If you’ll indulge us for a moment, just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a rather eventful photo shoot–well, at least for one David Mize, a freelance copywriter from Tampa, Florida. We hope Mize sets a precedent on this here site as we’d love to hear more anecdotes like these. If you’re so inclined, you can view his portfolio here. Anyhow, the floor’s yours, Dave.
As a copywriter, I’m not very useful during a photo shoot. I mostly hang around the food table, shoving handfuls of donut holes into my mouth and hoarding the best bagels. When someone does speak to me, it’s usually to get me to help move some lighting fixtures or a friendly reminder that other people might like to eat too. But for the most part, I’m not an essential part of any shoot.
That all changed one summer, while I was working in the marketing department of the local newspaper. We came up with an advertising campaign centered around the mascot of the company — a lovable dog named Spot the Newshound (pictured). The basic premise of the campaign was that if you signed up to receive home delivery of the newspaper, you had a chance to win some prizes.
For the print part of the campaign, we scheduled a photo shoot to get some pictures of Spot the Newshound doing various chores, including picking up dry cleaning, washing the car, cleaning the pool and a few other simple chores — all of which the winners would receive as part of the prize pack.
Of course, Spot wasn’t a real dog. He was a disgusting suit that hung in the back of a musty closet that he shared with some promotional supplies and some outdated computer equipment. The person who played Spot was usually an intern or whatever unlucky asshole was lowest on the totem pole.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have any interns at the time, and when I asked my boss if we had money to pay someone to play the part of the dog, she smiled and opened her desk drawer. I naturally assumed she was retrieving some petty cash for an actor, but instead she handed me a key to the storage room where Spot lived.
“We don’t have the budget to pay for someone. We’re going to need you to play Spot. Sorry,” she replied and went back to her paperwork.
The day of the photo shoot, I grabbed the key and made the long walk down the hallway to Spot’s storage closet. When I flicked on the light, I could see him in the corner, like an abused and neglected dog. He was dark brown with a white belly and a long tail that was held up with a stiff piece of wire. He also had a green top hat with an old-time “press” credential tucked in the fold.
As I started moving boxes and digging my way towards Spot, I was overwhelmed by the smell, which was a mixture a mix of sweat and mildew. No one ever took the time to wash or dry clean the suit. It was always just thrown back in the closet for the next unlucky person.
There were stains all over the suit and unidentifiable globs of stuff in his fur, including what looked to be a piece of gum stuck in the armpit of the costume. This shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Spot was filthy. He spent a lot of time at kid’s events, and little children were always running up and touching him with their grubby, sticky hands.
I grabbed Spot in a headlock and dragging his limp body back to my desk, where I shoved him into a heavy-duty trash bag so I could transport him to the photo shoot. When I arrived at the location, the photographer and the art director, along with a few other people, were setting up.
We took a quick tour around the house, discussing the different shots we needed, what props we would be using, and a few other minor details. “Alright, let’s get you suited up,” the photographer ordered.
With Spot draped over my shoulder, I slowly wandered off to the bathroom to get dressed. As I slid into the suit, the body odors of past users wafted past my nose. And before I even got back outside for the first photo I was sweating profusely.
“How do you feel?” Brian, the art director, asked.
“It’s hot as shit, and I can’t see where the fuck I’m going,” I yelled back, not sure if I was facing his direction or not. Apparently seeing a large dog, with a permanent grin on his face while he screams obscenities, is somewhat funny because I could hear a few others on the set laughing.
“Did you turn on the fan?” he replied, as he adjusted my dog collar and patted down a rough patch of fur on my arm, doing his best to make me presentable to the camera.
I had no idea what he meant, but I was interested in anything that might offer me some relief from the oppressive heat. “What are you talking about?” I asked.
Apparently, whoever designed the costume had a great idea to compensate for the stifling heat one would encounter while wearing a fur suit in Florida. Inside Spot’s top hat, there was a little fan designed to keep the air in the suit moving, and prevent the person inside from passing out from heat exhaustion.
Brian twisted my head to the side and reached up into the top hat, where he flipped a switch. Slowly, an old, crusty fan came to life and started blowing a gentle breeze of hot air onto the top of my sweaty skull.
“That’s it?” I yelled.
While the fan might have been a good idea in the planning stages of designing this suit, it offered very little relief from the heat. And as far as I could tell, it only served two real purposes. First, it allowed me to enjoy the smell of my own sweaty ass by circulating the air from the bottom of the suit to my head. And, possibly more annoying, was the fact that it made it impossible to hear what others were saying. So when the photographer or art director would tell me to do something, all I heard was a faint mumbling.
While it didn’t help keep me cool, I left the fan running anyway. If nothing else, the humming noise helped drown out the smartass remarks made by people on the set. Still, I knew they were talking about me, just as your family dog can tell when you’re talking about him — even though he can’t exactly understand the words.
It also didn’t help that the eyes of the suit were designed to look realistic on a giant smiling dog, and not positioned anatomically correct for a person to see through. So I had to tilt my huge head in order to see anything. And even then, it was tough to understand the directions people were shouting at me.
So instead of verbally instructing me in a normal voice, the photographer would grab me by my floppy dog-ears and scream directions into the perforated eyeholes. This quickly became our primary means of communication. And when that didn’t work, they would just shove me towards the area they wanted me to stand and jam a prop in my hand.
“Spot, we need you over here,” the photographer yelled, with his mouth so close to my face that his breath temporarily overpowered the stench inside the suit. I took a few baby steps in the direction I thought he wanted me to go. I had to move slowly because I was still trying to get used to my new big feet. Finally they got me positioned near the car and handed me my props.
“Is this right?” I asked.
“Yes, now wash the car,” he said.
“Like this? How am I doing?” I asked, as I did my best to hold a garden hose, bucket and sponge in my three-fingered dog paws.
“No, it doesn’t look believable. You don’t look like you’re having fun.”
According to the photographer I wasn’t washing the car like a giant beagle would in real life. I’ve never wanted to kick someone’s ass so bad in my life. But the thought of me chasing him down the street, armed with only car washing supplies, was even more embarrassing than getting yelled at. So I just did my best to follow his absurd directions.
This went on for the next 3 hours, with the occasional break so I could enjoy some water, a quick bite and occasionally some words of encouragement. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it any more, the photographer finally announced that we were finished. He had all the shots we needed, and I was free to go.
I got undressed and tossed Spot in the back of my car and started making the drive back to the office. I was hot, tired and sweaty and to make matters worse, my car didn’t have air conditioning. But I resisted the urge to stick my head out the window to cool off. I had acted like a dog enough for one day.