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!"