TJ Scott first turned up on my radar in 1997 when he directed one of my favorite episodes on the original La Femme Nikita TV series. Based out of LA, TJ had quickly become a familiar director in locations around the world, and it came as no surprise whenever I would see his credits pop up on my TV. A number of years later I was fortunate to meet TJ and his lovely wife, Victoria Pratt, at a celebrity charity auction event in LA. He was gracious, funny and as talented as I had imagined. Since then, TJ has gone on to expand his career in various aspects of the industry. Still keeping up with his work, when I heard he was creating a photographic coffee table book, In the Tub, I knew this was the perfect feature for At a Glance.
So, what’s not to love…In the Tub is a visual sensory feast full of beautiful men and women captured in minimalist settings by TJ‘s creative eye. There are Actors, Musicians, Artists, Models…all presented in the simplistic mode of lounging in a bathtub. And the best part, aside from the amazing photographs, is all the proceeds have been earmarked towards TJ’s charity of choice! As busy as he is, TJ took time out to chat with me and share about his book, his directing, his Independent Film making, and the road he has taken to get where he is today.
In-between directing assignments, I had been photographing a lot of Editorial work for magazines and meeting some really cool Actors, Recording Artists, and Models. At the same time, my Mother entered into her fourth major battle with Breast Cancer. One day I was struck with the idea that I could shoot a coffee table book of portraits with these cool people in a bathtub as a common setting, to raise money for Breast Cancer research.
Why did you choose a tub for the setting? Does it have any special significance?
I had done some Fashion photography shots using bathtubs in the past, and was struck by how intimate, comfortable and fun these shoots were. I did a little research and found that no one had ever done a coffee table book entirely of portraits in the tub. It was the combination of the intimacy and novelty that made it the perfect setting.
How did you recruit the photography subjects and were you surprised by the amount of positive responses you received?
At first I started photographing my good friends in the Entertainment business and Models that I used to hire for Fashion shoots. Everyone seemed to respond well to the shoots, and they loved the photos because they were something different. Word spread and soon I was shooting my friend’s friends – and then Publicists began suggesting their clients, plus I began to shoot the Actors I was directing (22 of them on Spartacus).
Did your subjects have any reservations with shooting nude?
At first I did some shoots with people wearing clothing in the tub, but unless they were Recording Artists in their stage outfits it looked too much like a Fashion shoot, so I started to have people shoot implied. Essentially that means that you are nude, but the camera doesn’t see everything. I started putting milk in the water which made it opaque – and much easier to create an implied look. Most of the people I shoot are in the Entertainment Industry and are accustomed to doing what it takes to get a good photo.
So your subjects are actually nude then?
For the most part, yes.
How do you handle that?
I’ve become so accustomed to shooting people nude that it really isn’t a big thing at all. I’m completely comfortable with it – so I think that makes my subjects completely comfortable with it. Plus, I give them 100% kill on any photo they don’t like, so no one ever sees a photo that they haven’t approved.
What is your general goal for each shoot?
Our goal is to get an intriguing, compelling, stop and stare photo. Something that makes you want to stop turning the page. If someone says to me I wish I was there when you took that photo – then I know we have accomplished our goal.
Approximately how long does a shoot take?
The subjects are only in the tub for 10 to 20 minutes. We might chat for a bit before and after, but as a rule I only ask for one hour of their time and I try to stick to that.
That doesn’t seem like much time, I would have thought longer?
The actual shoot days aren’t long – though they do require another hour of set up before and an hour after to put my studio back together. The real time commitment comes in the Post Shoot. During the shoot I snap 800 – 2500 photos. I spend an entire day for each shoot picking my selects and then photoshopping the images to the look I had in mind for that shoot.
How much input do the subjects have in their photo session?
I tell my subjects ahead of time not to worry about being overly prepared. It is a Portrait that we are shooting – it just happens to be in a bathtub. They just need to show up with their smile.
Did it eventually become challenging to make each new session fresh after so many shots based on the same general setting?
At the core of each In the Tub shoot is the subject’s personality – so each is unique.
Did the project turn out to be bigger than you had initially envisioned?
I always envisioned the book itself would be quite large – and it is. The Special Edition is 250 pages and weighs 4 ½ pounds. The time commitment was certainly more than I thought it would be though.
Is this the first time you’ve opened any of your projects up to crowdfunding?
I launched an In the Tub Kickstarter to raise funds for the first printing of the book and it was the first crowdfunding I had ever tried.
What type of response did you receive?
I raised $82,000 in pre-sales of the book on Kickstarter.
Wow! That sounds amazing!
I think I could have raised a lot more, but Kickstarter specifically did not allow me to mention that I was giving my profits from the In the Tub book to charity. In fact, for the entire time my campaign was up, they monitored all of my Social Networks, and didn’t allow me to mention it on any of them.
Would you consider using crowdfunding again?
Yes, but it was at the very core of the In the Tub project from day one that the profits were to go to Breast Cancer Research, so I would have to do a fund raising that allowed me to mention it.
Let’s take a peek at the video used for the project…
The response to the project has been such a success, from the funding to those donating their time and talents…any possibility of a follow-up edition in the future?
It’s been such an amazing ride. I’ve met so many interesting people while shooting – and many more people while selling the book, and on Social Media. I am definitely interested in keeping the ball rolling and shooting a Volume 2 of the book.
Ooo…have you already started shooting then?
I might have done a few shoots already!
So, how did you break into photography? Was there a moment when you knew you could pursue it as a career or did it just kind of organically evolve?
I’ve always had a camera in my hand, and I make a living directing, so I’ve always had my eye to the lens, but it was really Flickr that got me immersed in the world of photography. I found a community there that was incredibly supportive, knowledgeable and avid.
Your Flickr site has had quite a bit of traffic!
Are you a self-taught photographer, did you undergo training/classes, and did you have a mentor?
I went to film school, but we didn’t spend any on Photography. In theory I am self-taught, but I grew up on film sets watching Directors of Photography light motion pictures, so I just took what I had seen there, applied it to still and put my own spin on it.
Not to box you in, but in general, how would you describe your personal photography style?
Because of my background I’d say my photography is Cinematic.
Who are some photographers whose work you admire, and are there any that may have directly influenced you along the way?
I’ve studied all the famous Cinematographers and Portrait Photographers …but the biggest influence on my photography is from my friends and contacts on Flickr. I study their work every day… Oh, and also my Mother…For the last 30 years of her life I don’t remember seeing her without a camera in her hand. Her motto was you always be ready for a Photo Op.
You honored her by dedicating In the Tub to her, correct?
Yes, to my Mother and all those whose lives have been impacted by Breast Cancer.
Do you have a personal most memorable photo shoot and/or specific photo?
I have photographed a lot of really interesting people, but I don’t think any of them will mind me saying that shooting Larry Hagman in the tub, was a most memorable event – because that was the day I could say I shot JR!
It must have been shortly after your shoot that Larry Hagman passed away?
About six months later. The shoot was such a great day for me because, we shot the In the Tub photo within the regular hour, and then he asked me what else I was doing that day. I had no plans, so he asked if I would shoot a couple of promo shots for his passion project – Solar Energy. I spent the entire day shooting with him.
Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Don’t be afraid to ask even the most unlikely people if they will shoot with you …and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
We could spend a whole other Feature focusing on your work as a Director, but for now, would you mind sharing how you became interested in directing television and film?
I started in the biz as a child actor, but was always intrigued with what everyone else was doing on set. I never went to my dressing room – instead I spent my days asking each department what they did and why. I guess as a kid I was self-training myself to be a Director, and when the opportunity arose for me to actually Direct, I jumped behind the camera, and left acting behind.
One of the beautiful women featured in In the Tub just happens to be your lovely wife, Victoria Pratt. You have also directed Vicky in a number of film and television appearances. As a Photographer/Director, how much of a different dynamic is it, to work with someone close to you?
Victoria and I collaborate really cohesively. We met when I cast her in a series, and at the time she was one of the top fitness models in the world, so she really knew the stills camera, and how to work it. She quickly learned how to work magic on screen for the movie camera. I’d work with her on every project if I could.
Obviously it works for the two of you, as you have been successful. Any advice for those who may be looking to work with a spouse/partner or family member?
Couples working together either works or doesn’t – I’m not sure why. I guess for us the biggest thing is that we have a huge mutual respect for each other’s artistic talents. I rarely think when I am on set I am working with My Wife – I just feel like I am collaborating with a very talented actress.
You’ve worked on a number of successful TV shows, recently having directed BBC America’s series Orphan Black and Copper, Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, Showtime’s Spartacus, as well as an upcoming new original series for Stars Network, Black Sails. Where can we look for you next?! Any other projects you can share?
I am currently working on a really cool sexy new series called Bitten based on a series of books about a female werewolf. I also am in Post Production on a Feature Film I directed, co-wrote and co-produced called Death Valley. It is a really twisted Noir style Indy movie that was made with best friends and family.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us to know!
I am dyslexic – but I remember almost every frame of footage I shoot.
Tj‘s In the Tub is available for pre-order on Amazon. You can catch up with TJ and his work through his Social Media outlets on Facebook, Twitter, and Flicker! Read on to find out a few more interesting tidbits about this amazingly talented guy!
Fast Five – Questions for Fun!
Favorite guilty (non-food) pleasure? Flickr
Happiness in one word? Work
Favorite food indulgence? Tequila!