Dean Sherwood from Watford.
How I got started
- Self taught (I tried uni and didn’t like it, didn’t want to write, wanted to take photos).
- Worked on my portfolio with unsigned bands for two years.
- Started work for NME as a photographer.
- Worked with Ian Brown / Kate Nash / Snow Patrol and then McFly.
- Started filming with Feeder / Conor Maynard / Kasabian and You Me At Six on projects.
- Now work for The Vamps / Universal Music.
Hi Dean. Tell us about your big break?
Probably when I was due to be photographing Cascada in Leeds. The day before that shoot I had a call from McFly’s management who I’d recently sent my portfolio off to along with a whole bunch of other label people and management companies. Basically they wanted me to go shoot the band in Sheffield the same night I was booked to be working with Cascada. At first, I turned McFly down. Mid-coffee, about 10 minutes later I rang them back and said I’d do it. It was messing with my morals a bit, but I knew the McFly job was better for my future plans in wanting to do this full time, so I went and did it and then ended up shooting the rest of the RadioActive tour for them. I still work with them a lot now, when I can. My photos from that tour were used on band merch and DVDs. It was easier to then get work having a bunch of physical portfolio items to go with my actual photography folio.
A day in the life of Dean Sherwood.
I’m up and eating some breakfast, checking emails and answering anything urgent. The band’s management are part-based in LA so I usually wake up to emails I’ve had through the night from America.
Out the door. I try to travel as light as possible if travelling by train, if I’m in my car I’ll have around three bags and a tripod/glidetrack for more ‘cinematic’ camera move options.
Arrive and scope the location, check everything out, know where everything I’ll need for the day is, be polite to the staff at the venue, I’ll need them to pull a favour at some point no doubt.
Band arrive and I’m set ready for the first scenes.
Start the shoot. If it’s a cover shoot and the band are recording sound on the day, I’ll have mics setup and we’ll shoot from a straight-on wide angle of the full band first until we get a take of sound everyone is happy with.
Shoot more angles. The band will now mime to the pre-recorded take we just did. PA system turned right up, I’ll shoot anything from 5 to 15 more angles. I work alone a lot on these shoots as we don’t have big budgets to shoot a lot of the YouTube stuff we do.
Watch back some footage on my laptop, just to check all looks okay, and I’m happy.
Usually on a normal day’s shoot I will also need to get some international interview pieces done for press overseas, so I setup somewhere for the bus to sit and do these, making sure it’s a quiet space where we won’t be bothered as sound needs to be recorded too.
Grab some photos for the archive of the band. I’ll be doing this throughout the day as well when I get chance, and if something looks good of course.
Eat – if they’re lucky they’d have had lunch too by the way :).
Leave for home.
I start ingesting the footage. Backup to two separate hard drives (one is a RAID device, so that if it breaks it’s backed up on a separate drive in the same unit as well).
Grab coffee, check my dailies and start to make my rough edit.
Rough edit will now be finished, I send this to management and wait for a response. If there’s any changes needed I’ll make them tonight (if delivery, like it sometimes is, is the next day!)
Hear back from LA , make a coffee if needed, and then start to clean up the edit.
Start to colour grade the video.
Done. Collapse into bed.
You’ve filmed and photographed some massive pop stars, we’d love you to share your three favourite moments of life on the road…
In no order…
Working with NDubz at the O2 was quite surreal. I was photographing them for calendars and books and it was my first time at the O2. For the last song I got to go on stage and take some photos; it was incredible looking out at 20,000 people. Normally I only think about what just happened after the event, but this time I took a moment to take it in too.
When I worked with Kasabian on their Re-Wired music video. On day two we worked through till past 3am at a location in London. I’d pretty much finished and was sat in the band’s car with Tom who’d finished his parts and was falling asleep. I felt a real sense of accomplishment at that point for some reason. It was only 6 months ago I started even making music videos.
Here I was with the lead singer of Kasabian asleep on my shoulder!
It’s really surreal at times, mind blowing.
When I filmed Rihanna on her 777 tour in London. We filmed a shot backstage of her entering the arena through double doors. I wanted to shoot a kind of dolly move backwards as she walked, filmed in slow motion. All we had was me, the camera and another camera operator, Simon. I went off in search of something to help make it happen and found a wheelchair. Come to think of it, I didn’t even check if it was for someone nearby, I just got excited, took it and went back to make the shot.
Rihanna found it hilarious, but you know what, that shot looked great on camera.
I think it helps starting from the bottom with nothing, it teaches you that you don’t need massive budgets to make things work.
You spend long days with the bands and artists, how close do you become?
I’m close friends with the McFly boys as I’ve been working with them for years. I’d say now I’ve been with The Vamps for over a year I’m really good friends with them all, they’re pretty much four of my best friends now.
With The Vamps, I’m most similar to James, we’re both annoyingly pedantic about being on time, having everything in our hotel rooms laid out and neat and getting up early for breakfast.
Yeah, they’re all my friends. It’s one of the best parts of what I do, I meet some great people who become my friends and I also get to constantly find new ways to be creative. Their creativity rubs off on me and into my work.
You’ve got some very blunt advice for people that want to assist you
on photo and video shoots. How seriously do you take things?
It’s a VERY tough industry to get into. I worked hard for years getting here, and I know you can’t let your foot off the accelerator or you’ll be left behind. You have to keep learning, you have to keep moving
forward, there will be knock backs, but what defines you is how you react to them. You’ll spend lots of time out of your comfort zone, but that is the only way to improve and step up the ladder in my view.
Too many people sit and wait for it to come to them, but it won’t happen that way.
I got my position working for The vamps by shooting them for free before they were signed because I thought they had insane talent. So I invested in them I guess, a little bit like investing in the stock market!
Anyway… I take what I do very seriously. Very often there is a time limit that is almost impossible to meet, so you have to be quick, but at the same time uber-professional to get the job done well, better than well in fact! Assisting is a serious job, people see it as just coming along to learn something, well that’s not the case. If you work hard and become a great assistant then yes you’ll hopefully learn loads, but if you are just coming to learn… get your coat ;).
Who would you most like to go on the road with and why?
Robbie WIlliams. I’m a massive fan, have been for years now. His stage presence is awesome, and as an entertainer I think he’d be great to work with. I recently met him, my first fangirl episode, it was good. Saying that, I cannot wait for The Vamps tour this year!!
We’ve read that you’re filming some The Vamps feature films for 2014. Can you
tell us about them?
I can’t right now, but they are BIG projects and i’m excited about them. Sorry!
Can we spot you in any of the videos anywhere?
I try to stay where I belong, behind the camera :)
What would get you in front of the camera?
I’m going to be filming a video with Blackmagic Design about their new pocket cinema camera next month. I’m okay if I have to talk about geeky camera stuff, I can manage that as my Twitter followers will know!
What is your favourite ever shot in any film and why?
Pretty much the whole of ‘Rushmore’, Wes Anderson’s camera moves are incredible. If you watch it and look at how the camera moves from scene to scene you’ll get what I mean.
I also love the way ‘Tree Of Life’ by Terrence Malick was shot, everything is naturally backlit from start to finish. It’s a thing of beauty, I promise. I’m also a big Sofia Coppola fan, especially for ‘Lost In Translation’, one of my favourite films for sure.
Any ideas that didn’t work? Why?
On one cover with The Vamps I had the idea to put 400 tea light candles in a swimming pool as a foreground for where the band would be playing the song poolside. It was a calm night, and by 2am we gave up trying to get it to work and just went with it. I didn’t realise there was a current in a swimming pool! So they just all kept moving slowly to one end, which when you need multiple takes causes a problem!
What makes for good tour footage video?
You always need the artist to give you something. I ask for things like “introduce where we are” , “talk about soundcheck a bit” and stuff like that, but I prefer the natural stuff that just happens.
Documentary filming is less planned and more getting what happens in the moment, some days you just don’t get a lot, the band might be tired or just really busy with other things, but that frees me up to get things like venue shots, footage of mixing desks, people at work etc…maybe shoot a timelapse or two, there’s always something to go and film.
I guess what makes a good tour video is something informative, showing behind the scenes and what goes on, but also a lot of fun stuff too, I always try to keep things tongue in cheek.
Smiling heals the world :)