|Here I am getting paid to learn and I got to keep the jacket.|
What’s the most important tool on every commercial set?
Not how many M ‘n M’s you can fit in your mouth at craft service, although God knows I’ve tried. (68, I’d like to see Flo beat that!)
It’s listening. Being present in the moment to recognize what is needed.
Lets’ take a time travel back to my Hershey’s Pot O' Gold spot. A great national spot that ran for years, bookended a Late Night with David Letterman I was watching, and made me tens of thousands of dollars. But ultimately, those weren’t the most enjoyable results of the spot.
The best part was learning something incredibly valuable on set. Learning to listen.
If you go to my reel, you’ll see at the end of this spot how I reach into a planter and grab the host’s flowers as a panicked last minute gift. Pretty funny.
After the first take, the Assistant Director who was standing behind the camera spoke. (He was getting notes in his earpiece from the director who was watching on the monitor off set) The AD says, “Okay great, this time shake the flowers so we see the dirt fall out.” Which I did. “Cut!” Huge pause. We wait on that porch for about 10 minutes while off-set the whole production crew, a group of producers and team of clients discuss.
Finally, the AD comes back up to me. “Okay, they say forget the dirt. Just hold up the flowers.” “I thought that was pretty funny,” I think to myself. “Too bad.”
And we shoot it again. After “CUT,” the AD immediately comes up to me.
“Okay great, we’re going to do it again. And don’t shake the flowers.”
“I didn’t know I shook the flowers.”
“Yeah. You did.”
We shoot again. “CUT” The AD slides up and grabs the flowers out of my hand. A tight smile.
“Okay. You’re still shaking the flowers. DON’T shake the flowers. They don’t want you to shake the flowers anymore.”
Another take. “CUT!” The director whips around the corner. No longer in his director’s chair.
“Okay Bill, you’re shaking the flowers when you hold them up.”
The props department guy, who had to re-plant after every shot, says, “Just, hol’ ‘em.”
“Right,” I think to myself. “Just hol’ ‘em.” Which I did. And in the next shot, I just held them. And we’re done with the shot, moving on.
See, I wasn’t listening. I was thinking of the first shot. I was thinking of not messing up. I was thinking of wasting everyone’s time. I was frightened. I was resistant. I wasn’t THERE. I was in the past, I was in the future. And the only place we can act, and act well, is now. Indeed, a true “Pot O’ Gold.”
Try this: Take a second to listen. Right now. What do you hear? Allow the sounds to meet the ear. No judgement, just listen. Try this again in an hour. And an hour after that. And after that. Hey! Look! You're listening!