A vegan TV show about Travel and Food
My performance background is almost all live, and almost all based on comedy. I don’t typically get stage fright or anything, but this experience (really my first camera-based project on this kind of scale), really emphasized that as a performer I firmly rely on the energy feedback from a live audience. Trying to engage with a piece of equipment that is silently recording a permanent documentation of everything you do is an entirely different experience, and one that I found required me to plumb much deeper into my stores of self-confidence. Addressing a camera on an enclosed set is one kind of experience, but the entire point of a travel show is to be out in public. The open set adds another dimension when you’re working on establishing rapport with said camera equipment while simultaneously ignoring a live audience that has spontaneously gathered around because they have as much right to be there as you do.
Thus it was that, frequently during the filming of “The Intrepid Herbivores” throughout Thailand, I found myself in very public venues, conspicuously performing all alone to a camera. While our crew was small (just Joe and his shoulder rig), we were still incredibly overt. I had to force myself to try not to feel self-conscious by the stares of fellow diners and people in the street. I had to do my best to turn off the part of me that feels uncomfortable when gaggles of people gather around me, whispering to themselves, pointing at me, and straining fervent glances around my environs, clearly trying to figure out what is going on.
While Thai culture is relatively polite, long curious looks were common amongst locals–but usually undue attention would go no farther than that. The real whispering and excited pointing tended to happen with groups of western tourists. I began to realize that their staring, open mouthed gazes, pointing fingers and urgent whispers had a tone of excited inquisitiveness. It dawned on me after a couple of times that some of these folks, taking their cue from the camera, boom mic, and American woman addressing this equipment, thought they might be in the middle of a bonafide “sighting” of somebody famous–they just couldn’t quite place who or where they’d seen this celebrity before. Their widening eyes would shine with the belief that they were in the presence of greatness–or at least notoriety–and I was inclined to suspect that some people were already composing their Facebook updates to let their friends know they were practically rubbing elbows with the stars on their exotic vacation.
I of course thought this was hilarious.
And have you ever known me to be able to resist messing with people a little bit? The frank hope on these spectators’ faces, trying so hard to place who it was they were seeing in action, was sweet and charming so on one day (just one day) I took to closing each take (after a pause after my real conclusion, for ease of trimming off later) with a wink, a smile, and the sign-off “I’m Rachael Ray, thanks for watching my food show!” I don’t think anyone actually believed that I was really Rachael Ray, especially with the way my cameraman cracked up laughing. I’m sure Rachael garners way more respect from her crew, so that part was totally unrealistic. I chose to use her particular name because I was holding ingredients and talking about food, and my grandma really likes her show so I thought it would be good luck.
So confidential to Rachael Ray: if your ears were burning that day it might be due to that. Don’t worry, it’s been edited out of the cut and I am in no way attempting to impersonate you or anyone who I am not. Thanks for all the food and have a nice day.
Also nobody believed me anyway. It was like making a joke in a room full of crickets.
Oh, hi camera.