Thursday, 19 January 2012

How To Get On TV

The Magic of TV: standing on a beach watching a plane pretend to land, so you can pretend to be on it.

A Little while ago this blog got me the chance to be on the TV. Appearing with Paul Merton a comedian who I've been a massive fan of for years. Aside from his weekly satirical news show he also has a travel show and for its last series was exploring what he could get up to close to home. Somehow the production company had hooked up with that 'consumate outdoorsman', blogger, wild and crazy force of nature, goose guide, and gamekeeper Andy Richardson. He pointed the TV folk in my direction. And there hangs a tale.

It's morning and you find me drinking coffee, staring into the middle distance, I'm at home wondering where my next job is coming from when I get an email from a girl I've never heard of who works at a TV company I have heard of 'CALL ME URGENTLY" she says. I take a break from my busy schedule of looking out of the window and scratching my arse to give her a ring. She wants to know about the SBW blog, luckily its my favorite subject so I tell her a bit about it, and because she works in TV and therefore thinks in pictures I email her some pictures. She sounds interested but is obviously not the decision maker.
I engage the 'did I mention I'm 40 and I've heard it all before' part of my brain, put the whole thing out of my mind, and go to make more coffee. Later that day I get Andy on the phone, I've convinced myself this is just another dead-end, but to my surprise Andy seems to think its all happening, so much for the dour Scots gamekeeper image.

A week or so later I'm on a client visit to Hell [aka Ikea], the client is suffering from option paralysis in the kitchen section and I'm dreaming of coffee and a danish when the phone rings. Its TV Chick

TV Chick: Can my boss take you out to lunch?
SBW: Sweetheart anybody can take me out to lunch

On the day itself I've been doing plumbing call outs in the morning but I manage to squeeze in getting a hair cut, then it occurs to me THEY THINK IN PICTURES so I nip home to the pile of mud encrusted  clothes left in a pile on the floor the last time I returned from hunting deer. They really are encrusted, by the time I'm sitting in the marble lobby of the TV company's office there is trail of dried mud leading to my seat. They wanted deer hunter I'm giving them 'deer hunter'.

Over lunch we talk about the star of the show 'a hypercondriac from the suburbs', the producer and director have just done a location visit so we talk about Scotland, we have a laugh about Midges being scotland's apex predator, and some how manage to skirt round the fact that I have no idea what wild and crazy force of nature Andy has told them!

Lunch is a mid price steak house - which gives me the opportunity to casually tell them I only eat steaks when out, ' at home I only eat wild meat I've shot '. I manage to do this with a straight face - They wanted hunter I'm giving them 'hunter'.

I'd sent them a link to The Best of SBW which of course they hadn't read. After I'd answered their questions, and told a few tales something happens which seems to make a difference. Regular readers will remember the time I got Scope Bite from a Muzzle Loader, I still have a bump on my skull. If I tell the tale I usually offer a audience the chance to  feel the bump, as its next to my eye for both our comfort I say 'give me your finger' and put it in place. This time the director was already reaching out for a feel before I got to the end of the tale. Once he'd verified its existence his face took on the satisfaction of a schoolboy in the presence of a 'gnarly scar' and quietly said "best not tell Paul about that". The presence of this wound seems to add veracity to everything else I've told them and at this point they start talking about me being with them in Scotland as though its happening.

I'm still not rising to the bait. Did I mention that I'm forty and I've not only heard it all before but come out with most of it too? I'll believe it when I see it.

When I get home Andy has already posted on his Facebook group that I'm on my way. I call Andy who is full of enthusiasm and tells me how much the film crew loved it when he told them about how I'm an unstoppable optimist who lived as a homeless person foraging the canal paths of London. For three years. 'You told them WHAT?' 'Well y'are, you're always so optimistic"

Ten days later I'm standing in the carpark of a dairy farm re-doing voice overs for the director, as we finish we say our goodbyes and he adds "From the first moment I saw you I knew it was going to work, there you were 'Hunter: Straight from central casting'"

More Soon
Your pal
PS You can see the episode Andy and I are in here and I'll tell you the rest of the tale another time.

Some Observations About TV People
1. They are simple people - they think in pictures and cliches. Complexity doesn't lend itself to TV. Keep it simple and keep it sexy or their eyes will glaze over.

2. They are not malicious bullshitters, they just appear so - to them every option has the same value until the last minute when a snap decision is made and all other options are dropped in a mad rush to get the camera's rolling. Lots of people will be contacted, very few will end up on screen.

3. They cant read. [OK I exaggerate they 'can' but don't.]

4. They are very very proud to be working in TV, but it is totally against the rules to show any kind of delight - they must be seen to be working very hard. Any shows of excitement or enthusiasm will reveal you as a total naive and not 'one of us'. So they can appear a bit sniffy to non-TV real people.

5.The Director: probably the best job in the world. you get to be an inquisitive child 90% of the time and the other 10% you get your demands met. Nice work if you can get it!

6.The Producer: Its all on your shoulders, but you've got a small army to make sure it works out. You must encourage the director, stop money being spent and get stuff on tape that'll look good on screen.

7.The Director and Producer roles in TV aren't nearly as glamourous as they sound - think middle management in trendy shoes.

8.The Girls Who Can: without the teams of competent young woman the whole thing would fall down in an instant. Shrewd-eyed and extremely motivated; with the opportunism of pirates and the organisational skills of the german army, if they weren't making TV they'd be running the world - underestimate them at your peril.

Goat Head Spikes

I love the letter pages of newspapers, and the comments sections of blogs, the conversations that break out are so often where the comedy of real life shows its self.

A chap wrote to me the other day asking for help promoting his company, Sole Spikes, at this time he only has one product, but his price is reasonable and his product useful so I was happy to help out.

Goathead Spikes are 1/4 inch studs that you screw into the soles of shoes and boots to gain traction on rock and ice. It's not icy enough for a true test here, and the season for wadding, fly rod in hand, for Grayling and Trout is yet to begin. So in-lieu of a full product field test here's a story also about 'Goat Head'.

In the Sunday paper an article had been published about the nicknames school kids give their teachers, the next week a fella writes in to say his most memorable teacher was a man known to all as Goat Head, but he had no idea how this mild mannered educator had come by the name.
The following week another chap wrote in, he had attended the same school and there hangs a tale.
Mr Whatever-he-was-called was indeed a mild mannered man and a crap disciplinarian, so much so that he didn't even attempt to discipline the boys himself, and would as his default punishment send miscreants to the Head [master]. An instruction his accent rendered "Go t' head!"


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Stephen Bodio's Querencia: A Book review

I know an amazing carpenter, he has the relaxed air of a man who has it just right for him. Secure in his own skill, comfortable in his life. He has the good fortune to be married to a financial genius, not for him the stresses and stains of billing and tax payments. They have a porsche, and about five houses. If you want to hire him he just tells you his day rate and after that you deal with her, email only, she bills you for his time, gives him pocket money and ensures they live well. Very very well. The rest of us live like street dogs. He works for me and I live like a dog. As MCP said "I wish someone loved me that much"

'Querencia' describes a place where we feel safe, the well from which our strength of character is drawn, that little bit of real estate (in our heads or our environment) where we are truly at home. I'm told It comes from the verb 'quere', to desire, to want. Great name for a book. Or a home.

Back in the days before the rise of the bleached shivering whippet, back when smart was still cool and you could earn living writing long-form journalism Steve finds himself at something of a loose end

I had expensive tastes in belongings , adventure, and alcohol.... I had two fifty year old LC. Smith shotguns, one engraved, 500 books, a master-falconers licence and a captive bred Lanner [falcon]
with ancestors from South Africa and Ethiopia. I liked my life but I had nobody to talk to

Steve hooks up with Betsy Huntington and after a while they pack their worldly goods into a yellow Datsun and trade new england for new mexico. There begins a tale of seven years exploring a remarkable landscape with a remarkable woman.

'If there was a breeze you could inhale the incense of burning Pinon and Juniper from the town a mile up wind, strong and sweet, evocative and nostalgic. My sister from back east thought it was "the scent of Mexican cooking spices" Kit Carson said that if you ever smelled it you would return to the high villages of New Mexico as long as you lived.'

' "sounds good to me" this from Chubby firmly. His hand was extended. I took it, and although I could not know it, started living in Magdalena'.

As naturalists of the old school - red of tooth and claw - Steve and Betsy are the perennial students of their own interest. This is a story of an absorption into the landscape, where every rock and fold in the land is a track, a story left behind in a very very slowly evolving landscape. Giant skys, arroyos that flash from dust to full before your eyes, all in the clear harsh light of altitude.

The area is not short on local colour; Steve paints a backdrop so vivid that the found-words jump off the page into that space of the remembered imagination where all the great books make their home.

The middle of route 60 which just seconds before had contained only a few wandering bodies now held a brawl as thick as a snarl of ants on a summer sidewalk. Above the thwhack of fists against bodies rose a cry I will never forget "That horse never fucked nobody!"

Betsy too leaps from the page; a woman who has seen such a variety of different lives that she must have been an amazing co-conspirator, able to explore without judgement, and to summon up both the wisdom of the well travelled and the childlike enthusiasm Ursula Le Guin summed up as "The creative adult is the child who has survived."

Now Betsy would join us, in her own way. She had always been a leisurely climber, and claimed her smoke breaks revealed more wildlife than I ever saw. Now with her bad leg, she might drop and hour or more behind me. If I waited at all obviously she would be furious. She'd walk up slowly, taking pains to stroll rather than labour, only her reddening face betraying her effort. She's stop and eye me angrily from under her bangs as she lit a camel. "Do not wait for me. I am not an invalid. If you insist on seeing me as a burden I shall not come". I was reminded of the time she had told me about some boyfriend who said he "needed" her . "I told him I didn't want to be a necessity or a responsibility. I'd prefer to be an indispensable luxury"

After my first reading of Querencia I lent the book to MOB (my mum) she loved it too

MOB: 'wonderful writing and an amazing eulogy to Betsy"

SBW: I wish someone loved me that much

More soon
Your pal

Here's the Link to Steve's page on Amazon
His blog of the same name 
And a link to some of his journalism