For 4 days last week I filmed a commercial for a store called Bon Ton. Bon Ton is a major store that carries the most fashionable brands such as Jessica Simpson, Michael Kors, and etc. You may know Bon Ton by the name of “Carsons.” The commercial was booked through my Ford – Chicago, Models (my Chicago agency) and was also recorded in various touristy locations in downtown Chicago. Tuesday morning, (and I do mean morning, having to wake up at 5 am), I flew into Chicago for my fitting. During the fitting I tried on various clothes as the stylists made sure every look was put together perfectly with the best accessories and shoes. There was also a seamstress on board who pinned my clothes as needed in order to fit them to look their best. After my fitting I was released to spend my time as I’d like. Naturally, I decided to go straight to the gorgeous downtown hotel that they booked and nap! I felt much better after my nap, but little did I know the next two days of filming would include getting up again at 5 am to be picked up from the hotel at 5:15. This seems very strenuous, and by the end of the week I was feeling the strain. However, it honestly wasn’t too bad because the crew was so light hearted and upbeat. Additionally, the always had food ready for us including a huge breakfast. Any of you that know me well, know that I’ll do about anything for a good breakfast – my favorite part of the day.
The crew was incredibly prepared and professional so each shot only took very little time. The first day I had 5 different outfits to model, and the second day I had four. The last day I had one full outfit as well as shoes to model. It was my first time modeling shoes, and it wasn’t near as easy as I would have imagined. Apparently I can’t tell when my feet are pointing straight or not . The production company had every move of the recording planned down to each second. There was a schedule printed with the pre-decided locations, an inspiration photo, a photo of the actual location, and a photo of me wearing the clothing at the fitting. To the side, there were notes about how my hair should be styled. The crew consisted of a videographer, about 6 men to do lighting and set up, a director who guided each model, hair and makeup artists, Matt who kept everything on schedule, and Barb from Bon Ton who is an incredibly classy lady very similar to Michelle Obama. I was astonished upon seeing the time and effort put into this shoot before the models had even arrived!
Although there was a director, the models were still able to ‘ad lib’ as they thought appropriate which always makes for a more natural shot. For example, after filming my flowing skirt outfit on the steps of the Contemporary Art Museum downtown, the cameras were turned off and I left the set by walking down the steps. Bard liked the way the skirt flowed as I bounced down the steps because I was in a silly mood. Therefore, she asked me to do it again, but this time with the cameras on. One of my favorite, but most difficult shots was when I was walking a Great Dane while wearing a red dress and heels. This dog was awesome! He was incredibly, incredibly strong. The very first take was something that should be submitted to a funny blooper show. As I was pulled along by the dog, I passed the thin area between a light pole and the ‘extras’which required trying to guide Bo, the Great Dane, to scoot over and make more room for me to pass. When I walk my cocker spaniel at home, I just have to walk slightly right or left and Cali follows. Bo didn’t react in such a way. It was more like trying to push over a brick wall! As I attempted to fit in the tight space, I wobbled on my heels beside Bo while Bo’s owner who was out of the scene but in front of us was backing up too quickly and tumbled completely over the light post causing him to fall to the ground and do what appeared to be a backwards somersault. Another take included Bo twisting his leash around the light post as I tried to steer him straight. I’m curious to see how that part of the final commercial comes out. I have a feeling they will opt to use the film of me walking the smaller, gray, Great Dane. Hopefully there wasn’t slobber on my dress in that take! Another funny take was when I was pretending to hail a taxi. In real life, my past record of success hailing taxis is not good. However, despite the huge camera, camera crew, and even the guy holding the umbrella over my head, taxis wouldn’t stop coming to the curb. The point was for me to wave down the taxis; we didn’t necessarily want me getting in one. Even though the taxi drivers may not have realized what was up, the people on the street did and therefore a crowd formed which caused people to ask the make-up artists ‘if they know me.’ They thought I was someone famous. Ha! I eventually tried to let the hair and makeup artist allow me hold the umbrella over my head myself as I am just not into the ‘high-maintenance’ appearance that having someone hold it for me was giving off. Maybe that’s just the Kentucky girl in me, but I didn’t mind holding it myself.
Although I have shot a few commercials for dress stores and etc., I learned a lot about the time that goes into commercials to get the desired, professional final production. A commercial is so quick with each section passing by in a matter or seconds so it’s easy to underestimate the effort behind each shot. I will never look at commercials the same now that I’ve experienced sitting on one set for an hour as the crew adjusted the lighting and objects in the background to get the set-up to appear just they way they wanted it. I also have been reminded how much I love acting. I just appreciate the ability to add personality to my work. I suppose it in a way reminds me of pageants. After other models said they could tell I have some acting experience and have taken lessons, I’m thinking God may be leading me toward acting for a reason. Hmm…. Maybe this is something I should really focus on Regardless, I’m looking forward to hopefully working with Bon Ton again soon. I was asked to come up this next week for a catalog shoot, but due to it being my last week to babysit the kids, I’ve decided to take a full week at home in order to be there for them.
I considered not including this next story in the blog because this post is getting pretty lengthy. However, since if I was ever in a pageant again and was asked about my most embarrassing moment, this would be it! During one of the nights after I got off work from the commercial, I decided to go to the hotel’s gym. I had just got back from Whole Foods which is one of my most favorite places (I know, I’m such a dork!) and was heading back up to the room. However, when I got on the elevator, the doors shut as I noticed the button for my floor wasn’t lighting up after I pushed it. I tried to push it again, and it still failed to light. So, I tried several other floors because I really don’t like sitting in a still elevator and was eager to do anything to get moving. Still… nothing happened. So I decided to resort to the ‘open door’ button, which again didn’t bring any response. So, very unlike me, I freaked! I threw down my bag of dinner and tried with all my might to pry open the doors. After straining some muscles, I realized they weren’t budging. So, I went to my last resort of pushing the ‘help’ button. As I waited for a response the elevator beeped and showed the number of the current floor increasing although I couldn’t feel the motion of it at all. So, I thought it was going crazy! Finally, an extremely and overly calm man answered the phone, and said something like ‘what’s up,’ which I thought was strange for someone in a position to help people who are ready to have a heart attack like I was. Suddenly, as I shouting so he could hear me explain that I was stuck, the doors opened on the top floor to a private dinner. Apparently someone there had pushed the button. When I mean to the dinner, I don’t mean the elevators were around the corner from the formal affair. I mean the elevator doors are right smack dab directly in view of this ballroom filled with wine-and-diners. Regardless that I was in my workout clothes, I jumped off the elevator as quickly as I could, causing many heads to turn toward the random girl in sweats. Not only was I WAY underdressed, but I was still shouting at the man of the intercom so he could hear me convince him that I was okay now. Additionally, I was speaking with the man who was getting on the elevator who was trying to calm me down and tell me that it was ok and that I wasn’t stuck. Eventually he convinced me that it was okay and I decided to get back on as I was still shouting at the man on the intercom, and rode down with the comforting employee of the hotel. Apparently, the people at the front desk aren’t kidding when they tell you that you must slide your key before activating the elevator. Maybe that’s why the ’help’ man was so calm, he must get those calls all the time.