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Rest In Peace Pierre Vinet UPDATED with words from Elijah Wood and Colin Hanks

Update: Hey guys. Quint here again. I've received some remembrances about Pierre from his collaborators on different projects. My original (and lengthy) obituary for the stills photographer Pierre Vinet is below if you need more information on the man. First up is Colin Hanks who worked with Pierre on Peter Jackson's King Kong:
that was a really wonderful piece you did about Pierre. I had not spoken with him since the days of Kong, but that man was definitely a big part of what made that day to day experience so special for all involved. his energy, enthusiasm, his sly chuckle made him a living breathing character the likes of which you would only find in written stories. "My Friend" was a rare breed, and I don't just mean a French Canadian in a Montreal Canadiens jersey....cause that is hardly rare...but one all the way over in New Zealand? As a hockey fan that was the thing I noticed. As soon as I saw that I knew he was going to be someone I could at least talk to. I was wrong. We didn't just talk. We laughed. We bonded. We would talk about photography. I used to have a tradition of trying to convince still photographers I work with to develop my film for me, to just throw mine in with the rest. Most would do so begrudgingly. Pierre did it with no questions asked... even though he shot digital. And upon getting my pics back, he took a look at a few of them and gave me some encouragement, along with a good pitch for going digital. Most still photographers rarely show you their work. Pierre was the exact opposite. He loved to show everyone what he was working on. Whether they be crazy Esher-like mind warped like the ones you showed, or more straight forward shots. And yes, I saw quite a few photo's of Naomi. I think it's fair to say that it possible Pierre shot more of Naomi that Peter did. I am saddened to hear of his passing. He was a good man, who loved life, his work, and good laugh. "I tell you my friend...." he will be missed.
And then here's Elijah Wood, who spent the better part of 4 years working with Pierre on the Lord of the Rings movies:
I'll never forget the first time that I met Pierre Vinet. So many of us had flown to New Zealand to embark on a journey unlike anything we'd ever experienced. I was introduced to Pierre as our on set stills photographer, and I greeted him with great excitement, telling him that he had the "best job on the film!" His job was that of observer and documentarian for the process of bringing Tolkien's world to life and that unique perspective thrilled me. To be the one to capture this incredible adventure that we were all taking part in and the brilliant artistry and passion of everyone involved, was a privileged opportunity. His enthusiasm and energy was genuinely infectious. "This is ze poster!", he would frequently say, his excitement for the images he was capturing, overflowing. Pierre always made everyone around him smile, no matter how difficult the shoot became or how tired any of us were. The familiar mischievous glint in his eyes, with eyebrows dancing, and lip-pursed chuckle served to inspire anyone around him. I remember often imitating his french canadian accent and signature phrases and chuckles. A true original character. I loved being called into his photo studio set-up for portraits and ideas that he had. He'd grab you and run you over to a blacked out room with his equipment, on a break from filming. His simple portraits outside the context of the set environment, are still some of my favorite images from the films. It was there in his world where, through his lens, he brought the characters that we were playing to life. I hadn't heard that he was sick until I recently visited Wellington and found out just before he passed away. It's still difficult to process. The world has certainly lost a beautiful photographer, but more importantly; a friend, character, family member, eccentric, mad man, husband, and a true light that shone on everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Thanks guys. I might have one or two more remembrances to post before I put this one to bed. Stay tuned.

Quint here with a quick update. Yesterday I received emails from Pierre's wife, Marjory, and his sister Diane, both very complimentary towards the article and the kind words in the talkbacks below. Majory asked me to pass along some info on Pierre's passing. He died of Mesothelioma, the cancer born of exposure to asbestos. Thousands die every year from this completely avoidable disease. Pierre himself never knew where he was exposed to asbestos, but guessed it was in the late '60s to early '70s as he worked many odd jobs around Montreal. The dormancy of the disease is 30-50 years, so it hasn't peaked. Marjory also wanted us to know that a camera did go with Pierre. I've heard from Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood and Colin Hanks about Pierre and expect to have some words from them in the next few days. I'll update the article as they come in. I'm also hoping to get some new stills of and by Pierre. Stay tuned. The original obit is below:

Hey, guys. Quint here. You probably don’t know the name Pierre Vinet, but you’ll recognize his work, which in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. Pierre was an onset still photographer, which isn’t a much celebrated position on a film crew and one that doesn’t have a rabid fan following like actors, directors and even some writers, composers and producers have. The fact that you will recognize this shot,

or this one,

or this one,

proves that Pierre rose above many in his field. Pierre was Peter Jackson’s still photographer starting on Braindead and stayed with him all the way through to King Kong. He also shot the stills for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Virgin Suicides, Willard and the John Travolta Scientology cheesefest Battlefield Earth. I got word last night that he passed away after a year and a half long battle with cancer. He didn’t tell many of his close friends, so it’s no surprise I was completely in the dark. When I first visited New Zealand to visit the final round of pick-ups on LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING I was put in the very fortunate position of observing film history as it was being recorded. Thanks to Peter’s appreciation of Ain’t It Cool News and my work on it I was able to sit back and spend 2 months watching them work. In that time I got to know a lot of the crew well. Being Kiwis they were all incredibly friendly, laid back and charming, so it was easy for me to feel at home. But one guy stood above the rest, a loud, crazy French-Canadian wielding a big camera with a giant lens. That was Pierre Vinet. The dude’s sense of humor was right in line with mine… meaning filthy and questionable at best and we got along from moment one. I remember sitting in one of the minor stages of Stone Street Studios in Wellington as they were filming pieces of the Shelob’s Lair sequence and suddenly hearing Johnny Cash blaring in between set-ups. I looked over at Pierre’s set-up, a cart with a Mac laptop, a few dozen portable hard-drives and all sorts of cases housing lenses, and there he was pumping his eyebrows up in down and nodding his head to the laptop, iTunes playing Johnny Cash. “For you!” he said. I asked why? “You are from Texas!” I couldn’t argue with that. If you’ve read anything about filmmaking you know that sets are considered very boring places. I don’t think so, personally, but most who work in the business are shocked at how much I enjoy watching film being made. It’s still magical to me after all these years. Even so, I’ve spent 4 months on Peter Jackson’s sets… 2 on Rings and 2 on Kong, and that means a lot of downtime. It was in these moments that my friendship with Pierre grew. I remember once he told me a story about working on Braindead. There was almost no money in that picture and certainly not enough for a still photographer. Peter could afford to hire Pierre, but couldn’t afford the film for his camera. So, what Pierre ended up doing was taking the short ends (meaning the left over film stock on a roll that goes through the camera… usually when there’s not enough left for the next take they’ll switch out, leaving a dozen feet give or take of unexposed 35mm) and using that as his film stock instead of buying rolls of regular 35mm. Another time, on King Kong, a friend of mine was with me and he had the biggest crush on Naomi Watts’ stand-in. I couldn’t blame him… she was adorable and sweet to boot. When I mentioned this to Pierre he got a little twinkle in his eye, the mischievous look that I’ll always associate with Pierre and maybe Willy Wonka, and plotted a way to introduce the two. “She is my little friend!” he exclaimed and began his devilry. Masterfully he brought her over to our group and like magic we melted away leaving the two of them to talk. My friend hated me for instigating that awkward situation and he never asked her out, but that story is Pierre. He was dedicated to people he considered his friends and went the extra mile for them. And boy was he in love with Naomi Watts. He loved photographing her and within minutes of my first day on the Kong set he brought me over to his computer, swore me to secrecy and showed me a lot of stills he had taken, fawning not over his work, but over Watts’ beauty. He considered her like a classic film actress, one who just took the air out of the room when she walked in it. It was like talking to a 12 year old who was in love with his teacher. Next time you watch King Kong keep an eye out for the newspaper photographer who climbs up on top of Kong’s body at the end of the movie to get his shot. That’s Pierre, a sly nod from Peter as Pierre probably would climb on top of a monster to get the shot he needed. I’ll also share a picture Pierre took of me, my girlfriend at the time and good friends one day on the Kong visit. He just came up to us and said he wanted us to come outside. On the way out he grabbed Jack Black and proceeded to pose us in various ways. Pierre took a series of ridiculous photos of us, this one my favorite:

Not only was Pierre a fun guy to hang out with and a true artist at his craft, but his passion for photography was worn on his sleeve. He loved his job, he loved tweaking his shots in photoshop… sometimes to be breathtakingly gorgeous, sometimes to be hilariously ugly. He did a series of crew photos on Water Horse, I think, where he took everyone’s picture and made them into ogre-like caricatures. Here’s an example of Pierre playing around, this time with Jack Black from Kong:

The last time I saw Pierre was on The Water Horse set summer of 2006. I was in New Zealand for a straight up get-away, non-work trip and I still ended up on the set of a movie. He was his usual crazy French-Canadian self and it was a pleasant reunion. In the years since we’ve kept in touch via Facebook and an occasional email. He’d sweetly comment on a photo I’d post, complimenting it even if it didn’t deserve it. I’ll remember him for his warmth, for his humor, for his kindness and love. He’d always welcome me with “My friend!” and was free with hugs. He was like a big kid, doing what he loved with the people he loved. I’ve asked some of Pierre’s colleagues to contribute thoughts and stories about the man and the first to respond is Jay Russell, director of The Water Horse, who also provided a great photo of Pierre that I’ll include below. That’ll close out this piece. When I hear back from more I’ll add on to the post. Here’s Jay Russell:
Pierre told me over a year ago that he was battling an illness, but he said, "not to worry, I will be there for your next movie, my friend." Always, "my friend" he would say. True. His work speaks for itself and his powerful images were not just "set stills" they were their own works of art. His work would compliment and supplement the film. Pierre would not just document, he would create. I am heartbroken by his passing. Pierre was the one who always kept me smiling during the roughest moments. And I've never met anyone more excited by the visual image. Sometimes when I'd pick a pretty good shot, Pierre would say, "Thank you, my friend, for that image!" We had much more to do and I will miss him dearly.


Thanks, Jay. Now I’ll leave you with some of Pierre’s work. There’s a personal shot or two, but most of it his film work.













My thoughts are with Pierre’s friends and family. I’ll miss you, my friend. -Quint quint@aintitcool.com Follow Me On Twitter



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