Thursday 17th September
I had flown to London yesterday and was in a nice comfy hotel overnight.
I was denied the chance to enjoy the comfy hotel bed by not getting out of it too early by needing to get up around six am to get to the location on time.
We would be recording the Semi Finals of the Number 1 Family in the Magic Circle Theatre not far from Euston Station.
It is a very smart intimate little theatre which only seats around one hundred and sixty people.
As well as a carefully looked after auditorium it has a small but impressive museum with exhibits donated by some famous names and many more unknown ones.
The compact spiral staircase is strangely beautiful.
It has small convex dishes attached to the rails.
I am not sure if there is any symbolism intended but to me it id as if they are trying to collect some weird power from the ether and focus it at the bottom.
We would use four cameras to shoot the auditions.
Two would be manned by myself and my colleague from the GMTV studio, Jon Townsend.
I would concentrate on the performers from my position in the stalls and he would be tucked inside the stage manager's position focusing on the judges, Bernie Nolan of the Nolan sisters, Jonathan Shalet the act manager and Jordan Jay from Universal Records.
These cameras would be fed via triax cable to a SIS truck outside where director Simon Morris would mix them.
The other two cameras would be in locked off positions recording onto XD Cam disks.
One would be low angle to the left of the stage and the other up in the circle. They would both give the Michelle the producer the option to edit in wide shots later on in the final edit.
Nigel Gates and his plethora of sound equipment would mix the sound of the acts from a position above the tiny stage.
There was not much time for Nigel and his namesake Nigel Francis to get all their cables, microphones and mixers rigged before we started rehearsing the budding Christmas album makers.
In turn each of the families came on to the stage and were given the chance to have a quick run through of their song.
From his birds nest of cables and faders above the stage checked that the sound was as good technically as is could be.
Simon, Jon and I had a look at what sort of shots might work best with each of the groups.
Time was going to be tight because we had to be out of the theatre with all of our equipment by 5pm because it was needed for a performance in the evening.
A pile of sandwiches were brought in for the crew, performers, production staff and judges to devour at lunch time.
The atmosphere was of nervous enjoyment as the families mixed and chatted to each other as they waited for their turn to show their combined talent.
As might be expected at this stage in the competition the quality was very good indeed.
I was glad that it was not me that had to make a call on which of these talented people would go through to the final where it would be up to the GMTV viewers to make the ultimate decision.
After our quick snack lunch it was on with the show.
The audience, made up from friends and family of the participants. It was great to hear that even when it was not their particular family performing they showed their appreciation for each and every one taking part.
One pair of sisters produced a real spontaneous eruption of appreciation when they sang their version of Edelweiss.
It was one of those special moments when all the emotions are touched. The cheers and applause mingled with tears when the girls finished.
When they had started to sing the hairs on the back of my neck bristled and a tingle of electricity ran down my back.
Shortly after three we had finished the performances.
I got quit excited thinking I would be on the way home in plenty of time to get the only available flight that I could get booked onto that day. It was from Luton.
Then I remembered that there were a few of Jeff’s links to record and more importantly the announcement of the finalists was to be made.
Jeff did his links nice and quickly while the judges deliberated on the five out of the fifteen that would go through.
Shooting the decision would be easy.
Three groups would be on stage. Jeff would ask one of the judges to say which of the three would be in the final. As they said the name I would do a fast zoom in to see the joy and emotion on their faces.
When each group of three came on stage Simon told me over talk back which one it was going to be so that I knew which one to zoom into.
The first three all went fine. There was lots of hugging and tears of joy. It would make good TV.
The second last group came on stage all looking nervous.
Jeff asked Bernie Nolan for the decision.
Simon cut to Jon’s camera.
Bernie said something like, “the winner from this group is....”.
She paused for dramatic effect.
The tension was building. I could see white knuckles as hand were held tight in anticipation and hope.
Simon cut to my camera with all three groups in shot.
I knew the middle family were the winners.
My right thumb was poised over the zoom control on the pan bar of the camera.
Bernie started to speak.
My thumb started to move.
The shot started to whizz in towards the middle group.
Then I stopped it abruptly and horribly.
Bernie had not named the group. All she had said was, “this is so difficult.”
I had mad the move on the first sound of her voice expecting the name.
I quickly reversed the zoom and hoped that there would be another pause of at least a second or two.
My internal voice screamed, “there’s no second take on this you twat!”
Unaware of my little faux pas Bernie did not even pause for breath as she said the name of the group.
I had to reverse the zoom again and crash on into the happy group.
I had not even established the wide shot before I had the zoom sipping back in.
It must have looked absolutely horrible. I was cringing with embarrassment at my stupidity.
Simon was not phased by it and giggled in my ear, “bit of anticipation there.”
The final group were wheeled on to the stage and in my chastened state I was ready for anything.
This time when the announcement was made I did my bit perfectly and zoomed into the winners expecting to see similar expressions of joy, jubilation and general excitement.
There was hardly a flicker on the faces on this fairly large family group.
After a few seconds there were almost smiles appearing as they looked at each other.
It was very strange.
That was the last thing to do and it was almost five o’clock.
I had to go straight away to get to the station to get the train to get the the bus to get to the airport to get the flight home to Edinburgh.
So off I went on my trek north of London to Luton airport.
At least I did not have to do any derigging.
After experiencing nearly all modes of transport with the exception of hot air balloons, rockets or boats I arrived home in the late evening.