One of the biggest misconceptions people have about the Carte Blanche team is that we see each other daily and spend a lot of time with each other. That, unfortunately, is not the case. At any given moment, producers, researchers and presenters are spread out at various locations, covering stories in all corners of the globe. It is in fact quite rare that all presenters are in the same place at the same time. We mostly see each other just like you do – when we are also on the couch on a Sunday evening watching the show. So it was rather special when we recently spent an entire day in each others’ company. The reason? Shooting a TV commercial for the show.
Even though it was a chilly winter morning, and call time on set was 4am at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, which is an hour outside of Joburg, spirits within the entire team were high. The creative concept for the commercial had already been sent through to presenters to give us an idea of where we’d be going creatively. I think we were curious and intrigued to know how the idea would be shot and treated so that it would translate into a short TV commercial.
Now, if you’ve ever been on a set, you’ll know that it takes a small village to make a TV ad. Observing the number of people that were needed to make this commercial happen – I was taken aback. Of course I’d been on a set before, but I was reminded of the sheer scale of everything, and that what we were about to shoot had been in the works for months. On a typical Carte Blanche shoot, presenters are accustomed to having only four people on a story; a producer, a cameraman, a sound man and of course, the presenter. It allows us to be flexible, agile and efficient when shooting breaking news stories, or stories that change and develop on the shoot. So, having over 70 people on a shoot did feel a little overwhelming for all of us.
Usually when filming anything, scenes are not shot in sequence – add to that that each presenter’s part was shot separately. At times we were confused about what was supposed to happen next, who was to do what in their role, and how it would fit into another presenter’s part of the story. But there were several breaks in between each set up that allowed us to grab a quick coffee and the rare opportunity to sit, chat and catch up. We also had the chance to share our personal experiences from all the various stories that we have covered; the frenetic pace and high pressures under which John has to cover his international stories; Derek’s thrilling Dubai trip to cover The Jetman, the last crook that Devi took pleasure in busting, getting Bongani’s thoughts on his latest interview with a local politician and my experience of chatting to the young women who were awarded with the controversial maiden bursaries earlier this year.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is a popular spot to see local wildlife and for keen cyclists in the area to cycle undisturbed in the countryside. So, our massive crew that was set up in the middle of the reserve created some inconvenience and frustration. Can you imagine going on your usual scenic cycle route and your serene and peaceful morning is suddenly disrupted by a massive crew creating traffic and disturbing the peace? Filming in public places usually creates a little chaos for those not involved, and we felt quite guilty about being the cause for the inconvenience, but as soon as motorists and visitors saw Derek or Devi, their faces melted into broad smiles, their eyes lighting up with recognition. Apologies were made, selfies were taken and pleasantries shared.
It is moments like these, when I witness people interacting with the team, that remind me of how big Carte Blanche really is. I sometimes momentarily forget that, just like me, people across the country have been tuning into the show for over two decades, and that the faces that have been reporting on the stories have become a trusted part of our lives. The concept of the commercial was to visually underpin exactly what the show stands for; that Carte Blanche is the leading current affairs TV show in South Africa, with an unquestionable reputation and is fair and unbiased in its reporting. We aren’t afraid to ask the difficult questions, and don’t take ourselves so seriously that we can’t find a lighthearted moment in an episode. As a viewer, you deserve to know the truth, and your loyalty to the show is something the team does not take for granted. Every single week, with every minute of every story that is produced, we endeavour to improve on the last show. We’re aware of the high expectations South Africans have of us, and we don’t just want to meet those expectations… we need to exceed them. I believe that this sentiment was the point of departure for the commercial.
It was a very long shoot day and we were all exhausted by the end. For me, the highlight was being able to spend time with my colleagues… something I look forward to but unfortunately rarely get to do. The M-Net team was happy and relieved that we achieved what we set out to do; to shoot a commercial that wasn’t just visually appealing, but something that would be a conversation starter, leave you thinking, and remind you why you should continue to tune in on Sunday nights at 7pm.
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