Art & Design Business

6 Lessons TV and Media Experts don’t tell you

One. Your words will be misconstrued. Sometimes completely rewritten, by magazine editors.

I’ve learned this one the hard way, more than once. Many, many, times over, in fact. I first learned this lesson when a major publication called me for a feature article on “The Celebrity Massage Therapist”. Literally, all of my quotes were fabricated. An unnamed client saying “It’s gets tiring. Fame. I mean, I can’t complain but you know what they say in some indigenous cultures… that a picture steals your soul… I sometimes wonder if it isn’t partially true” was written as “I’m so tired of being a celebrity, I sometimes want to die”. Reading this, I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut.

I’ve found it even more shocking when articles I wrote for smaller niche market publications completely rewrote my words that relayed technical advice. Facts I deliberately chose to write to appease the very questions I knew would come, were changed to be vague and appeared misleading. I was put me in a position where I was asked by the magazine to respond to an angry reader’s question… about something I didn’t write. I had to ask for the readers to be told the truth in the next edition.

I have had some readers catch on saying “That article didn’t sound like you at all. Whats’ deal?” While others, came swinging at me in anger for words I never wrote and article tone that wasn’t “me” at all. I don’t blame them. How could they possible know such a thing is not only possible, but common?

Two. Your words will be written incorrectly beneath online videos. You will appear to be unable to put two cohesive sentences together, when in reality, the translator is lazy or in a hurry, or possibly speaks english as as second language.

Again, quite shocking to be watching professionally shot series of videos of yourself speaking as an expert in clear, understandable sentences and see that nearly everything you said has become a jumbled mess of nonsensical words written in the recap below. Thank God no one depends on the written recap of videos if they did my expert advice would be unintelligible.

3. When you are filmed in expert videos, often, the editor will cut out the accurate cuts and put in the mistakes. If it was a blooper reel it’d be funny. It’s not. It’s humiliating.

Videographers, editors… they don’t understand your profession. They have no idea the difference between terms, and even if you stop the filming say “CUT! I made a mistake. Let’s start over” nine times out of ten they will use the incorrect cut. It’s the law of averages.

That one mistake, will be the very thing everyone watching the video will catch. They think you didn’t know any better. And it will feed the trolls. Rest assured, not a single editing error will be overlooked and will instead be dissected endlessly by this group with nothing better to do.

4. As they say in Hollywood “Until the check has cleared the bank and the show plays on the tv, and people actually watch it, it never happened”.

Twice now, I’ve been called to be filmed as an expert and it’s as if it never happened. The first, was for a show that was entirely wrapped around me as a Couples Massage expert.

This particular show required a class filming for vetting. I set up a and hosted a fake class within 24 hours, it was filmed and edited over night by a rapper and online video expert friend of mine to meet the 24 hour deadline. The day of the filming there was hair, nails, makeup and crew picking up massage tables I’d begged and borrowed for all over town.

Even after all this hoop jumping, I arrived and was promptly sat down and told there was an underage, notoriously oversexed celebrity on the show, and they were worried she’d get the scene shut down and be fined, by the child labor board waiting on the sidelines. They wrote me a $500 check and sent me home. The end.

A few months later, CBS called on me as Couples Massage expert for the Jeff Probst Show, which went beautifully. It was a transformative filming for everyone involved. We all agreed you could feel and see the love in the air.

The producer got on camera afterwards and addressed the audience “You’ve never seen me on this side of the camera before. I just want to thank Jeff for having me film this today. I didn’t know what to expect, and watching the transformation in this class has made me want to be a better husband.” He then admitted, on camera, that he had been “mean to my wife that morning. I yelled at her and blamed her for my being late to the show. And it wasn’t her fault. Not at all. This class and the love I felt between this couple and the transformation Meagan inspired in them makes me want to be a better husband”, he confessed. It could not have been more perfect or more powerful. It was tv magic. As you can probably guess, the show was cancelled before the episode aired.

Five. Filming locations can occasionally be the very definition of hell, in every way imaginable.

One such video series assured me the location for the shoot would be in a five star luxury resort hotel. Perfect. When that didn’t pan out, I was told a gorgeous Hollywood Hills pool side was set for us.

What we ended up in was a small, dirty, pool shack turned yoga studio next to an old neglected pool in a backyard, in a not so great LA neighborhood with planes flying overhead every 3 minutes, in 104 plus degree heat. The walls were blood red which forced me to wear a sleepless top from my trunk that made me appear twenty pounds heavier. The “ deep tissue massage model” they set up for me was the daughter of the owner of the house. She was 5’ tall and 85 pounds soaking wet. Skin and bones.

Luckily, I called a model the night before and asked her to come as my “assistant” just in case we needed a model. She saved the video with her stature and curvy muscular frame perfect for deep tissue massage and the viewers loved her too.

For eight hours my make up melted down my face, I had to stop and repeat my self over and over again as planes flew low overhead, until my head pounded from heat exhaustion and my throat croaked.

Everyone, the entire crew, was miserable. Fearing we would all end up with heat stroke on the second day, I insisted the filming be moved into an air-conditioned office on loan to me, and spent the entire next morning staging a spa environment in a corner of the office. It looked significantly better, we were done filming that day in a quarter of the time, and with no planes interrupting, there was very little to edit out. But I was physically drained and while I had a great, slimming outfit on and managed to smile, my usual glow was missing.

Had I vetted the location I could have set the filming up in my backyard, a lovely english garden and pool in Bel Air. It would have saved everyone time, money, energy and heat exhaustion.

Six. The crew is not there to hold your hand or make you feel comfortable or special. Time is money. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will be invited back as an expert.

Despite all of the above, I work hard and keep a smile on my face. I always think about what I can do to help. Whether it be assisting with background or set up, making the other experts feel less nervous, offering suggestions that provide value or interest to the filming, or accessing my improv training to ad-lib a direction they feel would make good tv, I do it.

I offer suggestions when they ask, but not to push an agenda. I don’t get hung up on what I want, but try to see what benefits them, me and most importantly, the viewers and readers. I don’t complain. And I get passed producer phone numbers and added to call back lists because of it.

What should we all take away from these lessons I’ve learned? That things are not always as they appear on the shiny surface, it’s hard work to make things look easy, and if you get invited to be an expert you need to suck it up, keep smiling, and focus on the fact that you are lucky enough to be doing what so many others only dream of doing.

Be gracious, be real, and get it done without complaint. Know that each feature builds upon itself until the big one comes, and because of the others, all the obstacles, all the hard work, included, you’ll be ready for it. But learn this above all else… vet your media outlets. Because not all fame is created equal, and anything that compromises your character, you’d be better off without.

In the words of Horace Greeley “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.”

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