So it’s my turn (Mr UHDD) to take the reins for a few days while UHDD is away enjoying herself. A blog post …… a first for me …… scary……in such hallowed company.
In her past life, UHDD did a bit of work for film and TV providing props. I’d never been exposed to this unreal world but felt I knew a bit about it from what UHDD had told me. Then a few weeks ago I received an email entitled “Male Runners Wanted for TV Advert”. Never one to shy away from an opportunity like this, I asked UHDD to take the requisite full length photo of me in farmer’s clothing and sent it off that afternoon. The phone rang a few minutes later inviting me to an audition – wow!
After the audition and a “recall”, I was offered a part as an extra, not a “featured runner” (I clearly wasn’t experienced enough for that) in the filming of a Hovis (a well known brand of flour/bread) advert entitled Farmer’s Race. It was to be directed by none other than Dougal Wilson who directed the Never Knowingly Undersold ad for the John Lewis Partnership that UHDD featured in her blog last year.
There are many excellent Hovis ads, but this one from the 1970s is still judged by many to be the best TV ad of all time:
I know they work long hours in film and TV, so it didn’t really come as a surprise to be told that it was a 4:30am “call” last Wednesday at a car park in Macclesfield from where we would be taken to the location, Blaze Farm, famous locally for its children’s parties and home made ice cream. So it was that a busload of sleepy extras including several other runners I know, arrived on the farm and were immediately herded (appropriately) into a barn where we dressed in our kit and then headed for breakfast. Film types seem to know how to look after their stomachs as there was plenty of good food available, but we were slightly disappointed to be segregated – “crew” got more choice than “background” (as extras are known, for that’s what we were to be in the shots).
The weather couldn’t have been much better over the three days of filming. Sunburn was the biggest risk rather than the more usual frostbite or windchill – very welcome, but unexpected in March.
The storyline is something along the lines of Hovis wheat farmers having a deadly serious running race across the countryside and encountering various obstacles on the way to the finish. Some complete the course, others fall by the wayside. Of course when they’re filming, things don’t go in the same order as in the finished version. The sequence for day 1 was something like this:
1) Large pack of runners squeeze through gate
2) Finish of race
3) Start of Race
4) Runners follow camera across undulating field
5) Runners hurdle an obstacle made of straw bales
So you finish the race looking clean and fresh, then start the race more dirty and tired!
It doesn’t sound much, but filming started as soon as the sun was up, before 7am and finished after 6pm. Each scene involved many takes, so by the end of the day everyone was pretty exhausted, particularly the more generously proportioned people who weren’t used to running.
A couple of shots at the start – “runners” lined up:
Below – gun about to be fired for start. Barry who is holding the gun created an unintentional “comic” moment as he allowed the loaded gun to drop when the director was speaking to him, and everyone else screamed in horror. He was safer when rehearsing with a stick:
Day two was more tiring for the runners, but good training.
Here is the storyboard:
The scenes included running uphill with sheep in foreground, sheep in middle ground, sheep in background, no sheep. In the end the sheep got so bored they walked off and couldn’t be bribed back even with the tastiest morsel while the runners got more and more drained!
As for the rest of it, you’ll just have to wait until the ad is broadcast.
It’s astonishing to think that three days on set for over 40 crew and 60+ cast/extras plus all the preparation, editing etc. results in one brief TV commercial albeit one that will probably become a classic.