I was feeling great about life until later that night when we sat down to watch the reels. Reality hit me, and I went into shock. Seriously, what was I thinking? I looked like an idiot. I was an idiot. Obviously, I’d failed to think this brilliant idea through. I wasn’t even remotely comfortable being on film. (Jim said, “Wow, high definition is not kind to you.”) Here’s a Hollywood secret: little people with big heads look great on film. I am an average person with an average head — disastrous! What we needed was a hot 20-year-old who could step in and take over the role.
Jim, despite his far-from-comforting observation, wouldn’t hear of it. He’d determined that my whack-a-doodle life was the story and that was what we were going to sell. There was no time for my insecurities and angst. I put on a brave face and prayed for softer lighting. The team was counting on me. In the future, I would not be so easily flustered. I would forge onward and channel Julia.
Day 2. We hit the road. Jim liked to film what he called “eye candy.” He wasn’t referring to me — we popped up to La Jolla. We did shots of driving down Prospect Street, sitting at the Children’s pool, and chatting it up with tourists. We shot scenes at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and La Valencia. Chip was angling the shots, while Jim told what to say and do. We filmed the waves, me painting the waves, me talking to the seals, talking to dogs, me waving while driving, me eating, me sitting and laughing — we did it all. I changed outfits in Gaylord, my Miata, so that every shot looked like another day, another time. Day two went very well, and I was gaining a bit of confidence, I was wondering what designer I would wear for my Good Morning America interview.
Day 3 brought glitches. Like any production (I assumed), things did not run smoothly; my experienced volunteer San Diego crew had to get back to their paying jobs. The camera went with them. Jim, who’d declared himself producer and director, took charge, bought a camera. Filming continued. Next stop, Old Town. Jim’s theory was that Old Town had a similar look to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Never having been to San Miguel, I couldn’t dispute this. So I was filmed walking around random buildings, shaking maracas, and pretending to be in Mexico. Frida Kahlo would have been proud.
From there we moved to Balboa Park, where we filmed the fountains, the rose garden, statues, and the cactus garden. It was during the cactus-garden scene that Jim said, “Your shirt makes you look like a disciple of General Mao.”
Another Miata outfit change, and we filmed more of Prudence painting, Prudence chatting, Prudence laughing, Prudence walking, Prudence driving. We took enough footage for ten complete episodes.
The next challenge was to transfer the film onto the computer, a task that was out of my league and that baffled Jim. I enlisted a former student, Jake. Jake’s mom let us hang out at her house while Jim and Jake toiled away. I made food and soda runs.
Day 4. It was time to work on the voiceover. This was trickier than expected and gave me a whole new appreciation for TV commercials. Jim found his directorial mojo and had no trouble voicing his opinion. Apparently, I am Sybil and have multiple voices. Jim yelled, “Get rid of Little Debbie! Sound normal!”
It was painful to repeat lines such as “My new TV show is a fun mix of painting, travel, and adventure to entertain and inspire you.” It had everything but the kitchen sink. Jim kept his patience; I kept (some of) my sanity. But it was taxing all around.
Jim took the material back to Dallas with him. At this point, my ace producer/director unleashed a bit of a bad attitude and started whining. Granted, he hadn’t expected to have to learn computer-editing and sound skills. We couldn’t find a film editor on craigslist who wanted to work for free, so I told him he had to figure it out. I tried to be as supportive, even sending off a book on the basics of film editing. Still, Jim moaned and groaned for three weeks straight. I wasn’t expecting to have to edit this stuff…I don’t know how to add music to a video. Blah blah blah.
Meanwhile, I was busy living my life as an artist. We needed my story. I may have had only the one title, but it was a crucial one.
Miraculously, Jim figured everything out. He took over ten hours of film and pieced it together into a two-minute, 30-second sizzle reel. Jim also wrote a “one sheet” (Hollywood-speak: a one-page advertisement for the show). He came up with catchy slogans. “How far will she go to inspire you?” and “Enjoy the ride!” I feared that these made me sound like a hooker looking for action, but Jim was proud of his work. Who was I to question my producer/director/editor/marketer? He’d put in long, hard hours with no pay. So I went with it.
Back in Boston, my web-master mom secured and created a web page. She was a champ, and survived me and Jim giving her orders left and right. There were a few hiccups. YouTube was new to her; putting a video on the site was a challenge. She called in her team, neighbor Tom and friend Dave, and they all worked it out. The web page, with its YouTube link, was up and running.
Another lesson learned from the 15-CD home-study course was the importance of attending conferences: these were necessary to sell the show. The conferences come with a heavy price tag — a $500–$600 entrance fee per person. Our commitment to the project was solid, so we anted up. Armed with a working web page, catchy business cards, folders with personalized labels, and new shoes (for me), we felt prepared and confident.