Celebs and the awards they win

I’ve worked a lot of red carpet events in my career, some have been good and some have been bad.
The vast majority of them, I’ve worked with one reporter who has become one of my favourite people.
An intelligent, funny, fun and hard working woman by the name of Laura Boyd.
Laura has an interesting story herself, but it’s not my place to tell, that’s down to her, so if you’re interested head over to her site;
 https://www.forthelofit.com/

           Laura and Myself, just before an event

           Laura and Myself, just before an event

I explained in one of my previous blogs;
https://www.mwilsonmedia.co.uk/blog/livetelevision
That when I’ve been on location it’s generally been myself and a reporter.
So in these instances, Laura has assumed the role of reporter and producer, which she is very good at.
She can chat and blag with the best of them, so purely down to her we’ve ended up with some excellent and exclusive interviews, not to mention last minute access to restricted areas that would normally require months of interaction and negotiation with PR agents.

Together we’ve interviewed actors, comedians and musicians, covered red carpet events, awards ceremonies and got some of the biggest names in film, television and music to give us great sound bites that have proved massively popular on social media and in the press (don’t ask about the time we interviewed One Direction though, we don’t talk about that…).

The highlight for the past few years has been going down to London to get on the red carpet for the National Television awards.

An Easyjet flight in the early morning, two trains, a ride on the underground then a 10 minute walk to the hotel whilst carrying a camera, Dejero, tripod, assorted cables and batteries, as well as our own clothes will definitely burst the bubble of anyone that thinks that working in this industry is glamorous.
Fortunately we then get a couple hours of rest in our rooms before meeting for a quick dinner, then heading back to the hotel to change before heading over to where the ceremony was held, which is the London O2.
Once we’ve arrived we head to the accreditation desk where they issue us with our passes and then it’s a bit of a wait before, as a group, the crews from various TV and online outlets are shepherded out to the red carpet area.

The area where we stand and form a long line is generally pretty tight.
It’s usually about 10ft wide and we’re crammed together, so not much room for people, cameras and cables, but we all know the script and have to make it work.

On the carpet, ready to go

On the carpet, ready to go

I always take a tripod with me, but I generally fold the legs together so I can use it as an impromptu monopod. It offers a bit of flexibility and means that if I have to get something from a bag, I don’t have to put the camera on the ground where it could be stood on and damaged.
I’ve found a sense of solidarity descends over us all as we stand there waiting for the various celebrities to arrive.
We’re all there for the same thing and because you’re in such close quarters you quickly get chatting to the crews on either side of you, forming bonds, looking out for each other and generally trying to be as helpful as we can be for the others sake.
Simple things like pointing out an interview for them that they might not have noticed, passing a battery up to them if they can’t quite reach it and placing a hand on their shoulder to steady them in case they’re in danger of falling over. These things are all reciprocated, which makes for an easier few hours.
It’s very refreshing as a lot of the time you have to have pointy elbows and be quite forceful in a media scrum.

There’s always a dress code as well which is fine for me. The downside is that this particular award ceremony is held in January.
I’ll wear a suit meaning I can have long sleeves and layer up, but poor Laura is standing there in heels and a dress freezing. I usually take an extra fleece with me so she can throw it over her shoulders in between interviews, for a brief respite from the cold.
I’m a gentleman, I know.
She’s a trooper though and tries to ignore the cold and get on with the job at hand.

                                             A Media scrum in full flow

                                             A Media scrum in full flow

When the celebrities start to arrive Laura will be liaising with the various floor runners that are there to lead the celebs to us, negotiate with other reporters about the order they’d like to do interviews, chat to the PR reps of the people she wants to talk to, do a few pieces to camera, conduct the interviews and generally push her luck a wee bit.
It’s a dance that the PR reps and reporters have all done before, you push your luck for access, the time you’re allowed with someone, the questions you can ask, how many questions you can ask etc.
As long as you’re nice about it and don’t cross any lines, the PR will generally do their best to accommodate you, and because Laura knows them all and they know her, she’s successful more often than not.
I also think the Scottish accent helps. It seems to disarm people a little bit for some reason and they relax.

When the last potential interview has left the red carpet, we head back inside for a quick break and to warm up.
Most other people will head to a press room where, as one big group, they get the chance to ask questions to the winners and losers of the evening.

         The tiny wee room we make our way to

         The tiny wee room we make our way to

Due to Laura’s excellent people skills and her relationship with the organisers, we get to go to a much smaller room, which the winners are taken to as soon as they step off stage.
In this room there are 2 or 3 other crews, which means we all get one on one time for interviews which gives us the opportunity to get an exclusive sound bite.

The crew solidarity is even more on show here, we’ll share lights, batteries if people are running low, information about interviewees if someone doesn’t know who they are and generally chat to each other all night.

This room also means we can get the reporter into our shots.
On the red carpet the most we can usually get is an over the shoulder shot or their hand holding the microphone, but because this winners room offers us more space the reporter can get in front of the camera properly so we can see they are actually there conducting an interview.
It may seem like a small distinction, but it really helps give the interview context to the viewer at home and allows for more flexibility if it has to be edited later due to time constraints.
And the final bonus of this room is that the winners are high on adrenaline or slightly tipsy, so they are a bit looser and relaxed.

Everybody in these circumstances are great interviews because they’ve just won an award and are excited.
We’ve got some amazing names that everyone knows and some very high profile celebrities during these stints.

But for me, and I feel confident in saying for Laura too, the highlight has to have been when we got an interview with Sir David Attenborough.

The people who are in charge of the running of this room have walkie talkies and headsets on and they inform us of who is next into the room, and will ask who wants them, so they can keep it moving smoothly.
It’ll usually go something like “Hey guys, *Insert name of winner here* is coming in in 5 minutes, who wants time with them?”.
If you want them you say so, if you don’t you kindly decline.
When it was announced that Sir David Attenborough was available for an interview and the woman in charge asked us if we wanted a slot with him, there was a ripple of excitement through the room.
Everybody stood up, double checked batteries, put in a fresh memory card and made sure they were good to go, this was an interview none of us wanted to mess up.

                Laura doing her best to play it cool

                Laura doing her best to play it cool

A few moments later he arrived and after introducing himself to us all, he approached the first crew in line and began his interview.
We were next up and he did not disappoint.
I am pleased to say he was just as polite and pleasant in person as he comes across on television.
He would listen intently to each question, pause for a moment to consider his answer and then reply in that classic voice we have all grown up with.
His PR rep tried to hurry him along on more than one occasion but he would make sure that he answered the question in full and afterwards thank us before moving onto the next crew.
What a gent.

He was one of our last interviews of the day and so after packing up the kit it was party time at one of those secret media parties you’ve no doubt seen in films and read about in magazines.
The things I’ve saw and heard at these things…. Laura is always saying to me “What happens in London, stays in London!”.

Or more realistically it was time to head back to the hotel at the end of what is usually a 14 - 16 hour day.
Tired, hungry and looking forward to having a shower, the only place either of us wants to go is to our beds.

I’d be lying if I said we didn’t head to the hotel bar for a quick drink, so we could unwind for a few minutes.
I reckon we’d earned it.

- M

"Standby, going live in ten seconds...."

Live Television can be scary.
Live Television when you're on location with just yourself and a reporter can be scarier.

The studio environment can be intense, but being surrounded by professionals who can react and adjust to things going wrong at a moments notice make it more comfortable.

 Broadcasting Election coverage in 2015

 Broadcasting Election coverage in 2015

When I've been out live on location, 99% of the time there has been just two of us.
Gone are the days when you'd go out with a full crew consisting of a Camera Op, Sound Person, Producer, Runner and Reporter.
Not to mention a Satellite Truck with an Engineer inside to beam the pictures back to base so they can be played out on television.

Nope, technology and dwindling budgets have now brought it to a place where only two people are required, and in a more worrying trend, it can be down to a reporter to do it all themselves.

Fortunately for all involved I am someone who prefers to stay behind the camera, so if you ever see me in front of one something has went very badly wrong.

                                            In my natural environment, behind the camera

                                           In my natural environment, behind the camera

I was first introduced to working on location, on a live show, in 2014.
I shadowed and cable bashed for a couple of different Camera Ops before I was eventually let loose behind the camera.
My first foray ended up being one of the most memorable for a couple of reasons.
I was still under supervision, so a talented Camera Op named Marco Federici was with me, helping me set things up and keeping me on the right track, but I was let loose on the camera by myself as he watched, ready to takeover in case I did something wrong or some unforeseen technical error occurred that I wouldn't have the knowledge or experience to fix.

                       Moments before the inevitable

                       Moments before the inevitable

It was a fairly simple live. The "Roving Reporter", as he was called, was supposed to be taking part in a sushi making class.
Now the thing to note here is that the Roving Reporter, was a young and naive lad called Colin Stone.
Colin is from the north of Scotland, and when I say the north of Scotland, I mean pretty much as far north as you can go before you'll have to start swimming.
To say he didn't have much experience of foreign cuisine would be being polite. In my time working with him his standard lunch was chicken and rice, and the most adventurous he got was putting jam on a bagel.
But anyway, back to the sushi class.
During the Live Hit (we call live on location segments a "hit") Colin was encouraged by the Chef taking the class to try some wasabi on freshly made sushi rolls.
Not really knowing what wasabi was, Colin asked the Chef how much he should put on.
With a twinkle in his eyes, the Chef replied "Lather it on.... really go for it...."

I knew what was about to happen, Marco knew what was about to happen, and the Chef definitely knew what was about happen, as Colin puts a massive scoop of wasabi onto his sushi and chows down.
What happened next can only be described as TV gold.
Poor Colin chews away for a couple of seconds, curious why we're all staring at him with wide, expectant eyes.
Then the spice and heat of the wasabi kicks in, and he turns into a spluttering mess with tears streaming down his face, whilst looking at us and shouting "You're so cruel! You're so cruel!".
We also had tears streaming down our face, but ours were from laughing so much.
If you listened closely, you can hear Marco and myself struggling to hold it together.

                                       Poor, poor Colin

                                       Poor, poor Colin

On a side-note, the Chef as it turned out was none other than Gary McLean, winner of Masterchef The Professionals in 2016.
Many years later when I met him again for another shoot, he informed me that that was his first time appearing on Live Television. So to know I shot that is quite a fun little thing for me.

You may have noticed I said that on Lives it's just the two of us.
"So how do you broadcast these high quality, and no doubt excellent lives back to the studio when there is just two of you and no satellite truck, producer or sound person?" I hear you cry.
Well I'm glad you asked.
Producing and presentation generally fell to the reporter, meaning they'd phone ahead to wherever it was we were going and organise someone to interview when we got there.
They'd then prep the interviewee ahead of broadcast, write their own PTC (Piece To Camera) and collaborate with the camera op, generally me, as to what the live segment would involve.
I would be in charge of all the technical stuff such as setting the audio levels, manning the camera and broadcasting pictures back to the studio.

A Dejero broadcasting live

A Dejero broadcasting live

Without having a Sat Truck, we relied on quite a clever piece of technology called a Dejero.
The tech has moved on quite a bit since I first started using it, but in the early days a Dejero was a box about the size of a briefcase with a few buttons on the front, a little screen to interact with, a couple of connection types to hook a camera up with, and about half a dozen SIM cards inside.
As long as we could get a decent phone signal from our location, we could broadcast HD quality pictures back to base.
Really innovative.
The newer ones have been shrunk down to be only slightly larger than an average brick and they lock onto the back of the camera directly, so you're not having to worry about carrying reels of cables around with you.
There are other makes and models on the market, but the one I have used most is the Dejero.

Because they are so small and compact, it does mean we could do things on a live that would normally be very challenging or cost a lot of money.
 

Some of the more notable ones were broadcasting from a speedboat going at 50+MPH, flying over Glasgow in a seaplane, a trolley dash for kids around a toy shop,  and having dinner whilst being suspended from a crane 100ft in the air.

I said Live television can be scary.
But most of the time it's a lot of fun.

Not knowing what can happen from moment to moment and having to adjust on the fly gets the adrenaline going and can lead to a lot of good stories.
Which I have in abundance.

Maybe I'll tell you about them some time.

- M