Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is There an Oscar in my Future?

It's tough being a movie star.

I found this out yesterday while shooting a video for the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Red Cross. The video will be shown at a fundraising event in February - and it will be interesting to see what it "looks" like - when I know all of the "behind the scenes" secrets.

The video shows a typical volunteer - in this case, me! - as I get the call that a tornado has hit our area. It follows me as I get ready to go - and it follows me as a I arrive at headquarters, get briefed, and then head out the door to drive the "ERV" - Emergency Response Vehicle - to the disaster site.

Filming began around 11:00 a.m. - and we used a house (not mine) that had a nice kitchen for the kitchen shots. The kitchen shots show me drinking a cup of coffee on a typical morning - which is actually very atypical, as I don't drink coffee. That took two takes - the first take, as I poured the pot of coffee into my mug, the pot dripped coffee all over the counter. Oops.

Then we did a shot of me grabbing my car keys off the key hook hanging on the wall. That took two takes - I needed to show more "umph" when I grabbed my car keys - as I am showing how determined and focused I am on getting the call. (Remember - shots aren't done sequentially - this is an out of order shot.)

Then we went next door to another house to shoot the bedroom scenes. (Ooh la la - not THOSE kind of bedroom scenes - this is the American Red Cross, remember?!) These shots included me listening intently to a weather radio, answering the phone and getting deployed, laying out my Red Cross clothes, and lacing up my steel-toed boots.

One of those shots has me very concerned. I had to back out of a closet with my boots - well, backing out requires the camera to be right on my butt. And we all know that a camera adds ten pounds. Yeah - those ten pounds are going to be added smack dab on my butt. Ugh. I can hardly wait for THAT shot to be shown on a giant screen at the fundraiser. In high definition.

Then we did several shots of me going down the stairs - supposedly on my way out the door for deployment. We shot with the camera in front of me - and with the camera behind me. That was weird - to be going down the stairs, with a cameraman right in front of you - and you can't be looking at the cameraman - pretending it doesn't exist. Weird. At one point, we realized that the bannister had Christmas decor on it - oops - this was a tornado video, so the Christmas decor had to come down.

Then - outdoor shots. These were painful.

Yesterday, in Kansas City, just about every school district closed - not due to snow - but due to extreme cold. Temperatures were in the teens, and we had 20-30 mph winds blowing from the north, bringing wind chill down to single digits. It was the coldest day of the year so far.

I had to shoot scenes outside with NO coat! Or gloves! It was cold!!!!!!! Oh - and no breathing, either. Because when I breathed - you could see my breath. And that's not acceptable. So - freeze, while holding your breath. Fun!

After lunch, we went to the Chapter and shot some scenes with some of the other volunteers gathered in the "War Room" for briefing. After I arrive, I'm given my assignment - and the scene calls for the Coordinator to slide the truck keys down the table to me. This took at least 10 takes. She couldn't slide those keys straight for the life of her - so, over and over and over again - slide the keys, I catch the keys. Slide the keys, I catch the keys.

She finally slides the keys perfectly - it was a beautiful shot - and the cameraman realizes that all of the other volunteers were caught on camera watching the sliding - and they weren't supposed to be watching this. They were supposed to be "planning" their response to the disaster - oblivious to the keys. DANG IT! We have to shoot it again!!!! Quit watching the keys, volunteers! (or, "extras", as they were yesterday).

Then - more outside shots. Outside to the ERV, where I climb in, start it up, check my mirrors, and pull away. Again - no coat. No breathing. Trying to not let my teeth chatter. Trying not to turn blue.

All in all, it was pretty fun. There wasn't any speaking yesterday - next week, I go (to the studio? Not sure) and do the "voice over" recordings - which will probably be more fun. It was interesting to see how we had to worry about continuity - especially difficult when you film shots out of order - even something so simple as, "Did I have the coffee cup in my right hand? Or left hand before??? Remember - this is important!"

I came away with an appreciation for actors and actresses - and the people behind the camera. Especially working outside in blizzard conditions and trying to give the illusion that it's spring. That was tough. And uncomfortable.

Hollywood is on track to shatter box office records this year - but I don't think my little video will be contributing to this record. And I don't think Jennifer Anniston has anything to worry about - no competition from me.

But - it was fun. For a day.



La'Tonya Richardson said...

Wow, it is cold there! And how in the world were you able to act like it wasn't! You deserve an Oscar for that alone.

We often think even making a commercial is so easy, because the finished product looks good.

My mom was the Dir. of Emergency Services in Little Rock. I smiled when I started reading your post, because most people, until they're in an disaster think Red Cross, is all about blood.

You have a very important job. You really do need an award.

Drama Queen said...

La'Tonya - thank you! That was SO nice to say to me - what a beautiful comment!

I'm glad you "get it" - about the Red Cross - it's not just about the blood. It's hard to say all that we do - but I think the most important thing we do is offer comfort - and hope - when people have lost theirs. I try to do that, anyway, when I'm on assignment.

We'll see the finished project to see if I acted like it was a balmy day in May, instead of an Arctic day in December!

I'm going to try to get my hands on some photos taken during the shoot and post them - so stay tuned!

Jenny said...

Well, honestly DQ, I think YOU DO DESERVE AN OSCAR!!!! Such cool things you do girl.

Drama Queen said...

Tis true, Jenny - my life is never dull. But that's okay - life is short and the more experiences, the better. :)

I didn't get an Oscar - but I DID get a cold. Yup, woke up with a doozy today - I'm heading to bed and it's only 2:45 pm.

Diva Ma @ Mommy Fabulous said...

All of that sounds like a lotta fun except the cold part.

I'd love to be able to see that commercial.