Camila Alves has somewhat puzzlingly been anointed as a lifestyle expert, and this morning the exclusive story on PEOPLE (errr, exclusive?) is that she’s launched a web series called Camila's Code.

First off, the video is 20 minutes long, which is FOREVER in TV/web video. I sometimes do entertainment segments on CTV Morning Live in Vancouver and I’m on for 4-6 minutes, which is a good amount of time to cover 3-4 big stories. And I’m on with a host (hi, Keri!) and it’s a professional newsroom, with teleprompters and producers and visuals so when I’m talking about Brad and Angelina, they can pull up a photo. This is far from that.

This first episode is of course focused on Halloween, which is a huge, massive crafting holiday (so big that I wonder if they pushed this project forward to capitalize on that). The production value is budget. Is that their real kitchen? If so, they should have used a test kitchen, something with more light – too much wood, too dark. Speaking of light, the lighting is sh-t, so thank god she is a stunning woman (and I also appreciate the fact that she’s not teetering around in a Herve Leger dress). But the camera work and sound are definitely sub-par (you can hear static a few times), and at one point, you can see someone in the kitchen casually walk out of the shot. The overall look is “shot by a toddler on an iPhone 4.” It had me laughing out loud, and I don’t think intentionally.

She speaks a lot about doing things simply with not a lot of ingredients. Then she starts with black vodka, which she says is really hard to find (?????). Um, OK, but you can sub food coloring (which features prominently in all the food crafts). She makes things out of order (pours a drink, dumps it out, then rims the glass, instead of just using a new glass for the rim, or leaving the drink in the shaker so she can pour it after the glass has been rimmed and show the finished product). The transitions between crafts are awkward, and she seems underprepared and flustered at times.

I do a bit of crafting for my son’s school parties, like Easter Bunny applesauce, and this year I cheated and bought chocolate pumpkin sticks and wrapped them in spider duct tape. Halloween crafts are cute but over my pay grade. When looking at Pinterest, I find the twee’er the craft, the more likely you are to end up with hot glue burns on your fingertips at midnight. It’s not easy, it’s just supposed to look easy. This is, I think, what Camila wants to help with. She’s just nowhere near experienced enough to make it look Food Network easy, like Giada or even Rachel Ray. Those women have years and years of real life and on-camera experience, because making pasta in 4 minutes while explaining every step is a skill.

Next, it’s on to food. Not great. She makes “eyeball meatballs”, and uses eyeball candy for it. First off, no one can actually eat those eyeball candies, they probably sit in a warehouse for years, and second, the pimento olives (which she uses for the appetizer option) are much more edible and make sense. And this is where editing would come in handy. Instead of offering two styles of meatballs, stick with the best option. This is where a producer/editor would help tighten a segment, which would make it more manageable to execute, and to watch. Meatballs/sour cream/pimento olives, done. Forget the big bowl, appetizer, spaghetti noodles (unless you are going to show them!). Keep it lean.

Then it’s school snacks, and she uses a skull head she found around the house. This is seriously crafting 101, I’m not even kidding. Her next tip: if you are buying cut up fruit from the store, get the containers from the back. Any immigrant parent can tell you that! (It’s basically my dad’s cardinal rule for eggs and milk, and obviously he would never buy already-cut fruit. Too expensive.)

The banana ghosts, the tangerine pumpkins – moms, this is Pinterest 101. We know this. The rules at school now, with no nuts, limited sweets etc., make these crafts ubiquitous at Halloween parties. Again, this is where editing could have come in handy. Show me something new, Camila.

For more hearty meals, she suggests going to a BBQ place and getting a rack of ribs and sausages to make something she found online. Um, couldn’t I just find it online myself? Then, in the middle of talking about ribs and links, she pulls out a skeleton to set up a table display.

Here’s the thing: when prepping for any kind of craft or recipe, you have to show what you are using beforehand, not pull out a skull that is essential to the whole idea at the end of the segment. It was slightly baffling to see her pull out a plastic spine to place between the ribs.

All of these timing missteps show her inexperience. Lifestyle is about positioning products to fit in with a story. So when you are offering up any kind of craft or treat, you have to give a story to go with it; when would you present it, who is it for, what is the overall look, and what reaction do you want from your guests? Is she trying to pull off a spooky Halloween, a fun Halloween, an elegant Halloween? There has to be narrative beyond the holiday or theme, and there has to be some cohesiveness. Camila has no narrative beyond, “I found it at Michaels” and “I like it.”

After about 17 minutes of this, she sits down for a chat. A big part of Camila's Code is that it’s supposed to be interactive, so people can ask questions or post ideas as the show is on. She says the show is about her crafts, your crafts, and personalizing things found online. As an elevator pitch, this is good enough idea, but it’s not communicated strongly enough. She should have started the show talking about the interactive feature, not ended with it. And there is no context to what she is doing – is she in her home, what is her background, what makes her qualified to show us party tricks?

Towards the end, she is warmed up, more animated and seems more comfortable. She tells a nice story about her son Levi, and the phrase “love and care” particularly stuck out for me, as it would be a great jumping off point for her brand – she should have led with this, not tacked it on at the end of the conversation. She needs to work on cutting through the superfluous stuff and pare down her message. Something snappy, like “just keep livin” (bonus points if you spot the JKL cutting board).

Also, please show me the faceless off-camera voice. Who is that just randomly interjecting with questions? Why is she so ineffective at her job? Where did she come from? Was it the woman wandering in the background of the kitchen?

This has been episode 1 of Camila's Code.


Camila's Code #allabouthalloween #camilascode

Posted by Camila Alves on Wednesday, October 28, 2015