I had to be on the Sony lot at 6:30AM, which means I got up at 4:30 (okay, 4:39--I hit snooze once). It was dark and my pet birds were looking at me all crazy, not saying a word (which seldom happens).
I left home at 5:30, and got to Sony at about 6:05, parked my car, and found soundstage #19. Funny thing--as I got onto the lot I began having flashbacks! When I booked my first commercial ("Milk", Nov. 2005) I was working as the credentials coordinator for the Vibe Awards, and I was SO stressed out. The news came as a welcome sign that there was light at the end of the tunnel. So I remembered that as I walked to where I would shoot my 7th commercial since that time. What a difference a day makes.
I got my makeup done by Katinka from Amsterdam, and since my spot was selling "organic cotton pajama pants" I didn't require much makeup. In order to fill time, Katinka and Isaac (the makeup guy from LA, with really great hair) gave me a hand massage. It was wonderful.
There was some back-and-forth regarding the top I would wear in the spot. When I left the fitting on Saturday they had me wearing a deep-orange spaghetti-strap tank that went well with my skin. Apparently that was out since they put another woman in red ("how come they didn't change HER clothes? My stuff was cute, lol?") So the three choices were now: an olive-green tank in the same style as the orange one, a peach tee that made me look kinda frumpy, and whose only saving grace was that I look great in peach, and a mint-green tee just like the peach one. Not feelin' it. At all. As soon as I walked on set, I earned the nickname "minty". Not hot.
After several rounds of "try this on" and "let me see that other one again", the clients (very nice people--I mean that) decided on the olive green tank, which was the first thing they saw. LOL Always happens.
Right here I'm gonna digress a little bit. I don't know who all of my readers are--some of you are probably even more industry-savvy that I am becoming, but for those among us who don't already know, let me break it down for you:
it is an exercise in futility and frustration to look at people in magazines and in the media and use them as a gauge for how you should look. Few of us (yes, US) can look that way without a whole team of folks poking, prodding, double-stick taping, stitching them into their garments, and touching up their makeup at every turn. It's cool to see the transformation happen. I give makeup and wardrobe props BIG time. (Not hair. I do my own hair.)
Anyhoo-- I was all made-up and wardrobed, I filled out my contract and went back to the set. Hurry up and wait. After all of the focusing, lighting, and decision-making, there were a couple of line changes. Nothing too extensive. Then came time to rehearse.
This was my first time in a speaking role in a commercial. At first I was a bit unsure, and after a couple of rehearsals I was revved up & ready to roll. The director (Brett Simon) told me he liked the element of "shyness" I had at first. (Me, shy?? Hahaha!!) I rehearsed several more times, and got some alternate lines (so they could shoot the spot in different ways and decide which ones they like during the edit). Then the director said rehearsal was over (by which time I had forgotten we were rehearsing) and all of a sudden it was for real.
We shot for the next 3 hours.
For a long time I've held the belief that theatre acting is more difficult than television or film acting because when you're onstage and people have paid good money to come see you, you have one shot at giving them a good show, whereas when you're working with film (or even moreso with DV), you can do it over and over again. Personally, by working on Boston Legal, and this experience today, I feel that neither is inherently "easier". Each medium takes a different type of expertise. Shooting rather than acting live takes a different level of endurance than I am used to. After 2 hours of standing barefoot on a concrete floor (covered with brown paper, but concrete nonetheless), my feet and knees hurt. I was so glad the lights warmed the place up b/c it was freezing when I got there, and all I had on were pajama bottoms and a little tank top. I was tired b/c I got up earlier than anybody should ever have to, but because we were all in this together, and we were all working for the same thing, each of us had to do our job (and it is a J-O-B, even if it is my "dream job"). It just so happens that my job requires me to be in front of the camera.
The last shot of the day was of my (dancing) feet. I have surgery scars on my feet, so..."makeup!!" When Isaac got done with me I was ready to get 'em insured with Lloyds of London.
After the shoot, I said "thank you" to all of the really nice people that I got to work with, and headed back to the dressing room to get back into my own clothes. One of the clients (client=Wal-Mart exec) followed me out and asked if they could all take a picture with me. One of the people from the ad agency said she would e-mail it to me. I'll post it when I get it.
Since the spot is for "Earth Week", it will start airing in 2-3 weeks, and it won't air for very long (but hopefully it will come back next year). My name is "Jenny" in the spot.
After I was done, I called my mother on the ride home to let her know how it went. I was feeling really tired, so instead of going into the NAACP office (I'm still working on sending trophies to the winners of the Image Awards) I went home, ate a sandwich, took a shower (I had makeup and tape all over me) and slept for 7 hours. I woke up feeling sick, but in hindsight, I thing it might just be dehydration and fatigue.
I'm a bit chattier tonight than I thought I would be, but lately a lot of people have been asking me questions about what happens on a set, and for all sorts of advice. Maybe if I am more detailed, this can be a resource for them. When we decide to commit to "show-business" as a career, many of us (myself included) first approach it from a point of artistry. At some point, however, in order to build a career, we have to understand that it is a business, and while we may be artistic, we have to know how to brand and sell what we each have as individuals. Not "sell out" but market our unique talents and abilities so we can pay our bills, fund artistic efforts, and help those around us. This is a J-O-B. And the more I work, the more I learn, and the more I enjoy it.
Alright, I'm done.