Friday, February 14, 2014

Ups and Downs

A cast of thousands and an even bigger film crew has invaded a suburban supermarket and a singing, dancing, giant hand waving extravaganza is in progress. Yes, it’s a big supermarket TVC, and for better or worse, I’m in it!

Since my Neighbours gig last year there has been nothing except for a handful of TVC auditions, including one for a Target underwear ad, which I declined. For this supermarket audition (my third or fourth for this company) I have to learn some ’choreography’ (think Chuck Berry and Angus Young). I take a while to warm up in the audition but the fourth take of my singing and dancing is obviously a winner as I get the role of the Uncle Toby’s Mum. I’m pleased to be cast in another ad but not sure that I want to be known for acting like an idiot on TV. But, then, I wouldn’t be the first.

I arrive at the unit base at 6 am on the shoot day and am sent to wardrobe. Usually I needlessly lug a suitcase of wardrobe choices and they tell me to wear what I’ve got on, but the one time I don’t, my outfit isn’t right. They give me a top and a necklace, find some shoes and make them fit with insoles, and after make-up I’m ready to go. To breakfast. Then sit around until I am called. Luckily they have real coffee and I wait patiently to order a latte but the guy gives priority to an attractive female cast member, kissing her hand and chatting her up. Just a coffee for me, thanks.

I am paired with a lovely teenage red-head who plays my daughter. It’s her first TVC so I, being the old pro, (that’s what I tell her anyway) show her the ropes. Once the cast is called to take their places at the checkouts, it’s all go. There are two cameras and the crew swarm around us. It’s the first shot of the day and the first day of a four day shoot and people are already stressed. What will probably last about three seconds onscreen, takes about an hour and a half to shoot. I get about fifty different directions from about twenty different directors, or at least that’s how it seems. ‘Start there, look at docket, turn docket around, point at docket, smile crazily at camera, look at docket again and back to camera.’ At the same time I must push a full trolley with one hand. ‘Start here, move to there, now start from there and move to here, no, not so far, now don’t move at all, now move again, now yell ‘ta-da’ after you’ve moved, now forget the movement, just yell ‘ta-da’. Meanwhile the others thrust those giant red hands with the giant pointing fingers ‘down, down’. Their arms are aching and they are trying to keep in time with the music, which is non-existent once ‘action’ is called, and hit a precise spot on a tiny docket. After several takes they decide to remove all the kids (the shot is too crowded) and I am now a childless mum. Wardrobe and make-up make adjustments in between takes. One of the directors says, ‘Haven’t you been shopping before’ as I attempt to hang my handbag on the trolley according to his directions. Yes I have and I carry my bag on my shoulder, if you must know. Which is what I end up doing. (What is it with men telling me how to carry a handbag?) In a later shot when it’s my turn to thrust that big hand up and down, he tells me off for waving it all around the place. Like I can help it. They give me another ‘hand’ with a smaller handle which works better but my knuckles are so sore and swollen at the next day’s shoot my giant hand thrusting days are over. (What a shame) The same director also tells me off when my up-downs are out of time with the others. I’m trying, but I can’t see the rest of the cast and the absence of music makes it tricky. I try harder. I do cheesy grins for the stills (happy, happy faces... now laugh, ha, ha, ha), call out crazy lines and bop up and down the supermarket aisle with my trolley.

I have a half day shoot the next day. This time the location is a nice house in Sandringham (memories of that boat show ad) and after a wait of four hours in the heat (a prop problem apparently), my ‘daughter’ and I are eating porridge, singing, smiling and smiling some more. The man directing us is more relaxed today, which is good. A crew member thrusts the big hand towards my bowl, while I, thankfully, only have to thrust my spoon.

It’s all rather silly, but everyone takes it very seriously. This is advertising and it’s big business. I am a miniature cog in a giant wheel. With a giant red hand.

PS: A week later I do a medical training video, where I counsel people on dementia. There are an awful lot of lines (mostly on auto cue) and the pay's not as good but, thankfully, there's not a giant hand in sight.

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