What it really takes to be a commercial model
The modelling industry as I live in it, is never as glamorous as movies make it out to be but it sure is fun and ever changing. There's never a dull moment when you're a commercial model, as was the case with the Nissan ad that I was recently booked on.
The audition took place about a week prior to the shoot and the role description was that of a cricket supporter. I readily admit that I know nothing about cricket and therefore owned no clothing that was befitting of the title- ‘cricket supporter’.
Preparing for an audition is one of my favourite parts because I get to play dress up in an attempt to earn money. One thing I recall reading from my nursery school notes was that Sam loved playing in the dress up corner on her own and 25 years later, not much has changed.
I scoured my cupboards for anything in the yellow and green cricket colours but came up short which meant only one thing- shopping!
There is a small Asian store up the road from me which stocks all sorts of oddities, and a thorough search brought up bright yellow leggings and a way too tight top that read ‘one more time!’ It seemed supporter-y enough to me and I got them at a steal of R50 in total. I then hopped along to the makeup store next door and bought a bandanna decorated in the South African flag, some face paint along with a handful of mini flags from other countries which I decided I would cut up to make a my own flag with.
Cricket supporter gear
Face paint and flag bandanna
I settled on one of the Korean flags as a base (treasonous I know). I cut up the Mexican and other flags for various colours. Then I glued them all together to make a one sided, slightly wonky South African flag that I could only wave in one direction because the other side still had the original flag on it...
My weird South African flag
Before the audition I put on natural makeup (but still something), painted a large flag on my face along with a bright gold lipstick and set out.
Natural makeup includes foundation or base albeit a light layer
Eyebrows are very important, especially in natural makeup
Painting on my flag
I decided against the scarf in the end
Having been in the industry for over 12 years, I wasn’t particularly nervous. I ran through what I imagined the casting director would ask of me – a little jumping around, shouting and celebrating. I wasn’t far off in the end.
There were many people at the casting which put me off a little because it meant I had a lesser chance of being booked, but having purchased all of my paraphernalia, I decided to go through with it.
At the audition
After an hour and a half long wait in the parking lot, the casting director eventually called our group of numbers. I am quite partial to his casting process despite it being one of the more nerve wrecking types. He calls in groups of ten into the casting room, briefs everyone at the same time and then summons either individuals or groups and requests that they stand in front of camera and pull off whatever performance he requires.
Mine was a posse of three that had to joyfully skip on camera, sit down, stare at a pretend screen above us while I dialed in our friend on my cellphone. We were told to scream his name in excitement as I lifted the phone higher and that was it.
Done and dusted.
A few seconds of your very best performance is all you have and from there we were ushered out and sent home to wait.
The best thing to do after an audition is put it out of your mind because once it is over; the decisions are out of your hands, until the callbacks of course.
I hate to say it but I did leave feeling rather confident so when my agent emailed a few days later, I wasn’t too surprised, just happy for the second chance.
That is what you can view a callback as- your second time to shine and kick butt.
The process to get to this stage involves the auditioning of every potential candidate which the casting director facilitates and narrows down to those with the best looks and performance. Almost there.
Getting ready for the callback - I had been to a different audition earlier
I went back, dressed in all my regalia, with the paint on all over again, only to be told that they wanted to see our faces clearly this time around. So I quickly rubbed the flag off and tried to balance my now uneven blush with a bit of lipstick on my right cheek.
We were called in once more, in smaller groups and this time, the director was there.
Honestly I felt rather dismissed by him. As though he had made up his mind that he didn’t want to use me but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The following day I received another happy email confirming me as a model on this TV commercial.
It was my first in a very long time and I had attended several auditions prior that I had not heard anything from. This booking boosted my self-esteem to at an all time high.
The wardrobe call
The wardrobe call is what follows a booking confirmation and this particular one was held at the production company’s offices. It was a large cast which meant that the normal rules of hurry up and wait were going to apply. They dressed us in varying shades of frumpy to fabulous clothing. It is your job as a model to keep quiet no matter what. So I was pleased when they put me in a cute rainbow t-shirt but a little less pleased at the thin jacket to go over it which I knew would provide no warmth.
Did I mention that it was the beginnings of winter and this was going to extend into a night shoot?
Final cast selection
The wardrobe call in the production offices
Closer to the final outfit
The best outfit!
Lining up the performers to check wardrobe
Once done I was told to wait in the lobby for God knows what reason because I was finished, but I did as told and eventually the director asked me what I was still doing there.
See why I say it is not that glamorous? It doesn’t end there.
The shoot was the following day – luckily not an early morning call-time. 9am at The Wanderers Cricket Stadium.
The poor production team had a hard time coordinating all of the artists, but it came together in the end.
We were rushed in and out of makeup and wardrobe and sent straight to the cars which we sat in while they filmed for about four hours. Hot, uncomfortable and slightly unpleasant, we had to remain upbeat for the cameras. The final editing doesn't even show us; let alone what we did to make that scene work.
Makeup setup in an underground parking lot
Ready for makeup
Pop up tent for changing
Selfies in the hero car
Car rig and setup for filming
At 1pm we broke for lunch and were forced to wear arbitrary plastic bibs to keep us from messing on our clothing.
All too soon it was time to start filming again. A larger scene that involved everyone getting out of their cars and setting up for the imaginary cricket game we were about to watch.
That took the last few hours of daylight which then led us to the final scenes and close ups.
So there we all stood in the freezing evening air on a damp cricket pitch, pretending like it was the middle of summer and we were watching a game on the big screen.
We weren’t. We were in the middle of an empty stadium, screaming violently, at a blank screen.
Cricket pitch selfie
Finally they began filming the sequence where I knew I was going to feature. I was placed next to the man who would be dialing our fantasy friend in on a blank iPad screen. My performance was; to be staring at the big blank screen, grow interested in what my companion was doing and then watch what he was doing and top it off with great shouts of excitement and our friend’s name.
We wrapped the advert at about 10pm that night. The longest I had ever been on set before.
I hardly remember driving home.
I finally got to see the ad and to my delight, I am featured for about 5 seconds if that.
The final shot of the night
Driving home after a long day on set
The sum of all things
A 13 hour shoot day for 5 seconds of airtime and a little bit of cash that will come at a later stage.
Sometimes I wonder why I do this but then I get friends sending me photos of me on their TVs and I remember all over again.
Commercial modelling is not for the faint of heart but the rewards are something worth fighting for.
Seeing myself on TV or in a magazine is a feeling that not much in this world can beat.
A photo someone took of me on TV
For any interested, you can view the ad here https://www.samsambutdifferent.net/videos?wix-vod-video-id=a9fa493d2aaf4ef791c680f923c942db&wix-vod-comp-id=comp-iwdl3nrz#
Excuse the long link but the Youtube version gets a pop-up ad right over my face just as I appear!
Also look out for me from 17 seconds in. Half of my face is in the shot and then the camera pans out to include meal the way up to about 22 seconds in. And that's it, all in a long, long day's work!