that time I was in an Adidas commercial_

Actress? No.

Model? I wish!

Athlete? Aspiring.

So how exactly did I end up in an Adidas commercial promoting running, fitness and achieving your goals? Well, I think it happens to be luck, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Dutch Casting Agency, when in need of native-English speakers for voice-overs or to participate as extras in film, often reaches out to the North American Women’s Club in Eindhoven for a pool of potential actors. Several months ago, the casting agency sent an email looking for American, female athletes for a commercial for their anonymous client.

Dear Leah,

Hopefully you can help me with the following?

I’m looking for a native American speaking female ATHLETE to participate in a commercial. I was wondering if you know a female which is an athlete and speaks American? (The sport isn’t an issue but the female must be very fit).

Thank very much for your help!

By reading the email, I got the sense that the casting director was not necessarily interested in my participation but was inquiring if I knew anyone more fit than myself. However, since I’ve moved abroad I’ve been leading with ‘yes’ when presented with opportunities. So I responded to the email… what did I have to lose?

I am quite athletic. I am a runner and do high intensity interval training. I am a Native American speaker. 
I’m not sure what you would consider an athlete but out of the Americans I know in the Netherlands, I am the most fit.
*Small disclaimer: I only knew a few Americans in the Netherlands at this point, so saying I am the most fit is not a braggadocious statement by any means.

This was followed by a chain of emails in the month of June. First, with request for me to send some pictures of myself “in action” so that the “client” (still anonymous at the time) could see if my body was athletic enough. So like any amateur, I put my iphone on self-timer mode and had a truly mortifying selfie session in my apartment by myself. Though I am frequently self-critical, especially with my appearance and body, I did settle on some pictures I thought were acceptable and not too embarrassing or revealing…thank goodness for camera filters!

Fast forward a few weeks, now July, and I finally get some more information:

Hoi Leah,

A few weeks ago we had contact with each other about the fact that I was searching for American native athletes. Finally I have a more information from my client.

The client is Adidas and they want to shoot a online commercial which shows several woman running. These women also have a few lines of text in front of the camera while they are running.

Client have seen your pictures and would like to see you on a audition before they decide to choose you for the shoot.

Please come to the studio in your normal clothes and bring one pair of running clothes and shoes with you. You don’t have to prepare yourself. They will make some photo’s of you and will let you run. Audition will take about 30 minutes.

An audition!? Okay, I’ve never done that before, but what the hell, let’s go for it. Besides the brief explanation about what to expect at the audition, I was given an address to a photography studio in Amsterdam and told when to show up. So I took the 1hr+ train from Eindhoven to Amsterdam on a July morning and followed google maps to the address. The building was a large industrial building in the Pijp area of Amsterdam. I had some issues finding exactly which doorbell to ring because there was no photography studio listed, only a modeling agency. Just when I was starting to feel a little sketched out about the situation, I ended up finding the correct doorbell for the photography studio.

the audition_

July 6, 2016

The photographer, a very nice and kind man with a full sleeve of tattoos on both arms, introduced himself and led me to his small photography studio in the building. One part of the room is set up for taking photos, and on the opposite end of the room is a couch and his personal workspace and computer. In this moment, I am laughing to myself that this cliche scene felt exactly like what one should expect on an audition — I am alone with this photographer and have literally seen no one else in this building (no witnesses 😐 ). I am seated on the “casting couch” and this person I just met and am expected to trust is going to take some pictures of me. I kept reminding myself that the casting agency is a trusted one and a few of my new American friends have also worked with in the Netherlands. It also helped that the photographer and I got along well, had easy conversation, and he explained to me everything we would do.

First he took some pictures of me in my normal clothes. Since I’ve never done this before, I had no idea what I was doing and I’m trying my best to play it cool. Do I smile? Don’t forget to stand up straight! Shit, I should have learned how to Smize. Where do I put my hands?  Maybe I should have binge watched a few seasons of America’s Next Top Model before this.

Then I changed into my running clothes. We took a few more pictures and then the photographer explained to me that we will go outside and take a short video of me running and also talking while running. He explained he would be on his bicycle, filming me on his iPhone with a selfie-stick (this is professional photography?). During the video he would speed up a bit and encourage me to continue talking. The purpose of the video is to see how I run and also make sure I can speak clearly while running at a fast pace. We took a spin around the block while I jogged and talked about myself. To be honest, I felt I was a bit awkward. I did not get to see any of the photos or video that I shot at the audition, so I just had to hope that the people in charge at Adidas would take a risk on an novice.

The photographer and I chatted a bit on the way back to the photo studio. He told me that more about the commercial. It would be shot in Amsterdam (Adidas Marketing HQ is in Amsterdam) and used for the U.S. market, and broadcast primarily online. This explains the reason for seeking native English-speaking females but why take a chance on an amateur actor? He explained that while there are plenty of models and actresses in the Amsterdam area, if these women are not athletic and with some degree of endurance, they would end up looking awkward on camera and unable to speak clear lines while running. The commercial would not feel authentic to the customer. As we parted ways, the photographer told me he would send my audition photos and video to the client and that hopefully I would hear soon.

A few hours later, I received a call from the Dutch Casting director. Though it was not confirmed I would be selected, he wanted to make sure I was available on the dates of shooting. I felt this was a good sign…but then a few more emails and a bit more waiting.

July 8, 2016

Hoi Leah,

Client have not decided yet. This Thursday there will be a final decision by Adidas.

July 12, 2016

Hoi Leah,

Great news, you are finally selected for the Adidas shooting!

Please make sure that you are available (whole day/ morning and evening!). The final times will be announced next week.

It’s important that you already download the Adidas Train&Run app. Please use it this week if possible. Because you also will use it during the shoot.

July 15, 2016

Hello Leah, 

Very happy that you are going to join us for the Adidas train&run shoot. You’ve all met the director during the casting. It would be great if you can also download the Adidas Train&Run app!

July 19, 2016

Woohoo! I was so happy to hear this news, and also to hear that the photographer, whom I had good rapport with, was actually the director of the commercial! Maybe there is a reason this information was not shared at the audition?
I took an early train to make the 09:30 call time and arrived (early, of course) to Amsterdam-Zuid. The holding area was just outside of the train station in a commercial area with several office buildings and business men and women quickly rushing to their place of work. I am introduced to the hair and make-up guy, another tattooed fellow who sits me in his chair and gives me some natural looking make-up and a plain ponytail (I was hoping for a cool braid but didn’t want to become a diva already). Another girl joins us and she explains she is also shooting the commercial today. She is Dutch but was raised in California and has returned to the Netherlands as an aspiring actress. We are then shuffled to the wardrobe girl, who carries a rolling suitcase full of Adidas clothing. She gives us some athlethic gear to try on. Then we stand in front of several Adidas and other production staff while they judge our outfits and try to decide if it is the look they are striving for. Then they fit us with extra accessories, like a running armband for the iphone and the Adidas MyCoach FIT SMART watch.
The director then sets us up for the day. There will be two ladies (myself and the Dutch girl) in this scene. Our scene is that we are running together, but during shooting we will each take turns saying the lines while the other runs beside. I elect to shoot my lines first. The director, camera operator and boom operator hop in a mini car (bigger than a golf cart but smaller than regular car). This car will be driving forward while the production crew sits in the back of the car filming as we run behind. For about 3 hours, we drive up and down this office area, the director shouts out the lines and we run and repeat. At first, the director tells me, I should yell my lines in a natural way, being careful not to overact. However, the client (Adidas) is back at the production area reviewing each take. They are communicating to the director (through a walkie or bluetooth, I can’t remember) and after each take, they ask for me to act more exhausted, more out of breath, and over-act a bit more. So for 2-3 hours of running up and down and acting more exhausted during each take, by the last takes I was really yelling my lines and trying to look as tired as possible. Though the running part for me was a breeze, I was even doing burpees prior to the start of a take so that I might look more tired.
After the filming of our lines and running, my running-partner and I also shot a few more scenes.  We were filmed stretching before our “run” and also using the Adidas Train & Run App. The scenes you see in the beginning of the commercial are of my scene-partner and I. I’m shamelessly proud that my thumb is the thumb that presses go on the app before the commercial really gets going (Ha! It’s the little things! Future hand-model?).
Around 2pm, I was told my involvement in the production had come to an end. The production team packed up to moved on to their next shoot location. I secretly hoped I could keep the brand new Adidas clothes that I just ran and sweat in for several hours but the wardrobe girl asked for them back and I couldn’t negotiate with her to keep them. So I left the set with nothing but a smile and the experience. Though I don’t think I have a future in acting, it was surreal to play a small part on a production set and now, to have video evidence of this adventure.

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