Glamour in Advertising? What’s that?

Everyone thinks advertising film shoots are glamorous affairs but the truth is, all the glamour is within the frame. If you saw the contortions that light guys go through to keep the lights in the right place, the shouted instructions to the camera assistants on keeping people and objects out of the frame and the general chaos that prevails on any film set at the point of execution, glamour would be the last word that comes to mind. Miles of wire snake across the set, thermocole boards used to reflect light are stacked at various precarious angles, noisy generators hum in the background and at every break, the carpenters move in and pound away at a different corner where the next shot is being set up. It all adds to the confusion. Lunches and snacks are quick and messy affairs with huge tiffin carriers being opened up and spread out at any place available. Just like the fashion ramp walks are all glamour and glitz but backstage is all chaos and confusion

About the models, the less said, the better. Most of them you wouldn’t give a second look in the street. It’s only when the makeup men and women work their magic and the photographers get them to show off their best angle do they look like gods and goddesses. The pimples are artfully hidden, natural scars and flaws camouflaged and the carefully calibrated light end up making them look like they were from a different planet. But the illusion only works on TV or in a movie theatre. On the set, it’s just another guy or girl working for a living. You see them with their flaws, their inability to mouth a single line with the emphasis it requires – and all the insecurity that goes with trying to act – even if it is a 20-second commercial where the best performances can be teased out of wood. It’s only for a few seconds that the illusion has to be preserved, not the long grueling schedule of a feature film shoot.

I love it when friends think that all people do in advertising is look at pictures of beautiful girls and call it ‘work’. If only they knew how little it takes to crack the veneer that goes with the job. Poring through hundreds of pictures to shortlist an interesting face or sitting through the video tests where the hit ratio of a worthwhile test to the ones that are simply painful to watch is 100:1 – at a minimum. In many cases, you can go through reams of files from model coordinators who shepherd the starry-eyed into an ever-growing stream in the hope that they will ‘make it’ and come up with nothing.

It’s a lot like Facebook where people spend hours putting up the right profile picture. Clicking through leads to ordinary party and social snaps – which destroys the bubble altogether.