Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Diary from the 'Nam (or at least Barcelona)

Whilst rifling through my hard drive I came across this piece I wrote for Shots magazine back in 2006.

It's a shoot diary of the Boots Christmas TV commercial we shot with David Lachapelle.

Haven't been on a shoot like this before or since.


7.30 On location, ten miles outside Barcelona.
Well we made it. We survived the pre-prod. David got here all the way from his retreat in Hawaii (an old nudist colony he recently bought) thanks to some expert bi-lateral wrangling by his executive producers Ellen in LA and Nicola Doring in London. The sun is shining and the sets are looking great.

7.37 David’s refusing to shoot. The location we’ll be using for the interiors is a grand but decrepit mansion where Spanish nobility was murdered under Franco. David declares he’s not going to film inside unless we have the building blessed. Fortunately Ellen has brought her nanny from LA, who conveniently happens to be a psychic. She asks the ghosts of family if we can film there. They say yes. David leaves his trailer.

08.00am Chris Doyle, the legendary director of photography, is checking the lighting. Not sure which is more disconcerting; the dark sunglasses he’s wearing as he works, or the beer in his hand. As he cracks open another can from his own personal cooler box we notice it’s non-alcoholic. What a relief. Sort of.

09.00am We turn over. Nice and early. Nicola is smiling at her watch. The first set-up is the turkey-stuffing scene. Suddenly, David Letham, the first assistant director, looks around at us in panic as he hears the way David is directing the girl: “Yeah, yeah, go on. Stick it up your mother!!!” We watch the monitor, discussing the ‘fisting’ action. In passing, production designer Marco xxxx puts us right. “Actually, that’s not fisting. The technical term is punch-fucking.”

1.00 Still shooting the first set up. Nicola is frowning at her watch. Our model is still stoically ramming her arm up the turkey, trying to get just the look David is after. The girl, despite being a vegetarian is bearing up well. The same can’t be said for the turkey.

1.30pm Lunch is called. We’re not feeling that hungry.

4.00pm One of twenty small children gets flour in his afro and throws a diva tantrum that David would be proud of.

1.00am It’s been a long day. And it’s nowhere near over. Realising we’re are shooting eight days worth of material in four, David locks Nicola into his trailer: “Nickles, why am I not getting overtime for this!!”

03.00am We wrap. David is driven off into the night. Nicola and Ellen are hissing into the phone to his driver. We can just make out the words: “We don’t care where he fucking wants you to take him, lock him in the fucking car if you need to, just get him fucking home!!”


08.00am Call time. The first set up of the day is lit to perfection. Everyone’s ready and raring to get going. Whilst looking over today’s shot list we overhear production talking on the walkie talkies: ‘OK, where’s the director?...... He’s WHAT? Swimming?... In the sea??... NAKED???... “ We help ourselves to another coffee and empty a bag-full of magazines.

09.30am David arrives and stomps straight to his trailer. It looks like we’re about to meet ‘The Evil Stepsister’ we’ve been warned of.

10.00 The model is brought to the David’s trailer for, hair, make-up and wardrobe approval. He doesn’t grant it. Bay Garnett rifles through the eight suitcases full of clothes (£25,000 worth) she brought over from the UK.

10.45 Different hair, different make-up different wardrobe. Same answer.

11.30am Fifth time lucky. We turn over.

10.35pm The sprout peeling scene. After a truck full of sprouts, which has been driven over from England are unloaded, David sits down in front of the monitor and gives a little direction. “Oh yeah, the water, it’s so hot… oh, it feels so good all over my body… oh, my nipples, they’re getting hard… Oh, yeah… oh, oh my vulva’s vibrating.” Sadly the model doesn’t speak a word of English, so one lucky interpreter gets to translate the whole thing into Spanish.


12.00pm The washing up scene. With ‘Take your mama out’, by the Scissor Sisters blaring from the iPod speakers David shouts out to the crew: ‘Where are my ice cubes?? Get me ice cubes.” Then to the girl: “Shake those titties!! Ok. Pinch, pinch, pinch!!!” The girl staunchly refuses to pinch her own nipples leaving the scene “erect-nipple free’. Then as she picks up a perfume bottle, he screams: “Spray that shit!!” Both ‘Nickles’ and Ellen spin round to the client and mouth “He didn’t mean that…” The client mouths back, “That’s fine, it is.”

23.00pm The carol singing scene and David’s not getting the right eye-line for the three girls who have door-stepped a hot guy. They’re meant to be flirtatiously looking him up and down. David finds a marker pen and, ever so deliberately, draws a circle on the front of the Brad Pitt lookalike’s boxer shorts, telling the girls “This is where you look”. Strangely, the actor didn’t hang around to chat after we finished.

3.30 Last set up of the day: The girl pulling the tree. Everyone’s tired and wants to get home. Everyone, it seems, except David. Having donned a massive white afro wig similar to the girl in the scene, he has taken time out in between takes to have a spot of make-up applied and get some photos taken. The Catalans are cursing quietly. They really don’t know what to make of him. They’re not alone.


21.00pm The finale ‘lights on the house’ shot. Our Brazilian model is defying gravity in a Ben de Lisi dress. Apparently they’re natural. “I don’t know what happened. I went on the pill and they just grew”.

21.17pm Chris Doyle nobly offers to pop a stray boob back in for her. He’s such a pro.

03.00am The supermarket. The final set-up of the shoot. The shot is of a girl calmly applying make-up in the supermarket while around her is shopping chaos. Rob Saunders, a life-long fan of Chris Doyle, heard he was shooting with us and has flown out to meet him. David obviously hasn’t been told who Rob is as he’s telling him where to stick the tinsel. Rob is kindly obliging.

4.10 Everything’s been carefully co-ordinated with the supermarket management so as to avoid minimum possibility of damage. We have been given one aisle and only a very small number of food items. David pulls the extras together and calls through a bull horn: “Ok. It’s the end of the world! What do you do?!” Within seconds it’s carnage. People fighting over carrots, stealing each others’ handbags, sliding in the two- foot layer of cake and milk on the floor. Someone sprints past camera with what looks like a light meter round his neck. We realise it’s Chris Doyle, who felt more foreground action was needed.

4.20am Thank god there wasn’t a hair in the gate. One take is all we were going to get. After wrecking £5000 worth food that wasn’t ours, the supermarket manager tells us he’s calling the police.

4.30am Christpher Doyle downs the last Zero Zero lager in his cooler box. He opens a can of the Heinken and the night begins.

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