I was in a studio filming links for a new ‘Tonight’ on Supermarket Shopping Secrets yesterday. As I was there “asking for water” because I was so hot under the bright lights, and wired up to the mikes so I couldn’t move, it reminded me of the first time I was what is known as ‘the talent’.
It was my first day on Simply Money TV back in January 2000. I’d just come from being a producer/reporter at the BBC; and now I was a ‘presenter’. After the first programme there was a meeting of all the crew, on-air team and output editors. There were very few chairs in there and the big presenters, Angela (Rippon) and Jan (Harvey), were rightfully on the sofa. There was one chair left and I offered it to Maggie, the production assistant, who (sorry for snitching Maggie) was in her early 50s at the time; she was clearly uncomfortable about taking the seat, but to me it seemed the right thing to do.
I then duly took my place sitting on the floor with everyone else. The floor manager, Alec, then came up to me and told me to get up and sit in the chair. I was embarrassed and said “I’m fine, don’t worry.” He then asked me if he could have a word and took me round the corner out of sight and said “I know you’re new and well-meaning. But you need to understand, you’re the ‘talent’; it’s our job to look after you and make sure you’re ok on air. This isn’t a personal thing – you’re a part of the set like everyone else. You’re sitting on the floor in the suit that we’ve got to do more filming with, possibly cramping up, and being uncomfortable – that makes us look bad, so please go back and take the seat.”
It was an important lesson; being ‘talent’ may sound like a compliment, but it’s actually more like saying ‘product’. Of course after doing this for a long time, you get used to it. It’s not about being privileged, but understanding your role – so avoiding sweat patches, dirty clothes, spills on your clothes aren’t just my responsibility – they’re the whole teams. Strange job!