WRITING - BROADCASTER
Does a right-minded person just walk out of a well-paid and secure job? Well not unless they're either bored out of their tiny minds or possibly a little insane! - or, as in my case, seduced by an attractive offer meticulously and deliciously mapped out by a reassuring and skilful TV production team.
For me, it's hard to believe that five years have elapsed since I left the relative safe environment of a so called normal professional life to find myself attracted by the alluring bright lights of TV and a then completely unknown "reality" game show called Big Brother - and I am still not entirely sure if this was indeed the right decision. Let me explain...
As a then complete outsider to the television industry, I believed that this glorious and captivating sector was the stuff of dreams. One where those who possessed depths, communication skills and a modicum of imaginative talent, would be nurtured, encouraged, developed and cajoled by all those movers and shakers who make the important decisions. Big Brother seemed to suggest a significant opportunity for anyone to develop a career in broadcasting. But as most of those who have been persuaded to appear in reality TV series have subsequently discovered, they now inhabit a confusing 'hinterland , where a fabricated caricature of themselves runs round, trying to live up - or live down, a reputation that they never had before. Life changes forever - it would seem irretrievably.
Worse still participants discover they are now intrinsically shackled to a type of TV that even the TV industry itself doesn't takes seriously for more than five minutes beyond the final's closing credits. This despite its enormous success and profitability.
But is this how it should be? Isn't reality TV here for sometime to come as an evolving format - still in it's infancy? Shouldn't the TV industry revere those creatures of it's own creation and bring those demonstrably inclined to pursue careers in broadcasting into the professional family? After all, it is they who have undergone the real reality experience, felt the emotions, dealt with the psychological aspects and risen to the challenge. It is they who were carefully selected from thousands of candidates and utilised because of their unique qualities. They who spent weeks and months capturing viewer imaginations. They who stand out from the pack in their own right. Yet I know of not one reality TV Producer who has recruited a former participant onto its team as part of the development process. Or even a TV company who recognises the value in what they have helped create. What a tragic waste of skills and energy!
Not that I complain; As an alumni, I have earned extremely good money from reality TV, but I have found that reality TV carries a particular stigma, surprisingly more so within the broadcast industry itself and that my best friend - sometimes becomes my worst enemy. Fame, of course, is very seductive for reality contestants, but fame can also be very destructive as well. I do realise I was given bad advice; kickbacks and other such murky practices were my stable diet for the first year. But it has taught me a lot.
What I fear most for myself and indeed for all those who tread the reality path after me is that the very nature of this format is to exploit familiarity and that the TV industry is increasingly guilty of adopting a "Familiarity breeds Contempt" philosophy, or perhaps a case of television feasting on television. Just look at how many clip, talking heads and reformatted shows are on today! Me? I prefer a good drama such Judge John Deed or a good documentary such as The Tribe.
Viewers may watch the Tele , but its about time producers applied some Vision.
Who knows what the future holds for me? The past is prologue; Act One starts today! I wish it could. I do not want to be in front of a camera, unless I feel substantially justified to present something I feel strongly about. There are far too many over stretched and over used presenters on TV already, who care little on the subject they are presenting.
In the past year I have tried to reinvent myself and actually follow my heart and not my bank balance and I have paid to train myself, from Directing and writing courses with the BBC, through to independent camera and sound courses. I have also written up an idea for a political show that appeals to the younger generation, as political programmes have refused to evolve to younger viewers. I would like to work behind camera, eventually direct, but if I had to pull camera cables for a year so be it, I would do that. Judging by the looks I have received on training courses or at festivals such as Edinburgh or Sheffield, I might indeed face an uphill battle.
Perhaps, rather like Terrance Rattigan's Winslow Boy, I am caught between exit and entrance, then it must just follow that whatever I do, I will never be allowed to escape that one day in August 2000.