The world of television is fickle, insecure and exciting. If you think it’s hard getting into television production then spare a thought for those trying to get a job presenting on camera. Getting to be a TV presenter is one thing, staying in that line of work is quite another. One day you’re hot, then next day you’re not. And it’s not just the income at risk, it’s your own sense of worth.
Rejection in any job is difficult to take but rejection when your job is being you in public must be ten times worse. Obviously no TV presenter should it take it personally when rejected for a job – sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to a producer’s or executive’s decision, sometimes the face just ‘doesn’t fit’ and no-one can’t quite explain why.
Some time ago I wrote a chapter in My Life in TV and What I Learnt from It, reminiscing about my years in cable and satellite TV making music programmes. I mentioned the very talented Nino Firetto, a fantastic live presenter who was riding high at the time. Nino read the piece and then wrote his own post which I am reproducing now. It is a very frank, heart-felt and brutally honest account of when a glittering world and a golden future suddenly crashes around you.
It is a lesson well worth learning whether you are, or want to be, making your way in the glamorous and exciting world of TV. Over to Nino:
The other day one of my favourite TV peeps from the 80’s, Shu Richmond, posted a blog and mentioned me. Her name is Shu and she was (and still is) a big shot in television. In her article Shu reminded me of the good times we had on Music Box.
I did a lot of great tv shows back then. I was always working. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I would present a ‘live’ one hour satellite show to Europe for Music Box. On Thursday I would also pre-record Friday’s Music Box show before heading home.
Friday I would co host ‘Splash’, live, for Thames TV and the ITV network at 4.45pm. After the show at 5.15 there would be a helicopter waiting for me in the playing field opposite the Teddington studios to fly me to Southampton.
There I would record the quiz show ‘Love Me, Love Me Not’ for TVS and the network. During the summer months I would leave Thames on a Friday night and head up north to the Granada studios to co host ‘Get Fresh’ live on the Saturday morning.
When you are subjected to so many hours of live TV week after week for three or four years you inevitably become good at the job. You learn to think on your feet. Quickly! It’s a lot of ad-libbing and trying to make good TV. A lot of the stuff I came up with on Music Box re-emerged years later with Chris Evans and his Toothbrush. Maybe that was because one of the people working on Music Box at the time was Carol McGiffin who went on to marry Chris!
One day as I was signing off on a Music Box show the director, (not Shu) a nice chap called Josh, came running out of the gallery screaming “Quick, everything has gone down. The pre-recorded show that follows you isn’t going out. Can you pad for….AN HOUR?”
I was back in front of the camera in seconds and padding. Thankfully it only took ten minutes to fix the problem and I was able to get out of there relatively unscathed. It was fun. BUT it wasn’t to last.
I’ll tell you what is difficult to face. All my life I was driven and motivated myself to be successful in my field. I was like those annoying kids you hear on talent shows like X Factor or BGT that say the same thing every week “It would mean everything to me to be picked”. You want it so badly it hurts. I lived ‘The Secret’ long before it became a best selling book. One day I’ll tell you how I did it. It’s a good story, I promise, but this posting is already too long so… Where was I? Oh! What’s difficult? Right.
After 13 years of preparing myself for TV, theatre and radio fame, nothing prepared me for the rejection. I was in denial when the phone stopped ringing. Producers, directors, fellow presenters who were once there for me no longer returned my calls. Not Shu, I hasten to add. My agent ‘Foxy’ was making excuses. The party and the movie premier invites stopped. The column inches disappeared. It seemed to creep up on me. I thought things will pick up tomorrow, next week, after Christmas, in the new year…. summer.
Then after a year of not working, maybe a bit longer (God, I am slow), I went bankrupt. All ‘show’ remember?
I started to question myself. What had I done wrong? Who have I upset, what did I say? When I couldn’t find the answer I began to question my ability as a performer. Am I crap at this? The next thing to desert me was my confidence.
Today, it seems you can be a children’s presenter, hang out at brothels, see hookers and still keep your job. Jamie Theakston and Blue Peter’s Richard Bacon are still there. Times have changed.
Saturday morning after reading Shu’s posting again I decided to switch on the TV and relive some Saturday morning children’s telly. The two hour slot that used to be dedicated to children’s ITV shows like Tiswas, Number 73 and Get Fresh is now the home of the Coronation Street Omnibus!The BBC’s timeslot, once home to the wonderful Swap Shop, now has two and a half hours of Saturday Kitchen Live and Nigel Slater’s Simple Cooking.
If you wanna be on telly you had better have an apron or find something interesting in your attic.
Big thanks to Nino for allowing me to reproduce that now. And of course Nino has not let the fickle world of TV drag him down. He recently left a very successful radio career to set up his own business helping others who want to get onto the TV screen to find work. You can find on-screen roles on his web site NINO FIRETTO CASTING and more information about Nino himself on his personal website HERE.