Chapter 1. Alone
Mark sat nervously waiting for his appointment with a television executive. He was there to pitch an idea for a new reality TV show but he had no experience in the TV industry so he was not sure about how to go about it. His idea must have some merit or he would not have got the call to come to this meeting but he did not know what to expect. They may just want to buy the idea of him, but he was hoping for more, he wanted to be involved in the making of the show. As he sat there he could feel the disapproving glances he was getting from the executive assistant, she seemed to have taken an instant dislike to him. He tried to look relaxed as if he didn’t have any problems, like it was just another day, a look of, ‘been there done that’ but he was not pulling it of.
The intercom buzzed and the executive assistant said, “you can go in now”. Mark stud up and with his folder in hand walked into the office. It was more like a meeting room than an office, there was a large table in the middle of the room with office style chairs all around it. Sitting at the head of the table was Bill Taylor the executive Mark had come to see. There were six others sitting at the table, Bill introduced them as, Matt, who was in charge of Reality TV, his assistant Simon, and Robert, John, Geoff and Rod who all worked in the reality TV department.
Mark sat down in the only seat available and wondered what to do next. Bill said, “Well then Mark lets here all about it”. Mark stud up and started to outline his idea for a reality TV show.
“What we have here,” Mark explained, “is voyeurism. One person will be located on a rural property for one year completely alone. The property, house, sheds, out buildings and machinery will be covered with cameras sending video to a central computer which will in turn send it via satellite to your studios. It would then be edited into a half hour a day of voyeuristic TV.”
“This sounds like the Truman Show”, said Matt.
“Well yes but he would be completely alone, dealing with all the problems that come from living an isolated life, which could be compelling TV,” said Mark. He then continued, “Life alone and isolated can be very stressful, everything that needs to be done can only be done by you. If you want hot water you need fire wood so you must cut fire wood and if the weather is bad the fire wood might be wet. It an ongoing battle with yourself.” Mark paused for a moment before going on. “This would be slow and thoughtful TV not action packed, no confrontations here, just watching one man dealing with life. This is the sort of show were the viewer would become invested in the contestant and would tune in each night to see how he is getting on, to check on his well being.
“What about health and safety and duty of care?” said Matt.
“The contestant would need to sign they life away,” replied Mark. And then, “and as I will be that contestant, it want be a problem.”
“Thanks for that,” said Bill. “We’ll let you know.”
Mark stud up and walked out with a sense of failure. He felt like he could have done that a lot better. He had given that presentation in his head many times and it had always gone a lot better but there is quite a difference between in your head and in real life. He walked out and as he passed the executive assistant she glared at him as if she knew it had not done well. As he drove home he thought to himself, ‘I want hear from them again but it was good experience.’
A few weeks latter Mark got a phone call from Matt the executive in charge of reality TV at the television channel asking him to come in for a meeting. He was surprised to get the call and didn’t quite know what to make of it but he concluded that it must be good as it they weren’t interested he would simply never hear from them again.
The next week Mark found himself sitting in Matt’s office talking about the show which now had the working title, ‘Alone’. A lot of work had been completed to try and determine the feasibility of making it, mostly to do with the cost.
Matt had a list of points to discuses with the first one being, “where would it be filmed?”
Mark informed him that he owned a property not that far away but when there it felt like you were in the middle of no were. This seemed to make Matt very happy as where to film it was a big problem as far as the costs were concerned.
The next point Matt needed to talk about was, ‘what would be needed to live in isolation for twelve months?’
Mark outlined at length the items that would be needed, everything from an old Land Rover to chicken feed, it was a big list. But from a cost stand point it would not amount to all that much, in fact this show was looking pretty good when compared with most reality TV shows. They went on to talk about back up plans as well as health and safety. At the end of the meeting Matt organized another meeting for Mark in a week’s time but this time with technicians so he could run through what would be needed as far as cameras and sound equipment was concerned.
The meeting with the camera and sound people went well. They talked about what sort of cameras could be used, about movement activated cameras as well as cameras that would track him as he walked around the property. They also talked at length about how to get the video back to the studio so it could be edited and expressed concern for how reliable the equipment would be over twelve months. Just about all of this went well over Marks head so he just nodded knowingly through out the meeting. At the end of the meeting they were of the opinion that it was possible but only if mark carried out some maintenance during the year, mostly just cleaning camera lenses.
Mark heard nothing from the TV channel for some time when out of the blue he received a phone call from Simon, Matt’s assistant, who asked him to come in for a meeting. A few days later Mark found himself sitting outside the meeting room at the TV channel under the glare of the executive assistant again. After a time she barked at him, “you can go in now”. It felt a bit like deja vu view to be sitting in the meeting room with the same people but here he was sitting at the end of the table wondering if they were going to go ahead.
Sitting at the other end of the table was Bill the head honcho of reality TV at the channel.
“Well Mark”, said Bill, “we have a deal all you need to do is sign the contract.” Simon slid across the table what looked like a short novel to Mark who picked it up and with out thinking said, “my goodness it looks like ‘War and Peace’ and no doubt just as hard to read.”
“No harder,” said Matt.
“It’s a relatively standard contract,” said Bill, “so we shouldn’t have any problems. Take it away and have a read but I think it’s fair to say, we have a deal.”
Mark couldn’t believe it. When he put the idea down on paper it was just something to do for a few hours but here he was with a TV show.
Bill came over to Mark and said, “Well I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Matt and his team and I’m looking forward to seeing the result,” and then left the room.
“Well then Mark,” said Matt, you take that contract home and read it, if you have any questions just call. In the mean time we’ll organize an office for you and Simon will be in touch with meeting dates and times.” Mark, still looking like a ‘rabbit in head lights’ just said, “Yer, no worries,” and wondered out of the room.
Over the next days Mark read the contract and it seemed fine. And as far as Mark was concerned the amount of money they were going to pay him was more than fine, so he signed the contract.
Mark had no idea that so much work went into making a TV show. He spent his first day in meetings talking about what needed to be done, and for the first week all he seemed to do was go to meetings. A team of technicians spent weeks working on the cameras and sound set ups. There were thirty cameras set up around the property, all on them movement activated, as well as cameras that would follow the subject. So as Mark walked around the property the camera would follow him. There were cameras in every room of the house, in the shed, chook yard, garden, you name it and there was a camera there. As well as fixed cameras, Mark would have a camera on him, it was a tinny little thing clipped to his shirt. This was the only camera that Mark would have to turn on himself as well he would have to connect it to a computer each day so the video could be sent to the studio. All the other cameras operated automatically and required no attention except for cleaning there lenses. All of this equipment would be powered by a bank of batteries charged by solar panels with a diesel powered generator as back up.
The props department were busy buying everything Mark would need to live alone with no back up for twelve months. This was a very big list, there were the necessities like food and fuel, and then there were things like, tools, Land Rover, chain saw, the sort of things he would need to have in order to carry out his daily chores. As well as all of that there were things that might be needed like, nails, screws, rope, the type of things he might need if things go wrong. All these things needed to be purchased and taken to the property and stored.
Making the property presentable also fell under the props department. The house needed to be jazzed up with a coat of paint inside and out as did the shed. Vegetable gardens had to be built as well as fences and the chook yard was in need of a bit of work. Chooks and ducks would be the only animals on the property that would play a part in Marks food supply. They would provide eggs and meat. Killing chooks was not something Mark wanted to do but the producers were keen on the idea so he went along with it knowing that once the show started he could do or not do what ever he liked.
The only other animal on the property would be Mark’s dog, a boarder collie called George.
The day was approaching fast when Mark would have to move to the property and start a year alone in total isolation from the outside world. No TV, no radio, no phone and no internet, just him, George and a few chooks and ducks to talk to. The reality of this was starting to sink in and he found himself thinking, ‘what have I got myself into’.
With everything ready and set to go on the property Mark’s last activities before starting his isolation was endless interviews about the show. He appeared on morning shows, variety shows and interview shows as well as radio programs. It was an agonizing few weeks of saying the same things in response to the same questions. Mark found himself questioning the intelligence of reporters, given the questions they were asking him. The reporters were either very dum or just plan silly.
The day was just about here. Mark would start his first day in isolation in one day’s time. He was as ready as he could be, all was in place, and everything was organized.
He spent his last day socializing with friend and family and getting himself ready for what the next year would bring. Early the next morning he was taken to the property and left there. It was all filmed for the first episode and so with one last interview the film crew drove away. He was now alone and if all went according to plan that’s how it would be for the next 365 days.
He looked down at George and said, “well George what do you think? Am I mad or what.”
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