Throwback Thursday – You’ll never guess what this really is…

Came across a photo I have not seen in a while and you will never guess what this is…

Was it me working construction? Doing excavating? Heavy machinery?

None of the above but playing at it. This is me back in my acting days doing a shoot as an extra in Miami. I was one of a dozen or so young men dressed as above for a video shoot for “French Manpower.” I never knew whether that was an overseas hiring company or a government agency but they paid by the day and I was happy. The production company rented a big lot at the Port of Miami. The erected a large platform topped by a mylar mirror (part of which you can see me standing on). It was painted to resemble a jigsaw puzzle with the center piece missing.

That missing piece was suspended on a huge port crane. The concept was that this company could complete your hiring puzzle that would be dubbed in French after the shoot. Our job was to look tough putting the last piece into place as the crane lowered it. We didn’t do the heavy lifting, the crane was positioned to lower it slowly into place. We just looked tough and able. But there were a few problems.

There were several cameras on booms around the mirror which, of course, mirrored the Miami sky. Because any variation would be detected in the commercial the whole deal had to be done in one take. Also, though they cleaned our boots endlessly, any footprint would be caught on camera and they would have to cut and start again. And they were shooting in a Florida summer where there is frequent rain. Any hint of rain would delay the work and the crew spent countless on their knees wiping the mylar clean and dry.

It was at the port so our only facilities were some portable toilets and a shipping container made up as a dressing room with chairs, a few lights, and no air conditioning. It was supposed to be a one-day shoot with an allowance for one safety day. Mother Nature did not cooperate. That production company couldn’t catch a break. They would spend an hour getting set, get started and rain would come pouring down. We would be sent back to our shipping container which was stifling hot and the whole cycle would repeat. But we weren’t able to take our heavy costumes off as they wanted us ready at any moment. Sometimes they tried hard to get their shot and we would get rained on as they tried to squeeze in a shot so that meant we were soaked as well.

The one day stretched into three days and the crew were going crazy. Because we’re getting paid by the day we didn’t complain. What they really couldn’t afford is the GQ model they had brought in to be ‘le boss.’ He simply held a clipboard pointing at the giant puzzle as it was lowered into place and was featured in closeups as we were kept in background. He had a portable trailer as his dressing room, but he would sometimes stop by the shipping container to pal around with us boys. He was a nice guy and much prettier than us and making a lot more money. He wore a suit, not construction clothes.

On the fourth day they readjusted his close-ups because he needed to move onto to another modeling job and restructured the shots to allow us extras to finish up later. When his car came for him he stopped into the shipping container to say goodby. He said he good news and bad news. “The good news is that I convinced the producers to get you fellows new costumes for the rest of the shoot.” We all cheered. “The bad news is that Jim will give his costume to Walter, Walter will give his costume to George …. etc.” Ha ha, funny model. And we all promised we would see each other at a future commercial shoot. Never did.

So we hung out and got paid for another three days until they got enough clear time to do the full shoot. Six days pay when we only anticipated one. Not bad and much needed. I never did see the finished video but it was a memorable shoot.

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