International Motion Art Awards: Scott Montgomery

By David Schonauer   Wednesday December 17, 2014

Los Angeles-based photographer Scott Montgomery built a career around shooting people and lifestyle advertising images. For the past several years he has also been collaborating with the LA band William Pilgrim on an ongoing body of video work—two examples of which were selected as winners in the International Motion Art Awards 3 competition. The project involves a documentary about the band’s lead singer, Ish Herring, who grew up in the streets of Hollywood, as well as music videos and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the band as it travels and performs. The work is part of what Montgomery sees as a career arc: “The marketplace for motion content is exploding just as the technology has made getting in easier,” he says. “In the past 12 to18 months, a significant number of my ad assignments have involved creating motion for the web or creating both stills and motion in tandem.” Today we spotlight Montgomery’s winning entries.


Project: Documentary and Music Video
Director: Scott Montgomery
Director of Photography: Scott Montgomery
Producer: PM Romero
Sound Design: PM Romero

Three years ago, Los Angeles-based photographer Scott Montgomery began working on a documentary about Ish Herring, the lead singer for the LA duo William Pilgrim. Called Cheating the Devil, the documentary (see the trailer above) is part of a unique and wide-ranging collaboration that Montgomery has undertaken with the band that also involves music videos, behind-the-scenes videos, and other work. As a whole, the motion work, which can be found here, tells the story of the band and its Ice House studio. It all began when Montgomery joined forces with the band’s other member, PM Romero.

“I have spent a career working as a real people and lifestyle still shooter for advertising, while Romero is a musician. Together we balance and play off of each other’s strengths,” says Montgomery.

The documentary about Herring takes a broad narrative approach, blending traditional interviews with a scripted voiceover and an interpretive black-and-white sequence in which Herring, who grew up as a homeless kid in the streets of Hollywood, is seen running fearfully after having stolen a pair of shoes. What is chasing him? His own past.

“When I was a kid, I’d watch movies with funerals. I would try to feel what it would be like to have people missing me when I’m gone,” says Herring in his narration. “Out here none of us have families. We look to each other to fill that space.”

The scene—an imagined re-creation of Herring’s life—was Montgomery’s idea. “We wanted to create dissonance within the viewer and hint at the street life and grit Ish has lived with,” he says.

Montgomery has brought the visual sophistication of his photographic work to his motion project. “As a still shooter, the Ice House work has been a safe place to experiment, test, screw up and learn,” he says. “Still photographers think a little differently about lighting and lens composition, maybe taking more risk. Getting audio right has been a learning curve worth the effort.”

Montgomery’s other IMAA-winning work (above) is a music video for the song “Street” from William Pilgrim’s “Epic Ending” album. The song’s lyrics were inspired by Ish Herring’s experiences growing up and surviving alone amid violent gangs.

“It was important to us to show the story,” says Montgomery. “We wanted the audience to understand the conflicts people face as they try to do good while being trapped in a difficult urban environment—the choices we make and the choices that are forced upon us.”

The narrative portions of the video were shot over the course of one long day in Hollywood and LA’s West Side. The location work underscored an important lesson for Montgomery: During the filming, one of the characters is seen with a weapon—in actuality, a prop handgun—but the scene and gun looked so real that a woman passing by became concerned. “That’s why it’s required to have a police monitor when filming scenes showing firearms!” Montgomery says.

The studio scenes focus on the collaboration between William Pilgrim and the gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama. The outdoor band scenes were shot in a parking lot just off Hollywood Blvd. Go here to see a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the video. (By the way: Montgomery is in the video, portraying an old man in glasses.)

“The post process look is important to me,” says Montgomery. “I’ve found editors don’t know color very well.  Most the stuff out there looks like it came straight out of the camera. In my frustration, I’ve developed a workflow using Photoshop, where I’m comfortable. For this video, I wanted the flavor of the images to match the grit and crunch of the subject itself.”




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