Mike Piscitelli and Serena Williams Train for Flawless Performance
Serena Williams was in the middle of her season, about to hit the court at the US Open, but she had a shoot to do with Mike Piscitelli. They were putting together a spot for Beats by Dre, to show off the physical potential of Beats’ wireless headphones.
Mike had little time with Serena, so he had to make it count. Preparation was the name of the game, and he worked with Serena's trainer to preplan the whole shoot. To get the movement and visual accuracy, he had to know what he would be dealing with when Serena walked in the room, so her trainer was able to help him anticipate action, shapes, and energy. “It was all catered to what we thought would look good visually based off of what she would do naturally,” Mike explains. They even prelit the set to her skin tone and exact physical build so that no time would be wasted on the day. He says, “We knew what we were shooting the day before. We did everything because you have these athletes for such a limited amount of time.”
When Serena came in they started shooting immediately. They went through the work out portion three times and then ran the tennis drills, shooting the whole time. Since Mike had storyboarded the entire spot, he knew what he needed to get. And in those three run-throughs he was able to capture every shot he needed. “It’s very planned and then it’s very run and gun,” Mike says. “She is in the middle of a season, she’s in training mode. She was super nice, but she had to go train. She’s in competitor mode. She made it clear she had to keep moving.”
When asked if anything had happened that surprised him, Mike said No. There is no room for surprises when your subject is Serena Williams, arguably the most famous tennis player in the world. She is an athlete at the top of her game and it requires an unbelievable amount of work to maintain that level. Mike's shoot was to experience and document her athleticism, to show how seamlessly Beats Headphones could fit into a workout with an expert like Serena. It was a technical exercise. Like Serena's form during her weightlifting and drills, Mike had to ensure he got the most result from the least amount of time.
Serena went on to win the US Open a few weeks later.