‘SCANDAL’ : Behind The Scenes At Life After The White House Inspired Styled Shoot At The Berkeley Church With Love Fete Weddings & Events
I love the idea you have worked out of using the characters from the TV show Scandal, projecting them forward on the show timeline and from that creating your own narrative/style shoot in the form of a wedding for them. In many ways it could fall under the immensely popular genre offan fiction – written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc. When did this idea spark for you?
I’ve been a long time fan of the show since it started so the idea of an “Olitz Wedding” was always in the back of my mind. The chemistry and passion between these two characters is beyond intense. I really started putting my thoughts down during the spring hiatus of the show this year when it was off for a couple months and I was going through a bit of withdrawal. Ha!
After speaking with some colleagues about the benefits of Styled Shoots along with the anticipation of the new season, I thought it was time to put the plan into action.
There is a wonderful understanding of the Berkeley Church venue in this shoot in that its best qualities, natural lighting, fireplace setting, upper mezzanine alcove are utilized. What was your process for staging the location of each set of shots in the venue?
I was familiar with the Berkeley Church layout prior to the shoot and knew which areas I thought I wanted to use. However, Brian Reilly was the ultimate creative genius behind choosing which spots would work best based on lighting and setting the mood. We did a walkthrough right before we began…I told him my vision/ideal spots and why I chose those locations and he told me what he thought would/wouldn’t work based on angles/lighting, etc. There are so many hidden gems of beauty at the Berkeley Church to choose from!
The inspiration for the colour palette was described as the following: “The shoot was designed to be an intimate affair inspired by Fitz & Liv’s “Life after the White House” in their Vermont home where Presidential Black tie meets Rustic Elegance. The warm neutral colour palette of blush & winter whites with gold & black accents is reminiscent of Liv’s signature look.” What was your process for using these inspirational influences that helped you deliver such a succinct and immaculate style for the shoot?
Aside from just being a regular viewer and knowing Pope’s signature style, I really took the time to read up on and watch some of the interviews with Scandal’s costume designer, Lyn Paolo, and took cues from those. Pope has a very business professional look that is always classy with a feminine spin. Blush isn’t a colour used too often on the show for Pope but when it comes to Fitz, Liv has a soft spot and I wanted to bring out the “girly” side of Pope without discrediting her business savvy style. We see her as a powerful, no nonsense “Fixer” while she’s working but we also see her more sultry side when she’s with Fitz. There life together in Vermont is a more laidback, cozy cottage vibe and that’s where they both feel most relaxed. However, Fitz is still the President so there still needed to be a touch of regal class. I wanted to bring all of that together.
The models in the shoot exude tremendous personality and expression that project the narrative of the show. How did you achieve this?
Two amazing individuals who just seemed to “click” and were willing to go above and beyond for amazing shots, an amazing photographer and an incredible hair/makeup duo were the key ingredients here! There was also a lot of Google stalking & Youtube clips of the show/characters while at the shoot to help give a frame of reference for Jen & Naomi of Blush Pretty to base the look off of, for Brian to get a sense of the feel of the show and for models Olivia & Michael to get all the little “Olitz” nuances. Add a little creative direction throughout the shoot and a dash of luck and voila! A fun, easygoing atmosphere & some music playing in the background might have helped also!
In your experience what are the priorities that couples express for their wedding in terms of “the look” and feel of their day?
I always stress to couples during our meetings that the priorities of their wedding are determined by them and only them. What might be a top priority to one couple may be at the bottom of another couples list. I suggest breaking down their budget in terms of putting the most money towards what’s important to them as opposed to what a magazine or book told them to do. I also take the time to listen and get to know their likes, dislikes, hobbies, their personalities as individuals and as a couple. From there, the style & feel of their wedding is born! Often times, they are able to think outside the box of what they thought they wanted. It moves from cookie cutter to a meaningful experience for them and their guests that is personalized to who they are. If the wedding is a true reflection of who the couple is, they will be comfortable and so will their guests.
For me, weddings are about making and creating memories. My personal top picks for “priorities” are (in no particular order) Food, Music, Photography and, of course, at bare minimum, a Certified Day of Wedding Coordinator to help bring their vision and hard work together. Was the food good? Was the party amazing? Did the day run smoothly? Do we have awesome pictures that we are proud to look back on? Those are the things people will remember!
Recently Kerry Washington along with fashion retailer The Limited and Scandal’s costume designer, Lyn Paolo, launched a line of clothing inspired by the same ABC drama Scandal. There is such a genre crossover right now between entertainment media and retail. How have you seen this reflected in the event industry?
The crossing over of styles, themes & trends between entertainment, home décor, fashion, events, etc is something that has been going on for a while. But I think the huge power & influence of Social Media has made everything more accessible now. Before, you just had TV & magazines, now you have things like Pinterest & Instagram. One tweet about your favourite characters outfit and the producers or celebs themselves are tweeting you back telling you where they got it or how it was done! It’s making the event industry have to be more creative! Courtney from Sarah Houston & I chose the dresses with careful consideration of today’s hottest wedding fashion while keeping in mind Liv’s signature look.
You have couples coming to you who all want similar themes or the latest trends they saw on Pinterest or their favourite shows/movies and, as an Event Planner, you have to be able to help bring that to life without just regurgitating what’s already out there. You have to be able to take a popular theme and put a new spin on it. New clients with new personalities and visions = fresh creative expression and twists even within a similar, popular theme. It’s no longer just traditional one-size fits all…people are having fun with their weddings & events. It’s a challenge at times but I love it!
The character of Liv is always “handling things” in her TV personality. When the characters of Liv and Fitz held up the beautifully framed “It’s Handled” picture in the style shoot it became particularly relevant to the other audience and that is of other couples about to get married. I think it spoke to the aspiration of being able to let go on your big day and feel like all the details are handled. How does this resonate with you as an event planner?
As a Wedding Planner, I ultimately want all my clients to feel at ease on their wedding day. Clients trust us to take care of one of the most important days of their new lives together. There are SO many things that do and can happen behind the scenes that no one would ever realize. The goal is for your clients and their guests to feel like everything went off without a hitch as you hide the fire extinguisher behind your back from all the fires you had to fight all the while staying cool, calm & collected with a comforting smile on your face. Wedding Planners are the “Olivia Pope’s” of the Wedding world you could say!
Which picture from the shoot makes you the happiest?
Ooooo…tough question! This is like choosing a favourite child!
I must admit, when getting these pictures back I was giddy like a schoolgirl! So much time and hard work goes into these things and to see it actually come to fruition is amazing!
If I had to choose, my top picks would be: the close-up shot of the invite, the cropped pic of them holding the popcorn as she’s gazing lovingly at him, the wide angle shot where you can see everything from the cake, stationery, tablescape & the couple kissing in the background, the pic on the couch in the mezzanine alcove where they’re both staring directly into the camera with their red wine & scotch, the “almost” kiss shot where he’s gracefully cupping her face, and the pic of them through all the candles.
Each picture has a great sense of composition and tension in it. How did you and the photographer achieve this?
Everything had a place and significance to it. This was planned out before the shoot. I wanted everything to be authentic to the show & to the characters. The amazing details on the invite suite and menu by inviting Creativity were true to character. The apples used in the centerpiece were a nod to Vermont’s official State Fruit. The use of red wine, scotch, popcorn, roses. The “hi” on the favour tags, the “It’s Handled” frame and the hourglass representing “One Minute” are all things said repeatedly throughout the show. Brian was able to capture all these details beautifully. For the “Gladiators” they saw the little touches and got why certain things were used right away. For those who aren’t fans, I wanted them to take away some inspiration.
As for the couple shots, there was a lot of narrating going on throughout the shoot. While everyone was on the same page of the big picture vision, Brian knew I could recite & pick out details from the show at the drop of a hat so he had me literally describing the story and the feel with each set of shots. I described what they might be saying to each other, the way they would look at each other, I played music in the background that was reflective of the type of shots we needed, etc. While doing that, you could see the models sort of get into character. Also, Brian has this amazing ability to make everyone feel at ease, feel sexy, feel powerful in their own skin. This helped with transitioning from being playful to those more intense pictures. The atmosphere in the empty Berkeley Church and the raw, rustic beauty helped tie everything together.
Much like a real wedding the photographer has to understand the desired look and feel of the event. How did you get in sync with the photographer on the desired look of the shoot?
I knew Brian’s style would fit perfectly with a “Scandal” style shoot. He’s a self- proclaimed “master at visual storytelling” and this shoot was all about character development and creating a narrative. Although he’d never seen the show prior to the shoot (I had to have a little chat with him about his choices…no worries though, he’s a Gladiator now) I was confident that he could draw blood out of a stone. I’ve also worked with him before and know he likes to step outside of the box in terms of getting those creative, untraditional, powerful shots so it was a no-brainer. We work well together and, as you can see from the gorgeous photos, he knocked it out of the park!
How did you pick your team of vendors to work on the shoot?
I wanted to work with vendors whose personalities & company style were similar to my own…laidback & down to earth, a passion for what they do, amazing talent and creative eye, willing to step outside the box, open to creative collaboration and super easy to work with. Some I had worked with previously so I knew they would be able to pull off the look I was going for. And the others are companies that I’ve wanted to work with but didn’t have the chance yet. When I approached them with the idea and design proposal, they were all eager to participate and made the process super smooth and fun.
The show uses the analogy of the members on Olivia’s team as being gladiators fighting for the truth of their clients. How would you make an analogy with this to the event industry?
The vendors that a couple hires should be seeking the “truth of their clients” also. We are their “wedding team” and are all working for a common cause. Everyone hired should have the best interest of the couple at heart and advocate for the client’s vision. This is why it’s so important for clients to meet and “click” with their vendors before hiring them. You spend so much time (and not to mention, money) on your big day, why not work with people you’re compatible with?! The wedding’s success is a collaborative effort.
How did the popcorn come into play? It’s a very nice touch, referencing watching the show at home?
Why thank you! I wish I could take full creative credit for that added detail but, truth be told, Olivia Pope’s snack of choice on the show is popcorn & red wine. It was only fitting to use them as part of the shoot.
What was the trickiest part of the planning process on this shoot?
The trickiest part was bringing all the details and “Scandal” nuances together in a way that wasn’t too in your face or kitschy but was still true to the show & characters. Although I had been thinking about the shoot for a while, I only approached the other vendors about a month & a half before the shoot. It seems like a lot of time but, in the middle of wedding season, this was very tricky to pull off. Lucky for me, everyone was on the same page from the get go so things ran super smooth.
Can you give a sneak peek to what is coming for your next style shoot?
This shoot was more sultry and mysterious. I think bright, vibrant & whimsical is where I might go for my next styled shoot. If I told you anymore, I’d have to hire Pope & Associates to swear you to secrecy though…
Styling, Design & Coordination: Love Fete Weddings & Events
Photography: Brian Reilly Photography
Venue: The Berkeley Church
Hair & Make-up: Blush Pretty
Red Wine Glasses: Crate & Barrel
Plates & other accessories: Home Sense & Target / DIY
details: Love Fete Weddings & Events via Creative Bag (www.creativebag.com)