Having been away from TV production for a year or so it was fun getting back on set. These days, people like to throw around the term ecosystem a lot but nothing exemplifies one more than an active production set. Fifty or more people (actors, agency, crew, clients producers, etc) brought together around the coral reef of a TV commercial. Sets are built. Rigs made. Lights! Camera! Action!
Yet, there’s also plenty of inaction. And that’s what I’d like to talk about: those minutes and sometimes hours spent waiting for something to happen. Over the years I’ve enjoyed and, what’s the right word, abused these periods of unforced quiet on the set. I’m not the only one.
The first crucial fact is you are never alone. Many, many others are also waiting for the next scene. In many cases, we are people who would not otherwise mix. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite. Either way, this creates a kind of hothouse: a cross between a waiting room and a talk show. You can even throw in a shrink’s office. It’s called the “Production Village.” But it’s really just a holding pen for clients. So we don’t get in the way. Inevitably, everyone gets bored… and that’s when it gets fun.
An introvert by nature, put me on a leather couch in a corner of a massive stage, surround me with a bunch of disparate people, and suddenly I’m Johnny Carson on acid. I’ll talk about anything with anyone, the more risqué the topic the better. Maybe it’s the Red Bull and M&M’s. Needless to say, I’ve gotten myself into trouble this way. Not everyone is as “emotionally honest” as I am. Witty creative or Village idiot? You decide. Just for fun, here are some of my favorite reaction-inducing topics from last week’s village:
1. Star Wars is to science fiction what Kiss is to rock and roll. Bombastic characters wearing silly costumes doing stupid shit. I could do and did a 30-minute routine on this overrated franchise. Yeah, I grew up with SW but, for my five dollars, Jaws and Close Encounters were way better films. Unfortunately, every dude in Adland and/or on a production set is a geek for Star Wars. They collect the action figures. They know the plot lines. For all I know, they still jerk off to Princess Leia and her dumbass haircut. So that was a stirring discussion…
2. The silliness of “ironic beards” on young white guys. There was one of these hairy-faced bros on the set and I couldn’t help myself. He became a fuzzy pincushion for my barbs. My fave: “On weekends, he plays Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.” Or my reworking of Black Sabbath’s famous song: “Ironic Beard Man.”
3. Crew>Agency. A cross between hipster and teamster, the average crew member seldom fraternizes with clods from the agency. I gave up trying to eons ago. They’re just too cool for us cube dwellers. I like to warn creatives new to production that we are now considered “clients” and therefor void of coolness. Watching a young copywriter hit on the wardrobe gal never ceases to amuse me. And her.
Funky dudes and gnarly chicks with all that shit hanging from their belts. They are the star-bellied Sneeches. We are not.
A) Offensive? B) Entertaining? C) Who gives a shit? D) All of the above. I’m not sure I care. All I know is I laughed out loud as I recalled the above moments from the “set” of the set.
Sing it: ‘I am Ironic Beard Man.’ Da-Da…Da-Da-Da!’ Come on, that shit is funny.