During the push towards the middle of the year Charlotte had now completed her time as the interim production manager, and station manager Keith had hired a replacement in Luke Chapman, who’d come from making advertising commercials in Australia (among other things including underwater video work). Luke was easy to get along with and he made use of my skills straight away, throwing me more work if I wanted it – including commercials and shows. It started to impact more on my course and each week I was finding myself spending more hours at the station and less at the course. And I guess this also flowed into why I continued to spend so many hours still working on COW even though I, along with most of the crew, weren’t exactly down with Sarah’s decisions on most things. I still wasn’t that thrilled working with her… even as at the same time she updated the credits to make Hamish and I ‘production assistants’ – even though the paid role was long past ever existing and the person who had been in the role had left to travel a couple of months earlier.
Sarah’s sales thing was at least one benefit – sponsors. While she’d wrangled free petrol from Caltex for sponsorship to cover her gas costs, or most of it, driving back and forth from Balclutha each show…. it didn’t mean much to us, good for her I guess, not great for much else. She had however also convinced Pizza Hutt to provide us with pizza’s at least once a week, usually on Friday, and it was that show that usually had the most people turn up to work on it. One of the main sponsors for the show other than Speight’s, who had naming rights, was V Energy Drink who sponsored the Walk of Shame. This wasn’t a Sarah thing as they’d been sponsoring for a number of years, but the reps for the company and the brand manager really loved the 2005 crew’s shtick more than before, and so it was proposed that we do some extra V related events for the year. The two they specifically wanted to cover was the Queenstown Winter Festival and the ENSOC Undie500 Rally from Christchurch to Dunedin.
For the Winter Fest, which was in July, most of the presenters would be in attendances, but Sarah planned on producing and shooting the event with them. Hamish planned to go off and make his own snow based stories away from the rest of the crew, while Jez, Helen, and Joe shot around Queenstown with Sarah. So for 11 days the crew would be off while four episodes as repeats of the show were broadcast during the time they were away. It was not intended for any other crew to come, and this kinda peeved me off at first to miss out but then I kinda realized I’d have to deal with Sarah’s producing, which given her track record in both Auckland and Taranaki did not fill me with confidence. So I was kinda relieved really at the end of it.
So it was my surprise when I arrived for a show a couple of weeks before the Queenstown event for Sarah to call her usual pre-show meeting and inform us during it that a) I had been included in the list of people to go and that b), more surprisingly, she was no longer going to be able to make it for the shoot, except for the last day or two most likely, which is why I was going in her place to shoot and field produce. I think most of the presenters were quietly ecstatic about this, probably less directly about my addition obviously, but more about the subtraction of Sarah. My only issue was how to make it out to QTown. I had work still at Channel 9 News on Friday and had to be in Queenstown by the Saturday. Thankfully Ivan came to my rescue, providing me with a early morning drive to QTown where he’d stay until Sunday before heading back for the weeks Uni classes.
We had a dorm room, mostly, to ourselves in the center of town. But this was good as it allowed us to mingle with the visitors directly. Sarah’s best skill, selling, let us have a massive tab at the Night and Day food store in QTown, and best of all with the V sponsoring for me it was an actual paid gig. On the Friday night after news I popped down to Callum’s to watch the first repeat episode of the run (and watch COWTV on a TV for the first time in almost a year rather than being at a shoot), before heading down the street to Hamish’s place and crashing there. Ivan was flatmates with him at the time so this made it nice and easy for us to leave first thing in the morning to QTown.
When we arrived at Queenstown in the afternoon the shooting had already started, with Jez manning the camera for the Birdman until I arrived to take over after. Then later that evening we shot the opening event and scored the only media interview with the then Prime Minster, Helen Clark. The next 10 days were a blur. Helen, presenter Helen that is, had her car which allowed us to drive to ski fields and get around. Hamish would occasionally pop into the city but had wrangled some friends house just outside QTown and after the first few days only turned up if we contacted him or he came into drink/party/etc in QTown. Nic Roland, who was producer for the new version of Scarfie TV we were screening but also helped out on COW itself now and then, also popped out to the festival – mostly for his own Snowboarding enjoyment, but joined us in filming some of the events including the Mardi Gras during the week.
We went to events and annoyed celebs, mostly at the Big Breakfast, which got us barred from later social events – mostly due to one specific News Presenters complaints. But we also witnessed the “Dancing With The Stars” celebs spend up large at the casino while we downed the cheapest beer in town. We met locals and tourists alike and wrangled a couple of the latter to come be a part of the shoot. One was the wonderful French tourist Jerome Gazet, pictured slightly above, and the other was the lovely Martha McAlpine from England who joined us for various events. Sadly during the week the London Train/Bus Bombings took place, which happened locally later in the evening, and the impact of it could be felt in the tourist population, due to a large number being British.
Later in the week the V guys turned up and provided us with stacks of free product to give away which clogged up our dorm room but also took us out for a nights of drinks. Being in QTown in Winter meant sadly some of us got sick from the temperatures, myself included and so I had to make a trip to the doctors to get some scripted meds. We also managed to work together on making sure we shot links and random stories, like Dog Barking and us breaking the ski lift at Coronet Peak. Jez and I especially worked on the idea of making sure we had little random things to break away from main stories including him running around in costumes and other such things. Over the course of the festival I felt we shot so much footage, plus with Hamish’s stories and more events than I can even remember now, that we were confident that we could make at least 5-6 solid episodes with 3-4 main stories and several small things per each episode. The lack of Sarah had unleashed our creativeness.
We also made sure we kept a good use of our Night and Day tab but without going wild on it. By the last day we still had around $100 left, but also this was when Sarah and her friend turned up for the final couple of days. While she managed to score us a great free all you can eat lunch via the Pizza Hutt contact, we had planned leaving stuff for Breakfast at the N&D seeing most of us weren’t exactly rolling in cash. Sarah had other plans and used all but $6 on just alcohol as she and friend partied it up. We weren’t pleased to find this in the morning when arriving to get a breakfast, but seeing as she was the ride back for Jez and I, we decided not to complain at least till we got back to Dunedin. This sadly was a trend we wouldn’t see the end of.
When we returned to the world of live shows…. having field produced the content between us, Jez and I undertook the capturing and episode planning because we knew the material. While we managed to edit some of the material and left Hamish to edit and bring in his own stuff for us to add to our compile. However once Sarah decided to lay down her producing role on the show she really hadn’t produced until that point… the problems began to arrive. She changed the flow of episodes, sometimes she took it upon herself to grab my personal harddrive from storage and start hacking away at our already completed edits, especially Jez’s well edited work. We somehow managed to salvage two entire episodes of the show out of it and convince her just to handle finding voice overs, which she then went with an over the top voice work by one of the contract guys that came in to make ads and outside productions now and then. The damage was mostly done, but thankfully the impact of it wouldn’t happen until later in August.
Thankfully the ENSOC Undie500 was less dramatic a production, mostly because it would play during Cow rather than as a separate program before it. Through the V sponsorship we got a car and painted it up with cow print and a COWTV logo, crammed ourselves in with Ivan as wheelman and drove to Christchurch. The Undie500 is (or rather was as it now no longer exists) a themed car rally where a team from ENSOC (or later where you had at least one ENSOC member dressed up in costume) with a themed car that cost less than $500 on an extended pubcrawl from Christchurch to Dunedin, sober driver included. In the car with Ivan was myself, Jez, and Helen. Hamish and Joe hitchhiked their way north and filmed their exploits, and while Joe joined us on the way back while Hamish hitched rides with different teams on the way back to Dunedin, again filming. Cutting the material was mostly straight forward and compared to the Queenstown event wasn’t so problematic thankfully.
Trouble was brewing when we got back otherwise however. In the fallout of the Queenstown producing issues eventually turned problematic. Sarah’s issues plus her reluctance to fix the causes of such issues, being far more reactive than proactive, meant that eventually Luke was brought in to fix the rift. The conflict between her and Jez brought me into it’s fold and I backed Jez fully on his issues, trying to tell her she never really appreciated the volunteer nature, there was a disconnect between her and Uni students because she just didn’t get it, and especially that she seemed to stiffle most of the creative ideas people pitched in variety of ways when people were making stuff unpaid. I left the discussion after my part was said, and then late found out the outcome. It wasn’t what I expected.
Jez was no longer to make material for COW, only being a presenter or appearing in videos he needed to. The most absurd demand Sarah could make, seeing as Jez produced the most amount of content for the show. Jez was allowed to finish up some of the things he had worked on but by the start of September that was it for him for the year creatively.
Not everything was doom and gloom, even though I make it sound like it. The presenters and the crew provided an energy that somehow raised it above the issues with Sarah and as I mentioned the live shows just ran so well. Sarah also got ideas to occasionally pre-record shows and then we’d sit around and watch them at the station while they played out, and those were fun too. Segments still went out, we recorded Jez doing his first ever stand up (I think it was his first ever) which was great, and shot things with Joe and Helen occasionally in the void Jez left behind.
Even though I picked up more Channel 9 work on the news, the shopping show Marketplace, and other specials and events, as the year got closer to the end and the show began to wind down I started to get over the petty production issues and just enjoy coming in each show and working with an awesome and well oiled crew. What helped some motivation towards the show as well for me was Luke asking me to cut a history of students stuff from the show from 1999-2005 for the Otago Museum, who was doing a “Scarfies” exhibit in early 2006. Traveling down the history of the show only further cemented to me just why I thought it was a laugh to work on such a great show even with the production issues of the year.
Somehow also the issues and the road trips had only bonded the crew together even more and when it got to the final weeks I got a little sad it was really coming to the end. We used the new Channel 9 OB truck to shoot our second to last show “as live” at the Terrace Sports Bar in the Octagon, and then shot our final show in studio live where we deconstructed the set slowly until nothing was left except the presenters and a blue wall. The crew was heading off mostly out of the city after this year was over… it left me to wonder what next year would be like, and I hoped Luke wouldn’t consider renewing Sarah for the producer. I didn’t need to worry.
Over the weekend after COWTV finished we had a ODT School Quiz to shoot in the studio and Sarah turned up to be a floor manager/camera person. It would end up being the second last time I saw her. She was supposed to come into the station for one more week to tidy up the responsibility of being the producer, organizing materials to send to the sponsors, tidying up ‘the cow hole’ and the like. She never turned up, which annoyed Luke to no end. The following week when I arrived on Monday to do my usual shift, I had to take over her duties and do that work – but I got paid for it and she didn’t. The last time I saw her was a couple of months later, when I bumped into her in Wanaka where she was there for her sisters wedding. I was polite, but didn’t really want to talk to her more than I had to, especially given what she did in her last week at the station.
Here is a video montage of the 2005 year:
2005 had been a mixture of highs and lows. The producer had been the opposite of what I’d experienced the year before, but it was the cast and crew otherwise who held it together. I didn’t really know if I could consider yet another year of it, and as much as the Scarfies video had made me enjoy the idea again, maybe two years was enough…