In 1976, we hired Jack Gold, a feature film director, to shoot a TV commercial for Dry Sack sherry in a manor house, located in Milford, Surrey. I’ve no idea why he was selected since he was the man who shot Aces High and was therefore used to rather grander jobs, but he seemed happy enough to take the brief.
Immediately preceding this shoot, our creative director had walked out of the agency, Bates, with both half our clients and my immediate boss. I had another boss, though, and he was gay, which was handy because the two main Dry Sack clients were both a bit funny, too.
The script was fairly feeble. It featured a 1976 lunch party in summer in an English manor house with all the stuff you’d expect – big hair, mullets, moustaches, Sue Ellen shoulder pads, Joan Collins hair, vol au vents, and Blue Nun. But when they all sipped a chilled glass of Dry Sack, everything was transformed. They were now dressed as 18th century caballeros and their ladies, the latter fluttering their eye lashes and fans.
Anyway, the first set-up got going, bacon sandwiches having been devoured by the crew.
At this point, an athletic chap, who turned out to be American, stumbled downstairs and looked around. He was more or less wearing a robe and clearly nothing else.
A tense conversation got going. The Spanish clients took an acute interest.
The American owner of the house was saying that he fancied the second lighting cameraman, and wanted to take him upstairs forthwith.
The second lighting cameraman, who was straight, wasn’t very keen on this, but the owner of the house, who had let it be known that he had fought in Viet Nam, said he’d throw us all out if we didn’t come up with a solution.
Alas, it was clear that the man of his fancy was definitely not interested in a close encounter. All of us, including me, implored the second lighting cameraman to reconsider.
Eventually, we reached a deal.
The make-up artist happened to be a fit looking chap rather than the usual brisk girl.
In exchange for this gentleman, into whose hands we slipped £100, agreed by the clients and therefore billable, the house’s owner declaimed that the shoot could now proceed as he ushered the make-up artist upstairs. We didn’t see him again for quite a while. Meanwhile, the continuity lady took over his duties, and the shoot was completed on time.
What lessons can be learned from this? Here are five:
- Try to take a broad range of sexually orientated people on a shoot with you. The best ally I ever had was a Scottish lady who has represented the UK four times in the Gay Games
- Leave your moral judgement at home
- Fill your wallet with a lot of your client’s money
- Have a client of uncertain sexuality with you on the basis that he, or she, or other will understand the need for cash in the face of unexpected circumstances. Our Spanish clients were very understanding
- Don’t bother getting out the contract. Get practical, and find a solution.
Later, two or three months later, I bumped into Jack Gold at Euston.
As I opened my mouth, Jack said, “Don’t!”
Since then, I have had an almost identical problem in Southern Spain’s Sierra Nevada during a shoot for the Citroën Saxo.
But this time, I knew what to do.
Finally, the chief lighting cameraman, who was also straight, was Dougie Slocombe. And I hasten to add that Jack Gold wisely stayed away from the negotiations with the American owner. These negotiations were handled by my account director and the two Spanish clients.