TRICKS OF THE TRADE: 16; HOW TO MAKE TV STARS OF SHEEPDOGS

JOY CORBETT Producer, 'One Man and his Dog'. The top BBC show celebrates its 21st birthday this week
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The Independent Culture
ALL THE DOGS we work with have to work for a living.So sheepdog- trialing is really an extension of all the things that they would do in their everyday work on the farm. The competitors are farmers who competed in the international competition; four counties compete every year, and I look at these results to see who is doing well. Sheepdog-trialing isn't a sport with a great deal of money in it; the competition is still firmly grounded in the farming community.

I select three competitors from each county. Gus Dermody, the commentator, who is a trialist himself, will ring me, and we'll have a chat about who's up-and-coming. Gus will advise me on who's doing well and who's interesting; we are always looking for new talent, obviously, because if people see the same faces year after year after year, then it won't be quite as interesting. I also read a publication called Working Sheepdog News. We make the whole series in one week.

We're usually in a very nice part of the countryside, we've been all over the in the 21 years; this last series was in Cheshire, a very scenic part of the world. The audience are particularly trialers and farmers themselves as well as those that know nothing about it but they like the nice scenery and the dogs. The dogs are the stars really.

To watch a man and a dog working together in that sort of close harmony is quite breathtaking. Sheep being what they are, some people might say they are stupid. But I don't think they're stupid, they just have a different way of thinking about things.

We have to vary the sheep because they get to know their way around the course.There's no sabotage to create any action, though the more interesting runs are the ones full of incidents. If show them more of them losing marks than gaining them - it's this variability that makes it such compulsive viewing.

The programme has been going for a very long time. In spite of the fact that all the animal welfare charities are booming we still are a nation of animal lovers - if feel if in any way we can educate people about how we interact with animals then I think all these kind of programmes are a good thing.

It doesn't matter how fancy four-wheeled motorbikes are, nothing will ever replace the dog. Four legs is better than four wheels.

We use some music and sample CDs for the jingles, but we also make sounds of our own. We recently purchased a sampler and keyboard and we are now frustrated musicians trying our best to come up with our own stuff. For the comedy bits we also do the scripts ourselves. It can be a bit of a strain to constantly come up with new ideas and it doesn't always happen.

It's one of those jobs in which the sky is the limit in terms of creativity. When I began working here, I was mucking around with some of the old jingles and the only guideline given to me was offered by the editor, who said "Mr Cheese and Mr Irony don't live at Radio One, they just visit from time to time."

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