Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Up in Smoke- part 1

So we were shooting a 30-second commercial for Molly McButter. (You know it has BIG butter taste, without a bit of butter fat-says the jingle which the ad agency spent a mint on,) It was a nice spot- live action with an actress and lots of food shots- bite and smiles, plates of food, 35mm film, we were going to do the edit. Nice. To get the job we had to bid it as one 14-hour day, rather than two easy 10-hour days. In the commercial business crew gets paid time and a half from 10-12 hours, double time 12-14 hours and a double day of pay for more than 14 hours.

Things got off to a rocky start because we couldn’t decide on the correct bowl to hold a bowl of popcorn. By “we” of course I mean the ad agency art director. Our stylist had five of everything (the rule of fivesies) and in this case it was probably too many options for the agency. Finally they decided on a bowl and then it took some time to get the popcorn just right. The bowl had to be brimming with perfectly cooked kernels, and the actress had to be able to hold the bowl at an angle to the camera. If you attempt this move at home, your popcorn will be all over the floor, but thanks to movie magic- and a great prop person- we put a ball of clay in the bottom of the bowl and affixed the popcorn to that. Imagine a popcorn wig placed in the bowl and you get the idea.

Once the great popcorn debate was settled (By the way I can hear Jim saying now, “Look it, the agency was supposed to come to the set the night before to pick out props but they didn’t.” True, but I digress.) We were able to shoot. The scenes with the actress went very easily. I had students on the set and we had enough down time that I could really teach as well. It was a good day.

At about 5:00p.m. we wrapped with the actress and had about five hours of food shots to finish. I was across the studio on the telephone when I saw what looked like smoke coming from the camera. “Couldn’t be smoke,” the dumb filmmaker thought to himself it must be steam coming from the food. Just then a production assistant said, “Hey the camera is on fire!” Sure enough flames were shooting out from this $300,000 camera.

You know when Wile E. Coyote runs off the cliff and has that moment in mid-air when he realizes what happened but can’t take it back? That was me. I didn’t really have a frame of reference for how to act when your camera is on fire. So being the Optimist’s son, I walked over to the smoking camera and tried to act as if everything was fine. By the time I got to the camera and saw the soot, I knew things were not fine and we had to shift into plan B (also called panic).

Part 2 tomorrow.



denise said...

yikes! can't wait for part 2!

Bob said...

Hey Peter--
Love this blog. and I can't wait for the second chapter of this post!

I also really liked your post (a while back now) about the cap'n crunch commercial- I can just see your Dad giving you the "I told you to go to law school" look...

great stuff!


PeterH said...

It's nice to see I have a loyal friends and family network. Maybe JPH will post another comment one of these days.

Thanks for reading.


Wonder Woman said...

What a cliff hanger! I too am anxiously awaiting part 2.

PeterH said...

Maybe I should make all of my posts cliffhanging tales from the production front.

Thanks for reading.


BarBarA said...

Well, you know how to get someone to come back! I'll be here for part 2

Layla (aka Barbara) said...

can I ask a question...that last comment is from me but it won't link to my site, some Blogger blogs do some don't. I don't get it.

Internet Safety Queen said...

HA!! Glad to see other people have to resort to plan B--although I would call it, instead, Plan P("panic")--and in my case, working with 500 K-3rd graders, Plan P is quite an appropriate phrase!!