Roadblocks in Television: The Volunteer

At six in the morning I am slightly hungover and lugging fifty pounds of gear towards a flimsy aluminum railing with a banner hung on it supplied by the people who have hired me. Next to me are two other people also hauling heavy loads in grim silence. We are all wearing vests that make us look like baggage handlers at an airport and sporting badges that have all kinds of cryptic secret club info on them.

As I look up, thinking only of coffee and a potential free bagel or muffin, I spot the enemy. A well intentioned moron is guarding a completely irrelevant {except to him} gate. “I’m sorry but you’ll have to walk a half mile around the event to go in through the approved entrance,” he says, face filled with the carefully controlled pride of a zealot.

Because I work in TV, I get the lovely opportunity to encounter hostility on a regular basis. There are those directors who are known as “screamers,” pampered celebs who flip out at the sight of the wrong water bottle, and all that good stuff. But the worst people I deal with on a regular basis are always in the weird limbo of middle management (or middle security gate). The problem is usually the result of ignorance or misinformation planted by someone farther up the chain of command who has since become unreachable.

Someone probably told this poor fool to “guard this gate. let no one through THIS gate!” before handing off a vest and a whistle and then heading out in search of bagels and coffee.

If you are part of whats called an ENG camera crew (the guys and girls running around like rabbits filming the concert or sports event you are enjoying) these people are your daily hell. You have been told by the people that you work for, who pay millions of dollars for the broadcast rights to whatever event you have been hired to film, that you have total access to the event.

You get to sit through pre-show meetings about this. Spelled out in a contract somewhere are words that mean you can go anywhere and film anything that your masters back in Cleveland or New York or Mordor demand. What’s not spelled out is they will demand it in short notice and fail to ensure your right of passage with the gatekeeper.

So three minutes ago, I got a call: “you have to be at section 7b in five minutes because we are going to grab your live feed of the mom being surprised by her son who just came back from a Marine tour and we can’t – I repeat CANNOT miss this or you will be fed to stray dogs by the network.”

Section 7b is thirty meters away if we pass through the previously mentioned temporary, two foot high fence guarded by a fat man in a folding chair wearing a volunteer vest and a whistle.

“Goddammit,” I say, recognizing the man as the Black Night from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The concept of “All Access Pass” is as foreign to this gentleman as independent thought.

“NONE SHALL PASS” he barks as I display a set of credentials he’s never seen.

“We shall pass,” I say, waving the beyond all access credentials which are supposed to make The Black Knight fall to his knees.

“None Shall Pass!” The volunteer says, nervously fingering his whistle and already wondering if he’ll need backup.

“Here’s the deal..” My camera guy says, “we are going through this gate because we have to go live in two minutes and we SO do not have time to walk around.”

“NONE SHALL PASS,” the gate guy shouts, vibrating with impotent rage. We shove past him because our walkie talkies are exploding with demands from the ever angrier TV gods, and we are all mere ants before their magnifying glass.

“Hey…stop” The Black Knight has been thwarted again. He whistles frantically for backup. Later we will sit though a meeting where they tell us we need to be nicer to the volunteers. Unless they are in our way and it’s important, then by all means run them over.

One thought on “Roadblocks in Television: The Volunteer

  1. Position: Event Security Guard
    – Obsessed with self-esteem.
    – Painfully literal.
    – Inability to handle contradictory instructions:
    – Free t-shirt
    – Power.

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