Life has been generally good these past couple weeks, presenting two interesting and new experiences in my life happenings, which have changed the flavour of my normally uninteresting life (I jest, I jest), and both of which involved the entertainment industry which I never as involved with prior. The first of these experiences came when I was lucky enough to have been cast in a photo-shoot for an ad campaign for a local telephone company. Truth of the matter is, every Tom, Dick and Harriette in Trinidad & Tobago works as either a model, a photographer, a party promoter, or some vague collection of all three - so I was a bit hesitant at first to join the vapidness of this phenomena, but the more I thought about it, the more two words stuck out in my mind: "Why" and "not", finished off with a tentative "?". In today's world, it is invaluable for a writer to have some sort of hook - to be renaissance person of sorts, and I weighed up the situation and decided to join the ranks of all the thousands of Trinis who star in local ads, determined get my face out there for the day when (and if!) my book is published, in order to not be completely unknown (albeit, at least in Trinidad & Tobago - where both these experiences occurred and where the resultant exposure would be primarily directed, but, where I'm hoping quite a few book sales would come from, as Trinbagonians are wonderful at supporting their own).
The photo-shoot was a pretty interesting experience, spanning two days, in which the models were requested to bring clothes from their own wardrobe to represent their style - resulting in the ultimate realization that, while my clothes are awesome and my sense of style undoubtedly trendy/cool/hipster-chic (obviously), I do not dress like the typical urban Trini (read: colourful, young, mall-rat), and thus, most of my beige, black, grey, brown and olive palette of clothes was unfortunately overlooked. I always thought that people who model have it pretty easy: they do not. The makeup bit was quite interesting (I looked awesome, I must admit, as all flaws disappeared under the very expert application of concealer), and the hair lady kind of did some odd gel thing to my hair which I didn't like on the first day of the shoot - but they paid attention to every shot and were constantly touching up, which was quite a treat to be primped and primed like that. However, the hours were gruelling: twelve hours of waiting, then of being prompted in front of the camera to "act natural and smile and make jokes and laugh". To be honest, it was quite a relaxed set, and I did quite like trying to be normal, and being allowed to be myself and generally do what I want. The camera crew seemed to enjoy my personality (I did enjoy theirs - they were professional and engaging and fun), but thinking up poses and wondering where to put my hand and whatnot: it was draining. Twelve hours of posing and then waiting for other models to do their thing in front of the camera, and then waiting, and then posing, and waiting and posing. It - was - not - easy. I reached to the studio on time (minutes before 7am) and left minutes after 7pm. Difficult for someone who has not worked a proper 8 to 5? That's saying the least.
The second day was a tad less gruelling, in that we weren't in studio, but rather, at a house and then went to One Woodford Place to shoot on site. I came slightly more prepared on this day - attire-wise - and dug deep into the recesses of my closet to find the few pieces of colorful clothing I had. Luckily, I had found enough and the stylist on the shoot (Karina - who, it turned out, happened to be Jewish and came with her son to the seder I hosted on the first night of Pesach a few days after the shoot) found some pretty good options; I even had enough to lend the other male model on site. This second day was also less tedious, because it was a much smaller cache of models: just two girls and two guys, which meant less waiting around and more interaction with the camera. Yes, more trying to figure out where to put my hands and giggles and candid shots, but compared to the twelve hour marathon of waiting and posing on the first day, this second day was much more appealing.
Overall, it was an experience which taught me quite a bit about myself. I'm not the most confident person - oftentimes, I'm quite awkward and shy, although my egregiously loud personality compensates for this and makes people think I'm the opposite of what I really feel inside. The kind camera crew and stylist crew remarked afterwards how fun my personality was and how much they enjoyed working with me. The make-up artiste went as far to tell me: "You're like a breath of fresh air". I also connected with a couple of models - and, particularly on the first day, when it was a larger bunch of them - it was really heartening that the three models I gravitated most to on that first day, initiated contact with me on Facebook and Instagram. on the second day, when it was just four of us, it was easy to connect and chat and forge connections, so it was a natural progression to want to keep in touch - but the first day models who connected with me: it was more akin to making friends in a big class on your first day at school. I feel blessed to have experienced this, and really wouldn't mind participating in something like this again. The experience was validating for my self-esteem, and being able to connect with people and have them appreciate my personality in a professional setting was quite nice. And, I must confess, the pay was pretty good; not bad for twenty-four hours of posing nicely and waiting patiently and being pampered and fed breakfast, lunch and dinner - with a kind caterer who, in true Trini form, insisted that everyone on each set "pack a box and take food home!". Plus, I can't help but be excited to think that someday - soon? - the face attached to those ads will eventually be attached to "Avi, Resurrected", and be more than a wide smile, but rather, a voice with a story of it's own.
The second experience came less than a week later - and, interestingly, wouldn't have happened had I not been on the photo-shoot (giving credence to the old adage that networking pays off). Karina (the Jewish stylist) had passed on my information to a local historian, who, in turn, passed it on to the producer of a local news show. Intrigued that it was Passover and he had the opening to do a segment on Passover in Trinidad & Tobago, the producer called me and asked if he could shoot a local seder. I must be honest, I was even more hesitant about doing this than I was about the photo-shoot. While I'm not ashamed of my Jewishness, I do shy away from opening talking about it with people I don't know. Much as I love Trinidad, there are a bunch of crazies here. I know there are radical Muslim elements, as well as unhinged Messianic persons here - and opening oneself publicly to either of those possibilities is definitely not a treat. But, I thought of the option of being able to be a point of reference for any visiting Jews to Trinidad & Tobago (something I've always pushed for - including having a website for the local community) and so, I decided to agree to hosting a Seder. Unfortunately, I was contacted on the third day of Pesach, which meant that the first night Seder I'd hosted would have to be redone. I didn't mind it, but with conflicting schedules, we finally managed to orchestrate a Seder at my home and have it filmed. (You can see a bad video of the Seder here. I'm waiting for the television station to send me a proper clip, but, until then, this version I taped from my videocamera right off the television screen with grandma mumbling excitedly in the background will have to suffice.) I was nervous about how it would turn out - most Trini Jews were out of the country and only one Jewish friend was able to attend with her non-Jewish boyfriend. I also managed to rope my dad and lovely friend from India, Gunjan, into attending the fake Seder and being sit in guests. The clip was really good, and they did a good job of presenting Passover, particularly in Trinidad. With no presence on the internet (except for the Facebook page for the Jewish community of Trinidad & Tobago), I'm hoping this clip and it's online presence would be good for the community here as an indication to the world and visiting Jews that we're here!
So those are my two experiences in the past week. Quite exciting distractions from the dull humdrum of school and studying - but from tomorrow is back to a concerted dedication to studying and focusing; time to wrap up my on-screen performances... for now :)