Hattie and Joe are six weeks old today! The hardest six weeks of my life, that’s for sure. I’m now clinging to the belief that – as everybody keeps telling me – things will become a little easier after they pass the twelve week mark. On the whole they’re sweethearts, but we have a consistent pattern of really unsettled behaviour every evening, usually from 6 pm until 11 pm (or even later). It would be fairly knackering to deal with if we just had one baby: with two, it’s seriously draining. However, fingers crossed that they’ll calm down a bit soon!
In the meantime, we haven’t let their tender age (or their tendency to yowl like banshees when they don’t get what they want INSTANTLY) stop us from seeing if the whole entire world shares our opinion vis-a-vis their cuteness. Three or four weeks ago a friend of mine tagged me in a comment on Facebook: she’s spotted that a talent agency was calling for newborns to star in a nappy commercial. For reasons unknown I thought ‘cool, let’s see if they make the grade’, and sent an email with their photos attached. The agent submitted their photos, the casting director invited them in for an audition (an arduous process that involved them sitting on my and Natalie’s laps, blinking sleepily at a camera), they made the shortlist for consideration, they were invited to a call-back (a truly gruelling experience where they had to lie on a changing mat while being filmed), and – finally – they were cast in the commercial. We spent yesterday afternoon at the shoot.
It was interesting to see how a TV commercial is made. Those of you who have ever watched a nappy commercial and seen a cherubic infant rolling around, all peachy skin and perfect dimples, and then looked at your own perfectly normal child and wondered, “why isn’t my baby cooing at me any time I come into sight?” – fear not: it’s all smoke and mirrors. There were eight babies on set yesterday, and each shot was taken several times with different babies. In the editing process the production team will draw together all of the best shots, making a Frankenbaby of cuteness. That’s right: no one baby is cute enough to be a nappy commercial baby. It’s just as well that the babies themselves are too little to realise what’s going on, or else they could develop some serious body image issues.
The other thing I learned yesterday: being on set involves a great deal of sitting around and waiting for something to happen. As directed, Natalie and I arrived with the babies at midday, had lunch at 1 pm, and then didn’t actually see either baby in action until much later in the afternoon. Luckily for all concerned, Hattie and Joe were feeling particularly mellow and – one late afternoon meltdown from Joe excepted – spent the whole time asleep, or gazing around and looking cute. They both managed to be awake and look adorable for their times in front of the cameras, which was excellent.
Hattie was the first one in action: she was called upon to play the role of ‘baby’ in a shot that had boxes of the product in the foreground, and a mother picking up and cuddling a baby in the background. The actress playing the mother was actually a mother – her own baby was on set and was used primarily as a stand-in baby to sort out camera angles. Lauren, the actress, had her daughter five weeks ago, but looked like she hadn’t gained an ounce in the past five years. She was a freak of nature, and it’s just as well she was a sweet woman – otherwise, I would have taken against her.
Hattie played the crucial role of ‘baby’ like a pro, cooing and cuddling in to Lauren for take after take. At one point she was put down on the bed, ready to be picked up again for the tenth time, and she turned and gave me the cheekiest grin, as if to say “I could do this all day”. The director reminded Lauren to “look serene”, which is the kind of advice that makes these nappy commercials so realistic. As a new mother, I am quite sure that I look serene 99% of the time…
Hattie was initially involved in the next shot, which involved lying on the changing mat and having a nappy put on. This was a long-winded process and Hattie put up with the endless nappy readjustments pretty well, but the director decided that she (Hattie, not the director) was a bit too little and dainty for the shot, so Joe was subbed in. Joe’s gained some pretty impressive rolls of chub on his arms and legs in the past couple of weeks, making him an excellent example of a chubby (but not flabby) baby.
Joe appeared to be born for this kind of thing. He lay there patiently for a very long time, having his nappy readjusted incessantly, and managed to resist the urge to wee all over Lauren, or subject her to one of his famed poo fountains. And although I didn’t see it for myself, being occupied with breast feeding his sister, apparently he stole the whole show when the camera panned up to his face at one point and he turned his head and gave a bit of a smirk. He wasn’t just playing the role of ‘baby getting its nappy put on’; he was living the role. Method Actor Alert!
The final shot of the day was the pivotal ‘mother strokes baby’s bum cheek to demonstrate that the nappy draws moisture away from the skin’ moment. Casting for this shot was difficult, because nappies leave creases on babies’ skin, and this doesn’t fit with the perfect baby ideal. However, Hattie was deemed to be the least creased of the babies present, and a touch of concealer sorted out any lingering marks. That’s right: our daughter has done her first nude scene. Just call me Kris Jenner.
Of course, we don’t know yet whether either baby will actually feature in the finished product, but it was a fun experience and – thankfully – not one that seemed to bother either baby.