Want to be a star for NKU?
Jim Pickering in University Communications stopped by The Northerner office a few weeks ago and dropped off a flyer with that heading to me.
I had met him the day before at a press conference announcing the inception of the Sports Business program. Now, he wanted me to be in a commercial for NKU.
“NKU is filming a new promotional commercial that will air in the tristate area over the next year and we need your face and body for half a day,” read the flyer.
As much as I’d like to say he noticed my skills as a thespian, his choice had more to do with the position I hold at this paper and less with my resemblance to a young Robert Redford (I wish).
The last time I remember having to act was as a desperado in an eighth grade production of the always-popular Grammar Gulch. I even had a line-“I have a hankerin’ for a danglin’ participle boss,” spoken with all the Western twang and braggadocio required for an outlaw obsessed with verbs.
I felt I had matured enough from that point to try to tackle something a little more sophisticated.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn any lines. We were told that in the finished product a jingle, composed especially for NKU, would play in the background while we smiled and looked like we knew what was going on.
“You will have to smile a lot and look interested and scholarly,” read a memo I received a few days later from Jim.
Strangely enough I really had to think about this request. I pondered the ways in which I could curl my eyebrows in just the right arch to achieve that “I am a man who has read many books” type of look.
I do wear glasses, though, which counts as a plus in the scholarly department.
Maybe I’d be able to ease up on the eyebrows.
According to the memo all of the volunteers would receive a copy of the commercial for their portfolio or “to show [our] grandchildren someday,” which struck me as the way I would probably use mine.
As I read that line now I know someday I’ll trap my grandkids in a room and subject them to multiple viewings of the thirty-second clip as I recount every college story I can muster up. They’ll undoubtedly ignore every word and instead marvel at the image of grandpa with a full head of hair.
Since I still do have some hair, I was careful to brush it neatly in to place on the morning of the shoot. We had to dress business casual with a tie and extra shirt just in case.
We met in a room off the new faculty development center in Steely. There were several people setting up lights, cameras and other equipment. I met the other “cast members”-a basketball player, a representative from the Student Bar Association, a fraternity member and others. We actually did look like a group of normal students.
The producer of the commercial came over and introduced himself. His name was Jim and he seemed very laid back and casual with shorts and a tee shirt. He explained what we were going to do and then got started.
Jim the producer and Jim from NKU sat down in front of a monitor and started calling people to stand in front of the camera.
All of us had to do a different set of poses.
We either had to turn our heads and flash one of those interested looks or smile really big and laugh, or concentrate really hard on something.
I was the last one to go up. They had to apply several brushes of makeup to my face because my forehead is extremely shiny.
When I mentioned it to the guy applying the make up he assured me that everyone has a shiny forehead.
No, I told him, I’m okay with it.
With the makeup applied and the lighting set I was ready for my, uh, closeup.
All of the shots in the commercial were very tight. Jim from NKU told us audiences have a better response to close shots. He told us we’d be surprised when we saw the finished product.
Suprisingly, shooting looks at the camera wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.
I was responsible for the “roll your head towards the camera and give it a little smirk” pose. Yes, I thought, I’m going to be that guy in the commercial.
After those shots we slid into our caps and gowns to shoot some graduation scenes outside. Unfortunately, my cap wouldn’t stay on my head (shiny forehead strikes again) so it just kind of hung on to my scalp while I celebrated with my fellow graduates.
My big scene in this sequence was a handshake with another student.
We shook hands about four or five times, fine-tuning the strong, hearty, manly handshake until we had it right.
With hands exhausted by the work we sat down to watch another group of students switch their tassels from one side of their caps to the other. After about the twentieth time we were all about ready to move on.
We spent the rest of the day doing all sorts of college type stuff-working in a computer lab, taking notes in class and reading books.
Eventually we ended up back in the library where I had to pretend to work at a computer, which, in reality, didn’t have the keyboard I was using attached to it.
Ah, the magic of commercials.
After that shot the group started to thin out.
I was asked to stay for a few final shots so I hung around and watched my “co-star” pull a book off a shelf and happily walk away.
The shot was so good that they didn’t need me for anything else, which was fine with me.
After seven hours of shooting I was getting a little drowsy. Luckily, I couldn’t really fall out of character because I was playing myself.
But, since nobody wants to see a college kid sleeping in the library in their commercial, I went back to my trailer, uh, home, and prepared for fame.