Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Video Shoot

My Canadian friend, Mark and I got to do a video shoot last week. The phone rang and a voice asked: "Can you play a part in a "Scratch Video?"
I'm sure there was a long pause before I gave the voice an answer.
It turned out to be Priyam. She works at a company that I had done voice-overs for in the past.
So I said: "Sure, I guess so."

Then Priyam asked: "Do you have a friend who can do it with you?" There must have been another long pause.
"What exactly is a scratch video?"
"A demo. This is a video of a talk show we're planning. You'll be the person being interviewed and your friend will be the Interviewer."

"You know I'm not an actor," was all I could say. "I do voice-overs."
"Do you have a friend who can do it?" I thought of Mark. He's been in India for 6 years. He speaks Hindi and has even done a scene in a Bollywood movie. Poor Mark.

"Yeah." I said, fumbling for his number, still confused.
"Have him call me and I'll send you the script."
Another long pause.
"We shoot tomorrow at 12:30. It'll only take 20 minutes." Priyam hung up.

I got the script and it was longer than I had imagined. Mark's character asked a few questions, but my part was the "Criminology Expert." My character was an ex-cop and had lengthy responses to Mark's one-liners about correctional facilities, recidivism rates and judicial procedures.
Recidivism? I had to look that up on Wikipedia.

In the morning I was a nervous wreck. I'm not an actor. I'd gotten to be pretty good with audio, but video... I look like a middle-aged hack with bad posture, caught in on-coming headlights. I was sure Priyam just wanted to meet her requirement to have two western looking guys sitting in the studio chairs.

I called her.
"You'll be fine," she said. "I'll make sure we have a teleprompter. See you at 12:30."There was no teleprompter.
The studio was in the basement of someone's house in South Delhi. Everyone there was nice. Priyam gave us each a glass of water and a script. The font was slightly larger than the one she'd emailed me. But the text was grayed out as if the script had been highlighted in yellow, but printed out on a black and white printer.

"Can you make the font larger so we can read it? Maybe get rid of the gray?"
The crew wagged their heads from side to side - Priyam, the sound man, the camera man and the project coordinator. Beads of sweat were forming on my forehead despite the AC chilling the room.

"Here, just put it on the table." Priyam said. "It will be close there."
"But I told you, I'm not an actor. I'm not very good at memorizing lines."
Everyone wagged their heads again. I looked at Mark. I was afraid he was going to wag his head from side to side.

"Let's do it."

It took the crew about 15 minutes to realize what we really needed were cue cards. The project leader wanted the lines read exactly as printed. A second script appeared for me. The font was in a larger size and Priyam offered to hold it up for me. But then she kept getting in the frame. Finally an old microphone boom was dragged out onto the set to act as a "teleprompter." My script was clipped to the boom and we were ready for business.They filmed me for 30 minutes and then it was Mark's turn. Of course he had tried to memorize his lines, but the crew wanted precise dialog.
"Do you think you could do the same for me?" he asked. I could hear the frustration growing in Mark's voice. There was another chorus of wagging heads. And a long pause.
He sighed: "Same deal. Bigger font. Hang it on the boom."

The crew filmed reaction-shots and then Mark's new, bigger, whiter script appeared. We were almost done.

The experience ended with us all sitting in a circle of chairs surrounded by video and sound equipment sipping masala chai and munching on biscuits."We'll call you if something else pops up," Priyam said smiling.
I shook hands with her and wagged my head:
"Why not?

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