JD Williams - I AM campaign - behind the scenes

As promised, here's the inside story behind my recent trip working for JD Williams as a model. Just using the word model conjures up all sorts of emotions in me; disbelief, bemusement, surprise, delight, pride and even a faint sense of ridicule as I don't actually believe that my less than perfect features could make the grade. However, this surely is a good thing to say that you, me, in fact anyone can become a model in this day and age provided you find the right vehicle. 

Talking of vehicles, I swapped boats for planes this summer as I became a jet setter for a few months travelling to and from Manchester for wardrobe fittings, photo shoots and filming of the TV commercial. I expect many of my readers will have had to or still do, commute in this way and I'm sure after the initial buzz it could become blah, but for me it was always an adventure to step away from my small island community and become absorbed into this frenetic pace.

The travel and accommodation is all organised by JD Williams so after a good night's sleep I was collected by my driver along with a few other artists (yes that's what we're referred to) to be delivered to a hotel somewhere in Manchester (that's ignorance not secrecy) which had been turned into operation central for the day. First stop is hair, nails and make-up. The tendency for my hair to be one way on one day and quite another the next, was treated as something to be tamed and calmed down into a repeatable style.

At the previous session we had been fitted for our outfits and from there are created story boards which are used to show hair styles and make up for each model. The processes of hair, nails and make-up multiplied by all of these ladies (at least 13 of us without including the extras) takes hours. There was an ever changing flow of ladies moving around the room, being beautified, giving me a chance to chat to someone new every half an hour or so as we rotated chairs and neighbours.

Gel nails - my first experience of this new fangled procedure.

Irish choreographer Johnnie waits patiently for his charges to be released for the next phase of wardrobe, then moving onto set for a refresher of the dance routine. 

Between the nails shot and this one some twelve hours had elapsed, during which time I had been to wardrobe then chaperoned from hotel to warehouse where my scene for the commercial along with interviews for social media took place. I'd left my camera locked up in wardrobe meaning no more background shots from day one.

Day two and this was a different hotel, the venue for another lot of filming and stills. I gravitated to this corner which had become an impromptu waiting room. I love this crazy idea of a horse as a lamp. By this time I had got into the swing of things and realised that I was to be on call, primed and ready for most of the day, but that there was a lot of waiting involved. I'd brought a book with me and immersed myself in that rather than wonder when my turn would come.

Ladies in waiting.

The production team at the helm, orchestrating every scene until it's perfect.

Andrea's scene in the TV commercial where she appears in that wonderful turquoise lingerie was filmed as a closed set, just being tweaked here.

Watching you, watching me.

Annie and I stepped outside onto the stairwell to capture these dazzling chandeliers.

A dab of blusher here, a tweak of collars there and you're good to go. With cheekbones like those, Claudia needs the minimal of attention to look beautiful.

Decisions, decisions.

Annie and Paulina - "It's time to eat!"

Evon is an absolute natural in front of the camera. Watch out for her in the commercial in that silky orange dress. If you miss it on TV you can always catch it on my earlier post here.

This is where my memory lets me down. This lovely lady whose name I have forgotten (I want to call her Elizabeth, but think I may be just making that up), was the photographer who took the shots of me that you'll see in the Oct issue of Woman and Home. She was full of encouragement, telling me I could be likened to Twiggy or Mary Portas and then once she put round glasses on me, Annie Hall. I relaxed immediately with her, laughing as I do with Polly as she made lots of suggestions for poses. 

End of day two of filming.

Day three was a different day altogether. Only five of us were kept on for this session - Annie, Paulina, Rachel, Savi and myself. Little did we know that we would be announced as the five stars of the I AM campaign when it went live.

Hair, make-up, wardrobe and the photo shoot all took place in the same studio space. Even lunch was served in the same building which all made for a very straight forward day.

Three days of hanging out together had created a bond between the five of us. We feel very at ease together and are now genuinely friends. This, I think, does come across when we're in front of the camera together. We certainly do have great fun.

The editing suite is a fascinating area of a shoot. The photos are processed immediately as the hundreds and hundreds of images flow through the system. It was amazing to see ourselves reproduced for the next phase so quickly.

Another day, another photo shoot and this time I know that my photographer is called Phil. His manner is warm and engaging, plus he plays some great sound tracks during the session.

Yep, that's me throwing some shapes, dancing without a care, call it what you like, but I'm having fun!

That's a wrap!

Some 24 hours later and I was on Truro station, wiping the stardust off my shoulders and heading back home. The day job beckoned, but that was no hardship at all. What felt like a dream lingered on in my head, especially as the campaign sound track had become part of those memories too. The film shoot took place on the 4th July and the TV advert went live on the 20th September. Somehow I managed to keep this wild adventure to myself for those long weeks. 

Anna x


My TV debut - JD Williams "I AM" campaign

Hello my lovely readers and welcome to this extra post which brings you my 15 seconds of TV fame. This is the culmination of a roller coaster ride which started months ago when I attended a casting session in London. There had been a call out on Instagram for bold, colourful women who refuse to go quietly - surely this had my name on it? I applied, was shortlisted, later I sent a video of who "I AM" and was shortlisted again and invited to attend the London session. 

Annie, Rachel, me, Savi and Paulina - the five stars of the I AM campaign.

This is my first attempt to be taken on by a major fashion brand and so the casting was a nerve wracking event. In fact, when I arrived at the venue I took one look through the open doorway and walked right on by. I'd seen too many beautiful and colourful women inside that it freaked me out. I stopped further along the street and called my best friend Bo. And she did what everyone's best friend does, she talked some sense into me. Yes, of course I could travel all the way from the Scillies to London to just take a peek through a door, but maybe that would be a bit too crazy, even for me! "Go girl!" she urged, and off I went.

The audition itself is a total blur as I think I was awash with adrenalin. I stood under a bank of lights and talked, nay, jabbered on like an idiot, although a very passionate one and at one point was asked to dance. "Will it be Abba?" I asked. " I'm afraid not." came the reply from one of dimly lit casting couches. The soundtrack started, something new to my ears, not a beat I recognised and yet in front of me, cameraman and producer were urging me on to show my moves. After a slow start, I got into the rhythm and then everyone in the room blended away until it was just me and the music. 

I love to dance, and have no idea of it's mum dancing I do, but I don't care. I somehow don't think it was my dancing that got me through the audition though, but it doesn't matter, cos hey, some 10 days later I got the call to say they wanted me for the campaign. 

My summer has been a very different one to any I could have imagined, with me somehow keeping all the plates spinning - summer exhibitions, wardrobe fitting, swimming, blogging, filming, artists visiting and me finally becoming au fait with the timetable for flights between Newquay and Manchester along with the small corner of the city that has now become familiar to me.

I'll just let vanity have her say here. These are the very first professional shots I've ever had taken and it's quite a surprise to see what I look like at 60. My own diplomatic blog photographers (and the restrictions of my amateur kit) all manage to avoid revealing the honest truth of a face that has lived, loved, swum and embraced the big outdoors without much in the way of sunscreen for these past 60 years. I somehow also think that exercise helps to feed that illusion, as a trim figure, a youthful stride and a young at heart attitude is deceptive, but what it all comes down to is - This is what 60 looks like! My bubble may have been deflated a little here, but in the nicest possible way; after hours in hair and make-up I've been turned into a star for a day. 

The final line up from the TV advert here - Annie, Kath, Paulina, Katie, Andrea and yours truly. I've not tried to post a video link before, so if it doesn't work then please click here to see the full length version on the website along with more about the campaign.

Today's post features some of the images sent to me by JD Williams and is just a taster of what I'll be featuring later next week as I've got lots more to share with you from behind the scenes. I'm obviously very biased, but I think this campaign showing real women of ages 45 and over, of all shapes and sizes is a great stride forward for fashion. Hurrah therefore to JD Williams for breaking ground here!

I'll be back on Monday with the monthly post from our Style Not Age collective - see you then!

Anna x

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