slightly orange carpet. All thrilling stuff. It does give you the opportunity to catch up with colleagues though and exchange stories and rumours. It will surprise a lot of people to discover that groups of photographers rarely talk about cameras or photography or anything else. Its no different to any other profession in that respect.
I do however get slagged off for having two cameras, when most others have just one. My rationale is that once I’m set Im set, I’ve a long lens for closeups and a short lens for full length portraits, plus you dont know what sort of area you will be in so it pays to be prepared. Of course the main reason is that you have a working camera if one fails just as an A lister looks you straight in the eye. Of course thats never happened and maybe I’m over cautious…
The red carpet work is also incredibly stressful, you have a split second to get the eye contact, which in some actors cases, naming no names, is easier said than done. Some play the game, others dont and you wonder why they stop to get their pictures taken in the first place. Shot counts can go through the roof, not machine gunning or ‘monstering’ but just trying to get that smile or both eyes open or just plain vertical picture. It would be difficult enough just on your own with a couple of hundred celebrities of all persuasions walking past you in just over an hour but consider being in a pack of about 20-30 photographers or more all vying for the best shot, all shouting, all elbowing each other and squeezed into an area the size that the EU wouldnt allow sheep in!
Theres no real time to check each shot, you do a couple of test shots using the pr people and then just pray. You pray you dont change settings, you hope all the hustle and bustle doesnt knock the flash contacts, you dont run out of juice for the flash or camera. Spare batteries in each pocket and trailing wires to the flash external battery packs. People have climbed everest with less equipment!
Of course going on last years event in the Burlington hotel where they left the doors open all night I was wearing a heavy ski jacket.
Foreign correspondents turned up in their tuxedos to see some of the Irish photographers looking like they were wearing the clothes they slept in the night before (and probably did). It was a bit of a culture shock for them with the photographers chatting with some of the stars, slagging some off and just being Irish. Obviously the banter that goes on here doesnt really happen in London, Paris or New York.
As the night wore on the ski jacket was less and less a good idea, this year the heaters were on and the doors were closed. The guys around me wearing their fleeces were also feeling the heat but we were so tightly packed and the celebs were coming thick and fast so its just deal with the water running down your neck. Hopefully its my own sweat and not that of the two tiers of photographers above me.
Some stars are an absolute joy to photograph and some arent. Whether they are playing the game or just nice people people like Jon Voight and Michael Fassbender are just a joy to photograph. The type of people youd love to spend an evening in the pub with. Some people also have a bad reputation, I have to admit being a bit apprehensive the time I photographed Russell Crowe but he was charming, interesting to listen to and I appreciated his point of view about paps chasing him and his kids down the street. I’d be pissed off too and more than likely to slap a few of them about. Thankfully with one or two exceptions that sort of behaviour isnt accepted here and the stars appreciate having their space. I suppose its the beligerence of the Irish with a ‘who are you’ attitude. You take the photos then leave them to it.
At this even Jon Voight was the star he is, charming, full of banter, plenty of time to spend and talk, just doing the whole ‘star’ thing and that shows in the photos. Not just the straight up and down but a lot of cameo stuff and off the cuff photos that make the job interesting. Michael Fassbender is like that too, full of banter and looks like he really enjoys being there, exchanging banter with the photographers and everyone around them.
Some of the really big stars are also quite private and quiet, a few people like Juliette Binoche arrive with no fanfare and you do a double take when this person just appears in front of you with no accompanying PR or any announcement. Just nice and professional.
Juliette Binoche

The big one I and others were waiting on was Colin Farrell. Ive missed Colin Farrell on a number of occassions and is one of the decreasing list of ‘must’ photographs. Ive still to photograph Pierce Brosnan and believe it or not Liam Neeson so will try to get them as well at some point. Farrell has a bit of a reputation but as I learned with Russell Crowe, in a lot of cases that sort of thing is totally unjustified.
So there was a gap before Colin Farrell arrived so reset both cameras, took a couple of test shots then the world exploded around me as somehow all the worlds lights appeared to have been turned on at one. Colin Farrell had well and truly arrived. One last check on the back of the screen and we would be away….
…f***…
…the shutter had gone in my main camera…
…wide to long lens, fully charged battery, biggest external power pack…
…too late to change everything…
Just get on with it. You know the real pros when they dont listen to the shouts of the photographers, they just go from one end to the other, a brief glance into everyones camera, long enough or maybe not to get that one looking down the throat shot. Now sometimes thats not what you want so you try to get other options but I was just trying to get something sharp and well exposed at this point.
As the famous quote about a newspaper photographer goes ‘you can have it well exposed or sharp, which one do you want’?
The world slows down, its a case of breathe, wait, squeeze, check settings, refocus, recompose, change settings, wait, breath, squeeze. The noise and light around you just disappears and you are focussed on that shot, that one shot that if you machine gunned you would probably miss. The turning of a face through 120 degrees takes soooo long but you dare not squeeze one off too early in case you miss the money shot.
All of a sudden its over. All the celebs have gone in to the awards and then theres the mad scramble to the press room to download, edit, caption and send the photos. Well normally there is but since I stopped working for Getty and working for myself and my own agency, most of the photos arent that time critical, so for the first time in my photographic career I could spend time at the buffet. No more sitting in a corner on the floor editing like mad on the macbook with 3G, shoving the warm cereal bars I’d kept in my pocket all day into my gub, washing it down with lucozade sport or something else sporty that probably makes no difference in this situation whatsoever 😉
Time to look at the damage to the camera and move everything across to the 2nd camera in time for the winners presentations in the press room.
The press room is more of a sedate affair if you can call it that, no scrambling to find out who people are, no asking the accompanying guest to please get out of our shot of the main celeb, theres plenty of time between award winners. I do feel sorry for some award winners though, this is the pinnacle of many a career and something that will grace the mantlepiece of grandchildren and because its for makeup or set design or some such the photographers arent really interested. Essentially we are waiting again for Colin Farrell but I always try to take photos of every winner. Just so as they can say they had their photo taken. Of course if the 2nd camera shutter should fail because of this policy I would never let people hear the end of it.
Question now is will Colin Farrell make an appearance? Show is over, live TV coverage is over, crowd in the press room apart from photographers is thinning out. Will he, wont he?
Again its all sound and all picture as Colin charms us all, exchanges a bit of banter and generally is totally enthusiastic about his award and the film Ondine, which like last years winner Hunger, is now top of the list of films to see this year.
Colin Farrell

5 mins later and its all over, its t