How Getting Ready for a Camera Crew Is Like Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner
You know how when you are getting ready to host Thanksgiving dinner you spend days and days getting ready and the whole thing lasts maybe three or four hours and the big to-do (eating) really only lasts about 15 minutes? Well that’s what its like hosting a camera crew to your house.
On Friday of last week, as my overworked and underpaid staff member and I were leaving town, he got a call from our public television station requesting an interview with the both of us about what it’s like living in Clarkston. We love living here in the most ethnically diverse square mile in the country, so of course we said yes.
After he got off the phone, I realized that they meant to interview us in our house and barn — on the following Thursday. Then the terror hit.
I started mentally checking off all the flaws of the house. All the piles of clutter. All the buckets and sawhorses in the yard. I was doomed and could not get back home fast enough to start getting ready. The overworked and underpaid staff member was remarkably blithe about the daunting task ahead.
The first thing I tackled was the picturesque stone walkway that I have leading from our back door to the barn that looks cute in pictures but is really just a sham. Most of the stones are just sitting on top of the dirt and it’s embarrassingly rickety. So I plowed up the path with our tiller to get the stones deeper in the dirt. Then it proceeded to rain every day for the next five days and left the whole thing a mud pit with the stones just as rickety as they were before. Yay me.
After I exacerbated that problem to its fullest extent, I started looking at the state of the barn and the house and determined them both to be just godawful. The barn looked like I had spent the last year printing thousands of towels in it. Not to mention all the Goodwill finds I had dragged home to fix up for photography props.
The house was full of old mail, more Goodwill finds, old cardboard boxes and stacks and stacks of books. I tried to figure out which spots would have the best light in the late afternoon. It turns out the best two spots were the ones with the most clutter — the dining room and the sunroom. I, of course, had to have my giant fern in the background because it’s February and it looks absolutely fantastic. Growing ferns in my family is a point of pride, and I was just showing off. I’ll admit it. A couple of years ago, I painted an old computer desk from Goodwill especially for the purpose of putting this fern on it, so that I could wheel it around as needed. I wheeled the fern from the sunroom to the dining room. The overworked and underpaid staff member complained that the fern was too big — as if that could be a thing.
And then I decided we needed flowers. You have to have flowers in the background, because we are Southern and that’s what Southerners do. I bought some bright yellow daisy-like flowers. I bought a pink hydrangea, a bromeliad, a very dainty little fern.
And then I bought yet another giant fern to put out next to the barn. Oh, and some bright red cyclamen to put in the urns on either side of the ramp going into the barn. It seemed to make more sense when I was doing all this than now when I’m writing about it. It sounds a little nutty now.
I spent days sorting through clutter. I boxed up and moved all the clutter I needed to keep to another room. And I cleaned everything that I thought might possibly be in a shot from every possible angle. I’ve learned enough about photography that the camera catches things that eye never sees, so everything needed to be scrubbed down and polished. I stopped short of washing the walls. The overworked and underpaid staff member casually remarked at some point that I sure was doing a lot of work — but he said it in a way that implied that I was overdoing it and I felt his judgement. I said nothing in response but privately reminded myself that he’s a hillbilly.
The day of the shoot I was tromping through the mud dragging work equipment, empty black pots and broken things that I will absolutely mend later back behind the barn. And I curled my hair and tried to apply my cosmetics according to the YouTube videos I had watched about camera ready makeup. I was so ready for this thing to be over.
When the camera truck pulled into our driveway, I had a knot in the pit of my stomach. I knew I had forgotten something and would be exposed as a fraud who wasn’t raised right. It turns out the camera guy was a really cool dude and the producer was super nice and friendly. They made us feel so comfortable and relaxed that it was really fun. The camera guy even put a light under my fern so that it would show up in the background and they used every single plant I had bought. He even took some from my kitchen window sill that I wasn’t expecting to use. We felt like we had made new friends. They were there about three hours but there was only about 15 minutes of actual taping. Kind of like Thanksgiving dinner.
I spent Friday mostly recovering. We are still tripping over boxes of necessary clutter and I haven’t had the energy to go make any towels. The barn just looks too neat and orderly to mess up quite yet.
And I’m still trying to decide if I need to return that giant fern I put next to the barn. Can you have too many giant ferns? At what point does your fern inventory go from charmingly Southern to smacking of overcompensation? It’s a boundary I fully intend to explore, just with some prudence.
All in all, it was a great experience. We hope the Clarkston episode will air soon, and we will be sure to let you know. It was an honor and a privilege to speak on behalf of our little town.
I just wish Thanksgiving was next week, because we are totally ready to host it.