19
Jun
09

I was Digitally Modified by Microsoft

I don’t know how the ad company found me, but they auditioned me for a Microsoft ad. They asked questions about what I liked about work and they filmed me while I answered. I was brought back for a second audition to meet the director and writer and get filmed again. Here’s all I remember about the conversation:

“Why did you bring me back for another audition?” I asked.

“We were impressed that you liked to catch the bus to work so you could read more.”

Two days later the phone rang.

“We want you in the ad but the Microsoft execs don’t like your hair color. Now we love pink, we think it is cool. But they hate it. How would you feel about dying your hair brown? Then we can dye it back to pink again after the ad. We’d pay for all this, of course.”

I thought about this. I could get my hair cut and colored at fancy hair salon twice. I’d get two head massages and plenty of coffee. The stylists would be fun and cute. But my hair was already in awful shape and if I bleached and dyed it two more times in a week it would go brittle.

“No thanks.”

“OK.”

brent5

I showed up for the Saturday filming. I ate something at the snack counter then they sent me into the wardrobe trailer to get something to replace my Bananas in Pajamas t-shirt. There were some other Microsoft employees sitting on chairs getting made up. I was disappointed to find out they didn’t want to give me make up, although they did brush my hair. I thought the shirt looked good on me.

Then they wired us up with microphones, the ones you sometimes see on TV with a transmitter box on your belt and a little microphone attached under your shirt.

“Careful,” they warned us, “everything you say with this on can be heard by everyone here. Please be careful what you say. People have got into trouble, usually by gossiping about someone while the someone can hear.”

We sat in a Microsoft meeting room. The only crew members in the room were the cameraman and assistant. The rest of the crew was out of sight around the corner, watching the ‘action’ on a wall of monitors. I was thinking, “Is this what they do when they close the set to shoot Salma Hayek’s bedroom scenes?”

We went through a bunch of meeting scenarios where we talked and looked at laptops and waved our hands and said “Where do you want to go today?” And each time I said it they asked me to say it again but in a more relaxed way, less of the feeling of a stage actor delivering a line. I said the line several times.

After that I gave them their shirt back and we went for lunch. The filming went on into the afternoon in someone’s office in a different building. At their request I stuck around in case they needed extras. I spent the afternoon hanging out and talking to people. One of the crew was telling us about the time he was on a Madonna video production and at one point she was sitting on a board with him underneath it holding her up at the right height for the shot. Eventually I gave up and went home. They kept on filming for another day

At work a few weeks later someone had stuck a screen snapshot of the new Microsoft ad on my door. I was in the shot. I show up in the ad for two shots that were under one second each. I had no lines. They played it during every NFL game for several weeks, maybe the whole season. And each time my hair had been digitally altered to brown.

Sometimes I wonder if having brown hair would have let me be in the ad for more, but deep in my heart I think it was my inability in front of the camera that held me back. At least I got 1.2 seconds of fame.

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