Matt Harris – Featured in Thomson campaign shot in Turkey
Matt Harris is a talented dancer who recently featured in a huge Thomson campaign that was shot in Turkey.
He was born and raised in Finchley, North London. As a child he was a successful competitive Ballroom and Latin Dancer, representing the UK in competition. Matt comments, ‘my main talent/skill is my comprehensive knowledge of partner dancing, with a speciality in Ballroom and Latin.’
The casting process for this commercial was straightforward: one casting and one call back.
The call back was a far cry from the initial freestyle casting. The dancers had to learn a choreography created by Olivier Casamayou of I Could Never Be a Dancer duo; it was fosse-inspired and centred around groups of four changing position and formation whilst keeping the integrity of the choreography intact.
Matt says, ‘the actual filming was really fun. Having 30-something dancers in Turkey at an all-inclusive resort for 2 weeks was just as fun as you might imagine!’ Filming hours were oftentimes anti-social- early mornings and late nights- but they had to work around the resort timetable.
A major factor was the heat! At almost 40 degrees, costumes were uncomfortable and make up was on the verge of melting off while everyone baked.
For Matt, hair and make-up was a simple affair. He was playing a resort employee, so he needed to be fresh and clean looking. Matt adds: ‘many discussions were had regarding what production called “beard gate”. Many of the male cast sported impressive, hearty beards. The client decided everyone should be clean shaven. But, eventually they had to relent, given the insistence from the talent to keep their beautiful facial hair.’
‘There wasn’t a great deal of choreography to learn. The director liked very short, 3-4 seconds clips that he would then splice together. Meaning most choreographies were 8-16 counts long. Even the “finale” was no more than 4-5 8s worth of choreography. The non-dancers amongst us struggled a little with remembering the steps, but with enough rehearsal nailed it on the day. The routines themselves were pedestrian actions with a dance ‘flourish’- meaning it was quite simple for both dancers and non-dancers to get a basic grasp on the choreography. Refining the aforementioned “flourishes” is what took up most of the rehearsal time. Working with Olivier and his assistant Daniel Greenway was a total pleasure.’
The shoot was in a Thomson resort in Antalya, Turkey called Robinson Masmavi. All the scenes were on location around the resort, except for one scene where they built a mini plane fuselage in a conference room. It is a beautiful resort directly next to the sea, with its own private beach and at least 10 swimming pools!
Matt says, ‘the best thing was our downtime (time not rehearsing or filming) when we had complete guest status. Meaning we could get involved in all the activities around the resort, or just capitalise on the free food and drink! Lots of us discovered a keen interest in Archery… A 5-a-side football team was born, and we played against the staff at the resort.’
‘The cast developed a routine where they would eat together every night in the main restaurant. 30+ dancers getting together every night for food, and then the inevitable partying. It was like being on the best working holiday ever!’
The only thing that really surprised Matt was how much fun they all had, and what a strong bond the whole cast developed. Many of them are still in frequent contact now.
Matt comments that ‘the only real spanner in the works came from a language barrier. Much of production team were Turkish, and spoke little English. This made conversations regarding costuming/hair and make-up very difficult and confusing. Most HODs were English or English-speaking, but had trouble sometimes communicating with their subordinates. The DOP (Director of photography) had particular problems in trying to convey ideas to his camera crew.’
Matt laughs and comments, ‘at times it felt like I was being paid to be on holiday…
A pretty unique experience for someone self-employed. There were days when I was only used early morning, and had the rest of the day to explore or relax, while getting paid a full shoot day fee.’
‘Moving forward for me is an exciting and unclear prospect. I have aspirations of forming my own dance company, drawing on my experience and choreographic language. I also hope to get the chance to choreograph more stuff of my own. I have assisted with many feature films, commercials and TV shows in the past, and would love my own crack of the whip. I have been involved once again for the 3rd year running with Strictly Come Dancing.
A very positive character, Matt continues telling me: ‘The main lesson I learned from this job is that it really pays to be helpful and nice. I was lucky enough to be asked to stay on for a second campaign of Idents. Not only did this mean I got 5 more days in Turkey, but also more money and the chance to be in a different campaign in which I may get more screen time.
Unexpectedly Matt also got to use his choreographer skills as they hadn’t kept a choreographer on from the previous job. He says ‘I offered to help them, and they said that it made sense, as I was there anyway. I have learned from my years in the business, it pays to be nice and helpful, and so much of the work I get is from previous employers or from the reputation I have worked to develop.’
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