The sun sets. The atmosphere is tense. Twenty minutes to wrap, and we’re missing a shot…
We need backlight. We need to elevate one of the world’s top models to the height of the sun’s dying rays. Before I can shout “apple box!” Mr Handsome’s climbed a wall, straddled a railing, and is ready to go. Now all I need to do is make his performance look natural and ignore the twelve foot pole between his legs.
Google “acting for commercials” and you’ll be amazed to discover your search yields little of any use. “Have a good time” one casting director advises. Hello… you can have a good time when we’ve finished, this is an audition. Maybe that’s why some commercial performances are more lights on, but no one’s home.
Directing commercial acting isn’t cinema, it isn’t TV, it’s a different game. You can’t discuss character motivation when there’s ten turning points in less than twenty five seconds; or backstory when the client insists their chocolate bar should be chewed only twice before the swallow. What you need is trust, commercial understanding, and a tenacious ability to get what you want.
But to do that, you have to attend the casting, which a lot of directors don’t. Secondly you need a good casting director, which is sometimes harder than being The Hand of the King – your followers constantly give you a hard time, change their minds, are never happy, and in the end it’s all your fault and you’re beheaded. Hats, or should I says heads off to Janis Jaffa who casts my work and our latest offering: if you don’t like it, its all her fault.
In truth directing actors is often about trust. Ricardo climbed a railing because he knew I wasn't about to make him look stupid. After trust comes technique. Finding a way to go faster, or speeding everything else up to make the performance feel slower. But before you can do anything with timing you have to understand character, and before you can understand character you have to have some idea of real life and the people who inhabit it. Maybe that’s why “the London look” never seems to come out as a natural expression of everyday life. Personally I think it would be more effective performed by the latest stars of Spring Break, but I guess that’s more Kings road circa 1976.
Back at sunset I couldn’t believe the day had gone so well.
Three weeks before, having made two successful films for Alpen, we discovered one of the main actresses was pregnant. The client needed replacements: two new leading ladies, just as attractive as the previous two, same colour hair, same smiles, the works. Oh, and they have to be really good actors. I could feel the block on my neck and see the glint of the executioner’s blade before the ink on the casting brief was even dry.
As always, we pulled it off and I think the film is full of genuinely charming and engaging performances thanks to Ricardo Guedes, Perdita Weeks and Sara Vickers. Model agents and casting directors take note, these guys are great! But what do I know, I wanted to cast Catherine Zeta Jones and Ewan McGregor and no one would listen. Anyway, enough about me…
It's Cannes baby! Who will win, who will be the contenders, and can your body take a week of the good, the bad and the downright rose. Let’s see if any performances catch the limelight like Michael Douglas at this year’s Film Festival and I’ll see you on the Croissette. And…
Profile, profile, face the front and hands to camera.