ALAMEDA -- Three 11-hour days, a herd of vans and buses, endless video and electronic equipment and platters of cold cuts -- that's what it took for the film crew in town last week to make a 30-second vitamin TV commercial.
The 40 or so people drew glances from passers-by on Central Avenue as they did their thing, from a wardrobe person tugging at a sleeve to the technical crew tediously working on lighting and sound to assistants repeatedly scooping ice cream into a cone for an actor to hold in a scene.
Among the six Alameda locations the crew and actors worked were Olympic Florist on Santa Clara Avenue, downtown across from the movie theater and an Otis Drive residence. Six locations in three days resulted in about 10 seconds per day of the commercial. And that was just the filming part of the flavored vitamin advertisement.
Before that, there was scouting for a location. That was Jof Handwright's job. Having been to town before for filming, he chose it again to satisfy the directive he'd been given to find "a little town that could represent the best of anywhere in America."
For the commercial's director, Drea Cooper, 35, knowing how to get around town was a cinch. Now an Oakland resident, he lived in Alameda from age 6, attending Otis, Bay Farm and Alameda High schools. In Alameda, he was known as D.J. Cooper. After graduating from high school, he studied philosophy at UC Santa Cruz.
His journey from philosophy to film work was unplanned, but thinks the seeds may have been planted at the Alameda High media class he took in the mid-1990s. After a visit to India, where he took photos and continued studying the lofty theories of deep thinkers, he rattled about in Lake Tahoe for a bit and landed later at Hunter's Point, teaching media arts to high school students for four years.
He signed up for film classes at San Francisco State University. He has been a filmmaker and commercial director for eight years. He and his longtime buddy Zackary Canepari have a website featuring short documentaries they make of sometimes offbeat but true stories on topics from a Hollywood Superman impersonator who takes his lifestyle very seriously to a veteran and former Alameda used car salesman who had to move in with his mother after losing his job in the family business.
Their documentary, "Aquadettes," about a group of elderly synchronized swimmers from a retirement community in Southern California, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The website address is www.californiaisaplace.com.