Behind the Scenes of a PSA – Hours of Work for a Few Seconds of Fame

Christian and Chris scoping out the camera angle

I always wondered why it took so long to make a movie and figured it had more to do with the temperament of the stars than the actual process.

Christian’s assignment from his independent film study course was to create a PSA to increase the awareness of parents when it comes to alcohol usage among teens.  The filming started in early October and finished it in a series of one to two hour sessions throughout the month.

Chris and Christian had already put in hours worth of work before they arrived at the house.  They brainstormed the idea, created the story board, and carefully planned each scene.

I was under strict instructions to wear exactly the same thing for each session.  Other than the forgetting to wear my watch once (which caused a re-shoot and a production delay), that part was easy.  The more difficult part was making sure my hair and make up turned out the same each time.

The hair part was especially tough as the closer we got to being finished, the more I needed to get a cut and color.  I told them the next time we do this, I need to have a wardrobe and make up assistant.

It was really amazing to watch the boys map out each scene and figure out how to overcome the minor obstacles associated with filming at our house.  Some of the more challenging ones were lighting and odd reflections, floors that shake the camera when you walk too hard, and a couple of noisy miniature dachshunds.

For about a month, nightstand and floor lamps that could double as a spotlight were scattered throughout the house along with props for the project.  The funniest and my favorite was that pictures of my “fake” son replaced ones of my real kids while we were in production mode.

The grand finale was the scene with the police officer.  I can’t help but wonder what people were thinking when they saw the police car in my driveway for most of the afternoon.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t able to see the boys behind the camera.

Christian and Chris scoping out the camera angle

The teachers and the police officer were awesome, they let the boys run the show but also shared helpful tips and ideas. They made quite the creative team.  It was fun to have multiple cameras and to hear them talk in ‘movie making’ speak.

Police Officer, Boys, and Teachers in front of the Police Car

The officer was particularly helpful in providing insights as to how the scene would unfold and what various reactions might be.  He was an awesome co-star.

Star and Costar - Beth and Police Officer

I can’t say enough about these two young men.  They’re not only talented, they are polite, intelligent, and fun to be around.  I can honestly say I looked forward to every session and I was kind of sad when we were done.

Beth, Christian, and Chris in front of the police car

After we finished filming the final scene, the guys had some fun.  Christian and Chris had a hard time looking tough as they were put under fake arrest and escorted to the back of the squad car.

Christian and Chris trying to look tough - fake arrest

I’m not sure what was going on here, but I think it must have been something about how to fit my 6’4″ son into the car.

the guys problem solving and setting up the scene for the police car

I had to take one last picture for the day, but somehow I don’t think this will be the last picture taken of Christian in front of a media van.

Christian in front of the PHS video van

The video was released on YouTube in November after weeks of editing and tweaking.  I could be biased, but I think it’s brilliant.

The Signs Were There All Along – PSA

police car

police carI secretly wanted to be an actress.  In junior high (that’s what we called middle school back in the olden days) I was very active in the drama club and we put on plays and weekly skits at lunch time. For a variety of reasons I didn’t continue with drama in High School and by the time I went to college it seemed like pursuing a business degree made more sense.

It was the right decision, but I always wondered what it would be like to be an actress.  As a senior, Christian has the unique opportunity to participate in an independent study program focused on film.

One of his recent projects was to create a Public Service Announcement for a local organization that is focused on educating kids and parents about the risks associated with things like teenage alcohol use.  His teacher, Mr. Mahoney, teamed up Christian and Chris and gave them complete freedom to develop the storyline, coordinate production, and create the video.

“Would you be willing to be in a video for school?” Christian asked.

My ears perked up, ever since he and Jeff made the silent movie last year, I’d wanted to be in one of Christian’s video productions, “Of course I would.  What will I be doing?”

“We’re making a PSA about alcohol awareness for the Lower Makefield – Yardley – Falls – Tullytown (LYFT) organization.  Its supposed to be focused toward parents and that they need to be aware of what their kids are doing. So we’d like you to be the mom of a teenager who is drinking and you are completely oblivious.”

I looked up, “So you want me to be a bad mom for the video?”

“Not necessarily bad just unaware. Oh and by the way, I won’t be your son for the filming. So I hope its OK if we have a few pictures of Chris around the house for a while,” he replied.

We grinned at each other, “I suppose it would be hard to keep us in the same frame.  You’d either have to walk on your knees or I’d have to stand on a stool or learn how to walk on stilts.”

“Exactly,” he said.

The filming began a couple of weeks later. For the following month I looked forward to the days when I would take an afternoon break from working and became an actress. It was great fun to work with the boys and they did an excellent job of directing.

My favorite part was watching and listening as they collaborated on the scenes and figured out the best way to work around issues and get the best shot.

The final scene was surprisingly emotional to do.  The police officer that volunteered his time was super.  He provided some great insights and was extremely supportive of the boys.  We also managed to have some fun with it all.

I have to wonder what my neighbors thought when they saw a police car parked in my driveway for the better part of an afternoon. A “behind the scenes” post will be coming with lots of great pictures.