I’m part of a team of actors shooting an Old Spice commercial. The directors, who have determined that the commercials will follow a forest fairytale motif, split us up into two groups. The actors from the first group dress up as elves (green tunics, green leggings, green pointy hats, and red pointy shoes) and go into the nearby forest to do their shoot. The second group (my group) is assigned a prince and princess tragicomedy. It takes longer for us to begin filming because a) the directors have to assign people to specific characters and b) we’re waiting for more crew to show up. Somehow, in spite of my lack of acting experience, I am assigned the role of princess. While we’re waiting, we climb to a stone dais at the top of a grassy hill to go over our roles. It’s sunny and windy on top of hill, and we can see the forest for miles around. Oh, and there’s a castle at the bottom of the hill, where we store camera equipment.
After hours of waiting, we move to a room in a low building closer to the filming site. We put on costumes and makeup. I change into a Renaissance-style green dress and pointy hat made of the same material as the elves’ costumes. I tell the makeup artist, a nice woman in her late 30s, that she is probably not used to working on unconventionally Asian eyes like mine, and she tells me that she is just doing “standard procedure” on me. She dips a slightly wet brush in smoky purple eyeshadow and blends it into my eyelids. Then she uses a black-brown eyeliner on my upper and lower lash lines. I comment on the surprisingly natural-looking result, and she informs me that I’m a 3 (on a scale of 5) in eyeliner darkness and that I’m probably used to something darker.
About five minutes before the rest of the crew shows up, the actors are given their lines, which are scrawled in blue pen in a paper notebook and completely illegible to me. (I don’t know why they were unavailable earlier.) They are not, however, illegible to anyone else, and I waste a good portion of the five minutes amassing the courage to ask someone to read them aloud. There aren’t many lines, but because my mental faculties are somehow faulty, I have to ask people to read my lines several times.
The filming takes place in a basement studio made to look like the front of a castle. (This is strange, as there is a perfectly authentic-looking castle right outside outfitted with natural lighting and real forest.) The commercial starts with footage of the prince, who emerges from the forest after a presumably long journey and walks up to the moat of a castle. As the princess, I am supposed to run out of my tower and welcome him in melodramatic, damsel-in-distress fashion.
Here’s my screenplay version of what’s supposed to happen:
It’s a sunny day. PRINCE, a hunky fellow in his mid-20s, emerges from the forest and walks up to the castle moat. He is wearing green princely clothing and leather boots. CASTLE GUARDS espy him, lower the drawbridge, and alert PRINCESS of his presence. PRINCESS runs out of her tower and onto a parapet wall overlooking the moat.
I’ve waited for you for so long!
PRINCESS stretches arms toward PRINCE.
Every bit as long as I’ve waited for you!
PRINCE stretches arms toward PRINCESS.
I thought about you night and day!
PRINCESS trips daintily down the steps of the parapet wall toward PRINCE.
I thought about you every moment of every hour!
PRINCE crosses drawbridge and embraces PRINCESS, who lays her head on his shoulder in ecstatic devotion.
My love, nothing has changed! You are still the same man.
Yes, I am…almost. You see, my love, I’ve switched from Old Spice to New Spice.
PRINCESS pushes away slightly and looks into PRINCE’s face.
Yes. I’ve become a new man in a small way. It’s for both of us.
No, no, I won’t have it. You’re not the man I know.
PRINCESS shakes her head and pushes PRINCE away completely.
I am the man you know! And I love you!
PRINCESS runs back into her castle, leaving PRINCE standing on the bridge, forlorn.
Narrator (deep man’s voice)
Old Spice. Be the man she wants.
A short script, by anyone’s measure. However, due to my mysteriously sketchy short-term memory and suddenly loose speech motor muscles, I have trouble reciting my lines. We have to stop filming and start from the beginning every time I stumble over my words. This requires the scene to be shot many, many times. During one of our breaks, we see the elf group return from the forest. Someone says that they only had to film their commercial once. After I finally get my lines straight, my group sighs collectively in relief.