Saturday, February 4, 2012

Smile -- You're in a Giants Commercial!

About 400 San Francisco Giants fans showed up Friday at AT&T Park dressed in orange, dressed in black and dressed in orange and black. One man sported a 7-inch high Mohawk; a young boy wore a shorter version, dyed orange. Another fan arrived in a black Wolverine costume festooned with touches of orange. One sported an orange jumpsuit, complete with matching hat, covered in Giants themes.

Beards were on display in great abundance (like the Mohawks, an homage to closer Brian Wilson) -- foam beards, fuzzy beards pasted on or held on with straps and even posters of beards, with cutouts for faces. One man sported an authentic Wilson-style beard. The parents of a three-year-old boy drew a beard on his chubby face. A few fans painted their faces the appropriate colors, including a mom and her four-year-old daughter, who sported orange and black paint “masks.”

Some fans wore orange wigs, panda hats or black feather boas. Others carried rally towels, foam fingers and signs extolling the virtues of individual players. Pre-teen girls from a school soccer team arrived in their own game jerseys but carried Giants ensembles, ready for a quick change. A dozen or so 20-somethings brought their cleavage, framed in low-cut, scoop-necked tee shirts; still others wore short black shorts and tight orange tube tops.

Anticipating a chilly wind off McCovey Cove, I dressed in layers: A black camisole, a long-sleeved black tee under a short-sleeved orange Lou Seal tee, a black hoodie with the orange “SF” logo, an orange neck scarf, a black fleece jacket, long johns under black pants, black socks under orange socks and my black Mary Jane shoes, which showed off those fuzzy socks. I wore my Giants earrings, and carried my Giants ball cap.

All of us, from that bearded little boy to the elderly woman with a walker, showed up at the stadium at 8:30 a.m. Throughout the day, the production team moved us from section to section, occasionally pulling out individuals but mainly concentrating on crowd shots. We all were there because we had answered a casting call, applying for the privilege of appearing in a Giants commercial. Here is what I wrote on my application:

“A lifelong Cardinals fan, I committed post-season treason after moving here from St. Louis in the summer of 2010, trading my extensive Redbirds wardrobe for all things Giant. I cheered the team on to the ultimate victory that year, attended Opening Day (Giants v. Cards on April 8, 2011), wore orange and black all season long (three tees, two hats, one sweatshirt, socks, earrings and a tote bag) and remain an avid Giants fan to this day. Friends share tickets with me for some games; most of them I watch on television. Timmy, Matt Cain, Buster, The Beard, Pablo Sandoval, even Lou Seal -- we're family now, and I am eager for the 2012 season to begin. I love baseball and I love the Giants -- of course I belong in a commercial!”

What I didn’t say is how reluctantly I embraced wearing orange and black. Oh, I had to change teams – you must love the one you’re with, or at least watch the baseball that airs on the channel where you live. But orange and black are my high school’s colors, and though I made some good friends there, I don’t have much good to say about the school. These days, it’s a cliché to hate high school, but at the time, we were always being told that high school represented the best years of our lives. I hoped that was a big lie -- and it was. 

Anyway, the producers liked what I wrote and invited me to the stadium. Some 600 people took part in filming on Thursday, and some of those fans came back Friday for more. Chatting with us newbies in the stands, they told us to expect a light lunch at 2, they told us to expect stars to be plucked from among us and they told us that Thursday’s session had lasted until after dark, ending close to 8 p.m.

What did we do all day? Keeping our eye on one particular guy on the field as the camera rolled, we clapped, we squealed, we cheered, we hooted, and we went crazy as instructed with various cues. When the member of the production staff with a megaphone first called out, “Look at home plate,” the woman in front of me stopped everything with her questions: “Who’s batting? What’s the score?” We all rolled our eyes and booed her, if only silently. Method actors!

For hours we were at it, pretending to be at the old ball game throughout the day. We all noticed how difficult it is to shout and wave your arms and hop about for three or four minutes at a time – especially for three or four takes. During a real game, everything happens quickly. Filming television commercials, not so much. They fed us about 12:30 or 1, handing out hot dogs, sodas and small bags of peanuts to everyone there. (“That was a twelve-dollar lunch,” my bus driver quipped later.) Then it was back to work.

At mid-afternoon, a handful of actual Giants – Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey and Matt Cain among them -- came out on the field and ran through warm-up exercises. We hooted and howled and a couple of them waved at us. The producers suggested that the players might come over and say “hi,” later but the folks who spent the day at the ballpark on Thursday said not to count on that.

Each time we were asked to move, I grabbed an aisle seat, so I was in several shots, including close-ups. I don't know how the footage will be edited, of course, but I may well end up in a Giants commercial or two. Still, that’s not the only reason I went. This week, someone tried (and failed) to break into my building and on Thursday a small moving van crashed into my parked car. I needed to escape for a day.

About 2:30 p.m., when the crowd had dwindled to about 125 people, I decided I’d had enough. Walking out past the palm trees, I said to myself, “Back to real life.” Then I laughed. Because apparently spending a day at AT&T Park shooting a Giants commercial is part of my real life -- and that rocks.