Friday, January 18, 2008

Commercial success

A film crew shot part of a television commercial in the Artsgarden this morning. It's for a national bank that's buying out a local bank; as I understand it, the commercial is designed to get the word out that the new improved bank doesn't charge ATM fees, but the subtext is to help people be less grouchy about their neighborhood bank being the latest to be swallowed by a huge, faceless out-of-town corporation. The film crew brought in an ATM and two dozen crew members and actors and a pile of video and lighting gear and spent five hours shooting maybe ten seconds of video. A girl gets money out of an ATM, walks up to her friends, and says something like, "I got it, let's go!", before they walk out of the camera shot. I had a blast working with the film crew. This kind of thing is always informative for me; about half of my time is spent actually working, and the rest is occupied by the crucial but dull tasks of Being There Just In Case and Waiting To Do Something. I spend most of the being there and waiting time talking to the crew, many of whom are Waiting or Being There a fair amount of the time as well. I learned a lot -- about the gear, the business of video, the division of labor on a film crew, the way this subset of my profession operates. Some of it's wildly interesting, and video guys have some very cool toys that I'm unfamiliar with.

I also noticed something new. The lead actor, the girl who gets the cash out of the ATM, was a pretty girl. But when she appeared on the video monitors, she transformed to gorgeous. I mentioned this to one of the camera guys (because guys talk about this stuff). He said it surprised him too, the first time he saw that happen. But it's true: the camera really does like some people. The camera has the opposite effect on other people, he said; you also find people who don't look as good on camera as they do in person. And it's apparently hard to predict how the camera will affect someone. It's one of the reasons why casting is such an important job, and difficult to do well.

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