Friday, 25 January 2008

When I was in a soap opera...

Yes, the dodgy cable company I worked for did a soap opera for a while. It was set in a dodgy cable company. Oooh, big leap there, eh? Sort of like Moving Wallpaper but made for the budget they spend on hairspray. Genuinely - it cost something like two grand an episode.

Sets? Free! Let's just film it in our office!

Scripts? Free! We'll get our staff writers on other shows to do them! (This eventually changed)

Locations? Free! We'll film in the (then) deserted streets of Docklands, without permission or anything.

Actors? Almost free! We've done a deal with Equity meaning we can pay 'em £50 a day or sommit. But we'll pay more for some. A bit more.

Producer and director? Free! We'll use people on staff. Again.

It was totally hilarious, like one of those odd African soaps you see around channel 190 on Sky. Long shots (editing = money)... hardly cutting (one camera)... dark, dingy, mushy lighting (lights = money), terrible acting and even worse costumes (no budget for costumes, people just wore what they came in)

And they'd film it at the end of your desk. So I'd be sitting trying to think up ideas next to my staff who were producing actual shows and that, then an over-made up fortysomething lady would sit next to me screeching at a hammy man out of Grattan's underpants ads "No, it's not your baby! It's Sir Mortimer's!!!!1!". Over and over again until everyone else on the desk remembered not to look at camera.

Surreal. Once me and my techie biker mate pretended to have a fight in the background of a shot and they actually used it on air. I seem to remember one of the characters ad libbed and said "Look, the channel's financial plight is affecting the staff morale!!!11!!!". But that might be my head trying to justify why they did it.

The show was terrible, beyond bad, but was the baby of the Head of Programmes so ran for six months. They cancelled it, and gave me and my fledgling animation department the job of making the last shot where Canary Wharf disappeared. Which we did to a Tardis sound effect, the tower fading in and out of shot. The reason for it ending that way? Well aliens were running the station secretly and decided to take Canary Wharf Tower away with them. Or something. My head probably made that up too, but I reckon in this case it was probably worse.

When they repeated the "best" of the series, it was labelled as the programme name then ": Silver". Legendary Tabloid Editor who ran the station said "the show's ain't anywhere near good enough to be called 'Gold'", so Head of Programmes suggested "Silver?" and they all had a laugh.

Them were the days.

Coming next time: how I played a researcher in a show I produced and wrote about a crappy TV station. Are you noticing a theme here?

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