I have finally gotten used to hearing my voice on the radio. But video is still an untamed animal, as far as I’m concerned. I can only watch myself on TV after I’ve been heavily sedated.
But it’s the 21st century and I’m trying to be with-it and modern when it comes to promoting my new novel, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKTHROUGH. (Subliminal message: It’s a wonderful, funny, touching novel about mother-daughter relationships. Pre-order it now! Buy it many times!)
So, anyway, my friend Alisa Bowman, who also has a new book coming out, PROJECT HAPPILY EVER AFTER, has done a great film trailer and I was inspired. Why not try it myself? All I had to lose was money. And self-respect.
So, I called my good friends Chris Elley and Cile Spelce Elley, who own the documentary film company Electro-Fish Films. I know them very well, since we traveled together producing a TV series while they were courting each other. I knew Chris was smitten, since he laughed at Cile’s God-awful puns. Except for the aforementioned puns, I had a great time with them; they’re smart and funny and incredibly good at what they do.
Plus, they know me and have a dim appreciation of how I — how shall I put it? — am not completely at ease around a camera. They set up their cameras and lights and pinned a mike on me and made me run through my little spiel.
“You’re using your radio voice,” Cile said bossily. “Remember, this is TV.”
She told me a “radio voice” was way too mellow. I needed to ham it up, pep it up a lot. I felt like Shirley Temple, whose mother used to tell her, “Sparkle, Shirley, sparkle!” (And look at what happened to little Shirley: She grew up to become a Republican.)
I tried to act peppier. Shirley’s mother would have disinherited me. I didn’t even sparkle and I still got exhausted.
It made me think of the whole stunt double idea — which started when my friend Martha was scheduled for a bilateral mastectomy. All the doctors were standing around, grimly, about to put her under, when she said, “Wait a minute! Isn’t it time for my stunt double to come in?”
After that, Martha and I used to spend time coming up with ideas about when, precisely, we required stunt doubles — not limiting ourselves to major surgery. We also needed stunt doubles, we decided, for housecleaning, dental appointments, stomach viruses, colonoscopies, and boring dinner parties.
Anyway, that very moment was clearly a good time for my (younger, better-looking, sparkling) stunt double to show up. I suggested Cile take my place, since she loves being the center of attention so much it’s dangerous to get between her and a camera.
“Cut out the jokes,” Cile said, going into her Eva Braun persona. “Run through it again. That last time was your best.”
I talked, they filmed, nobody sparkled. Check it out here. As I mentioned, when it comes to video, I’m headed to the medicine chest.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
See one of my favorite posts about how TV broke my heart