Savage Enterprises Publishing
Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

The Last Word

Lights! Camera! Action! — (August 2002) I recently had an experience unlike any other in my life. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone through experiences like it, but this is my story :) To get the full effect, we have to start at the very beginning.

On May 2nd, 2002, an email was sent to all employees of Standard Life advising them that a new television and print advertising campaign to start in the fall would feature interested employees. On May 3rd, I mailed in my Casting Sheet with the "feeling" that it would get somewhere. On May 15th, the first notice went out that more information would be forthcoming and what they were basing their picks on. On May 31st, I was contacted and informed that my Casting call/ video audition would be held on June 13th.

That day, I dressed up (putting on my favorite blue shirt and Marilyn Monroe tie) and got ready to make history (for me!). The director hired for the Casting shoot was ready early so I went in early and really enjoyed myself. As we chatted, our conversation went along the lines of: "this won't be the same kind of audition as we would normally do for an actor." Me: "No? Does that mean I won't sing or dance?" Him: "Well, sure if you want to [laughs]". Basically, they wanted to know about yourself, your life outside Standard, etc. I told them about what I do, my family, getting married, and my hobbies. Then, I couldn't help myself. I did my Elvis impression. He absolutely loved it :)

Needless to say, I got along very well with him. So much so, in fact, that between auditions, I would go in and chat with him about his work, my work, what he's hoping for professionally, etc. I mentioned my peripheral involvement with the entertainment industry and he was happy to hear about my writing abilities and then gave me his card. He's looking for a scriptwriter to collaborate with and we exchanged info. It was definitely a great morning!

On June 17th, an email went out advising everyone that the casting sessions were completed and now came the task of selecting 50 out of the 150 auditions for the various positions they needed. On June 19th, my boss was contacted asking if he had any trouble with my participating in the commercial shoot. Of course he had none :)

On June 26th, an email came to me informing me that I'd been selected to appear in the television commercial! I was jumping all over the place! I was asked to confirm my availability and did so right away! On July 4th, another email came my way. I was given information regarding the shooting date, location, involved parties (wardrobe, director, assistant, etc), as well as what clothing I should bring. It was happening!! Friday July 12th would be the big day!

I told a number of folks about it and the majority were very happy for me. A lot of flattery came my way ("you're very photogenic!" "of course! Why wouldn't they pick you?!" "you present yourself very well") which made me feel giddy. No swelled ego, just pride! :)

A week later the director Laura Belsey called me and we chatted briefly on the phone. She informed me that 32 people were chosen for the 4 commercials that would be shot in all – 2 English and 2 French. She seemed like such a fun person and I was looking very forward to it all!

A week later, it finally came. And, I admit, I was finally nervous. As I mentioned above, I had a feeling that something was going to come of my application but now it was truly real. I had worked some extra hours during that week in order to flex a little and do some work from home that morning. Afterwards, I got ready and picked out my outfits. While I was taking down some favorite shirts, ties, etc, I reached out and grabbed one of my favorite green shirts and black tie. Yup, I felt this one really sing to me.

My appointment was at noon and I got there by 11:30am. I couldn't find any indication of where I needed to be so I phoned up the Assistant Director and ended up talking to HIS assistant who told me to go to the 21st floor. I made my way there and was informed that the shooting schedule had been switched. I checked my voicemail and contacted someone in Studio who stated that the shots in the Lobby had to be switched and thus my part was moved to later. So, where I had to be there from noon until 4pm, I was scheduled to be there until 7pm.

The time went rather quickly. I chatted with everyone else (the team I was shooting with consisted of another guy and a girl) and we laughed wondering what was expected of us. The comments came about how uncomfortable it is to have someone else looking at you in such a critical way. "Almost like pointing out your flaws!" said one. I had to disagree. To me, the job of the wardrobe/ hair/ and makeup team is not so much to cover up your flaws (as they most assuredly do,) but to bring out the best in your looks. It's all a way of looking at things.

When the time came to get ready, I took my clothes out and the woman in charge of wardrobe quickly looked through it and leaped on the green shirt and black tie. Cool. :) She took them away to iron and steam them. I eventually got dressed and then went through the routine of hair and makeup. Well, hair was actually quite good so all he did was a little hairspray and a touch of gel. The makeup was quite an interesting experience. I sat there for however long it was and suddenly realized why women enjoy having this done to them. It's quite relaxing :)

At about 4pm, we went down to meet the director and producer and get costume approval. No problems there. I signed another contract and then decided to hang around watching the other shooting. The other two had to go back since they weren't completely ready yet. I stayed behind and watched the magic unfold. It was very interesting! I can see how some folks could easily get tired of having to re-do scenes, but as I later found out, time flies when you're in the spotlight! I watched them finish up the shooting by the elevators and then observed as they stripped down their equipment and moved it to the cafeteria where I was going to be filmed.

Within 30 minutes, everything was set in the cafeteria and they filmed the woman in our group alone. When she was done, it was my turn. I took my place on the stairs and had make-up and wardrobe look me over once more. Then, I enjoyed the spectacle as they set up their cameras and lights all around me (I was in a different position on the stairs) and listened intently as orders were called out and equipment connected to bring to life the scene they needed. In fact, the guy who had filmed my initial video was there filming the "making of" so it was really cool!

Finally, we were getting close to Showtime. The director sat in her chair and looked at the monitors observing me. The main camera was set up in such a way that I could not actually see the lens. When I looked at the camera, I saw a monitor showing the director's smiling (and I must admit, beaming) face. So, basically, I focused on her and reacted to her. My reactions and lines were then filmed in, honestly, a realistic fashion.

How long was I up there? 10 minutes? 20? How about 60 minutes. From the setting up and testing, to the actual conversations, re-takes, no-voice action shots, to the end of my spot, the result was an hour that felt like 5 minutes. How did I feel being the center of attention? I positively loved it! Yes, I was nervous since I had to deliver my lines so many times (and different lines) in different ways. But, at the same time, it was positively elevating. In fact, on numerous occasions, I caught the director saying things without her realizing I was listening. The first of these was as they were finalizing the lighting. She just looked over the scene through her monitor and whispered to her assistant; "Oh, I'm liking this. I'm really, really liking this". I'm sure if it weren't for the makeup, my face would have been quite crimson :)

The shoot, as I said, was incredible. The interplay with the director, the attempts to get the lines out JUST right, the 'making of' video, and everybody working together was a Forever-Moment (you know, one of those moments you'll remember Forever –like the 1st time I kissed Chantale :) ) When it was over, the director's compliments still ringing in my head (her departing words were, "You're a natural, Mike!"), I walked out of the cafeteria as EVERYONE involved applauded. Talk about an incredible, natural, high. :) It's easy to understand actors getting hooked on that.

I went back to the dressing room and called Chantale right away and just blabbered and blabbered excitedly :) . She picked me up at the metro with the kids (who brought flowers) and they all got a big giggle out of seeing me in makeup :)

The next week, I emailed people involved and found out some more upcoming details, most of which I can't reveal. However, I can tell you that the new spots will premiere on television on Monday September 9th, 2002. Watch for me in the English versions :) Actually, I'm hoping they'll put copies of the commercials on-line as they've done with some of our older ones. Did I say "watch for me"? Oh yeah. On July 24th, I received an email informing me that 2 of my scenes (short though they may be) will be used in the commercials. Not everyone filmed would actually be chosen, and that fact that they were using 2 of my 4 scenes blew me away. Wow! Can you imagine my elation as I jumped around and told everyone about that!! :)

Chantale asked me if I would ever do something like that again. In a heartbeat. Without a doubt. If another opportunity presented itself, I would jump at the chance. Will I go out looking for such opportunities? …Not really… but I will, as always, keep my eyes and ears open… :)

(The Last Word (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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