From Medicine to Media: my first experience of TV

Production companies are always looking for attention-grabbing ideas and inspiration for TV shows.

TV advertising is incredibly expensive, so if your business can provide material good enough to be featured on a TV program, it becomes a win-win situation: the production company gets their show, and your business gets TV exposure that could be repeated for months and even years to come.

In the health tech world, we’re lucky because health tends to be a subject that interests people. Shows like Embarrassing Bodies, Doctor in the House and 24 Hours in A&E are just a few of the health-related series that have captivated audience after audience.

The company I work for recently got the incredible opportunity to feature one of our GPs, Martin Saweirs, in a new prime-time health series on ITV, and our Head of Media Anthony and I planned to go along to the shoot to supervise.

On the day before the shoot, however, a last minute change of plan meant that Anthony could no longer join me… I had to go and supervise the shoot on my own!

I was pretty nervous about this. As well as being totally brilliant at his job, Anthony has also done this kind of thing a lot, and I… well, I had never done it before! He talked me through everything, however, and assured me that I would be fine.

So, on the morning of the shoot, I got to our doctor’s clinic at 7.30 am (early starts in TV!) and explained the plan for the day to the clinic manager. When the TV crew arrived, they set up their cameras in one of the consultation rooms and we had a quick discussion with the producer and Martin before the filming began. I had to get Martin to sign a rather scary-looking waiver form before we could start though!

The first task was to film an interview with Martin. There was no presenter, so the producer just asked Martin questions and he had to frame his answer in such a way that the viewer would know what the question was (which is surprisingly difficult when you’re under pressure!)

I felt a little sorry for poor Martin during this bit, because the producer had a very long list of questions and it was also incredibly warm in the consultation room. (The air conditioning had been switched off because the sound guy said the humming noise it made was interfering with the boom mic!)

If I had been wondering what exactly my role was up to this point, I quickly found it out during this session. As well as making sure Martin had plenty of water to drink and mopping his brow to make sure he wasn’t shiny, I also found myself interfering quite a lot in the interview. The TV crew were very nice and very accommodating, but they had their own agenda and time limits, which naturally took priority over our agenda and needs. I realised I was the only person there who was representing Martin and the company, so it was important to speak up if our star seemed uncomfortable with a question, or needed a break. It was also my job to get Martin to make as many company references in as possible! After all, the deal was that we would let them film him in exchange for featuring the company name on the show. I got him to throw in statistics from the company’s research and describe the sector we’re in, as well as mentioning the name a lot.

I thought I was being annoying, but Anthony later told me that I’d done exactly what I was supposed to!

The next part of the filming was Martin at work. The production company had found two volunteers from a casting website to be ‘case studies’. The idea was that they would each have a GP consultation with Martin, and then they would all give their feedback on how they felt it went.

We had a few hiccups – we got halfway through the first consultation when the sound guy realised the boom mic wasn’t plugged in! It’s difficult to do things over without losing the authenticity and energy of the first take, but both doctor and patient did very well. It did mean, though, that we were running behind schedule, so before we could shoot the second case study, Martin had to see a couple of his actual patients. While we waited, the TV crew got more cutaways of the two patients sitting in the waiting room, talking to each other, walking in and out of the consultation room and up and down the street outside.

It was a long day, with a lot of standing around and waiting, but I was glad I was there. It was great to meet a real TV crew and see them at work, and I think Martin appreciated my presence.

I must have done my job right because the production company called the next day about doing further filming about the research that I had got Martin to mention! As I walked home, I thought about everything Anthony has taught me, and how much I enjoy this side of the job. It makes me wonder how I never thought of working in PR and media before…

I guess, when it comes to a career, you never really know if you’ll like something until you try it…


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