What I Learnt from ‘Micing Up’ Samuel L Jackson

Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction with a fake microphone pointed at him

I won’t lie, I’m an autograph hunter given the opportunity. The most treasured autographs I have are Billie Joe and Tre Cool from Green Day who I met before one their shows in my late teens at the London Astoria. I have a good number of signed CDs and vinyls of bands that should have been huge, but weren’t and I also love my collection of signed West Ham programmes from the mid to late 90’s including the likes of Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick from when they all played for the Hammers. For me it’s like a proof of purchase. These bands and footballers weren’t people who I had just watched on the telly box, but I had actually seen them with my own eyes in the flesh. Perhaps I hoped that some of their stardust would rub off on me and that if nothing else, one day when I’m old and grey and these people are mythical legends I can say I met them!

I still get excited when I meet ‘famous’ people, I have to control my nerves  when these 2d characters are real and alive in front of me. and I’m always suspicious of people in the video marketing industry who pretend not to be interested. Sure I get it, they’re just people at the end of the day and they’re no better than you or I, but Life is too short and often mundane not to get a thrill by seeing Gok Wan in a Basingstoke shopping centre! So when I had the opportunity to film an actual Hollywood A list celebrity at a Park Lane hotel for a charity I was always going to clear my diary for it no matter what.

We pulled up to the hotel in the taxi unloaded the equipment and went to the reception. We were there to film a short piece to camera with Samuel L Jackson, you know him from Pulp fiction, Marvel, Star Wars and Snakes on a Plane. Even the most cyncal and jaded amongst us were palpably excited.

What if I don’t film this professionally enough and get called out by a big screen hero?

Mr Jackson was staying under the pseudonym of Reverend Green. It was the first (and the last) time I’ve ever had ask to meet anybody with a nod and a wink at the reception. We were told that Rev Green was having lunch on the third floor with … Gary Barlow. Now I’m not sure if Samuel L Jackson was aware of who Gary Barlow is or was or whether he was a big fan of his hit single ‘Forever Love‘ but I’ve always been intrigued to know how the conversation went with his agent in having set this dinner date up. I’ve be even more intrigued as to how the conversation at the meal went..?!

We went up the third floor and started to set up the filming gear. My head was a whirr of making sure I was setting up correctly and worrying that my equipment wasn’t Hollywood standard and what if I don’t film this professionally enough and get called out by a big screen hero? Which would mean I’d never be able to watch another Tarantino movie again without being reminded that I once got shouted at by Samuel L Jackson for being rubbish at my job… but I digress,

Usually it’s my job to calm the the person in front of the camera!

As I continued to set up the lights and tripods, Sam and Gary had finished their meal. I turned around and 1/5 of Take That was walking towards me so I did what anyone would do in that moment and gave him a nod saying “alright!?” as if he was my best mate who I hadn’t seen in a while. I’m pretty sure he ignored me and I died a little inside.

Shortly after I’d blown my only opportunity to take the place of Robbie in any future Take That reunions, in walked the impressive 6 foot 2 inch frame of Samuel L Jackson.. “So what are we up to then?”

Usually it’s my job to calm the the person in front of the camera, put them at ease and help them to perform at their best so we can record some video magic. I don’t need to tell you that this wasn’t going to be the case today. Infact in reality what happened was that the roles were reversed. After the producer had explained what we were recording to the star, Mr Jackson gently guided us through the process by lowering himself and asking simple questions the sort of questions that you might expect a first timer to ask: “so where would you like me (to sit)” and,  “What would you like me to say?”

My favourite moment came when I realised I was going to have to ‘mic him up’ or put another way have to man handle him to place a small microphone discreetly on his person. I showed him the microphone we were going to use and offered it to him he took it and said, “Where does this go then?” now I’m pretty sure Samuel L Jackson has been mic’d up once or twice before, but I loved how he gently acted dumb and allowed me to show him and fiddle with the placing of the microphone. These gentle words and actions put me at ease and allowed me to go about my job as another professional in the room. He trusted me to do the job.

Maybe this Hollywood legend was intimidated and humbled by our set up and body of work we had produced in the past?

We recorded a take and naturally he pretty much nailed it in one.. I turned to the producer and I could see him weighing up his thoughts. Surely he wasn’t going to tell Samuel L Jackson to go again… was he? Ok he was.. wait for the fireworks… “sure no problem” came the response and I was able to breathe again and marvel (no pun intended) at the kahunas of my producer who was willing to question this actors ability to perform on camera.

Maybe it was the meal he’d eaten with Gary Barlow or maybe this Hollywood legend was intimidated and humbled by our set up and body of work we had produced in the past, I’m not sure? But from where I was stood at that moment, all I could see was one of the coolest guys on the planet showing humility, patience and kindness to me and my colleague, which if nothing else, meant I was free to watch all his films in the future, safe in the knowledge that this guy had taken just a brief moment in his life to give me a huge confidence boost in mine and a masterclass in helping put others at ease… Only topped by the time I filmed the King of England, but that’s another story

Find out more about John and how he helps business owners create video content they can be proud to share and overcome their fear of being on video here

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