08/07/11 - Wheelchair tennis meets acting by Liam O'Reilly

World number 30 quad wheelchair tennis player Liam O’Reilly tells us about his alternative career as an actor after being chosen to represent the sport in a TV commercial for BNP Paribas.

Getting the opportunity to film an advert for TV is not an everyday occurrence for most people, let alone wheelchair tennis players, so when the opportunity appeared to do so, I jumped at the chance.

I was selected to do the commercial by the team at BNP Paribas as they wanted to represent all areas of tennis as part of their extensive sponsorship of the sport.

Needless to say, I was very happy to get this opportunity and it was a great experience. It was all filmed at Eastbourne on the Devonshire Park Centre Court where the AEGON International took place last month. There was a huge crew working on this and a ridiculous amount of kit including cameras on cranes and lighting rigs, which all seemed rather insane to film an advert with me in it. I knew it would be hard to make me look good but this was slightly overboard!

When I arrived the first thing I had to do was go into make-up, which again isn’t something I’m exactly used to as it’s not part of my daily routine! Then it was into wardrobe, where after a few costume changes the team agreed on what they thought suited me and something I was happy with.

Then we went onto the set on the grass court and it was a slightly daunting situation as there were so many people running around with cables, huge 100,000 volt lights and various cameras all directly pointed at where I was going to be.

I had a quick chat with the director and the assistant to find out exactly what they were looking for and quickly enough we got on with trying it out. After a few practices and trying a few different ideas we came up with what we hoped would work best for the final finished product.

It was then just the little job of filming it…  It was filmed in quite a high tech way and for HD which was really cool, so what you see on TV was actually only just over a second of action. The footage is slowed down and sped up at certain points, which meant we had to get every little piece technically perfect.

I should point out at this stage that the clip doesn’t include my full swing as it had to be altered for the shot for all you coaches out there analysing it!

Liam O'Reilly 

It took a good couple of hours to film, due to getting the cameras in the right position and getting them to zoom out at the specific right times. If they were a fraction of a second out it wouldn’t have worked.

There was also a lot of time spent on getting the lighting exactly right and, as it was all being filmed outside, this was a bit tricky. Being under two 100,000 volt lights for so long was quite intense and it was also a really warm day. However, I think the fact I had been out playing in Israel the week before helped me with these conditions.

So after a lot of close-up takes figuring out exactly what we were doing, we got the crowd in, which was a 50-100 strong group of extras. They all seemed really nice and were willing to cheer on demand throughout the day.

We then shot the wider versions and every time I hit the ball the crowd had to cheer, which for the first few times was awesome and really funny, but after about the 20th time I did start to feel for them. Eventually at about 6pm we had got it all wrapped up and from what they had told me it looked brilliant. I was really happy with the finished product as the team had been working so hard on it all day.

Finally it was just the waiting process for it to come out as I wasn’t allowed to mention it to anyone until it had been unveiled. The first time I saw it was on my mobile after a friend of mine had seen it and decided to film it and send it to me. It was completely unexpected to see it on my phone but really impressive, even if I do say so myself! It was a great opportunity for me and hopefully something I can do more of in the future.

Check the clip out in all it’s glory at the top of the page!

BNP Paribas are an official sponsor of the Lawn Tennis Association.