Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joel Fonseca: the 'product-shot' man

The best part of my job is meeting really interesting and really talented people. And the kind of people i love meeting most, are people who REALLY know their job. people of sheer skill and natural or cultivated talent. One unique individual of many such people that I've met, is Joel sir. The man most of the advertising industry in india would call as the 'product-shot' man. the man is the 'A-team' of product shots!

At first glance - he's a very simple guy. a common man. with a nice big happy paunch, an easily-mistaken-for-goan personality complete with the typical mouchtache and most often wearing his unofficial uniform - a hat with an overflowing cloth, a polo tee, shorts and boots. Once you watch him work - you know that attire is not some fashion statement - its sheer hardworking functionality. He'll crack the funnies, laugh with you, take your suggestions, help you out, listen to directors, help them out, keep working with the same high level of enthusiasm through all the countless takes - but when he knows exactly the scene he wants, he most often gets it right within 3 takes or less. that's an attribute which comes from his experience (to which i shall come later).
the best part is, he does all of this, without once seeming 'all-knowing' or 'overbearing'. which once you know him work - you know that he easily could be.

What's most brilliant is the fact that he has no 'formal' or 'institutionalized' educataion on the job he does. All that he has behind him, is years of hardworking on-the-job experience - and one thing that comes naturally to him: improvisation. Which is what brings him from being a spot-boy on the sets of some big directors to being the one man the industry calls to when in need of a great product/ingredient shot.
FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW: Ingredient/product shots are those tempting little scenes within ads which make you feel the product - whether its temptation, lust, freshness, warmth or even the coolnees of a product. The fresh, cool splash of pepsi, the ooozing chocolate, the showering zestfulness of liril, the chunky wheatgrains in your biscuits - if you've ever felt these on Indian TV, you've most probably felt the work of 'Joel Fonseca'. 
It's amazing to see how at ease he is with all the equipment and gadgets in his 'lab'. Equally interesting is to watch how he knows what material will have what viscosity, will look how on screen, will blend with what colour and will need how fast a frame rate to be best captured - WITHOUT AN ADVANCED DEGREE IN PHYSICS - Which i'm pretty sure you will think such a function needs if you know the demands involved.

"joel sir, we want this to splash and cross on screen"
says a reputed director.
the director has the shot in his mind, but doesn't know how it will happen.
all Joel says is "ho jaayega sir." with his perpetually cool confidence.
15 mins of lots of mixing liquids and a few fountains later - poof - its done!
and it dosent stop there: "color change?" "ho jayega" "more splashy?" "ho jayega" "extra twirl in the liquid?" "ho jayega".... from my experiences with the man, i think even if you ask him to bend the very laws of physics, he'll say "ho jayega"... and get it done too! While somewhere Newton would be twirling in his grave.

His 'lab' pretty much holds the secret of his success. When you enter it there are three things that will almost always catch your eye: Joel working hard at his task, the non-flashy but extremely well equipped workplace AND a wall full of the most important ingredient in this, or any business - people.
The wall of photos of Joel at work with the various crews he's worked with are quite a walk down memory lane. Even today he continues his customary 'photo at the end of the shoot' tradition - capturing all the people he amazes with his adorable nature and hardworking presence.

By all means, truly a man worth meeting. A true gem of a person - Joel Fonseca; the 'Product-Shot' man.

-Pushkaraj Shirke
Discussing a scene with Joel during a shoot.

At the product shoot of the Sunfeast Dark Fantasy ChocoFills ad.
L to R: Zap, Me, Joel, Archana, Gemma, Pooja and Anuj.


  1. Joel is simply great!! He makes your product look better than its best! Must say, Gemma and Joel just make production so stress free!! Loved working with them!!

    @Archana - Nice to see your picture here!! Where is Irfan??? :)


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