Thursday, November 26, 2009

An actor's day on a commercial shoot.

I don't have to leave the apartment till 9am, but I need the hour and a half to wake myself up and eat something and go over my line. Yes, my one line. I do some dive bombs, mouth stretches and tongue twisters in the shower and silently chide myself for warming up as though I'm about to recite three hours of verse in iambic pentameter in front of an audience of thousands.

I leave the house without any makeup on, knowing that if anyone asks me where I am going they'll be appalled to learn I'm about to be on camera.

I get off the bus in Pickering and go to hail for a cab, only to realize there are no cabs to be seen and, of course, why would there be? Everyone in Pickering has a car. I find the number of a cab company and all is well, but even so I'm secretly wishing I'd had the gumption to request a pick-up and drop-off, since we weren't shooting in Toronto.

I arrive on set and I'm early. Great! But then the thing happens that always happens on a commercial set. I'm not sure where to go. There are dozens of men (and, like, two women) walking around taking care of technical things (lights, sound, equipment) and they're really not interested in me until I'm actually on camera.

My first order of business, I know, is to get to the hair and wardrobe area where (usually) two women will clothe me and make me up...but they're always a little disappointed to see me because they're probably working on someone else and there is NEVER enough room in the wardrobe and makeup trailer for the wardrobe and makeup, let alone my whole body and my purse and clothes, and my puffy winter coat and my personality.

I successfully locate the trailer. The unique and exciting thing about this particular wardrobe and makeup trailer is that it also houses the bathrooms which we have to use, as the one inside the house at the shoot location is off-limits. The benefit is that you're working, but you also kind of feel like you're on vacation while using the airplane-esque cramped toilets. The bummer is that all the air from the bathrooms is wafting into the hair and makeup section at all times. I notice that the makeup area actually smells worse than the inside of the bathrooms themselves.

So I'm on set at 10:40am and I find the wardrobe woman and she's not ready for me so I go to the craft truck and make myself useful by eating two miniature cinnamon buns. The craft truck is crowded so I go back and sit myself down on the big makeup chair, determined to be ready when I'm needed.

I meet the lovely woman they've flown in from Montreal to play my character in the French version of the commercial. She is blonde and skinny, just like the other two French-speaking counterparts I've had this year. I'm sure there's something to this, but I don't know what.

Makeup Woman (MW) sits the woman from Montreal down in the makeup chair because she's decided to do her makeup first, and I notice on the call sheet that, while I was called for 11am, they're not intending to have me on set till 2:30pm, after the one-hour lunch break. I settle in for a good hour of magazine-reading (I brought two).

A PA enters the wardrobe truck anxiously, asking, "Is Alison ready to go? We need her on set IMMEDIATELY!" to which MW replies, "No! What are you talking about?"

Turns out they're running ahead of schedule (and how!) so I'm quickly ushered into the makeup chair (I'll read those magazines later) and MW, taking the time to scold me for not plucking my eyebrows ("There's no time to do that now!"), starts furiously applying some base. She also tells me I have very thick bangs, which I know but to which I am not sure how to respond. "Thank you?" "Sorry?" I don't know. It reminds me of things I've heard from makeup people in the past: "Your skin is so weird" and, my personal favourite, "You need to wear more eyeliner or people will wonder what's wrong with you."

While MW styles my hair and paints my face, I try to behave and tilt my head when I'm asked, and sit up straight and look down when I'm supposed to look down and look up when I'm supposed to look up and don't freak out when she puts the eyelash curler on my lashes even though I'm afraid she's going to PINCH MY EYEBALLS and once the Wardrobe Woman (WW) asks me if the cardigan she's holding is the one we'd settled on at the wardrobe call and I turn to say yes and am reprimanded by MW who is in a hurry and doesn't have time for my head to be swiveling willy-nilly.

Finally the PA can't take it anymore because the guys on set have been ready for me for 10 minutes and you CAN'T KEEP THEM WAITING so I am whisked to set which is a small room with a desk and chair and computer.

Sent back to the makeup chair for more bronzing.

Return to set for more lighting.

Sent back to makeup.

Am told I need to get back on set right away.

Sent back to makeup.

Back on set. Realize I don't have my mic on yet.

Friendly guy I recognize from Whiskas shoot puts on my mic.

Back to set. We're ready to shoot.

After several takes, the people from the ad agency decide we need to relocate the tiny bear-shaped paperweight that is being used as set dressing on the desk I'm sitting at. Eight people discuss the proper placement for the bear, and it is decided that it must be moved three inches camera left.

I do several takes in a row, trying to remember all my direction: don't lean in to camera too much, make sure to stop typing before speaking, look into camera before speaking, don't pause too much here, but try to pause a little bit more here, keep that vibrant energy!

I am wrapped for the day after a very quick and painless shoot. The only problem we encountered was my silly wardrobe that kept acting like normal clothing and moving around when I turned towards camera, necessitating a visit from the WW in between every take to add just a little bit more double-sided tape.

Lunch time! Yeah, I know I'm wrapped but I'm not one to turn down a free lunch. The lunch table is covered with warm, delicious catered food and a substantial dessert section, including cheesecake and huge chocolate chip cookies. Important lesson for an actor: do not treat every shoot day like Christmas. There will be more huge slabs of chocolate cake on other lunch tables at future shoots; you don't have to eat everything right now.

Call Pickering cab company to take me to Go Station.

Call Pickering cab company again to see if they've forgotten about me.

Am getting drizzled on and really wish the cab would arrive.

Call Pickering cab company again as producer of commercial walks by, wondering why I'm still there. He takes pity on me and offers me a ride downtown Toronto. I happily accept.

Call Pickering cab company and ask them to cancel my cab. Sense that the dispatcher is pleased he won't be hearing from me anymore.

I'm home and am happy after a fun day of work.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Live at the Revival (February 23rd, 2009)

Hey y'all! My friend J. Sean Elliott just sent me a DVD of my opening act for his "No Refunds Tour" at the Revival last February. Here are two selections from that set: Hone My Craft and The Birthday Song.