contributed by Rick Westenenk - studio manager

Last summer I was a professional tree shaker

Everybody who has watched a commercial has an inkling to what’s going on behind the scenes. Everyone has seen a set, whether in a movie or a TV-show, but that’s where most of the common knowledge stops.

Making a film, series or commercial involves an entire crew of dedicated people, whom all have their own task. Some even seem insignificant. Most of the time I participate with all walks of set life. At one shoot I’m assistant production. The next I’m running around searching for props or helping submerged fruits explode. And last summer I was professional tree shaker.

Off course it’s not an official title, but it covers the main objective of my task for that specific commercial. Someone has to shake a tree behind the window to mimic wind. Which in turn makes a set more realistic, because the trees “outside” are moving. Why does a tree need to be moved by hand, you might think? Because a fan or machine makes it too mechanical. A fan blows at a constant rhythm. When you see it on film it shows. No tree moves to a beat. It sways and swooshes to the mercy of the wind. A human touch can recreate that rhythmic movement and thus the tree shaker was born.

Lights, camera and on action I vigorously started to shake the potted plant. At that moment it seemed like a dumb and insignificant exercise. However when you see it played back, the effect of your actions show. The leaves create shadows that dance about on screen. A playful sight that gives you the immediate sense of wind. It’s these small actions that makes your shots more realistic. Off course other players are more important for the making of a commercial. You can’t make a shot without director, ad, gaffer, grip, production or set dresser. But the next time you see parts moving in the background, think about the unsung heroes who shake trees when the timing is right.


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