I can’t write too much about work, as you know. There are Rules. All you really need to know is that my nerves have been battered, my body run ragged and my creative capacities stretched this week in order to produce the package I’ve been working on. The outcome of all this sleep deprivation and stress is a piece of television of which I am quite proud, whilst at the same time sllightly crushingly aware that most people will watch it with one eye as they do the ironing.
From my recovery position on the sofa, I would like to impart a few words of advice for those who seek to work in “The Media”- a sort of online careers talk:
Working in television is not remotely glamorous. This is not said in the manner in which celebrities claim they have “normal lives”. It really isn’t glamorous, in fact I’d go so far as to say I’ve had my least glam moments ever in the line of duty. Mud, sick, shouting. Service stations, packet sandwiches and 5am starts. Rain, sleet, cagouls and wellies. You get the picture.
You don’t get to meet that many famous people, at least not in current affairs. And when you do, they’re more likely to demand why their tea is not the exact shade they desired (a desire which you clearly should have absorbed telepathically, since they didn’t deign to open their mouths to voice it), than to swap mobile numbers with you. They’ll speak to the air at the side of your head, rather than looking at your face. The ladies amongst them are mostly the size and build of small deer and as shiny as a new penny, making you feel like a gigantic, crashing buffalo-type creature with scraggly hair and unacceptable eye bags when you stand next to them.
Sometimes you feel like a parasite. Say for instance when someone is sitting in a hospital with blood pouring down their face, while an overworked nurse treats them. Right at the moment when you crash through the blue curtain with a camera and ask in an apologetic, harried tone if you can film the exchange- at that moment, you feel like a parasite. Or for example when tears well in an interviewee’s eyes, and instead of offering an empathic hug, you make a mental note to use that bit of the interview. Or when you start to refer to people as “stories”.
You will be worked to the bone. Especially as a newcomer to the industry, there will be times when you forget what day it is, what time it is and what your name is. You can make social plans but be aware that they can be shattered with minutes to spare. When you should be in the pub/visiting Granny/doing the gardening you’ll find yourself down a mine/up a tree/in an abandoned tower block, waiting for a car thief/red kite/dangerous dog to appear.
You’ll also find yourself losing sleep over the most ridiculous tasks (“find me a golden 70s games scoreboard by tomorrow” was one example). Depending on who your boss is, sometimes you feel you’re living The Devil Wears Prada. Without the Prada.
Telling the stories of real people and opening the public’s eyes to important issues is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine doing, for me. Meeting all kinds of people who you’d never normally come across, from all parts of society and with all kinds of passions…. Capturing reality through a lens and reshaping into something compelling, while still retaining the truth, is a complex and creative process which I love.
To surmise: if you’re thinking about a career in television, you have to really want it. Not as in “I really want this and will do ANYTHING TO GET IT even if it means standing on other people’s heads”. That is not the way I roll at all (but be warned: more than a few people in TV do roll that way, so that in some production offices, honesty and genorosity are a Unique Selling Point rather than a bare minimum)
No. You have to want it as in: “I really want this and I will grit my teeth as truckloads of shit thunder relentlessly onto to my own head”.
A final word of advice to would-be telly types: stay nice, unless you’re willing to trade in your soul as well as your sanity and your youthful complexion. I can’t count the number of people who have told me to “toughen up”, “grow a thick skin” and even become aggressive. Though I’ve become stronger inside, I refuse to grow a cold hard shell, and this lady’s not for turning.