For celebrity photographers who have lived their entire lives in Pittsburgh, things are finally looking up. After years of hoping to get a good shot of local personalities like Ben Roethlisberger or, um, Andy Van Slyke, they now find themselves at large in Gotham City, as Christopher Nolan carries out location shoots for his third Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises,' in their zip code.
Suddenly, local photographers have something everyone wants: bootleg photos of the much-hyped production. I spoke to Jared Wickerham, a 22-year-old Pittsburgh resident who has produced most of the 'Dark Knight Rises' photos that you've seen floating around the Internet, and he gave us a glimpse inside his world staking out the set.
Moviefone: What possessed you to take pictures of 'The Dark Knight Rises' set?
Jared Wickerham: I did a lot of skateboarding when I was younger, so running into the police was pretty normal. So that's probably what got me into this. I shoot mostly sports, but the Pirates were out of town that weekend so I thought, What better way to spend my weekend than outside making a few pictures? But I honestly didn't know it would be this big as far as the hype and the importance of those images to a lot of people: to see those different spoilers or whatever.
Did anyone on set offer any resistance to you taking photos?
The first woman I ran into, one of the P.A.s, I think, said, "You can't take pictures here." It was on the sidewalk and I said, "I know my rights. I'm on a public sidewalk." So she went up to one of the security guards and came back and just decided to stand in front of me. Since I shoot sports, I had a nice, long lens, so I just took a few steps back and shot around her.
So that's their security plan? To just stand in front of you?
The next one was another P.A. who was about my age -- I'm 22 -- and he just came up to me and said, "I hate to do this, but I've got to stand in front of you. It has come down from my boss that I have to stand in front of you." I ran into the location manager -- I think his name was James -- and he also came up to me and said, "I need you to stop taking pictures." I said, "Well, I'm on the sidewalk, I'm in a public area, I know my rights." That's pretty much what I told everybody, "I know I'm within my rights." As soon as I say that, they're like, "Yeah, you are."
So they are aware what you're doing?
I was able to get the pictures that I did with my bigger lens, but it wasn't a secret that I was shooting. That's for sure.
Were you surprised by how open the set is for such a secretive production?
Pretty surprised. But, at the same time, this week they're shooting downtown [as opposed to the suburb of Oakland], and that's obviously a little harder to get to because they have the entire streets covered in snow and you have all of these skyscrapers.
Did they try to block everyone who was shooting?
They gave me a harder time about it. There were definitely other people there shooting, but they tried to say that I couldn't shoot there, but other people with slightly smaller cameras could. The people with more unobtrusive equipment definitely got away with it.
Why have your set photos gotten the most attention?
There were a lot of people with their own personal cameras and video cameras, so it wasn't quite as exclusive as I guess I would have liked. But I think I did pretty well. I think being able to put them out first -- you know, I put them out at lunchtime on a Sunday and went back to shooting. I think the Batman stuff was bigger than the Bane stuff was, from what I've noticed. There were only a couple of us shooting -- there was another photographer from Splash News there -- so there were a couple different versions of everything.
How much time did you spend hanging out near the set?
I was there Saturday and Sunday, the 30th and 31st, and Saturday I was there from noon until about 8 p.m. And Sunday I was there from about 8:30 a.m. until about 8:30 p.m. In the morning it didn't take very long because they wanted to make it look gloomy by using the shadow that was cast in front of the building. Once they had a scene set up, they'd do a scene for a minute or a minute and a half -- the fighting scene would take maybe a minute -- and they'd do that five or six times.
What photo has proved the most popular?
The photo of Bane on the left-hand side with his goons on the right-hand side as he's standing on top of the tumbler -- that was actually the most viewed.
How do the rights to the photos work?
I keep the copyright and I make royalties on the images when they're licensed through Getty. When they're licensed through me, then I get 100 percent of that.
How much are you making per photo?
It depends on size, circulation, the views that a website gets and how big the photo is. So something like MTV that uses a quarter-page photo in an article, I would guess maybe a few hundred dollars for that picture. It just depends. An MTV license could be $200 or $300 for that image, while Perez Hilton or TMZ could license it for more or less, depending on the traffic.
Do you feel guilty? Do you feel you shouldn't be doing this?
I honestly don't see why I should feel any guilt. I was just doing my job as a photojournalist to make the best images possible on a story that was -- and still is -- huge in Pittsburgh. All of the local newspapers and TV stations covered it and continue to with the filming moved from Oakland to Downtown. I was making those pictures from the sidewalk -- a public place -- just like everyone else. The scenes I photographed were all shot out in the open in public. I was just lucky that I could get closer to the action because I cover mostly sports as a freelance photographer and own a large telephoto lens.
The folks who I spoke to who were working for the movie as part of the crew were all very understanding once I stated that I knew my rights and that I was on public property. They all were just told from their bosses to tell me to quit taking pictures but none of them actually made it into a big deal. All of them, including the local police officer on duty, were well aware of the laws and that what I was doing was perfectly legal. They had areas where the public could stand, watch, and take pictures, so that's what I did.
After the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit passed, more and more movies have been filming here in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. Any movie that comes into town is a big deal to the residents living here, but Batman is probably the biggest and most hyped movie you'll see filmed here. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph a movie I grew up watching myself. And I think I made a few nice images. So hopefully my weekend spent outside in the gorgeous weather covering this big event that happened to take place in my neighborhood, will help me pay the bills.
(All photos courtesy of Jared Wickerham, Getty Images.)
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