Thursday, March 13, 2014

BREAKING. TV with Thinus gets kicked off a TV show set - along with the ENTIRE press corps INVITED there for a media visit - for doing nothing.

It's not the first time I've experienced it, and it will possibly not be the last but TV with Thinus got kicked off a TV show set of a new sitcom in Johannesburg today, along with the entire press corps - journalists and photographers - for doing nothing but just standing there.

And it comes after being invited to the set and going on-set for a media visit. Apparently we were "making the actress uncomfortable".

Let me be quite frank and honest and straight-forward: Press - journalists and photographers - allowed on set, any set, is a privilege.

Making a TV show or a film and the actual production of it, comes first and always will come first. Getting those takes in the can, the best you can is the paramount concern.

Producing TV and film is tape, time and money - all of it in short supply.

However, I have to ask: Did you not know the press corps was going to be on set and on this specific day?

(I saw and remarked on the A4 white paper posted on the wall saying "Hi everyone, members of the press will be here today so make sure you have extra friendly faces as usual". And a smiley face icon.)

Did you not know what scene of the sitcom was going to be filmed during which you were going to have press from a wide variety of publications and journalists from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban on your set?

And if the "acthress" or "acthor" struggle to cope and do a scene simply because people are watching and are present on set standing on the set's side wall, how professional a thespian do you think the press is going to think you are if you can't seemingly cope with some press attention present?

It's so embarrassing, awkward and unprofessional and another example of where South Africa's TV industry still has miles to go - not just with making better on-screen and better quality shows but also how to behave in a dignified and professional manner behind-the-scenes.

Especially given that the press is around, especially on a day that you invited them, especially given the myriad of other shows out there they can cover, the short amount of time and attention-span the press has, and how quickly they're maybe going to forget and ignore your show before they've even written about it.

You don't run over to the press which includes journalists from trade and consumer publications and tell them to go away and leave the set.

You discreetly walk over to the person in charge who, like a tour operator, brought them all on set in the first place.

You whisper in the ear that they need to gently request the journalists to leave if that person doesn't have an earpiece to hear it directly from the director, and then have that person lead the troupe out like a kindergarden class going on a zoo outing.

If you have pellets or pieces of food to throw to lure them out of the set - or even a hint of a promise of food - they will meekly follow. Believe me. No mess, no fuss.

Today I felt like a child who did something wrong simply for watching - watching what people invited me to come watch. And that when neither I nor any of the highly respected other people I call colleagues and whose work I read and who I compete with, were basically chased off  a TV set.

I watched as journalists and photographers left shortly after and politely excused themselves and press members whispered to each other "I'm going", "I'm going too", "I'm not going back", "I'm done".

I know exactly how they felt. You feel that you don't want to go back to a place or somewhere where you've been made to feel that you're an intruder, unwelcome, unwanted, a distraction, a nuisance - and plainly-said, basically in the way.

I won't mention the broadcaster, I won't mention the TV channel, I won't mention the production company, or show, or the studios where the show is filmed because I feel a bit bad for (and grateful) for the broadcaster who invites me/us and did a lot of effort to make the day possible.

It's just one of those eye-popping, eye-rolling incidents which will one day be in my book.

But it was uncomfortable doing a press conference as one of only two journalists and a photographer with the show's cast who showed up after filming a scene, since all the press basically upped and left by the time they arrived.

It's not such a biggie - I've experienced worse and even more jaw-dropping behaviour on American TV sets like Grey's Anatomy which clamped down after a real-life scandal while I was there and other sets - but it's amazing how some productions just don't know.

I will still cover the show, write very nicely about it when it starts if its good, but the set visit could have been a set visit which would have yielded more to journalists to work with.

We did nothing to provoke any reaction. I don't think we deserved being told in a scolded-like manner to leave the set, when we just stood there to watch - something which made people "uncomfortable".

I don't blame the broadcaster's publicists who probably also felt odd and awkward - I don't think any of them ever experienced something like that and they were not really equipped to handle such a situation.

Of course this is my version of the story as a TV critic and journalist. Who knows. Maybe we were "invasive" (although we stood where we were told to). Maybe we were rowdy (nobody spoke a word), maybe our presence just unsettled the crew and or cast (but then why invite us on set?)

I think the director and/or floor manager needs to be more sensitive to the impact they have and the impact they make when they invite press onto a set and then chase them away a few minutes later.

Because I might not know much, but I do know that when the press leaves, they're not coming back.

And I know how it creates a type of negative sentiment about your show - not about what the show is - but due to the way you treated the press and wasted their time and came across as unprofessional.