What I learned from being in a documentary
I’ve been a swimmer my whole life. My parents had me swimming in ocean competitions at age six (spoiler: the fish won). So when a friend of mine at an interactive design agency asked if I’d talk to her co-worker—she was doing swimming research for a project with a major swimwear brand—I said sure. After making some flippant remarks about flip turns and helping her read between the lane lines, she asked me if I’d like to participate in a documentary they were making about swimmers, in hopes of encouraging people at all levels to start or continue swimming. I was flattered, so I said yes, showed up, and then learned a few things in the process.
1. No matter how many swimsuits you’ve had in your life, a free swimsuit is always exciting
That’s right, my participation landed me a free swimsuit. I wasn’t going to say no to that!
2. A GoPro is an underwater camera that looks like a tiny robot checking you out.
3. This “documentary” had no trouble fictionalizing shots
They brought in “swimmer extras” to make the pool look populated at 10PM and planned on pretending it was actually 5AM.
4. The crew is only focused on how the shots look, not how you look
A far cry from the movie and TV shoots I’m used to working on, this shoot had no hair or makeup people. My look was up to me. And while I’d have thought a deteriorating pedicure would ruin their close-ups of my feet on the pool deck, they didn’t seem to care at all. (My mother, on the other hand, will be mortified.)
5. If you’re hungry or thirsty, speak up
Despite a stack of pizza boxes and the fact that I was swimming for two hours, no one offered me any food or drink. Everyone’s pretty busy on the shoot, so I understood. They were happy to fill me up with snacks once I asked. Tha
6. Common interests bring people together
A couple of other folks on the pool deck heard snippets of my interview and we bonded over shared our interest in improv comedy, television writing, and finance. (What’d you expect me to say, swimming? That would have been way too on the nose.)
7. A Hydroflex is an awesome-looking torpedo-like camera
The director puts on a snorkel mask and fins and straps on a SCUBA tank before being handed the camera. He then steers it through the water like some kind of missile, photographing you from various angles while you swim.
8. Without fins, I swim faster than a documentary director with fins
9. I’m vain about my speed
The director asked me to slow down so he could keep up with me, but I really didn’t want to be captured on film looking like a slow poke. I obliged, though, and learned that it’s really hard to swim slower than your natural speed. Think about what it would feel like to try running in slow motion.
10. Read anything you’re asked to sign
At the end of the shoot, the producer handed me a release form and asked me to sign it. As they’d written it, it would’ve given them exclusive rights to use my voice, likeness, and image in all media, forever, for no pay. I was glad I looked at the fine print.
11. If my experience was that of models and Olympians, it’s not as glamorous to be a model/Olympian as we all think
It does, however, make a good story. “What did you do Monday night?” “Eh, swam for a few hours in the middle of the night while an entire crew filmed me. You?”