Everyone thinks it’s easy to produce something for television. Now, more than ever, with YouTube, everyone who can press the record button thinks he’s the next Spielberg. Clients who want to produce their own television ads, especially local ads without a big budget, are usually just swell; great folks with an idea of what they’d like to see, willing to let the pros create it for them. But, now and then, a client appears who’s apparently seen one too many movies about making movies and fancies himself a creative genius, Producer/Director Extraordinaire! In their minds they’re wearing a beret, perched on director’s chair with a megaphone shouting, “Cut and print!” to the obedient minions.
I encountered one of these folks early on. It was a small market in an even smaller tv station but with a client whose ego filled the studio and beyond.
The ad was for a car dealership. Local car ads now have nearly vanished. The corporations send slick national ads with room for a local tag. Back a while, though, local car ads were the place to look for comic creativity. If you ever lived in southern California you probably remember Cal Worthington and His Dog Spot. Those cheap, corny ads helped build a car dealership empire.
I suspect our client that day had the same sort of
delusions aspirations in mind for his ads. He was doing an Easter sale ad, and naturally you have to have a bunny.
The bunny was an attractive young lady dressed up in a rabbit costume. The costume wasn’t some tarty, Playboy-inspired outfit, though the young lady was clearly cast with that vision in mind. No, her costume was a baggy, fake fur bunny suit complete with bunny-eared hood. All that showed was her face. I recall our producer, in a low, snide aside, suggesting she was the girlfriend of the (much older) car dealership owner. If that was the case, the relationship probably ended that day.
Lighting was set. Bunny-girl was miked and audio was checked. Aim. Focus. Roll tape.
Bunny-girl bounced enthusiastically and delivered her lines. It wasn’t high art, but it was kind of cute. If the audio was good and the video stuck to the tape we were done, right?
“No! Cut!” screamed the client. It was all wrong. He rushed up to the bunny-girl, talking intently to her about her motivation and delivery. Our producer and director leaned in and strained themselves trying to look concerned, professional, and affirming.
Take 2… Bunny-girl bounced and delivered her lines.
Take number… I’m sure you get it. Twenty-one takes of the bunny-girl car ad were recorded. The simple, easy session stretched late into the night. The screaming got louder at the end of each take. The client’s face turned red and he looked like he was going to have a stroke. Happy, bouncy bunny-girl was red-eyed and fighting tears. She was failing to deliver the artistic nuances the car dealership client demanded of her performance. Our producer and director, usually consummate jerks themselves around any attractive, young female, were even struggling to try to get the client to stop being mean to the bunny-girl, while battling with the overriding desire not to annoy the guy paying the money.
Take 21… They finally called it off for the night. A sobbing bunny-girl was probably not going to sell cars. The next day, when everyone was more calm, they could come back and continue shooting the ad.
The punchline to this tale? You probably already guessed it. Yes, they used Cut 1.