The trick when being filmed for TV is not to look at the camera, because unless you’re the presenter, it makes you look shifty. However, that’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s a human nature thing, if you’re told not to look at something, the urge to look is almost unbearable. So the day before the cameras from Sky One arrived, I spent the entire time practising not looking at things.
The absurdity wasn’t lost on me as I walked along picking trees or rocks or walls or buildings, and then not looking at them. At first I found myself casting quick glances at the thing I was trying not to look at just to make sure it was there, because if you are trying purposely not to look at something, it feels for all the world like it’s looking at you.
But little by little I overcame that, until in the end I was ignoring things like a professional, and strolling past trees like they weren’t even there!
Then the film-crew arrived.
The program was all about me re-homing two cockerels from the North Devon Animal Ambulance. I’ve got about forty chickens and the two cockerels I did have both died last year, so the hens have been husbandless for a while and they’d begun to bicker and argue; nothing too serious, just kind of handbags at dawn sort of thing. What they needed was a man, that way they could give him hell and not feel the need to fight amongst themselves.
Filming was fast, and we were done in just under two hours. The only slip-up was just that, a slip-up. Walking away from the camera I had to follow the hens down a steep slope, and half way down skidded. What I should have done was turn and smile at the camera, or at the very least laugh, but oh no! All too aware that the camera was on me, I did that really stupid thing of pretending I meant it, as though the slip was perfectly normal and something I did most days. It must have looked like I did a sudden courtesy mid step.
Desperate not to look a fool, as soon as the camera was switched off I begged the producer not to show that bit and bribed him by collecting all that day’s fresh eggs and handing them over. Assuring me he hadn’t even seen it (yeah, right!), he said no, no, no, he absolutely couldn’t take the eggs – unless of course I was sure? By the time I looked down the eggs were already safely tucked away in his bag.
They were really nice people, and lots of fun to work with. I’ve done quite a lot of filming now, and the thing that always gets me is how empty and quiet it all seems when they have packed-up and gone. It’s almost eerie. I think part of it is when they’re there you’re so aware and focused on them, that when they leave part of you is still searching for the camera out of the corner of your eye so you can ignore it.
The program is new with a working title of The Nation’s Pets, but that could change, and due to air on Sky One in April.