When the TV boys are in town ... fables from the media world

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The Independent Online
The world of television is a mystery to many people, especially to those who work in it, so today I am bringing you some extracts from a work I have recently come across which seems to shed some light on it. It is called Fables from Media World, and that is just what it is: a series of simple, sometimes rather beautiful fables about the people who live in the strange world of film, television and radio.

Here are several little tales from this unusual collection. See what you think.

The Lady who Walked to India

Once upon a time there was a lady walking into her local village in Burma carrying a very colourful parasol just as a film crew from Europe was shooting a sequence for a TV series to be called Around the Pacific Rim with Michael Palin Again But a Bit Further Away From the Centre Than Last Time. The assistant director noticed her and persuaded the director that she would look good passing behind the shot they were shooting.

"OK," said the director, "but for God's sake tell her not to look round at the camera."

"She says that is fine," said the translator, "but she wants to know how far to walk."

"Till we tell her to stop," said the director absently.

The first take was fine, and the film crew packed up ready to move on to the next location. It was only then that the sound man noticed that the woman was still walking, five hundred yards down the road.

"Shouldn't we go and tell her to stop?" he said.

"Not time," said the director. "Anyway, she'll realise."

But the lady had more moral sense than the director. Three months later, she reached the border of India, 400 miles away, where she died soon afterwards.

Moral: When the TV boys are in town, leave your coloured parasol at home.

The Man in the Shop

Once, there was a man in a shop buying flower seeds. Everyone else in the shop was a film crew, filming the shop, for this was where Rupert Brooke had once bought a tennis racket before the First World War, or perhaps where Ted Hughes had once bought some black ribbon to tie round his arm when a pet had died - anyway, it was for an arts documentary which you almost certainly didn't see, and the man buying the seeds was filmed in the background because he looked very authentic.

"What's this for?" he said.

"It's for a documentary on Siegfried Sassoon," said the PA.

"Ah!" said the man with the seeds, who had never heard of him. "And when is it coming out?"

"In January," she said, for PAs are always female.

"I'll watch it," he said.

And so he did. But his bit had been cut out.

Moral: If the people that run TV companies realised that everyone in the world has switched on at least once to see themselves on the telly, and always been let down, they would realise why nobody in the world ever trusts them on bigger matters.

The Man Who Listened to Noises

If you have ever made a television programme outside, perhaps about sheep in the Welsh hillsides, you will know that every now and again, just as the director is about to shout "Action!", the sound man will say (quietly), "Sorry, aeroplane coming." This means that the noise will make it impossible to film for at least five minutes, by which time the sun will have gone in again and the sheep will have moved.

Well, one day a TV director was having this trouble when he said in his exasperation, "Why can't I make a bloody programme about a sound man who has constant trouble with aircraft noise? Then at least we could go on filming when a plane comes over!"

This was overheard by a senior TV executive, who thought it would make a rather good off-beat programme to film a story based on the troubles of a sound man. So they wrote the script and got the actors (and a different director from the one who had had the idea, for which he never got paid or the credit) and went back to the Welsh hills, which are gratifyingly full of low-flying aircraft, to do the story, which was to be called: Sorry, Aeroplane Coming.

They set up the first scene, in which the actor playing the sound man arrives in his car, but just as a plane came in sight and the scene was about to be shot, the real sound man put up his hand and told them to stop.

"I'm sorry," he said, as the plane screamed overhead, "but I'm getting sheep noise."

Moral: Well, at least someone in TV has still got standards.

More fables from the land of media soon!