Yes, my bit is very short, but it was a lot of fun to do. The crew came round to our flat yesterday, five of them, including a chap on work experience, and they were all lovely. They got to work quickly, shooting on the balcony to save putting up any lights, but the sun was fading behind the clouds and the rain was starting up again, so it was a bit of a race.
Once the position of the camera was sorted out, Anita Rani, the reporter, squeezed in beside it, someone else held one of those big reflective discs pointing upwards, between me and the camera, and we started. Anita asked me various questions about Samuel Pepys’ diary, and why I keep a diary, and I did my best to answer coherently without waffling.
I really enjoyed it. I’ve never been on TV before, and never did any work on camera when I was doing all that acting, so it was all new to me. I loved trying to answer questions in shortish sentences, make sense, not say something stupid, not pause too much, and not worry about how silly or wet I looked (the rain was picking up).
When I was done they very quickly filmed the reverse shots, of Anita asking all the questions again, this time facing the camera, which was now positioned where I’d been standing. It all looks pretty seamless in the finished thing of course.
We then went to get a shot of me using the computer, and ended up with me sat at Mary’s computer because the position worked better for the light and camera. “Those colourful books” in the background (a few O’Reilly’s etc.) were moved over from my desk to brighten things up. I sat there typing nonsense while they briefly filmed.
And that was it, they were off to their next appointment.
It’s interesting to see the result. I expect everyone’s horrified to see themselves on film but, you know, we are what we are. It’s fine. And no, I’m not really “a diary fan” with “a passion for diaries”, but “here’s a man who doesn’t care much if other people write diaries” doesn’t make for good telly.
There was a point where I felt a bit silly when I was being urged to be more enthusiastic, and try to convince Anita she should keep a diary, but I just went along with it. I guess, on a much, much more extreme level, it’s that willingess to please that Chris Morris took advantage of with celebrities on Brass Eye. You don’t want to disappoint, there’s not much time, and everyone’s so nice. Looks like that bit didn’t make the cut, which is probably just as well.
I’m always impressed with the efficiency of radio and TV people (some of the most terrifyingly efficient professionals I’ve ever encountered were while I worked on Capital Radio’s websites years ago). Their industries have had decades to perfect systems and processes, and they’ve had time to adapt to any changes. They work with systems that must produce faultless, seamless results — compare how rarely you see or hear dead air compared with how unsurprised you are if a website is temporarily broken.
It’s also amazing how much work goes into what seems like a small amount of finished product. I’m guessing that crew of five people was filming all of yesterday at various locations and then some of them probably spent all of today editing it down to three seamless, coherent minutes. Add on the time that it took to find, contact and coordinate the shooting of punters like me earlier in the week and that’s a lot of man hours for three minutes of TV that goes out once; it’s unlikely that this kind of thing will ever be repeated.
This is balanced out by the viewing figures I guess (for whatever they’re worth…). The One Show gets around 3.5-4 million viewers which, looking at things from a web-person’s point of view, is an awful lot of people at one single moment.
It’s also interesting how we’re all so in thrall to “old media” still. Plenty of people in my circle may often be a bit dismissive of TV and its lumbering attempts to get to grips with the new digital world. But we still get a huge thrill out of appearing in “old media”, whether it’s on telly, on the radio, or in a newspaper. It feels proper, big, exciting. Random people you know might see you!
I suppose it’s all part of the scarcity. The web is great because anyone can appear on it. But that also makes it less exciting from the ego-boosting point of view. It’s not that exciting to appear on a huge, popular website, compared to being on TV. This few seconds on primetime BBC One is more of a thrill than having my face on a BBC News page for, currently, seven years. And while this 2004 article about me on the Guardian’s site is ego-stroking enough, seeing exactly the same words, with my photo, in the paper for a single day was so much more of a thrill.
But that’s enough about me isn’t it. This was a fun and interesting thing to have done.
Please send requests for autographs to my people.
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