Professional model Bryce Buell talks about his amusing experience with shooting the music video, “Man, I Feel Like A Woman” for Shania Twain. Make sure to check out BryceBuell.com/Bluesteel for this article and many others.
Of all the bookings I’ve done though the years, the one that sparks the most interest and questions by far was my appearance in the Shania Twain music video, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" So, to mark the 14th anniversary today of the making of that video (was it really that long ago?), I decided to answer the questions I’m most commonly asked here.
First, some quick background information about the video. “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" was filmed on January 11, 1999 at Pier 59 Studios at Chelsea Piers in New York City. It was a role-reversed version of Robert Palmer’s iconic 1986 video classic “Addicted to Love." The song was written by Shania’s husband at the time, famous music producer Robert John “Mutt" Lange, and the video was made by Propaganda Films and directed by Paul Boyd.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: I was contacted by my New York agency in late 1998 telling me I’d been booked for a music video for some singer named Shania Twain. The only song of hers that I’d heard at the time was “Still the One," which had been getting a lot of play on the radio. While there had been a casting in New York City for models to appear in the video, I never went and was actually chosen solely from my composite card (a model’s business card that shows a head shot and several pictures of the model). According to my agent, I was the first model actually picked for the video.
My participation was contingent first upon a costume fitting, so several days before the video was to shoot, I took the train up to New York and rushed to the fitting. Once there, I tried on an extremely tight pair of black leather pants and a skin-tight red shirt. The powers that be seemed pleased and so after the 15-minute fitting I jumped back on the train and was headed back home. Before leaving, they told me the concept of the video and gave me a packet with contact information and lyrics and a copy of Robert Palmer’s original video.
Q: What happened when you got to the set on the day of the shoot?
A: When I arrived on set I was met by my fellow models, a dance choreographer, and quite a few others. Shania wanted to see one of us in full costume and makeup – this would be a couple hours before the rest of the guys were dressed. I was chosen to be that person. I got on my leather pants and red shirt, got all my makeup put on, but being made up first and early meant the makeup artists had plenty of time to overdo it – it was far heavier than the other guys’. Finally, they directed me to Shania’s dressing area, but after standing out front for about 15 minutes, I was told Shania didn’t want to see anyone right then. So I went back to work on my dance steps, much to the amusement of the other guys upon seeing me in my full attire. Jokingly, all I could say back was, “just wait – you’re all next!"
Q: What was it like to meet Shania?
A: I stood several feet away from her for hours but we never actually met. We were told by her assistants and publicists that we were not permitted to speak to Shania unless she spoke to us. She never really did. I’m not saying she wasn’t a friendly person. Personally I have no idea. I will just say that she treated the job very professionally and was very focused. Hanging out and chatting with the guys was just not part of her deal. Still, I had bought a CD of her album hoping she would autograph it for my daughter by the end of the shoot, but never felt comfortable enough to ask anyone to try to get her to sign it.
Regarding her appearance, Shania was obviously a very beautiful woman but the thing many may not realize is just how petite she is. Everything about her was tiny – her body, her arms, her waist, her head. Just a really pretty tiny woman. I would estimate her height to be around 5’3" tops.
Q: Did she have any tantrums?
A: No. Though I do recall one instance when she was slightly irritated that her diet ice tea was not available on demand.
Q: How did they film the video?
A: In a nutshell, we were placed in our positions (I was the bass guitar player, just behind her to the viewer’s right) and we would do our “dance" while they played the song. Then we did it again – and again – and again. I am not sure how many takes we finally did, but it felt like maybe thirty to forty. With each take, the director would move the camera to capture different views and angles.
It’s funny how the song played its course in my mind since I had to listen to it forty straight times. During the first ten takes you are just learning the song. The next ten takes you are really getting into the song and enjoying it. The next ten takes you are in cruise control and find yourself daydreaming about other things while you are performing. And by the last ten takes you are so tired of the song you want to burn the CD.
Now because Shania was so petite, I noticed a little camera trickery going on during many of the takes to make her appear taller relative to us guys. In the waist-up shots, she was often elevated on a platform or box to raise her height. On the full-length shots, they would move her forward a bit and lower the camera height to have the same effect.
Q: Were you ever nervous during the shoot?
A: Nervous, no. However I did have some concerns. First, I would be required to do a dance step. Not a problem except I am possibly the world’s worst dancer – a bona-fide disaster on the dance floor. I am also supposed to look like I am playing bass guitar right handed. I don’t think I had ever picked up a guitar before that job much less played one, and I am left handed as well so it felt even more awkward for me to pretend to play one. Fortunately, after many hours of diligent effort to do the step I finally got it “good enough" to get by. Also, they didn’t seem to care that I had zero clue how to strum a bass guitar correctly as was readily apparent by anyone who has seen the video.
Q: Besides being a left-handed, non-guitar playing, awful dancer – were there any other challenges you encountered during the job?
A: The most difficult aspect of making the video was actually physical – to my eyes and my right thumb. We were required to focus on a single point on a wall for every take and not blink. The wall, however, was a wall of nothing but fluorescent lights! Between each take I would virtually pour Visine into my eyes, which were red and fried after each take. Also, after the first several takes, my right thumb was starting to develop a pretty bad blister from all the guitar strumming. About halfway through the shoot I couldn’t use it anymore and just started tapping the strings. One scene in the video actually focuses on my hand doing the tapping thing. I’m sure anyone who has ever played a guitar chuckles when they see it.
Q: How much did you get paid?
A: The video took longer to film than planned and so with overtime I recall making approximately $8,000 for the day. I cannot recall the total time I was at the studio but 14 hours seems to stick in my head.
Q: How old were you when you filmed the video?
A: In January 1999 I was 28 years old.
Q: Are you ever recognized by anyone for being in the video?
A: That one’s easy. No.
You can read the actual article and many others at BryceBuell.com/BlueSteel.