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All this for 30 seconds

By James Caldwell | Published: January 13th, 2011

For the last three days I have experienced what it is like to have a film crew come into my house for a one day commercial shoot. Over a year ago a friend of mine told me that my place would be perfect for filming, but up until this week, it had not happened. Since I was a newbie, I was admittedly a little nervous about what might happen to my place during the shoot or what the aftermath would be. Of course they constantly assure you that everything will be put back to normal but that still doesn’t necessarily calm your nerves.

Unnamed Commercial Shoot

Unnamed Commercial Shoot

So what does a film shoot entail… lots of work, many people and great coordination. I certainly have a new respect for the difficulty of filming a 30 second spot for television that most of us just skip right through.

The whole procedure
Choosing your home

To start things off a location scout came by to see if my home was worthy of shooting in. If it gets placed on the short list the directors, producers, etc, come by for a visit to understand where and how the commercial will be shot. Then if it passes this test and your house is chosen the primary team of about 10 people come by and storyboard every shot and figure out what furniture and props to bring in for what rooms in your home.

The day before

A day before the shoot a team of people comprising of the ‘set dressers’ and the ‘location prep’ come into your home to safely pack away your things, move your furniture and protect your walls and floors. The set dressers then stage your home with their furniture according to the story boards. In the evening a security guard comes and starts placing orange cones on the street to reserve parking for the next day. And yes his job is to sit there all night.

The day of

This is where it gets crazy but remains extremely organized. Everyone all 50 of them show up at your doorstep. To say the least it is overwhelming. There are the producers, directors, gaffers, actors, clients… and the list goes on. The electronic gear comes in first and the clients get directed to their seating area to watch the whole production. I saw a distinct line between the pampering of the clients and the workers on the set. After areas are cardboarded off and the lighting is set up they pull away the protective floor carpeting, the actors move into place and the call for ‘quiet on the set” is announced. Besides from a lunch break, this goes on for the next 12 hours until all the scenes are filmed. When the day is done the electronics are packed up and all electric is removed along with all the people and the long day ends.

The day after

The set dressers and location prep people come back and pack up all the rental furniture and props. The carpet pads are removed, the cardboard is taken off the walls and the cleaning begins. After the cleaning is finished a team comes in and replaces all the furniture to where it was originally as marked on the floor with tape or as seen through pictures taken previously to the shoot.

My impressions

The following things stood out at this particular film shoot:

  1. The people in the crew are extremely courteous and polite and professional
  2. Smart phones are distractions during filming (in one room about 8 people were sitting around playing with their smart phones instead of talking with each other, one of them even went so far as too say that the phones allow them the opportunity to not talk with each other… they all laughed)
  3. There is an enormous amount of work that is done for a 30 second spot.
  4. There are always too many people in a room.
  5. Acting is not necessarily fun, either is directing
  6. The clients are treated very well, and they seem to come out of the woodwork late in the work day
  7. One day of shooting translates into three house days and more than a few initial walkthroughs
  8. The cleaners that they brought in were excellent and really left my place sparkling

For ‘type A personalities’ like myself you just have to keep to yourself while everyone is performing and address and fix anything minor at the end of the shoot. (in my case, minor things needed to be fixed) Thankfully this process smartly allows for a liaison to the home owner called a location manager and for me this person was James Dawe and his assistant Luke Marshall. They are the people entrusted with the homeowner’s relationship and if it wasn’t for them it would be too difficult to deal with. A special thank you to James, he really came through.

It was a very interesting experience overall. My advice for anyone considering this would be to try and make it a multiple day shoot because once they are in, either for a day or for a week it doesn’t matter. You might as well get paid for it. I think I would do it again and if I am permitted to get picky I would like to do a television or movie show next to see what the difference might be.

In the end though it was great to be back in my home again.


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    Thoughts on “All this for 30 seconds”
    ( 6 comments )
    1. Mikey59 says:

      I don’t know if I could do it. I look at my home and then I look at your pictures and wonder if I could stomach it.

    2. Cheryl_Lee says:

      So when does the commercial air? You will have to link it then.

    3. TImmy says:

      Yeah, no one seems to understand how much it takes to get just 30 seconds finished. We are so under appreciated. BTW, stop fast forwarding the commercials.

    4. SheWasWarrior says:

      Just saw one of the commercials on TV. Very strange to see your place so transformed.

    5. fawnbc says:

      Say, did they have a team of people aside from the film crew in and prep the house for filming?

      Was it the film crew that put down all that carpet or was it another company?

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