What life is really like on set
Commercial modelling is not easy. One of the most common misconceptions people have when they sign up with an agency is that they will get booked immediately and make instant money. The reality is far harsher, longer and full of sweat and tears (no blood luckily).
I’ve mentioned before that in order to make a successful career, one has to attend as many auditions as possible. It’s a numbers game, on top of having the right look and performance because inevitably there is going to be someone in production who decides that you aren’t right for the job. Even if your performance is stellar – this is the reason that you need to attend auditions regularly. And once you get booked, the hard work doesn’t end there.
The greatest example I have is with a Trinco tea advert I shot not too long ago.
Let me preface it by stating that I had been auditioning at that particular casting director for YEARS and had not been booked through her once. I was beginning to feel like she didn’t like me and was wondering if she was presenting my stuff at all, but in need of money, I stopped at a charity store just before heading over. I was playing the role of a nurse and I knew that Bounty Hunters charity store often stocked scrubs and uniforms, unfortunately they didn’t have any this time around but I managed to get an 80’s blouse that was quite medical looking. (For a comprehensive list of Charity stores check out my blog https://www.samsambutdifferent.net/single-post/2017/07/05/10-Best-Charity-Stores-in-Joburg)
Auditioning as a nurse with an 80's blouse
I paid my dues and waited an hour before I was called in to audition and it was a very simple performance – act as though you are standing under a bus stop while it is raining.
It was over in seconds and I thought nothing of it until I received an email the followed day saying that I had been confirmed. They asked if I was willing to dye my hair which is currently blonde and I responded saying only a temporary colour would be fine. The rollercoaster began there because on the Monday I received another mail stating that I had not actually been confirmed but was on strong pencil option – meaning they might still choose someone else.
I doused my hopes a little and when the wardrobe dated passed I resigned myself to the fact that I had not gotten it. Wrong. They emailed YET AGAIN to state that I had finally been confirmed once more and that my wardrobe fitting would take place at the shoot.
The call time was 6am in the middle of town, can’t say I was too happy but the prospect of money is always encouraging.
I was very nervous but got there in one piece, parked in the dark and waited in my car until the production manager said we could go to wardrobe. There I tried on my clothing for the first time while the production team stood around and decided if it was suitable.
In town at 6am for a shoot
I am not a morning person
Having been a last minute booking, I didn’t have time to dye my hair so the makeup artist opted to blacken my hair with mascara. It was arduous but it worked. He then proceeded to layer on so much foundation that every single one of my freckles disappeared.
Bearing in mind that this shoot took place in the dead of winter, once kitted out, we walked to set, freezing our butts off. An area had been cordoned off in Ghandi Square and then I saw them – the rain makers.
The many versions of me as a nurse with all of my freckles covered
Rainmakers on set
By the time the director of photography had placed everyone on their marks, it was past 8am and that was when the rain started.
It hit the roof of the prop bus stop in such a way that it splashed all over us and we were then asked to run into the rain and back out again so that we could have the ‘just wet’ look. They then filmed for about five hours straight. During the few quick breaks we had between, I poured the water out of my shoes and tried to catch some sunlight so that I wouldn’t be shivering on screen.
My waterlogged shoes
Explaining everything that takes place on set would take another entire blog post but basically they need to film a scene in wide angle and then come in closer, meaning you need to do the same thing all over again. And again and again.
We went past lunchtime and filmed the final shot of that location; running through the rain to the kind lady’s shop. Multiple times. Did I mention that there were two kids on set?
Finally when they were happy, we were sent back to wardrobe and told there was going to be a location change. Luckily I got to take my sopping wet clothes off and the stylists attempted to dry them with a hair dryer.
We drove to Greenside where a second base camp had been set up and here we sat for approximately four hours doing nothing. Hurry up and wait I say!
Our second base camp
Finally we redressed and headed to the shot of us running into the shop. But remembering that we had just come from a rain scene, there was a man who was ‘blessing’ us by sprinkling water all over our faces and backs.
The kids were on a time limit because of child labour laws and eventually they called in a replacement that was way too young. He kept meowing at the director and I saw tragedy coming. I think we shot a total of one scene with the replacement before he burst into tears and was ushered back home.
So we had to make do without him. At least the closing scene was one where we got to drink tea and warm up. Again the angles kept changing and while the production team argued about the tea packaging, I watched the clock tick into overtime. The only plus in that instance is a little more money.
At the second set
Getting the set right for the shot
Finally I was wrapped and made sure to sign my time-sheet along with my overtime.
Here is the ad: Trinco advert – quick and easy looking but it took a full day of freezing cold misery to create this beautiful production.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap.
My matted black hair the following day