On a Tuesday afternoon in late June a professional television production team arrived at my house. There was a producer/director, camera man, the guy that handled the lights, a make up lady, and a professional still photographer.
I had been chosen by the national Public Broadcasting Service group to represent a charity funding campaign. Since, Lonnie my husband and I participate locally in such a campaign, I was going to get a chance to tell the nation about it.
Making a national commercial is really hard work, but it is really exciting. I have done video before and have been on TV newscasts and in a couple of local interest stories pieces; however this was a whole new realm of production for me.
Lonnie and I were video taped and photographed from nearly every angle. We both agreed that it was one of the most exciting 27 hours of our lives.
On June 2, Kevin Smith-Fagan the Vice President for Development, for KVIE, our Sacramento PBS affiliate, left a voicemail that he had nominated me to be a spokesperson for a national planned giving campaign. Although from his voice mail, I didn’t really understand the scope of the whole thing. However, I just flipped I was so excited. June 6th, Jon the producer called me and asked me if I had a few minutes to talk. I said yes, although I was in the middle of a noisy luncheon at the California State Railroad Museum. I found a closet, shut the door and crouched down in the back corner. Being hard of hearing is a bit of an impediment when you are trying to make an impression on a cell phone with really spotty reception. The first thing he asked me, “do you have rubber ducks?” “Ducks?” I repeated and just started laughing…as an introduction for me…Kevin had sent Jon a link to a YouTube video of me and my collection. I didn’t want him to think I was a crazy duck lady…so I played down my collection as a whim.
The link to the video Kevin sent is a telephone interview, so I steered Jon to a couple of places on the web where he could see me on camera. As I explained to Jon, (to paraphrase that silly baseball reference) “KVIE has been berry berry good to me.” I have appeared in their Viewfinder series twice, once with my rubber duck collection and another time explaining what it is like being a woman working on the railroad. I have also done a “My Source” video promoting KVIE and PBS as a great place to learn and grow. So in our short interview I spent about 15 minutes discussing my love of PBS. He said he would get back to me.
Watching PBS has inspired me to be more than a high-school educated railroad clerk. I am a writer, traveler, artist, gourmet cook and much more. That’s what brought me to a place where I could possibly make a difference in obtaining additional funding for the very important cause.
June 12, Jon called again and told me I got the gig (see I am in to the lingo already). In this conversation, I was again crouching…but this time in the ladies room on a Union Pacific passenger train trying to hear above the din of the steel wheels spinning beneath the steel floor on steel rails. He started to explain more about what they would do and film. And we discussed possible places to shoot and he asked if they could use our home. My answer simply was: of course.
When the date for filming was set, I really started to get excited. This is happening. How cool. We exchanged a few emails and Jon said they would arrive at my house at 2pm on June 26 and they did.
Once the Wisconsin based film crew entered our little house; they immediately started scouting locations inside and out. Jon, the producer, told Julia, the makeup magician, to start with make up. It took the wonderfully talented woman about 30 minutes to make me look natural. Peter also arrived; he was representing the national PBS group and brought various still photography cameras.
Along with Jon was Dean the camera man and Rick who handled all the lights and stuff. They came in and started looking around and I was so happy to see them making themselves at home.
Lights, camera, action! We immediately got to work. Blouse and hat chosen, they positioned me in our front yard flower garden holding a water can they found out back. We did shots of me watering the garden, Lonnie “talking” to me while watering and carrying around clippers. Peter was snapping away furiously and kept telling me how nice I looked, how to hold my head, move this way and that. I felt like a hot fashion model.
They filmed and took still photos of me doing my art, in the office writing, cooking, playing with my dogs, and nearly everything.
Right on time, my 2 year-old granddaughter June arrived. She was a bit shy…then I put her in Julia’s magic beauty chair and after a few swipes of the powder brush, June was ready for her close up. She was a trooper and we were able to coax her amid the cameras and big lights to wash a bunch of strawberries. Then we tempted her with Chessie my cat for more close ups. June was so good and as always so very cute. When I suggested her for the piece, I told Jon she was cute. That is a pat thing for grandmother’s to say…after we were done, he told me I was right.
When we originally set up the piece, I was going to be featured doing my hobbies. I was supposed to explain how PBS taught me another side of life…other than working for the railroad. However, I went from being a writer, artist, gourmet cook, and adventurer to June’s grandmother in just 60 seconds. What a wonderful thing to be.
730am sharp the next morning, a knock on the door meant they were here. More still shots in the garden while the guys set up the lights for the interview. All the other filming was done without sound. The interview was total sound and the house needed to be quiet. Wardrobe fussing, more make up, and then it was show time. Jon explained everything and I had a great time answering his questions, while looking into a lens.
The lighting struck; brought into my office and after another wardrobe change, I wrote for a while they filmed from every angle. Every time we filmed they fussed over wrinkles in my blouse and were constantly adjusting my neckline and collar.
There were several blouse changes to match my activities, at one point I was in a purple sweater seated on the couch and Lonnie and I were watching TV. The guys kept fussing about my sweater bunching up and wrinkling here and there. So, Julia, would tug and tuck to make it look right.
So, in one scene, still in the purple sweater, I am poised at my keyboard doing my freelance writing thing. Rick is outside the window holding a light and the camera is set up behind me. “Wrinkles! I see wrinkles.” one of the guys say behind me. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the sweater they were fussing about this time. It was the nearly 58 years of the tangled road map of furrows on my face , some lighting effect brought out every laugh, frown, sun damaged line I ever developed. I was thinking about my writing. It only occurred to me it was my face when another voice weakly said, “Ah, sorry LeeAnn.” “That’s OK guys!” is all I said and smiled…making another wrinkle…and laughed.
Then all of sudden they started packing their gear. I was so sad. I was getting used to this stuff and it was FUN! Closing in on 5pm it was time to bid my adventure adieu. Just as fast as we started…the lights were turned off, cameras were packed away, and it’s a wrap. Bags loaded, quick hugs and the rental car drove away.
The intense spotlight so hot and intense is now gone. And just like a spotlight it only took a second for it to dim. From hot model to dropped like a hot potato. It was an experience like no other. I will never forget it.
Oh yeah, the commercial turned out just great. Check it out.