13 Mar Reality TV in Bangkok: The Production Assistant
GoPros littered across the table amongst passports, cigarettes butts, adapter cables, batteries of all shapes and sizes, $10,000 cameras lying scattered in random parts of the room, and the most obvious, an air of anarchy filling the depths of the room. This was reality tv show making after all. The first day of the shoot and things never go as smoothly as you intend them to go. Last minute details all come together in an organized chaos that seems like it will all fall apart, but it wont. It can’t fall apart because the shoot must go on today, for tomorrow the Tuk-Tuks have got to be on the road.
My first week in Bangkok and I had the opportunity to finally make tv debut.
“Ah Tanner…ya, you know how to shoot in blah blah blah from blah blah”
[the oh shit look]
I was familiar with this look. It usually occurs at some point when I take a new job. It is more of a when than an if. The look is akin to the look you see when kids are picking teams at recess in school, and the captain looks at the two last candidates and makes his selection. The look is the face of the other captain when he gets to choose the last guy standing.
“He’s got a new GoPro3”
“Oh okay. Tucker, bring your GoPro and one of those tripods and get down stairs. Go with the guys in the Tuk Tuks to the market where we will film the shopping scene.”
My camera debut wasn’t what I had envisioned. Years of watching reality tv had lead me to believe that I too, like every other American teen, was destined to be a star, even without possessing any outward talent. But you gotta start somewhere. And for me, that somewhere was getting my feet wet as the set P.A. – Production Assistant (see: set bitch) – for Nomadic Nation. Nomadic Nation is a production company responsible for the international reality tv shows such as Black Sea Run, World Cup Trek, Trabant Trek – all involving cheap, wrecks of cars traveling thousands of kilometers across continents (Europe, Africa, Asia), raising money for charity and completing challenges along the way. They are a production company. So they produce the show (usually 17 episodes), get sponsorships, and then license the show to tv networks around the world. They have had their shows featured on networks all over Europe, including the international travel channel.
I was confused at first when they first told me about their other shows, as I hadn’t seen any of them TV in America, and I would love to watch a show like this, but then again, the show doesn’t involve obese people, retarded hillbillies, or watching a nobody become a celebrity overnight, so it doesn’t jive as well with an American audience.
This show, still to be named, but we can go with Tuk Tuk Challenge, follows 15 backpackers as they race across Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in Tuk Tuks. They compete challenges along the way and try not to kill anyone.
“Tucker, lean out there and get a shot of the tires”
For many people a normal day in the office involves a nice air-conditioned room with high voltage fluorescent lighting as you zip off emails, mind excel spreadsheets, and chitchat by the water cooler. Mine involves leaning out a Tuk Tuk and taking exhaust fumes to the jugular while trying to hold a steady shot. Bangkok traffic is horrendous, but it is even more terrifying when you are leaning out of a Tuk Tuk with motorcyclists who are lane-sharing whizzing by your head.
At the market, I manned my biggest contribution to the team, my GoProHero 3 camera, and set about following the cast members through the marketplace as they shopped for items to decorate their Tuk Tuks with before embarking on their Tuk Tuk Race.
“Hey, you want to try shooting with this camera for a bit?”
When someone offers you a massive camera, I think it is instinctive as a man to want to grab it. Not that I don’t like using my bite sized GoPro, but there is something raw, and empowering wielding a big piece of tech. machinery. It’s primal. Like holding the remote control or the commanding the toilet as the modern day throne.
“Tyler, that is good. But you might want to try to stay out of the others shots if possible”
Of course my natural tendency was to throw myself into the scene, whether holding a camera or not. I couldn’t help it. Subconsciously, I felt that if they didn’t want me in the show, they will just have to edit me out of every scene I accidently walked into. Which is why I walked into all of them. (except for this one which I shot).
So how did the day go? Well – not too bad. I didn’t get decapitated in Bangkok traffic, I got to play with big man toys, the cast treated me with deference as if I actually knew what I was doing (reality star suckers) and I got my start in the game as a Production Assistant. So where to next? I don’t know, but Tucker, Tanner, something that begins with a T, is chalking this one up as a win.