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March 16, 2011 at 1:04 AM

Behind the scenes at filming of Mariners commercials

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Many of you already saw that the Mariners released a sneak peek at their 2011 television commercials online yesterday. The team will actually show the first spots on television tonight when the M’s take on Milwaukee with Michael Pineda taking the mound for Seattle at the Peoria Sports Complex.
I’ve actually had more fun than usual seeing the commericals this year. Last month, I was able to get in behind the scenes to watch the commericals get filmed. My story on that appears in today’s newspaper.
But if you watched Geoff Baker Live! a couple of weeks ago, you’d have seen the preview photos we showed you from the shoot. Here are a few more.
Up above, you can see Chone Figgins and Justin Smoak, along with Ichiro’s interpreter, Antony Suzuki, filming one of the spots, titled Swing Away. In it, Figgins and Smoak try to test the theory that Ichiro can hit anything and fill up a bucket with all types of odd items that Suzuki the interpreter pitches to Ichiro. Naturally, Ichiro hits everything. (A commercial where he strikes out wouldn’t exactly fill the team’s PR needs, would it?)
So, they shot the footage you see above. Then, later in the spot, you see Miguel Olivo hauling in a tic-tac belted to the outfield by Ichiro. Olivo catches it, then pops it in his mouth.
“Mmmm, minty!” he says.
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It actually took Olivo several takes to get that one shot done. I was standing a few feet away from him as the camera rolled and director Ron Gross tried to get the scene to look as spontaneous as possible.
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Anyhow, when that commercial was done shooting, Olivo was about to leave in a golf cart when Felix Hernandez arrived fully dressed for his Encore, Encore spot.
“Hey, Felix!” Olivo called out.
“Call me Larry!” Hernandez said.
In the spot, Hernandez dresses up as a 1970s throwback-looking pitcher he calls “Larry Bernandez” and tries to sneak out to the mound to pitch the day after he’d already appeared in a game. The commercial was filmed with manager Eric Wedge, who arrived on a golf cart of his own shortly after Hernandez.
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“I feel like it’s 1975 with those chops,” Wedge quipped, upon seeing Hernandez.
“I’m Larry, pleased to meet you,” Hernandez replied.
“Oh, I see,” Wedge said. “He’s in character already.”
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Later, they filmed their scenes together. Wedge doesn’t buy the Hernandez disguise and sends him walking. Hernandez trudges slowly off the mound.
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The next day, Franklin Gutierrez arrived on set to film “A” for Effort. In that spot, he runs Camp Guti, where a host of wannabe Gold Glove outfielders arrive to try to learn his skills. Among the extras who suited up for the filming of “campers” diving and missing balls in the outfield was MLB.com writer Greg Johns.
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Gutierrez’s main role in the spot is to stand and critique the performances. He finally brings the campers to a video monitor to show them footage of him making a leaping catch at the wall.
“Like that,” he tells them. “It’s easy.”
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But there was nothing easy about that particular scene. Director Gross had Gutierrez do it over and over again until he got the right pronunciation and inflection on his words. English is not Gutierrez’s native language and what often seems simple to many of us who grew up in this part of the world can be a challenge for others.
Working out in the broiling sun, where the crew, Gutierrez and the extras had to wait for the camera and sound system to reset — along with the proper lighting — before each take, is something that got old pretty quick. Remember, the players were already doing this after their daily spring training workout. Their teammates were all headed off to do something fun in their limited free time while these guys had to stick around for quite a bit longer. But the players all seemed into it. Even when they were visibly tired. The one thing I took away from all of it was that being a television actor can be grueling work. It isn’t so much the acting itself. But all the waiting around to get just minutes worth of footage.
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In the M’s case, it took only about two hours to film each 30-second spot. It usually takes a full day when actors are involved and the dialogue more complex. I’m pretty sure that, patient as they were, many of the M’s would have gladly taken on the Phillies’ starting rotation in a four-game series than face the prospect of another day of shooting.
Anyhow, hope you enjoyed the photos. Have a look at the full story and vote for your favorite commercial in the Times poll next to it.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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