Ready for my closeup

Today I was talent. Specifically, the local cable company was filming a commercial at my local coffee shop (Cummings Candy and Coffee, on Main Street, you should stop by when you’re in Butler); and as I’m friendly with both the cable folks who were making the spot and the folks who own and work the coffee shop, I was invited to be on television.

I’m not good at being filmed. I don’t feel uncomfortable on camera, but my movement by nature is quick and jerky, and I make ridiculous facial expressions. I slouch too, unless I focus on being as tall as possible. And I’m no beauty — the best that can be said of me is that I’m attractive in a not-pretty way, and only on a good day. However, I’m as flattered as anyone to be asked to be in the spotlight. Plus I was promised free coffee and freshly squeezed juice.

I’ve been the talent for a cable commercial before. Early in the summer, Armstrong filmed a spot to promote their personal video recorder (like a Tivo but not), and for it they needed a varied crowd to sit in the bleachers at a local ball field and cheer at a fake home run. I did my very best, visualizing the pitch, the hit, the ball soaring. We all jumped and cheered. Later, the director of the spot told me how much fun, now many laughs they’d had in editing when they freeze-framed on my intent stare and then single-framed through my roaring and cheering. My only consolation is that they didn’t record sound.

Anyway, so today I was back for more. They were shooting footage of people weighing out coffee beans and candy, juicing carrots and receiving and drinking said juice, making and drinking cappucinos, and using laptops hooked to the Internet via a wireless hot spot provided by the cable company at the coffee shop. I was first the juice receiver and drinker, and later my disembodied hands surfed the web.

Barry, who owns the cafe, thoughtfully put a shot of vodka in my juice glass before the cameras started rolling, so my carrot juice had an extra kick. The tough part was being filmed taking the cup from Barry and drinking the juice through a straw: my natural tendency to jerk around, toss my head, and laugh at stupid things was in full force. I also seem to be unable to hold a pose when directed. I don’t like to think of the guys in the editing room going frame-by-frame at me slurping on the straw, but there’s nothing to do about it now. Again, I’m consoled only that there was no sound.

The other hard part of attending a video shoot is keeping my suggestions to myself. There’s already one director, and one’s all that’s needed. My little helpful hints to the other actors are simply extraneous. Fortunately, someone else made a comment to this effect, and I managed to shut up before I pissed everyone off.

The commercial will air in a month or so, and there’s no guarantee my “scenes” will make the final cut. The director promised to give me a copy on VHS, but I doubt I’ll watch it. I find it’s easier to act natural on camera if I have no clue how I look.