Sometimes I thrive on being unprepared for situations. I like to think on my feet. I find that the adrenaline helps me think sharper, but not necessarily clearer. Though since being on adrenaline suppressants I’m not always as sharp as I used to be. A case in point occurred on Monday of this week.
It was announced at University the other week that during this years graduation ceremony two of Yorkshire’s famous sons would be receiving honorary doctorates. British chat show host Michael Parkinson and former cricket umpire, Dickie Bird were awarded by none other than Patrick Stewart (if you don’t believe me see here. So, as you can imagine, there was a lot of preparation had by the University to ensure that everything went swimmingly.
As part of my journalism course I have to accumulate 148 hours of work experience in the fields of any of the following: print, radio, public relations or TV. However it is not an easy task to gain TV experience, especially in somewhere as backward as Barnsley, so we are allowed to use freelance experience. Now such a huge event as 2 famous dudes getting awards from Jean Luc Picard would inevitably look good on promotional material for the University centre, so myself and the other second years on my course were asked if we would like to take part in filming and using the time to gain material for features or news items or whatever.
Now, see, at 35 I’m a mature student. My colleagues are just starting out. So I tend to try and hold back putting myself forward because while I already have a wealth of experience they tend to be a bit shy in being forthcoming. So as the various “media support” jobs were handed out I tried to keep low. Thing is, and this is where the unpreparedness comes in, I was volunteered. What for? Well I knew it was something to do with holding a TV camera while my class mate Joey grilled the celebs.
Spin forward to Monday of this week. I’m cacking myself having had two very restless nights. I was worried that things would go wrong, I’d make a tit of myself, I’d break the camera that I’ve never used before or that the footage I shot with it would be shaky, out of focus or not very clear. Monday, it seems, was to be a catalogue of unprepared events.
Firstly. I got there early hoping to help out. I wasn’t needed until 1pm for the press conference so I thought I could be nice and provide a spare pair of hands. In between helping to set up the rookie DV cameras (think large camcorders) in the town hall and fetching stuff from the University centre, I was trying to calm myself down. Taking 5 minutes to myself I thought I’d use the toilet and then nip to the canteen to get a cup of tea. So there I am just finishing micturating when who should walk into the gents but none other than….Jean Luc! Jean Luc Picard!! Fighting the overwhelming urge to say “Make it so!” or “Engage!” as he sidled up to the urinal I smiled to myself amused, unprepared as I was, to be sharing a toilet with one of Britain’s finest actors. I left as quick as I could. I didn’t want him thinking I was some sort of perv.
Secondly, the press conference. I’ve never been to a press conference before. It was hard to know how to prepare for such an event. Do you wait your turn? Do you smile? Do you ask questions if they have already been asked? Do you fart and blame the guy next to you? I have answers to some of those questions but not all. Joey and I were asked to go to the press room on the fourth floor and wait for the other press crews to arrive. It seemed that Joey and I were not the only two who were unprepared for the events which unfolded. The PR company managing the press conference admittedly had no idea who would turn up to the conference. As it turned out, representatives from the local and national media arrived. Our scheduled 5 minute interview with the “three titans of Yorkshire” rapidly shrank to 2 minutes, then 30 seconds then “tough luck, you’ll have to get them outside”.
The conference was like nothing I’d ever seen before. TV news crews went first. It was interesting to see how they worked. They all seemed to ask the same questions. While they were filming the print, radio and photo journalists jotted down notes, aimed recorders and snapped away. Joey and I just stood there, panicking. What do we do? Joey had prepared questions, I had prepared nothing. I had no idea that it was going to go the way it did. People jostled for vantage points and my tall stature (which I discovered later was why I was chosen to use the HDV camera) enabled me to get a couple of photos and a bit of footage. The camera was unfamiliar to me. I missed a lot because I didn’t know how to operate the bloody thing. When I’d worked out how, I hadn’t white balanced correctly because I was unprepared to use it. Anxiety ensued as, through the window in the door, I could see my lecturer gesturing me to go forward and push people out of the way. I lacked the confidence but somehow, managed what I could. We managed 2 minutes with Dickie Bird as he was moving to go but the other two celebs were just too busy with the media scrum. I was unprepared.
At one point while I was taking written notes myself, I’d rested the camera on a table. After I’d finished taking the notes I turned to pick up the camera. Who should be sitting at the table, right next to where I was standing, but PATRICK STEWART! OMG! He looked at me. Smiled weakly at me then continued to prod away at his tricorder mobile phone from which he was texting someone.
Outside was no better. The media crews kept getting in shot. Pushing me out of the way. I’d had enough. By this time the adrenaline had started to take effect. Confidence glimmered like a candle in a dark room. I realised if I didn’t do something now, I’d miss my opportunity. I gestured to Joey to get Michael Parkinson before he legged it and I managed to get a good 2 minutes of interview footage. At last things were starting to go well. By this time I was thinking on my feet, so as I was unsure what to do with the camera after the conference I took footage of the graduate parade.
OMG, I’ve never been so unprepared in all my life! But I suppose experiences like that are good for getting us to be more prepared next time. Baden Powell was right. We should always “Be Prepared”.
Clickie for biggie 🙂
Parky admires the decor
Parky and Patrick Stewart (some bugger nudged my elbow as I was taking this)
Patrick praises University Centre Barnsley
The woman in green is none other than BBC Look North ‘s anchorwoman Christa Ackroyd