Jun 25 2009

my brief close encounter with michael jackson

Published by at 5:37 pm under news

Back in 1987 I was asked to help out as an additional camera for a photographer that was double booked to shoot the Grammy Awards and a Michael Jackson video. Through a series of events I suddenly was promoted to Jackson photographer for the day during the filming of the Smooth Criminal video, the 7th single released from the classic Bad album.

It was my first time on a big Hollywood movie set and this was a major production. There were three cameras rolling and my job was to find the 4th best spot to shoot the production while not getting into the frame of the other cameras.

In preparation for the shoot I was asked to sign a long form that swore me to secrecy (don’t ask me about the coin flip) and made me agree that I would not take any photos as the official set production photographers. I didn’t quite know how I could agree to not take photos AND get photos for the production, but I was a guest and closed my eyes and signed.

As you can see from the video there was a great deal of talent on the set with an equal amount of crew members. Even with this big of a group I was personally introduced to MJ. I mumbled something about growing up in Detroit and we shook hands.

They were filming the opening dance scene the day I was on the set and I remember that the music was very loud (Michael level) and the set was very dark. Jackson was very well prepared and clearly in charge of how he wanted the video to look.

It was fun being a very small part in the history of the creation of big production music videos. RIP Michael Jackson.

There is a wonderful NPR interview of Jackson choreographer Jeffery Daniels on how he worked with Michael on the sterps danced in Smooth Criminal and Bad.

Mark Harmel


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