September, 2013

triple threat: men’s health, jim salzano and bmw

Jim Salzano got a call from Men’s Health Creative Director Jeff Griffith with the perfect shoot for him. A three-issue advertorial titled Triple Threats for BMW that would tell the story of the Men’s Health BMW driver, one per issue over three months. The ads would feature location-based portraits of real men doing what they loved alongside the new 3-series hatchback BMW. Real-people portraits. Cars (Nice, fast cars). Beautiful locations. Action shots. Jim couldn’t have been happier and neither could we. The first issue is on newsstands this week.

While Jim is known for his real-people portrait work, he also has a history of shooting for top automotive brands including Saturn and Toyota and was excited to shoot for BMW. “It was great to shoot an automotive campaign. A lot of the days were raining with intermittent times when we could get shots with a very overcast sky. We lucked out. We had truckloads of equipment to shield the cars and block sunlight, but didn’t use any of  it more than once or twice. We also shot other skies and pulled from our retoucher’s catalog to create atmosphere. The retouching was all done in-house by Ray Benjamin.”

The series features men who are a “Triple Threat.” They lead an active healthy lifestyle and are passionate about the outdoors, are accomplished in their careers, and are always looking for that next challenge. And they also love their toys. Suzanne Stack and Redpenny Casting found top talent: a former pro surfer and philanthropist; a mountain biker, TV host and author; and a technical climber. In Jim’s words they were all “uber confident, macho, sports guys who were also the nicest guys in the world.”


Men’s Health came to Jim, in part, for his ability to put people at ease in the middle of a large-scale commercial production and to come away with great, natural-feeling shots.  “It was a great opportunity to work and meet with these guys and to make them feel at home. They’d never done a shoot with this level of production doing what they love to do. I feel like henry Kissinger at times. There’s an art to making everyone happy and to keeping the subject engaged and relaxed. The client will say ‘We want him to do this.’ And I have to say ‘He’s more comfortable doing this.’”

We’ll go into detail each month and for now share the October ad which features surfer Jon Rose of Los Angeles and founder of Waves for Water whose mission is to provide clean drinking water to everyone who needs it. “Shot on location on Long Beach in Long Island we found a bluff that looked very much like the West Coast. With Jon I was shooting him while we were on the beach talking about surfing and Waves for Water. The trick is to create the atmosphere that everyone can buy into with beautiful, realistic locations. We had an incredible crew and a good time was had by all on this shoot.”

A combined effort between Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners and Men’s Health, Jim worked with a top team including: Men’s Health Creative Director Jeff Griffith, Men’s Health Associate Publisher Eric Hunter and Men’s Health Marketing Manager Grant Gillespie.

“I want to thank John Engstrom and the Scheimpflug crew, whose help and support on this project were invaluable, Richard Gaul and Mick Britenstein from Planet Pre Pro for pulling it all together and keeping us all on track, the terrific casting handled by Suzanne Stack and Redpenny Casting, Stylist Emily Oviatt and Groomers Candice Forness and Rosemarie Brenardo.

To watch profiles of each of the guys, please visit the Men’s Health Triple Threat micro-site and keep an eye out for Jim in the behind-the-scenes videos!

sticky notes, glazed donut flavored vodka, rj muna and mazda

RJ Muna was commissioned by Garage Team Mazda to photograph the full line of 2014 Mazdas for the covers of the 2014 brochures. Working with long-time client Art Producer Jessica Mirolla and Art Director Diana Phillips, the team shot eight cars over seven days in the Inyo-Kern desert. Every car had a hero shot and then each vehicle was shot separately to composite into a “family” shot.

Jessica and RJ have a long history of working together and RJ always comes back with beautiful images and equally great stories. I had a feeling that seven days together in the desert would not disappoint. Seeing the behind-the-scenes photos throughout the shoot made me feel like I was really missing out, as Jessica has long since gone from being just a client to being a friend. And because she is a friend, I thought I’d ask her to share with us why she hired RJ as well as some anecdotes and stories from the shoot.

Photo by Josh LaCunha

Photo by Josh LaCunha

“I’ve worked with RJ for years. He is a natural artist, a real problem solver who is skilled at getting everything in camera. And his work shooting people, dance and movement carries over into his automotive work. He brings the cars to life—they don’t just look like a big piece of steel.

He shot the Mazda6 series for us and the images got a ton of applause from everyone here at the agency. When it was time to hire a photographer for the ’14 images, we thought ‘why mess with success?’ We hired RJ, put together a dream team and headed to the Inyo-Kern desert airport for seven days of shooting.

This shoot was complex, long and challenging. The shots were a moving target and there were so many changes along the way that RJ’s producer, Mark Hofmann and I decided to go old-school with Sticky Notes. We got so excited about Stickies and ‘x-ing’ off each shot, that when Mark had to leave on the last day to go to another shoot, we took a video for him of RJ crossing off the final shots as Mark had done every day.


Throughout the process, RJ was calm, cool and collected. So much so that we decided to play a joke on him to see how he would respond. Halfway through the shoot and after the schedule had been changed and agreed to, we told RJ the client wanted to go to LA to finish the remainder of the shoot. He just started thinking about how it could be done with not a hint of stress. When we finally told him it was a joke, he just laughed and said ‘phew.’

The shoot was so challenging and on top of it, it was super windy and a million degrees. All day long we would come back to ‘What is Alicia making us for lunch?’ (Alicia Addis was our craft server and she ‘cheffed it up’ for us every day) and ‘Where are we going for dinner?’ Somehow we managed to find a different (and good) place to eat every night in Inyo-Kern and a great drive-through coffee hut to go to every morning. 

Jessica Mirolla enjoying the Inyo-Kern wind

Jessica Mirolla enjoying the Inyo-Kern wind

Inyo-Kern has a unique culture. The liquor stores are stocked with small bottles of flavored vodkas. One was glazed donut. I’m not sure we bought it, but we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on in Inyo-Kern. It felt like a family vacation and and we kept the family vacation theme going throughout the shoot. One day it was so beautiful that we stopped on the side of the road to take photos of the sunset. We really had a great week thanks to the talented and fun team.”

Photo by RJ muna

Photo by Josh LaCunha

Photo by Jessica Mirolla

Photo by Jessica Mirolla

To successfully complete 25 shots in seven days in the desert, you need a top-notch team (Josh LaCunha, Mark Hofmann, Alicia Addis, James Abke and Geoffrey Nicholson), lots of sticky notes, a few pranks, a drive-through coffee hut, a sense of humor and apparently a curiosity about glazed donut flavored vodka. Many thanks to Diana and Jessica for being such amazing clients and for making each shoot a true pleasure. And special thanks to Jessica for agreeing to be a part of the MCA blog.