Few television shows ever achieve the 300th episode milestone. On February 9, 2016 NCIS not only accomplished it, they did so while being the most viewed television show in the world 2 years in a row! I am humbly honored to have been the photographer for 301 of those episodes. 301 you ask? I was involved with the spin off from JAG also. I have been involved with many shows that have achieved the 100th episode, and a few that reached the 200th milestone. 300, that’s a first for me. Allow me to share some thoughts and statistics with you. The U.S. viewership on a Tuesday night for a new NCIS episode, on average is 17 million viewers. The average worldwide viewership is around 52 million. Now that number is not for Tuesday night alone, our international viewers watch NCIS on different nights and also depending on the country, they may be watching an earlier season. Then you have syndication, you know USA Network every night. That’s a lot of viewers enjoying “Gibbs” and the gang. Our own Scott Bourne has said “No Photographer’s work is seen by more people than Mike’s work worldwide.”
Alright here are some fun statistics: I have shot as many as 2000 images in one day, as few as 30 images in a day and an average of 400 images on one day of production. I have been on set as long as 16 hours and as little as 30 minutes, depending on what it is scripted and needs to be shot. It takes the cast and crew 8 days to shoot 1 episode, when aired is 43 minutes long with titles and credits. Think about this for a moment…12 hours a day times 8 days equals 96 hours on average to shoot 1 episode. We will shoot for 2.23 hours to capture 1 minute of what you’ll see on TV. Then there’s another 20 days of Post. Editor gets about 3 days, then the Director’s cut gets about 4 days, then you have sound, dubbing, foley, music, spotting, colorizing and all that stuff they do in dark rooms. The shortest turnaround from completion to airing was 9 days, the longest was 60 days all depending where we are in the season. There are about 100 members of cast and crew on the set when shooting on average. Now allow me to share some more of my photos over the years. This is probably my favorite shot of Mark Harmon. He knew my camera was on him, and he kept the horse still till I got the shot. One of the most lovable characters is “Abby”. She is always a blast to shoot, she brings such energy to the set. She is also a super friend and prayer warrior with me.
Michael Weatherly who plays “Very Special Agent Dinozzo” is so witty you need to have your camera set and ready. You never know when or what he’s going to do. When my boys are visiting the set, Michael will always make time for them and make them feel special.
David McCallum is a fine Scotsman who loves my camera and allows me to shoot anytime. We have shot a few personal projects together.
Let me share some of the F/X shots with you. These guys keep you on your toes with the toys they bring to the set. The show is shot in Santa Clarita, California and takes place in Virginia. It could be 85° outside and we need snow, call in F/X. NCIS has had a lot of awesome special guest stars. Here’s a shot of Mark Harmon and Jeri Ryan chatting for a moment while the crew “turns around”.
Ralph Waite played “Jackson Gibbs”, the dad of “Jethro Gibbs”, when I took this shot. It was fun because the 2 of them were just horsing around so much it was playful watching 2 established stars having such a great time together. I was blessed they used my photo to honor Ralph Waite on his passing back in 2014.
Another powerful image that received a lot of comments on social media was this image of a homeless vet and his dog. The show wanted to feature the photos of photographer Lee Jefferies on homeless vets. So I needed to match the look of our character to Jefferies’ work. The episode was very powerful.
Let me share this final image of real soldiers turned stuntmen/actors with me. I’m the one with the Canon ;).
My next milestone will be on NCIS: Los Angeles’ 200th episode next season.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my milestone with you.
That’s a wrap, fade to black.
Mike is best known for his work on countless popular shows that are household names: CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, JAG, Boston Legal, Pretty Little Liars to name a few. His current projects are NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles.
Mike is a Trainer for KelbyOne, and Los Angeles Center of Photography. Mike is also a member of the International Cinematographers Guild.
You can view Mike’s work at 4stills.com, and follow him on Facebook at 4Stills.