Tuesday, 20 January 2009


It never ceases to amaze me how easily a fool and their money can be parted. I make no judgement here - as all too often I have been the said fool. But there is a general feeling out there that all we want in life can be bought - everything merely has a price. I hate this ethos - a bastard distant cousin to the hearty healthy American dream - but who am I to complain - after all, this mentality occasionally throws work my way - when I am paid to teach folk 'how to be a presenter.'

I shouldn't mock the hand that feeds - as I genuinely love this job, and find my maternal instincts take over as I will all the students to do their best - but I can't help it. At a time when fame appears to be the most valuable currency one can have - and naive reality-tv obsessives think that anyone can obtain it - courses that offer the possibility of bringing people one step closer to tv glitter - are being snapped up left right and centre.

I've taught this course a few times now - usually in tandem with another presenter (who still strives for her hey day - and actually bless her, deserves to have it again) - but yesterday I taught a class all by myself! For about one second I had mild panic and then I remembered that a key part of a presenter's remit is to talk bullshit for a living - so I knew I'd get through it ok.

What a motley crew! I swear I couldn't have made this lot up. They were all lovely: enthusiastic, excited and nervous (hanging on to my every word and desperate to make an impression) but an eclectic group to say the least. I give you: an Irish farmer who was 6 foot 4, spoke with thick brogue, wore a dirty jumper and didn't even own a television (!!!!) but somehow was a star in Ireland on a business farming show (with an exciting show in the pipeline where he will teach farmers how to er...'market their chicken huts....'); an ex boyband pop star who was very famous in his day - shame that day was the 80s - who wants to be a serious sports reporter 'because y'know, I love sport, yeah?'; a botoxed to the eyeballs European business woman who had a tenuous link with film yet assumed she would be interviewing Scorsese in the near future; and last but not least a bright eyed and bushy tailed young actress who spent 2 years on a leading teen drama. Where to start?

The idea is - they come in, learn in a mere day how to be a top TV presenter - the following day head out on the streets of London and into a dirty wee studio to film a 'show reel' which will then be edited for them to use as a visual CV. And voila! they assume that a new career will await them... I feel like the wicked step-sister pissing all over Cinderella's ball dreams when I try to imprint upon them that it takes hard graft, endless determination and oh yes - that little ingredient called 'talent' to get them an audition, let alone a job - and some look at me like I have two heads, sure that as soon as they send their hot DVDs to a few TV companies and agents, they'll be snapped up by lunch time and be stars by the time the evening paper come out.

Bless - the ones who usually have the most confidence 'my friends tell me that I'm crazeeee' - are also the least charismatic. They speak in one tone, freeze as soon as you put a camera anywhere near them and stumble over the simplest introduction. Yet - I cheer them on - determined to elicit some performance out of them somehow, lest their spending be in vain. I feel some sort of duty to bolster their egos, write snappy scripts and have them walk out the door feeling a new life is within grasp.

Yesterday was so much fun. Farmer boy wanted to be a business presenter and wrote every script he had to do with a Richard Branson reference - yet balked at the thought of actually wearing a suit. Botoxed lady wanted to do her vox pops on beauty products for men and tried to persuade the farmer to try out a new moisturiser when it was clear he had yet to hear about soap. Boyband man still had the looks but obviously never had a brain - and whilst he was unfazed by appearing at all his screaming wet-knickered women filled concerts - the thought of having to speak in front of one small camera filled him with dread. At the end of the day he asked me where I got my energy from - as the last drop I had spilled onto the carpet and I sank onto a train home. I felt shattered.

Championing underdogs wears you out. Everyone thinks it's all so easy to look natural on camera - be yourself while a gallery of 20 people scream in your ear and your autocue breaks. That is a piece of cake to remember scripts and make it sound like it all came off the cuff. It may not be rocket science I grant you - but not everyone can do it. However, maybe, just maybe, I'll see boyband grown man on Sky Sports one of these days - and I'll feel a swell of pride - even if he's proved my theory wrong - that just cos you can buy your way in - it don't mean you can do it...

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