The Story of a Shoot Pt. 2

(This is the second installment of The Story of a Shoot. If you missed Part 1 of this series, check it out here. We now resume from where we left off: the director has just finished telling a man from the agency that he is going to reshoot a scene. I have just learned how precise everything within a scene needed to be.)

The shoot moves to the living room. In an effort to create a more relaxed feeling on camera, the director tries to make the talent--a mother and her son--comfortable. His voice is more subdued and gentle than before.

Microphones shift into place and the scrim is adjusted for the sun.

“Coffee is probably the second most important thing on a set,” Stephen says, pouring himself a cup.

“What’s the first?” I ask.

“Me,” he says jokingly.

Back to noshing on muffins and granola bars.

While half of the crew snacks, the actors throw their heads back in laughter while sitting in an adlibbed scene and cut is called.

The director leans over and whispers to an assistant.

“I am going to call cut but, we are not actually going to cut to see if we can get a more natural response from the mother and son.” This trick of the trade was the next thing I learned, and it worked better than expected. The laughter was more natural and it didn’t seem so rehearsed.

“CUT!” This time it’s for real.

The son is freshened up by hair and makeup. Gel and brushes. Primping and prodding. Hands running through hair. It actually looks quite relaxing.

Stephen runs the steamer over the curtains. Making them perfect…or as close as humanly possible.

An actor runs lines with the director while lunch comes in.

Back to noshing. This time on small sandwiches.

The director yells action and those of us not involved with the scene must eat our food very quietly. “This is like eating lunch in a library,” Adam points out. Snickers sound around the table followed by hushing.

“Where’s the gaff tape?” The director calls. “We need gaff tape.”

The number one mystery on set always centers on the gaff tape.

Someone else calls for a thunderbolt cable. Cue the sound of zippers and clamps on bags and cases opening.

The director announces “That’s a wrap on this scene!” and the crew claps thunderously. Without a moment to savor those words, it’s on to the next scene. The crew repositions the lighting gear, along with cameras and microphones.

At times, it was quick paced and demanding, but there were also periods that were more laid back. In the midst of it all, I was a fly on the wall for three hours, small and insignificant enough to pass by mostly unnoticed, but large enough to be asked to move out of the field of the camera.

I am glad for the opportunity to walk casually into this kind of ecosystem. I felt like a tourist passing through while the locals went about their days. Like a recreational fisherman bumping elbows with the guys from Deadliest Catch. Like a fifth grade cellist learning his scales from Yo-Yo Ma. I am thankful they were patient with my questions like “What does this do?” when I would point to something simple and obvious.

In the end, I was surprised that it takes such a large team to accomplish something as seemingly small as a 30 second commercial. I also learned that snacks are a must. Lots of snacks.

Thanks for reading my “Story of a Shoot” posts, otherwise known as “a noob takes on a commercial video shoot.” Stay tuned as I tackle other obstacles outside of my field of expertise, like, I don’t know, how to budget for a shoot involving fans the size of houses or how to take incredible footage of wild animals pouncing on prey.