Lights, Camera, Action!

Last Wednesday I had the rare experience to become celebrity for a day, having been selected to appear in our corporate advertising campaign for the fall season. Eight employees were chosen nationwide who represent the character traits of our organization – Lead, Build, Trust, Give and Hope.

I was contacted by the ad agency a few days before the shoot to discuss the logistics for the day, including a conversation with the stylist about what to wear. Thank goodness Mark and Remi were able to squeeze me in at the Schwartz Salon on Monmouth Street for a dry cut and color.

Roman from OZOcar picked me up in Red Bank at 8:30am for my 10:30 appointment in Brooklyn. Roman is from Bangladesh, recently married and studying electrical engineering. He would be my driver for the day. Smooth sailing around Staten Island and over the Verrazano Bridge – we were 45 minutes early.

I was greeted at Windmill Studios by ad account exec, Michael, who introduced me to the producer and production crew, stylist and make-up artist, director and editing crew. There were about 35 people there to take images of my head and torso. L’Jean had me in the make-up chair for a good 30 minutes, erasing dark circles, combing brows and straightening hair. She would stick with me throughout the day, powdering away the shine on my nose. Rahel, the wardrobe stylist, looked at all the business attire I brought and declare the bold patterned dress I was wearing as “very chic” so we went with that and a black jacket.

On set, L’Jean was always by my side for touch-ups and Alexander was explaining what we were doing. In this picture I am sitting on a platform that would rotate while the director would tell me when to turn my head, cross my arms, or look thoughtfully into the distance. It is actually more difficult that it would seem. I turn my head and cross my arms in normal everyday life, but when someone is telling me what to do, it becomes completely unnatural and I wonder … am I doing it right? Do I look okay? Did he get the shots he was looking for? It’s also very uncomfortable to sit completely still while cameras, people holding light sticks and reflections sheets are circling around you. What’s going on in this room is being fed to computers stationed in rooms throughout the studio for editors and production crew to review.

After we finished the no speaking part of the shoot where they captured my thoughtful shadowed profile, Roman picked me up for the ride to the ad agency offices for the speaking part. The agency is on 5th Avenue and represents all the major brands, like Walmart and Geico. Michael took me to lunch at the Union Square Coffee Shop, a trendy diner with a tasty seared tuna salad with miso vinaigrette. After lunch it was more sitting around while they set up the office for shooting – more make-up touch-ups and watching BMX Olympic events on the big screen.

For the last part of the day I sat in a corner office and was interviewed by the director about the character traits of our company and what makes us great. Crammed into this small room were me and 7 production crew. The camera was directed at my face but I could see the director in the lens so as he interviewed me it felt like we were having a conversation. We talked about things like my experience in the business, what makes me get up in the morning and how I define success. Forty five minutes later, we did close up shots of me writing on the tablet, walking to the window and back and the famous looking thoughtfully into the distance.

While I was doing this, I was projected on video screens in other rooms where about 9 more people wearing headphones listened to the interview and reviewed camera shots. It was a kind of outer body experience – listening to what I was saying, wondering if I said the right thing – did they get the shot – is it what they wanted. It was a stretch from my comfort zone of being in charge at the office and being directed by strangers.

Roman picked me up at 6:30pm for the ride back to Red Bank. It was a privilege to represent the company in the new campaign and it will be amazing to see the outcome next month!