The Making of the TV Ad

A Publisher's Point of View


Hello to all you lovely Marian-ites (Marian-ettes? Marian-ophiles? What is the collective noun for a group of Marian fans? Answers on the forum please!)


The paperback of The Brightest Star in the Sky is published on 3rd February and you may remember that Penguin called upon your services to help make a TV ad for its publication. As Marian is still convalescing, Himself though it might be a nice idea for you to hear about what went on on that fateful day in December, from the publishers point of view.


First off, I wanted to thank all those people who came along to take part in the ad, we literally couldn't have made it without you. The extraordinary effort that many of you made to get there was just fantastic (trips from Kent through the snow, travelling from the south of France...) and I know that Marian not only loves the ad but is incredibly touched by the effort that was made on her behalf.


From my point of view the day didn't start well as I already knew I was going to be late, which made me feel very bad as I knew that our ad participants were getting there for about 8am, which meant very early starts for many of them. However, I had a 7-year-old performing as Tinkerbell that morning and I was under pain of death to miss it, and a

7- year-old in full on green tights and netting is way more scary than Keiren, the director, so I saved myself years of recrimination and therapy and went along to that first.


Tinkerbell was a triumph, apart from a few tears when an improvised line didn't go according to plan, and after a swift costume change we were on the train from Hemel Hempstead heading towards London. I should say at this point that Tinkerbell, otherwise know as Connie, was coming with me to see an ad being made as a treat.


We soon arrived at the Christian bookshop in Westminster, who had kindly closed for the day so we had a bona fide bookshop to shoot in, rather than a slightly Crossroads meets Acorn Antiques type set. Our timing was impeccable as lunch had just been served! Now, one of the best things about ad shoots is the constant supply of food that you get behind the scenes. I don't now how regulars manage to resist as a three course meal is served followed by the chocolate and cake tray every hour on the hour, but I know I can't. Paul the producer also produced (ha ha!) a bottle of Baileys for 'pudding' which I seem to remember went down very well with our Marian fans, there was barely a dribble left when it got to me!


Anyway, I'm sure you're all wondering at what point some work actually got done. Everyone had arrived early that morning so the 'glam squad' (hair and make-up, darlings) could get to work. Everyone looked fantastic, just like they would normally when hanging out in a bookshop, with fabulous Cheryl Cole hair and Angelina Jolie lips, and that was just the boys!


At this point I will introduce you to Keiren, our fabulous director (see ‘Making of the Ad’ video for a close up). Patient, creative, charming and only a tiny bit shouty and diva-ish (all for effect); he was the guy whose creative vision we were attempting to reenact. The idea behind the ad is that there is a bookshop full of Marian fans who are so keen to get their hands on a copy of The Brightest Star in the Sky that they don't even leave the bookshop before starting to read it, resulting in every available surface in the shop being taken up by someone reading Marian.


In the first scene of the ad our fans had to rush towards a book tower as desperadoes trying to be the first to get their hands on the books. The art director had lovingly built the tower of books in the morning and for the rest of the day it had needed its own personal body guard to ensure no wafts of air or sudden movements brought it toppling down. So, when we started filming, all was well apart from the very top book which took to throwing itself lemming style off the top of the pile threatening to dislodge the 199 below it. Who knew we had so many talented ex-goalkeepers and netball players in our midst as fans through themselves left and right in order to stop the book from toppling the rest or otherwise maiming someone. And here I'll let you in to a little secret... as we had to shoot the ad before Christmas, Marian's book was still being printed, so some very lucky work experience people had to precisely cut and paste 200 printed jackets on to the front of 200 other books in order that we had them for the shoot - that's how glamourous publishing can get for our interns!


Praise in particular for this shot needs to go to Inmaculada and Paul who gamely agreed to perform the acrobatics that Keiren required to make the shot work, that of Inmaculada sitting aloft Paul for an excruciatingly long amount of time as the shot of books being passed out was taken again and again and again… It was certainly a way of getting friendly very quickly and thankfully Keiren's innuendoes did nothing to put them off, although it took a little quick thinking and explaining to Connie whose ears pricked up very quickly from her Nintendo DS when the comments were being made!


There is an awful lot of sitting around waiting to be called on a shoot and our fans were nothing if not incredibly patient and lots of chat and banter went on behind the scenes as people waited for their moment of fame. Particularly noteworthy was our fan who did an excellent job as 'girl lying on book table' in an American Beauty-esque style (except not, I hasten to add, naked, and no rose petals, producer Paul, wouldn’t stretch the budget…). We also had four actors who played ‘girl who gets first book’, ‘bookshop manager’ and ‘the crying men’. The crying men were Connie’s absolute favourite, they were all she talked about when she got back, that and, of course, the food.


Sadly, after being very keen to have a cameo myself and having gone through the drama of being made to sit on the top of the highest shelf in the shop (not exactly scared of heights, but scared of things collapsing, falling over etc) with only a rickety bit of wood precariously balanced as my seat, and heart racing, I WAS LEFT ON THE EDITING FLOOR, the indignity of it! Not so for the lovely Jen, also a Penguin, who was given pride of shot as ‘pregnant woman’. For those who don’t know Jen, she’s one of those tall, willowy types who can eat her own body weight every day in chocolate and not gain a pound. This seemed to annoy Keiren the director for some reason so he made her wear a pregnancy suit for the ad. She’s still not recovered from the experience and is bracing herself for a flurry of phone calls and Facebook posts when the ad comes out, if from no one else but her parents!


And so the day came to an end. Everyone performed their acting reading skills admirably. The crying men cried, the director directed, I ate more food off the final chocolate tray and left at 7pm with a very happy daughter and thousands of mummy brownie (mmmmm) points. There were still some fans at the shoot finishing off final shots for us when I left but everyone was still fantastically chirpy and willing.


Everyone who took part left with a goody bag but it only went a small way to expressing how genuinely grateful we were, and are, that so many of you came down to help us. I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as Penguin and the crew did.

First transmission of the ad is 2nd February, so see if you can catch it on ITV2, Channel 4 channels or Sky; and on TV3 and 3e in Ireland. In the meantime, here’s a very exclusive sneaky peak of it







and here's the behind-the-scenes film we made of the day. They let me appear in this one. I’m the one who’s talking nonsense and has obviously not had the glam squad near her all day!

Very best wishes
 A Penguin