Thursday 19 March 2009

TV, PR stunts and my week

Talk about exhausted, I've never had a migraine in my life and today I did...crazy swirling visuals and then the onset of a headache which can only really be associated with the stresses I've been placing myself under the last few days.

I've been on the back foot ever since returning from Canada, where I'd been for a fortnights holiday with my girlfriend Bre, the other UK finalists had the advantage of two weeks self-promotion whilst I was out of the country and really need to pull my socks up to stand any chance in the media scrum which has seriously dissolved to nothing in that time.

What I needed a was stunt, a really good PR stunt which instead of appealing to all of the radio stations, tv channels and media oputlets directly, would instead draw the journos out of their offices to witness the Ben-style crazy event.

So as with everything in life I started off big...and then had to tone it all down again as my expectations and dreams were slowly shattered and lay in tatters around me. It really was a hugely depressing three days as deals and pledges fell through all around me.

Try Trafalgar Sqaure on Mothers Day, with a 10m x 10m acrylic fish tank full of water, fishes of course! Mumm Champagne supplying the bubbly for the game 'Champagne Cork Bobbing' and three or four travel companies promoting themselves alongside and also footing the bill for the entire thing!

But how much is Trafalgar Square you ask....only £1000 per hour!! A cost which scared the life out of me and the travel companies who I'd asked. "Oh we'll do it if we can come along for free you know!" Yes but unfortnately my pocket doesn't stretch quite as far as that I'm afraid, so the idea here was canned.

I wandered back from, one of the Australian candidates, Hailey's little gathering at Big Ben with a heavy heart and a heavier bladder as I trundled down the embankment thinking of new plans. The National Theatre had an amazing site right on the Thames with a high footfall and a big enough car park to house the tank and truck so thought I'd struck gold when I went inside to enquire about its viability and Alison there said it'd be fine. All I had to do was send her my proposal and we'd start working together, finally some success!

The next day arrived, I finished the proposal and before I could send it I'd had a message from Alison to say that they now wouldn't be able to host the event as they (a) didn't have the staff on Mothers Day and (b) didn't think the underghround carpark would be able to support the weight of the filled tank and truck. Great back to square one....or so I thought, it was actually square two. Worse was to follow.

Establishing exactly when the fishtank would be ready and transported down to the capital from Birmingham was the next issue raising its ugly head and it got worse the further into it I got. Yes, they could supply the tank to me free of charge but as it was made from matt acrylic it would have to polished in order to make it transparent...a process which would take two men five days and there wasn't enough time left! This was turning into a disaster.

So I'd been left with no location and no tank.

Working full time is the way to pay the bills but not the way to try and organise a PR stunt with limited time or funds, I'd only been back at work for two days after a year off and was seriously taking the biscuit with my boss!! Phone calls all day and hardly any progress for the projects I was meant to be working on at all. Eeek.

Today has been the best day of the lot, my dear friend and Location Manager Luke Marshall got on the case. His 15 years of experience working in London finding sites for major films, tv programmes and commercials paid off and by lunchtime we had a site on the edge of the Thames in Hammersmith. The age old 'Its not what you know.....' really meant something today!

The fishtank has been scaled down slightly to a large paddling pool but the concept is the same, me in the water in a suit, free champagne for the winners of my competition and lots of friends there for support along with the masses of public and media (hopefully!) who'll be walking that way on Mothers Day.

I have everything crossed and can't wait to get in yet more cold water after the application video, but it should be damn good fun all round.

Bring on Sunday, more to follow....

Sunday 15 March 2009

Best Job in the World!! - How it all happened

I really don't think my feet have touched the ground since I got back from the Afritrex experience!

I had a few days work with Luke, who joined me through the first few weeks of the expedition, then I had a few days work with Owen who joined me for....none of the expedition and then I decided to head off again around the world to explore and discover another new country with the help of my dear girl Bre over in Vancouver, British Columbia!!

Then it all happened, and so damn quickly day it was just a suggestion from a friend. "Ben there's the perfect job in the newspaper for you, you just have to go for it!!"

And I was handed a cut out from the Daily Mail advertising 'The Best Job in the World' by Emma along with being emailed by my Aunty in Spain to say...."get your ass into gear Ben, this one's for you!"

So we set to work, not really knowing exactly what we'd be coming out with at the other end, something witty, funny but intelligent and a genuine representation of exactly what I'm about and what makes me tick too. My girlfriend Bre is another source of my constant energy - we bounce off each other and her help writing an amusing summary of what I'm about was right up her street. I typical Bre style we created lists, scribbled lines out and practised them to each other, every time building confidence as I practised 'piece to camera' work for the first time on a few weeks since being on the road....all massively exciting though!!

We had our script, moved into the great British outdoors, and it was freezing cold in fact the day before the South of England experienced its worst snow for 20 years with gorgeous temperatures of -2c on the day, yikes!!

And this is where the amusing part of the day really took place, we'd finished off the main part of the filming, using a number of takes for each shot up to now, here on the banks of the freezing cold lake it really wasn't an option.

I'm sat there as Bre sets up the camera hidden in the hedge, in only a pair of shorts with a snorkel and mask on my head sitting on a cold wooden bench looking out onto an empty Hampshire lane.

"Are you ready Bre, its freezing out here?" I questioned

"Almost baby, just getting it level" she replied

"You know we have only ONE take on this so please make sure it works first time!" pleading to get everything just perfect to save me the pleaseure of freezing my knackers off for a second time.

Then just a we're about to shoot and Bre says 'action', along come a walker into my periferal vision....damn it we'd have to stop! So I sit back down, the inquisitive rambler unaware of Bre's presence in the bushes, he looks me up and down and continues to walk past me taking in and trying to register what he's seeing.

"It's prefectly normal behaviour you know" I which he turned silently and kept walking!!!

With our observer out of the way I steadied myself for the shock of the freezing water, the unknown bottom to the pond and tried to establish my escape route back to the Land Rover, my towel and some form of heater (although Land Rover's aren't best for this!)

3...2...1 and I ran down the jetty stuffing the snorkel in my mouth and just launced off the end into the murky depths, my knees hitting something under water, my mask coming clean off my eyes and the snorkel seperating just outside my mouth leaving my lips open and allowing the grim water to fill my mouth! Ha just what I didn't want!

Here's the full version so you can see just how much fun it really was!

We raced back to the house, emptied the leaves and mud out of my boardies and sat in front of the fire laughing at my stupidity and tried to warm up whilst learning how to use Windows Movie Maker for the first time. Actually its damn easy and by 2am the finished version was there all done....ITS A WRAP!! - as I believe they say in the industry.

Its only when the total number of entries were announced that I realised quite how unlikely it was that my application would ever go any further....come on there must have been at least 50 better produced videos, 50 more qualified people and 50 more bikini girls than I could ever offer so assumed that my entry would fall by the wayside and be lost for enternity with only Bre and I remembering the fun and stresses we had shooting it!