New York

Central Park, with its massive, varied sprawl, has always been a favorite with film-makers. Envision any locale (with the exception of the sea and the desert) and you can find it in Central Park: a desolate plain, a hilly knoll, a stretch--so long as you keep the pretzel vendor out of the way--of rolling American heartland.

Thus, it came as no surprise, the other day, to see yet another advertiser ensconced, somewhat west of the fountain, making a commercial. It was no cheapie.

Seven actors were there, one of them recognizable from a Tab commercial, and they were fine-looking specimens all. They were dressed as joggers, since the concept, the advertiser said proudly, had to do with "feeling like winners again."

The advertiser was the National Republican Congressional Committee, and it was nice to see they were sparing no effect in their quest for realism. After each take, the makeup people sprayed the actors with a fine mist.

"Re-sweat," the assistant director would yell.

Also, the director, mindful of the overall gestalt, often took time to brief the crew.

"Just remember," he'd say, "hyperventilation is the feeling we need for the shot."

Clearly, these folks were pros. The in-house producer/writer of the spot, Steve Sandler, who is also the committee's director of communications, had, in his previous life as ad man, worked on the Borden, Baskin-Robbins, and Holiday Inn campaigns.

His current outfit, he said, will be spending "through packaging, production and media time" $2.2 million in 1981. And he was proud and eager to give a visitor the run-through of the ad.

"You hear some music and coming up over that rise, then see shoulders and arms and then more and more of the runners," he said. "It's shot silent, we're laying the music track under it and then there's a voice-over: 'There is no shortcut to greatness. The Republicans in Congress set out to cut a bloated economy and make America tough again . . . .' Here, you can take a look at the script."

New York is so thrilling, people are always slipping you advance scripts. The last one the reporter saw was the comedy "Arthur," and the excitement of the woman who proffered it was not dissimilar to that of the ad man.

This script, the first of what Republican news secretary Thym Smith has said will be the beginning of "a national media wave" is shorter, of course. "Republican Marketing Group; 30 TV," it says, in one corner, and then the title, "Shaping Up."

The message is brief. The line about the bloated economy is followed by the federal budget having been cut, and more tax cuts for all Americans, and sure, they have a long way to go, but, "We're beginning to feel like winners again."

They are paralleled with the shooting directions: "Beginning of a marathon run," they say. Then, "Closeup of one runner who is followed through the race. A lot of pain, determination and guts. Freeze a step away from winning finish."

But equally fascinating are the seven actors, of whom five are white; and the lead is a tall blond man. The significance of this, Sandler downplayed.

"It's an all-American look, he's a marathon runner, we weren't going for a specific type," he said.

He says that all the actors are runners, that they tested them by making them run in place for three minutes, that no, they're not really working them as hard as it appears, that huffing and puffing is all acting, not that you'll hear it in the spot.

"We've got somebody right now in the sound libraries in New York looking for heavy breathing," he said.

Speaking of New York, it is nowhere evident in this shot.

This, it seems, is no accident.

"We're blocking the shots so you don't see the skyline," said the advertiser. "We're trying to universalize it."