Filming DBA in Space was both a great opportunity and an adventure for me. It allowed me to break out of my comfort zone and do something few people have the opportunity to do. It was a grand adventure, and I want to thank Red Gate Software for giving me the opportunity.
Once I found out that I was going to participate in the project, I began a journal to document the experience. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be blogging my journal entries, describing what happened behind the scene. I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences as much as I enjoyed experiencing them.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
It’s a typical workday at my home office in Springfield, MO when I get an obscure e-mail from my manager, asking if I can attend a meeting about an upcoming promotion when I visit the Red Gate office in Cambridge in July. I didn’t think much about it, as I attend many meetings when I visit Cambridge.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I am in Cambridge, England to attend Red Gate Software’s London SQL in the City event. The day before the event, I arrive at the meeting previously set up by my manager. He is the only one who shows up to the meeting, which immediately made me wary, as virtually every meeting I have at the Red Gate office includes many people. One of the first things he asks me is if I intend to stay with Red Gate for the next couple of years or so. I wasn’t sure what this question meant, but I told him that I had no plans for leaving Red Gate, as my current job is the best one I had ever had.
I guess that was the right answer, as he began to describe to me a top secret project that he wanted me to be involved in. It was called the VBP (or Very Big Project). At the time, only a very select handful of people at Red Gate knew that the VBP even existed. When I heard what the VBP was, my jaw literally dropped, which is the first time in my life that this had ever happened to me. First, I learned about the DBA in Space campaign, where one lucky DBA would get a free flight into space. Giving away a flight to space was beyond anything I had ever considered being offered by any company, let alone Red Gate. The idea absolutely stunned me.
On top of that, I was being asked to “star” in a video promotion for the DBA in Space competition. I wasn’t told much about the video or the project at that time, as everything was still hush, hush, although I was told the basic plot line and that a professional actress would be hired to be my co-star. I was also told that I would see a first draft of the script in a couple of weeks, and that I would need to secretly fly to London for the filming.
To be honest, I hesitated a moment before accepting the opportunity to participate to “star” in the video promotion. While I have been in front of many thousands of people as a speaker, I had my doubts about “acting” on camera and being recorded for posterity, and being held up to potential ridicule for my bad acting. But, I reasoned, this would be a great opportunity to “work outside my comfort zone”, which is something I think everyone should try now and then. I have never tried to act in my life, not even for a school production, so acting was really way outside of my comfort zone. In fact, rote memory is something I have always found difficult, and thinking about having to learn lines from a script and saying them on camera caused me great anxiety. To minimize the anxiety, I just pushed the subject out of my head, refusing to even think about it.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
I get an e-mail from the Red Gate marketing manager directly responsible for the VPB, which included a first draft of the questions to be asked for the DBA in Space contest. I replied with some feedback, and I also suggested several questions that could be added. It ended up that two of my questions were used.
Friday, September 2, 2011
After a long wait, I finally receive a first draft of the script and saw what the story line was for the video. This early draft, which was different from the final version we eventually recorded, was not what I expected. While I had been given some hints as to what it might contain, it took me by surprise. I read it over a couple of times, and then sent back my feedback on it, some of which actually went into the final script. Fortunately for me, the script was crafted so that the lead actress would do most of the lines and acting. In addition, given that I played an alien for most of the videos, “acting” in them made my job a lot easier. I found out that it is much easier to act another character that it was to act being myself.
This is the first page of the final script.
Wednesday, August 30, 2011
Up until now I wasn’t sure when the shoot would be. But today I received the dates I needed to be in London: September 12 through September 24. The first week would involve pre-production meetings, clothes fittings, and rehearsals; while the second week would be spent filming, doing photo shoots, and recording in a recording studio. So I immediately booked my fight, but I had to wait a little later to book my hotel, as the shooting locations were still not fixed as of this date.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I learn today that the first week I would be in central London, near where the production offices of The Mill are located, but that the week of shooting would be an hour or so south of London at Epsom Downs. That meant I needed to make two sets of hotel reservations.
The race track at Epsom Downs.
The Mill is a large and fast growing international advertising agency specializing in video work for TV, film, games, music, and commercials; and they are responsible for the production of the video and the DBA in Space website. In fact, they do all of the CGI for the current version of Dr. Who that is currently being produced.
Epsom Downs is a race track where the internationally famous Investec Derby and the Investec Oaks are held. In fact, the Queen of England has her own entire floor on one of the two grandstands at Epsom Downs. We filmed on the floors just below and above the Queen’s floor, so I didn’t get a chance to see what her floor looked like.
Why would a racetrack be selected as the “practical set” for the DBA in Space production? It was selected because it has a wide variety of locations that actually look futuristic, as I hope you can tell from the videos. With the exception of one scene, all filming was done in one or the other of the two Epsom Downs racetrack grandstands.
In my next blog post, I continue my journal as I make my secret trip to England for filming.