Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Ultimate Family Superhero Surprise Party!

We have come to the end of a totally insane day. It isn't even 9pm yet but it feels much later.

The camera crew arrived at my house exactly when they said they would (8am) and miraculously I was up and dressed. I hadn't really known quite what to expect. What I got was Charlie the director, a very enthusiastic young man who spent a lot of his time peering into his monitor, a camera guy with the biggest camera I've ever seen, a sound guy with the whole fluffy microphone on a pole thing going on, a lighting guy (very yummy with long dreadlocks), the lady Wendy has been exchanging phone calls with all week and one other random guy whose role we couldn't quite work out.

To begin with, they wanted us to pose by the Volkswagon car that Wendy has been using to help with the party preparations (and about which the whole promotion centres) and then, on Charlie's count, to nonchalantly all walk into the house and go about our business. A large group of people trying to nonchalantly walk into a house created an inevitable bottleneck. During the slight delay before entering, dad began to talk loudly about a giant snail or some such nonsense, causing my lovely niece and I much bemusement and really setting the tone for the whole day.

The crew quickly picked up on the fact that my dad was a 'character'.

Trying to 'go about your business', which at that time of the morning mainly involved drinking coffee and making toast, is not as easy as it would have been without the all seeing camera lens and a huge hairy microphone in your face.

The camera crew 'discreetly ' filming!

I am very glad that I had rearranged all the furniture in my house to accommodate the band and maximise the seating capacity because it made it feel more like a party venue and less like my home. I would have been much less comfortable with how invasive the camera was had it felt more home-like.

I was not directly involved with any more of the staged sequences of filming. That responsibility rested on the head of Wendy mostly (only fitting as it was her that had got us in to this). Mum and dad (or for the  sake of this film - Superpops and Nana) were given some instructions and wired up with microphones. After a couple of false starts, they seemed to deliver. All of the children were fantastic, rising to whatever challenge was posed.

The whole premise of the film was that this was a surprise party for Kizzy (who was 8 today). She believed that the party was in honour of Superpops and Nana, the superheroes of our family, and she gladly sacrificed her birthday celebrations for their benefit. It wasn't until 'the big reveal' - which involved a song from the band, confetti cannons, a cake, a shiny new bicycle and a giant poster of 'Princess Kizzy' - that she would twig that the whole day was really all about her.

In order to get plenty of footage of the car, Wendy's husband, Ian, was sent on an errand to collect various party items from different locations. The car had a dashboard videocam to record the action from within and a convoy car was all set to follow him with the film crew for the external shots. Unfortunately, Ian jumped the gun a little and left without the film crew. Wendy had to call him on his mobile and get him to return and set off once more.

They were gone with the car a long time. The crew were very particular about the shots they wanted trying different angles and different takes if the traffic conditions weren't exactly right or if there were too many curious bystanders! So much attention to detail, so much footage, all ultimately to be cut to a three minute film.

Eventually, we reached the moment in the party when Kizzy needed to be made scarce. She was to accompany my mum and dad back to Wendy's house so they could all change into party clothes and grandad could rest his knees. Wendy had a moment of sheer panic when she realised that the camera crew where going with them. She hadn't expected her house to be used in the filming and consequently had made no attempt to tidy up, wracking her brains to remember what sort of state she had left it in before adopting more of a 'too late to worry about it now!' attitude.

Buffet preparation, bike assembly, band sound check, 'surprise' prepping and hand held videoing filled the moments before Kizzy's return with the grandparents.

The return of the guests of honour

All the party guests lined the hallway and the band played their upbeat song 'Life is Just a Movie' as the door was opened to welcome the return of the 'guests of honour'. They were lead to their seats in the main room and the other guests filtered round into position. The cameraman and the sound man found their optimum position as the band played their next song, 'Draw me a Picture', written by Liberty.

The camera man and sound man find their optimum positions

Then followed the beautiful song Ella had written about her love for her grandparents. I'm not sure who was the first to start with the tears. I was certainly grateful for my tissue, Wendy didn't hold back, mum was filled with emotion, Kizzy's little eyes welled up seeing her nana cry, even the sound man had to wipe his eyes. It always disappoints me that dad does not allow himself to give in to his emotions. He obviously feels it but he stiffens and his expression turns to something like a grimace rather than a joyous outburst.

The final song was the 'Happy Birthday' song. The band performed it beautifully leaving no doubt that this party was really about Kizzy all along.

The giant Kizzy poster for the birthday princess

I certainly saw some fantastic moments that were charged with joy and love and humour and genuine surprise. Whether the camera crew were able to catch those moments and will subsequently edit them into something truly representative of what we were trying to achieve with the day remains to be seen. It is out of our hands now and we can only wait anxiously until the finished film 'goes live' in a few weeks time. It is equally possible that a careless comment in an unguarded moment or a blank expression or a story about a giant snail or even a grimace could paint a very different picture!

The departure of the camera crew did not mark the end of the party. We carried on well into the evening enjoying the food, the company and the impromptu band set with guest vocalists until giving in to the exhaustion. It was an amazing experience but I am very glad today is over and I can relax.


  1. Mother! My song is called 'Life is a Movie'. There is no Just :P I love your blog by the way :)


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