The beauty of writing a blog is that it can lead to all sort of different experiences. You might wonder what I did. Well, here it is: I shot a commercial for Kleenex. How to you like it?
As for me, I love it. Here is what I wrote the day we shot it…tell me what you think!
Shocking news: I was selected for shooting a commercial for Kleenex. It came completely out of the blue: the production company found me through this blog, called me and then invited me for a filmed interview. They were looking for a French woman in London, and somehow chose me, despite the fact that there are tons of French women in London. I will never understand what they saw in me. What the heck, I thought. It was going to be a new experience: it would be fun and exciting, and at the ripe age of 42 I couldn’t help being proud of myself. I decided to go for it.
The thing is, I was brought up being told that the only possible option for a serious career was to work in maths or science. Anything else was much too frivolous to be taken seriously anyway. Still today, I clearly remember my father telling me that all actresses were sluts, which was why they were having such a complicated love life. Why do such memories always come back when you least needed them? I have no idea. I brushed it off. We French can be very judgemental anyway. Time for a change. Onwards and upwards, as they say.
The production company had called me to let me know that I was expected at 2pm. The shooting would start at 3pm. I arrived in advance –of course I did (I always do. Yes, despite being French!)- at a plush mid- terrace Victorian house right into the heart of Notting Hill. The house was bursting with activity. They had even put huge lights outside of the windows because the British summer was probably too dark for the filming. It badly needed a top-up.
Every square inch of the house was used with cables, panels or accessories. There were people everywhere, most of them really young (why did I feel so old again?). I hadn’t realised that it took an army to make a commercial. The team was still having lunch. Someone took me to the second floor to get ready. In a small pink room, Rosie, Nadia and Jenny started to prepare me. The first step was to choose the right outfit. I needed to look French, and casual at the same time –tough call! I had brought a few outfits with me but none of them seemed to be what Jenny wanted, except maybe a brown pair of trousers. Jenny selected a demure blue shirt for me. It had microscopic little dots and that might be an issue for the filming, she pondered. She took a picture of me wearing it and went downstairs to ask for advice. She came back saying that it should be OK. She started preparing the clothes and told me that I would put them on at the very last minute. They still had their labels on, I noticed. They didn’t care about which shoes I was wearing, because it wouldn’t appear on screen. What a shame, I thought to myself: I had brought a lovely pair of high heels!
Rosie got me a coffee- as if I wasn’t already excited enough!- and Nadia started my make-up. We were regularly interrupted because they were doing another shooting for the same campaign downstairs. At one point, she left me with one eye made and not the other, which felt funny. She asked me what I wanted, because I needed to look ‘natural’ –oh, the irony…-. I said that I wanted a light brownish smoky-eye. She quietly nodded, and did a much better job at it than I would have. Smoky eyes were much easier to do than applying eyeliner, which is why they had always been my favourite choice. How very French!
Rosie told us that we were running late, and that this was a common occurrence. She seemed pretty cool with it. The lady who was shooting the commercial right after me for the English campaign had arrived, and we had a nice chat.
I wanted my hair flattened and done as naturally as possible, which meant that Nadia didn’t spend much time on it. Suddenly, I was called downstairs. I quickly got dressed, and an assistant helped me to put a microphone on me. The cable had to run on the inside of my vest, and he stuck the end of the mic in my cleavage. I was about to crack a joke about it but decided to keep quiet. After all, he was working, and it must have happened a million times to him. Better to shut up, right?
I sat on a comfy velvet chair on the ground floor. A huge camera with the director and the cameraman on each side was facing me. Behind me, they had recreated what my house should look like. There were pictures of the children and me on the shelves, and various vases of pastel colours. On my left hand side, there was a basket with umbrellas and baseball bats. I told an assistant to remove the baseball bats because it wasn’t French at all. They ended up removing the whole basket and replacing by a small round table. People were popping up from everywhere to add a white panel here or remove a black one there.
They didn’t like my outfit. It had to be changed to a greenish pair of skinny jeans with a white T-shirt, and a dark blue cardigan. Jenny made sure that the cardigan was falling as naturally as possible on me. They also wanted a necklace, but didn’t warm up to mine. Apparently it was too big. Or too long. Too ‘in-your-face’, in fact. I ended up with a small fake diamond and a short fake gold chain. I must admit it looked good.
Then they asked me to come forward on the chair. Should they add a cushion? No, maybe not. Could I put my legs a little bit more on the right? Cross them maybe? OK, I should look at the camera now, they were waiting for the sign-off of the client. It eventually came. Phew. We could start the shooting.
They put a box of Kleenex on my lap, and once again, the position of the box was carefully examined. The think was, it kept falling on the chair. Damn it.
We started. I had to talk to the camera and pretend that I was speaking to my children. Easier said than done. We had to do two versions of the commercial, a short one and 10-second one. There were two different angles for each version: a close-up, and a landscape one. Then, they would film me blowing a kiss on the tissue. I had to use a neatly pre-folded tissue. Someone had prepared a whole pile for me. Very well organised.
The whole point of the campaign was to deliver a message to my children. In my case, I was telling them that I loved them, and that I was immensely proud of them. After a few shots, with feedbacks given either from the producer, the cameraman or the representatives of the client, the inevitable happened: I shed a few tears. The thing is, I am a serial weeper. I cry all the time: when I watch a movie, when I read, when I feel emotional…As they asked me to imagine my daughter, I was bound to cry. They asked me if I was fine. I was great, thank you very much. But the make-up had to be patched up.
The shorter version was a bit easier. It took me only 10 shots to get it right. Or maybe fifteen, I didn’t count. At some point, the mic batteries were depleted, we had to change them. I stuck the thing between my breast myself, thank you very much.
The most difficult part ended up being the blowing of the kiss. They wanted to follow the trajectory of the tissue and I kept doing it either too slowly, or too quickly, or with too big a curve. I simply couldn’t blow the kiss properly. They made me do it step by step and we got there in the end. YAY!
The filming had lasted almost two hours. When I walked out, it was already dark outside. I walked back to the station with stars in my eyes, dreaming of a newfound fame and other filming opportunities. Call me vain, but I had absolutely loved the attention!