Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Filming with Andrea Pirlo

I was watching Italian television today in the early afternoon, mostly because all of the North American shows that I follow are currently on a mid-season hiatus and also because I was searching for a mind-numbing pastime that might help me to kill the hour before work. After being somewhat mesmerised by a program that featured a chimpanzee that no one seemed to realise was not in fact a human being, I began to flick through the channels aimlessly. Suddenly something caught my eye, it was a television commercial for a national Italian bank. The reason why this particular commercial was of interest to me was because it was set in Lodi. The advertisement featured various people in business suits walking around the city with red coat arms. It sounds a little bit strange I know and I remember wondering what the deal with the coat arms was when I passed by the crew filming in Piazza della Vittoria a few months ago.

For most cities, a film crew along with minor celebrities would be a big deal, but to the locals of Lodi, it is almost a regular occurrence. Lodi is actually a very popular destination for the filming of movies, television shows and advertisements. I think that its proximity to Milan, along with the beauty and charm of its square and surrounding streets make it the ideal place to showcase traditional Italian living. It is not uncommon during the summer months, to take a stroll through the city centre and stumble upon photo shoots complete with glamorous models or massive buffet tables filled with food and drinks for hungry camera men in the piazza. The most amusing thing is that ninety percent of the time, the locals simply go about their routines as normal; weaving their way through the mess of tangled wires and crew members that occasionally litter the streets without so much as even casting a glance in the direction of the action. Of course there are rare moments, such as when a truly massive superstar comes to town, when even the most jaded of the Laudense take notice. I witnessed one of these moments up close last summer.

It was just like any other day in June and I was headed towards Piazza della Vittoria to buy more minutes for my cell phone when I noticed a huge crowd gathered around the square. As I approached it to see what all of the fuss was about, I quickly realised that a film crew were shooting something and that there was some kind of a football player at the centre of all of the attention. After a few more moments I recognised him as Andrea Pirlo, one of Italy’s most famous players.

Personally I have only a passing interest in football, or soccer to many of my North American friends. I grew up watching every World Cup with my father, who is somewhat passionate about it, and listening as he launched into an array of tirades aimed at different players who he believed were underperforming. The one that I recall being the most frequent of these rants was “Baggio…Baggio!” After Italy’s disappointing defeat in the final of the 1994 World Cup, that was all I heard for the next several months and to be honest the chant is even still brought up to this day! Anyway, back to Andrea, for those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he helped Italy to win the World Cup in 2006 and currently plays for Italian Serie A team Juventus. In Italy, the man is basically a God.

So there I was, standing shoulder to shoulder with people dressed in AC Milan (Andrea’s former club) jerseys, complete with Pirlo’s name emblazoned on the back, while struggling to take pictures of the megastar. After all, my father as well as every European male acquaintance of mine would surely kill me if they learnt that I had seen Andrea Pirlo and not managed to take at least several photos. The scene that was being filmed seemed to involve Andrea kicking a football towards a group of school children and the director, who looked slightly goofy sporting a Mohawk and wearing army shorts, made the actors involved repeat their lines at least twenty times before calling for a short break. While his young co-stars took a few minutes to drink soft drinks and eat from the buffet, Andrea greeted his fans, who swamped him for autographs the moment that he made himself available to them.

It seemed as though it would be virtually impossible to get within several feet of Pirlo, let alone obtain his autograph or have my picture taken with him. Luckily for me, however, just when I was about to give up hope and move along, fate provided me with a backstage pass to the film set. The whole crowd was being controlled by several security guards and kept in check by a barrier of caution tape. Basically those who were on the right side of the tape were allowed unlimited access to the filming and everyone else could get no closer than about twenty meters away. When a city bus had to pass through the square, the tape had to be raised momentarily and when it was lowered once more, I suddenly found myself on the desirable side.

When one of the security guards smiled and nodded at me, I took it as a clear sign that I was being allowed access to the area and decided to inch ever closer to Andrea Pirlo and the rest of the film crew. There were quite a lot of people involved and I doubt that they all knew one another. The atmosphere was fairly relaxed and a number of other spectators had also randomly been granted a closer view of the action. As various passers by nodded at me as if I was one of the group, I did what anyone else would do and nodded back in acknowledgment. I told myself to keep my mouth shut because although the security guard seemed fine with me being there, I didn't really want to disturb anyone who might want to kick me off of the set.

After my initial nervousness, I soon relaxed when it became apparent that nobody was concerned with my presence. Andrea had now moved on to a photo shoot where he had to hold a ball with wings while wearing what appeared to be a Juventus-themed housecoat. The whole thing was mildly comical and Andrea looked a little bit fed up as he posed uncomfortably for countless shots. I positioned myself directly behind the camera man and took a few pictures of my own. Once again no one even questioned my presence; they simply smiled at me and nodded. At one point even Pirlo himself noticed me and squinted in my direction. His face pondered who I was and after a few moments he simply gave up trying to figure it out.

I waited patiently for the shoot to finish and when Andrea Pirlo stepped away from the cameras, I swooped in and asked for a photograph. I told him that my father and boyfriend are both huge fans of his and he happily agreed. Although he was obviously tired, he was friendly and very down to earth. He was certainly a great deal more relaxed than some of the other famous sports personalities who I have met over the years. Once my mission had been accomplished, I slipped quietly back onto the other side of the caution tape and rushed home excited to see the photograph on my computer. Unfortunately it is an absolutely horrendous picture of me, I look like I have a double chin and I am making a very rodent-like expression that has since been named “the chipmunk face” by my family and friends. I think that the person who took the photograph snapped it while I was in the midst of talking to Pirlo or something. Still, as embarrassing as it is, I proudly display the souvenir in my apartment. After all, I have a photograph of myself with Andrea Pirlo, can you say the same?

Just in case you were interested in the actual commercial itself. It turned out to be for the Sky Sports television network. Here is a link to the finished product:

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