Numerous re-takes, outfit changes and outfit repeats, and of course, the ominpresent "eye" of the camera lens... Even a "friendly" competition show like the Great American Baking Show can become a pressure cooker due to the intense competition and unfamiliar curiosities of television production.
The fallout (emotional and otherwise) from the show's cancellation delayed this post. But there was another delay. As much as I love sharing my life through this blog, sometimes perfectionism cripples me and I'm afraid to do something because I'm afraid I won't get it right. There are too many things I've baked that have gone un-shared, un-posted pictures and untold stories because of my own doubt, criticism and perfectionism. But no longer! If nothing else, what competing on the Great American Baking Show taught me was to trust myself and have confidence in my abilities. If something doesn't come out exactly how you want, it's OK! Chances are it still tastes great, looks great, and is baked well. And even it isn't, that's OK too!
There is so much to say, so this will be a series of blog posts, including topics like how to get selected for a reality show and how to win a reality show! But for now, I'll start with the very first shoot day. An entire day was reserved to film me in my natural habitat--the labyrinth of great buildings and greater chaos that is Manhattan. At 6:45 am, the crew of a cameraman/director, sound expert, and production assistant showed up at the door of my Harlem brownstone. They managed to lug a lot of heavy lights, cameras and other equipment up my third floor walk up (Impressive!)
I was told to have three outfit changes ready, as well as stuff that was already baked, and stuff to bake while they were there. Having a family member was also required, as interviews of the finalists' family members are shown during the finale (making it to the finale seemed like a long shot, but my closest family member is my Boston-dwelling sister who happened to be vacationing in Florida that week. She flew in just for the day.)
Before I knew it, a microphone was being nestled in my blouse and my acting career began. There is a great deal of acting that goes into filming most shows I presume. Even amazing, candid moments with cleverly-timed punchlines have to be re-shot sometimes. Maybe the sound wasn't right or the camera angle was wrong. As a food photographer, I can attest that the perfect shot with bad light is an unusable shot. Plus, you must be aware of where the camera is and give them the best angles. If you're doing something unique or technically-challenging, it's best to do it in the clearest part of your workspace, and when possible, open up your body towards the camera.
I found this aspect of filming so much fun! During "shoot day" in NYC, there was no looming threat of elimination or fear of under-baking, over-proofing or running out of time during a challenge. This was just me in my apartment sharing macarons with friends, walking down Broadway in lower Manhattan, walking up the steps at my job, and boarding (and riding!) the subway. It felt natural being in front of the camera--I appreciated direction, but found that just going with what felt right worked too. A couple of the scenes were shown during the first episode. The rest, including my sister's interview, were to air during the remaining episodes (maybe they're gone forever. maybe not. who knows.)
We put in a full day's work, but it didn't really feel like work. I didn't see another camera until I arrived in England to film the first episode. We were on the show's set at Pinewood Studios--far from the familiar surroundings of home. We quickly learned that tv production required multiple takes of even seemingly mundane things, like walking into the tent each morning and putting on our aprons. We quickly adapted and did our best to turn on the charm during those little moments. No matter how nervous I felt about a challenge, I always took those moments in the beautiful gardens at Pinewood (Mary Poppins was filmed there!) to feel the sun and have a moment of gratitude for the experience. But once a challenge started, and the clock was ticking, all bets were off. It was go time.
There was a learning curve for me to learn to embrace the ever-present cameras. Initially, when I screwed up, it was the scariest thing. It's one thing to mess something up at home. But to mess up with cameras inches away, on something to be broadcast on national television?! The pressure and anxiety is indescribable. It took me a while to settle into the idea that I was in fact on an elimination show. Someone went home each episode, and though it seemed like the most important thing in the world at the time, it was the nature of the game. Looking back, I have fond memories of the experience (which is more than I could say a month ago). Of course part of me is still holding on to hope that this awesome tv show we all made will actually get to be viewed in a meaningful way. But for now, I'm happy to share these little snippets of my experience. More to come!