If I wasn’t sure before I am now, the one media platform that I will never work on is television. Ok, let’s be honest God blessed me with a face for radio to start with but that isn’t the biggest problem. So let’s rewind a little and fill in the gaps. Don’t ask me why but the main Croatia television company, HRT, asked to make a short documentary about me and my life in Dubrovnik.
“We are making a series of documentaries about foreign people living in Croatia and your name came up as a good candidate for Dubrovnik,” said the young voice down the phone. I was caught in a moment of weakness, wanting to help a colleague and thinking of promotion for The Dubrovnik Times, and answered “Sure no problem.”
I was guessing that it would be the same as all the other times I have been on the TV, none of which I enjoyed, a quick spot in front of the camera and then “cut.” I was wrong, not for the first time.
“Great, we will be coming down from Zagreb on Saturday, the film crew arrives on Monday, and we will be filming every day until the end of the week,” she then added. What! Did she say all week! Shit! But of course I answered “Yes that sounds fine, looking forward to it.” Big lie. “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts,” once said the great Orson Wells. Well Orson I don’t like peanuts!
True to her word they arrived and wanted to scout locations for the documentary. “Your house, your work, places you like to walk, the Old City, with friends, with your wife, with your work colleagues,” the list seemed endless. Were we making a documentary or a feature film? And to make the whole thing “believable” I had to act in most scenes. I say “act” in the very widest sense of the word, I am to acting what Kim Jong-un is too diplomacy...zero! “Cut! Can we do that scene again,” shouted the producer, or director, I was getting lost.
A big “hats off” to my colleagues who seemed to be much more comfortable in front of the camera than I was. I was a rabbit caught in the oncoming headlights, shall I turn left, shall I turn right, shall I...whack! I had no lines to forget, I just had to remember my life, but I was having problems just acting walking let alone speaking.
But that isn’t why television is not for me, no. The main reason is that it is so slow. Mind-numbingly slow! Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t have a lot of patience, well not that’s exactly true, let’s just say that I can’t keep still for a long time. The idea of spending hours on end sipping coffee is a horror for me. It reminds me of Chinese water torture, when the victim was tied down and had a constant dipping of water aimed at his forehead for hours and hours, yes it drives you mad. No, I don’t have time to waste; I seem to be forever chasing the missing minutes.
Those filming days were some of the longest in my life! Over and over again, the same scene three times. And when I same the same scene I mean exactly, one hundred percent exactly the same scene. Chinese water torture! Although I do have an added sense of sympathy for my colleagues who work on the television. And I know that I only saw half of the process, they are probably still editing out all of my mistakes and swear words. That’s another thing I learned, don’t swear on TV, they don’t like it. Funnily enough my wife was also a natural. I wouldn’t say natural actress because she defiantly wasn’t acting, she was being her normal direct, bubbly self. I could live to regret her direct approach, especially when the documentary is broadcast. But life would be boring without some drama.
It could be that nowadays we are just used to a more instant form of journalism, well a more instant form of pretty much everything. We are living in a Nescafe 3 in 1 world and this whole television process was more like making Turkish coffee...slow as slow can be. So now we await the results, rather like planting a seed, then forgetting about it, and then being surprised when you see a daffodil in your garden. I will leave the final word to my favourite of the Marx brothers, Groucho, “I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.”