how to be a tv presenter
Wednesday 05 July 1995
Unfortunately, becoming the next Clive James isn't quite as simple as walking into a TV company and knocking them dead with your personality. Becoming a TV presenter requires serious commitment and homework, if you're to be something more than the next Huffty.
That's where Mike Hollings-worth comes in. Former BBC Breakfast Time and TV-am guru, one of the most experienced producers in the business, and husband of Anne Diamond, Hollingsworth these days runs a company called Venture Artistes, which represents up-and-coming television talent. Hollingsworth is also able to advise people in the midst of flourishing alternative careers when they want to make the move into television: he is currently working with PR Liz Brewer (receiving tips, right, from GMTV's Eamonn Holmes), whose recent appearance on BBC2's The Fame Game generated a raft of possibilities. "Until you've done TV," Brewer muses, "you don't realise there's an awful lot you need to learn."
Hollingsworth is able to draw on his vast knowledge of the business to groom his clients and make them more marketable commodities. "What presenters need constantly is feedback about how well or badly they've performed," Hollingsworth says. For instance, he remarks generously of Jeremy Paxman that there's nothing to put right, but adds: "I suspect that his supreme arrogance is counterbalanced by a slight insecurity complex... I think we would find that somewhere in the secrecy of the night and behind closed doors, Paxman stares at a wall and agonises over what he's done wrong."
But before you, the unknown, get to perform at all, let alone agonise about feedback, you need The Right Stuff. "You've got to have a massive ego," Hollingsworth declares. And then you must pay the medium the respect of careful study.
Assuming you're a young buck (or doe) with a head the size of a planet, Hollingsworth will sit you down and tailor you a strategy.
Ambition type one: you covet Peter Snow's seat on Newsnight. Then you'd better have some journalistic experience: go into local newspapers or local radio, and just put in the hours. "One of the best places to get mileage these days is satellite television," Hollingsworth advises.
Ambition type two: you want to be more entertainment- oriented. Hollingsworth recommends you should dive right in: "I say to people: 'What expertise have you got? You were the champion custard pie- thrower at university? OK, let's get you interviewed on a television show about custard pie-throwing!' Once you get a couple of guest spots, it really perks up your appetite for appearing on television."
If you're still at the I-want-to-find-out-more stage, check out a copy of Peter Baker's Making It as a Radio or TV Presenter, an energetic, encouraging romp through the basics of broadcasting, from another insider. Useful sections include lists of company addresses, fine-tuning your voice and "personality", and buying studio time to make a showreel tape.
Hollingsworth notes that a live tape has one important function. You see, the camera always lies. Of course you look beautiful in the mirror, darling, but... "After 30 years in the business," Hollingsworth says, "I still can't say with 100 per cent confidence if a person will look good on camera. The cam-era does things to people." Indeed. So the question is: do you want to do things to camera?
Venture Artistes (0171-916 9686); 'Making It as a Radio or TV Presenter', Piatkus Books pounds 7.99
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