Recently, members of your FreakShow Deluxe were able to get together because we were all in the same place, for a change.While we were there to do this television thing, Reverend Tommy Gunn shared some thoughts about why it seems every sideshow performer we know seems to hate working television.
The complaint heard most often is that television folks don’t “understand” what goes into a sideshow performance – either by skill, or in the structure to make the stunt work for the audience in performance. Another common complaint is that the setting up for the shots just takes too long, and that is too time-consuming to have the television crew do things the performers usually do on their own.
There are a few things to point out – but let us start with a story!
When FSD arrived at the location of the television studio, we had previously supplied the production team with the dimensions of the props we needed, including the plans for a knife throwing board. We also listed that we needed balloons. They had a few questions, and wanted to make some changes, but overall everything seemed on track.
When the FSD crew arrived, the board looked great – even with the changes they asked about making. However – a quick look at everything else made us realize our directions had not been specific enough!
The board was covered in neat rows of small balloons (about the size provided by stores for water balloons), covering the entire board from top to bottom. All the balloons were attached to the board with pieces of tape. When the first knife was thrown, it missed its (tiny) target, but managed to dislodge the balloon’s tape — but instead of falling to the ground, the ballon rose up into the rafters of the studio. The balloons had been filled with helium!
Usually, we use nine-inch latex balloons for our acts, blown up to nearly maximum size by our performers’ breath, then tacked to the board in precise locations ONLY where we need targets (no more than five at a time) with pins or staples.
Whose fault was this? ALL OURS!
See – we had not been specific enough. When writing out the directions for building and supplying what we needed were provided to the studio by us, we had a couple conversations with the production team about it — and they had also seen the videos we submitted of the acts — so we figured everything would be fine.
What we forgot was that the instructions that we sent were then filtered down through the ranks and eventually forwarded on to the production crew – including the shop and its builders who had been hired in and not part of the production team – all of whom had not seen the video, had not had the conversations with us to ask questions, and plus had our needs in a queue with all the other performers and acts that they were scheduled to take care of!
On previous events, we have had similar issues. One place provided plastic balloons rather than latex (they would not pop, no matter what we did). Another built the props out of hard wood, not soft wood – making them VERY heavy and unwieldy. One time when we said we needed a sledgehammer provided, they gave us a hand-held one – not the full-size tent-stake pounding kind we really needed.
There’s no way to get around the crew issues – television production is (thankfully) a Union gig. But that also means every person there needs to justify their existence (who doesn’t?) – so we often had to explain and re-explain the same things to a variety of people, each in charge of only one particular aspect of the entire performance.
But that is how it works! You have a very limited time to make things happen — and not everything can be fixed in post. We kept our FSD crew calm, personable, and in good humor as much as we could. Television is a lot of “hurry up and wait,” and we knew that going in – so we were prepared.
We felt a little sorry for the folks who had no idea what all was involved coming in. They usually were not very happy. But — *shrug* — live and learn!
Also – we have amended the information we provide to outside production teams to include the many, many specific things we need. We are hoping to avoid problems in the future as your FSD continues to move forward!