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Professional Practice

The Show Must Go On

Benjamin Sutton

Not many places throw up opportunities like Brunei, and to be part of a team asked to produce a 9-episode series of educational TV shows is something that hasn’t come up before!

Sally and I put our hands up for Year 2 and from the get go I knew, that with her, I had met my match when it came to strict and unflinching passion for 40s classic film noire and quality production.  As a team we just worked; Sally has had 25 years teaching, preparing her for this moment on which to hang her career and I still have the fresh naivety of the school boy running out onto the big playground ready to show anyone what I can do.

In our initial creative workshops, we came upon a mantra to live by, ‘go hard making it, or go home faking it’.  And with that we made some key decisions.  The first was to let go of the rigidity of the program and strip it all back to the purist’s dream, the lesson objectives. No one was going to tell us how we were going to do things or when to make the children laugh; we were doing it ourselves or not at all!  The next decision came about by seeing our own limitations; my face is made for the radio and Sally couldn’t add all the jazz by herself so we knew we needed a star to give us an edge in this cutthroat world of kid’s TV.

We had one person in mind – she has the talent (honed every day teaching Pra in her little stilt house in SR Lumapas), the experience (in the budgetless travelling theatre group who carved a name in Pakistan’s country towns), and she has the undeniable x-factor we were looking for.  For the initial casting couch interview, I decided to go it alone, with both Sally and I putting the squeeze on she could have bolted. I went for the softly softly approach, painting the dream for her to step into.  It was rocky at first. She has a full schedule and is in high demand, but in the end, with the promise of fizzy water and a spot for her rising star of a son, Nadine joined the team and things went from strength to strength.

 Now we had the scripts, the drive, the talent and a new force. Not only did Nadine’s son come onboard, but we also secured two more little stars, Sally’s son and my daughter. Everything was lining up nicely.

Rehearsals were going well and we had been promised space in the studio for our set.  We decided to zhush up the set to make it feel like Brunei.  Fortunately, for very rare occasions, my wife is a serial hoarder of beautiful local crafts and this was one of the occasions they could get an airing.  I persuaded her to be our all in one props and costume team.  The props came together very well. She produced basket after basket, rug after rug and wooden trinkets and toys to make our set feel like a home. 

On the day of our first shoot, everything was feeling prepared; props were in, costumes were on, Nadine’s fizzy water was on ice and the kids were firing.  It was time to meet the other half of the equation, the technical team.  Joey, the director of film, introduced himself and we knew we were in good hands.  He said words like artistic, exciting and creative which made us feel good and he was able to explain the technicalities of shot and transitions and he gave us a few things to watch out for. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the Hitchcock of Brunei Educational TV.

Since those early days of our new career as Kids TV presenters, things have really changed for us. My mum said it was one of the best kid’s TV shows she’s watched in recent weeks and Sally nearly got recognized in Hua Ho, but it was just someone asking where the toilet roll had all gone.  We’re all trying to keep our feet on the ground.  But between you and I, I reckon Nadine’s a shoe in for the next Play School opening, and all the best to her. It will be bitter sweet.

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