COW TV Retrospective

Just following up on my finished blog series on my time working on COW TV in Dunedin, I’ve uploaded the retrospective I made for the Otago Museum and later recut for broadcast on Channel 9 to YouTube and Vimeo. I had issues with one track used which had to be muted, but I have provided an alternative for people wanting to see what it looked like on the YouTube version. Vimeo has gone unchanged (so far).



If you want to read my history of posts then they can be found:
2004 – Part 1
2004 – Part 2
2004 – Part 3
2005 – Part 1
2005 – Part 2
2005 – Part 3
2006 – Part 1

COW TV (2006)

A screenshot from the 2006 Opening Titles which I shot. A parody version of the Fresh Prince opening.

A screenshot from the 2006 Opening Titles which I shot. A parody version of the Fresh Prince opening.

Continued from 2005 Part 3.

After the holiday break I’d decided with the full on events of 2005 combined with the extra Channel 9 work that I had to drop working on COW TV for 2006, but former ScarfieTV producer Nic Roland – now producer for the 2006 (and also later 2007) season – roped me and a few others into assisting wherever I could. To be fair it was very nice being asked to help out and I ended up enjoying getting to still work on projects I wanted to and assisting where I could with someone who actually respected people… and so one of the first things I helped on was shooting titles for the show for the year. Nic was also far more in tune with the style of how Cam and Matt were, plus he had friends who were students and still at the time had a very student like style to him. A big change over the previous year which made me think the show was in great hands.

As for the titles, the idea was to do a different TV theme parody every 4-6 weeks over the year, but we only shot one… a Fresh Prince parody one… which wasn’t bad at all. I’ve linked it below. Still I wish we’d gotten to do my “Moobie Cowser T.V.” idea at some point though. He was to be a master brewer at Speight’s from age 7 rather than a Doctor, and the idea of traipsing around the Speights brew floor in lab coats, and the chance to do freeze frame host introductions was so great – but sadly never done. The Fresh Prince one worked well, and we tied it into one of the presenters backgrounds really well and it still was a laugh.

Piling on top of Nic’s incoming requests was the fact I was still doing the other work. Be it news work, the sports show for a while, Southern Newsweek, internal commercials, any other productions, and trouble shooting and filling production gaps at Channel 9…. I had also gotten back together with my ex in the later part of 2005 which provided her to be unimpressed with me still spending such hours at COWTV for unpaid work. Then to top it all off I was also asked to help shoot Hamish Coleman-Ross’s content for his start up national student show which he had decided would be still called “Studentville” as per his plan a year earlier.

As I mentioned in 2005 Hamish had considered a regional broadcast show separate from COWTV before the year had begun, but now with some connections to the brand guys from Auckland who’d done the V deal with us for Queenstown and the Undie500 in 2005, Hamish was planning to go national with the same idea. Of course he didn’t have an agreement with any broadcaster in place, so his idea was to shoot pilot material and events from the first half of the year with the idea of convincing someone to pick it up to put on air later in the year once it was all edited together. I’ll cover Studentville in more detail another time.

I met with Luke and Keith from the station separately during late Jan and told them Hamish had asked me to help out shoot some Studentville program idea and that I was already reducing my work on COW TV and focusing on other Channel 9 content anyway so I didn’t see an issue if they didn’t. Both said it was okay, so I took it on face value. Hamish wasn’t yet in a position to pay me anyway, and aside from occasional events COW didn’t really pay either… so I figured it’s hard to have a real conflict anyway when no money is being exchanged.

As Orientation came, on the first day of shooting for Hamish… indeed at the end of shooting the first thing for Hamish on that day, I got a text message from Luke saying Keith had voiced issues with me shooting for Hamish, who he’d heard was in town. So as soon as I was clear of the shoot I walked across town to Channel 9 and ended up with a long discussion with Luke where I told him I’d already talked to both of them about this and that was their chance to voice concerns. They’d said it was okay, and so it was too late now. Retrospectively this was the beginning of the end of my time at “the nine” but this wasn’t apparent for a number of months.

While I shot some orientation stuff for Nic that didn’t clash with Hamish, including a Rodeo (my first and likely last I’ll ever attend), I found then Nic was playing an Orientation tour with his band which co-coincided with a need for me to be in Christchurch to help Hamish with his show. So I hitched a ride, via Cromwell to pick up Nic’s organ from his home there, and shot the pirate themed gig for Hamish at the Cantab Uni bar. It was a weird experience doing this, but aside from getting sick on the day we drove back, it proved to be fun. The organ returned to Dunedin and became a set piece for COW TV for the next couple of years as “The Organ Zone”, and was a great thing to go into and out of breaks with… and guests on the show, musical ones especially, really seemed to enjoy it.

For a few more months I continued to help where I could and balance my work at the 9 and what I did for Hamish. I would make it to some studio shows still for COW when I could, the experience of them never stopped being a laugh, but as the year went on they were often few and far between. Certainly often when I turned up I helped setup and taught new crew, but often stopped working on the shows instead just sitting in and watching and being a problem solver for Nic – especially after Wayne left his Operations role at the station early in the year as well.

I probably would have made more but the demands from my (ex)girlfriend to not spend so many hours at Channel 9 and spend more evenings at home was often the brunt as well as to me cutting back on hours at COW. Usually I’d have only arrived home at between 7 and 7.30 from after the news shift, and I’d be leaving to walk back down to at around 9pm the three nights of the week the show was on. This annoyed her a lot, especially as COW wasn’t exactly giving me extra pay as I mentioned, but I probably should have just gone.

Nic had great presenters and crew. Jez had continued on which was great for the show especially, and without Sarah around he could get back to making original content once more and did so wherever he could. Tim Couch, Caroline Hornibrook, and Alice McKinlay joined Jez and they fit together even more perfectly than the presenters the year before because they all got on well. Nic also had talented friends who could play music, and were awesome on screen talent. There was sometimes more technical or logistical issues that he would ask someone like Jez or I to try help on. One of the big issues was Walk of Shame shoots, because getting presenters and crew together was tough and Nic didn’t even really like the segment all that much anyway. He’d done one right at the start of the year which just didn’t come together very well, and ended up asking me to help out.

While my first choice was Ivan due to his very dry quips when I’d done them with him in 2004, who just wasn’t free anymore to help due to his work. We ended up calling in Joe Hackshaw to help out because of his similar dry quip style. Joe and I ended up doing a few of them over the year… trying to get as much content as we could over a weekend so that a few episodes could be edited and we’d only have to do another shoot every 4-6 weeks on average. Based on his return via the Walk of Shame, Joe was added to the roster of presenters and often still did music and sports stories as well as taking on the Night and Day News segment for the year.

Somewhere near the start of the year Nic had also reversed some footage of the Rodeo I shot for some reason to fill airtime, and this along with a couple of other bits of footage started a new segment that lasted for a while – Stuff In Reverse. Based on the positive response to such a simple idea, the sales team managed to get this sponsored by Yilmaz Turkish Pizza place and this meant there was pizzas for the presenters and crew on Friday nights (replacing the Pizza Hutt from the previous year – a much decent upgrade, as Yilmaz was awesome), and also for the whole of Channel 9 every week for the Friday lunch meeting. So that was a nice surprise for the year.

As the year itself went on, other issues got in the way for me however. March through June seemed busy enough… I’d shot and pitched a pilot for the station that struggled to get proper funding… and I wasn’t entirely happy with the outcome at the time. I was off shooting stuff for Hamish which included a week in Wellington for University Games in April, and often he’d return to Dunedin for us to shoot local events like the Hyde Street Keg Party and I’d be at the same event and see the COW guys off doing their thing… and these sorts of things took a while to get used to. Some weeks I’d get a lot of work, including shooting material for the Southern Attraction information/advertising loop or helping shoot or edit other material for clients… then others I’d have a couple of news shifts and that was all at the station.

On top of that my relationship wasn’t finally not being strained at the time as I’d been reducing the time at the 9 where I could, but it was getting obvious with it that there was a move back to Wellington on the cards at the end of the year and I needed to work for more money than Channel 9 could give me to pay for the move. After the pay issues in 2005 at times, where I’d work more hours than Luke could afford to pay me, nothing had changed in my hours to fix this – and once we got further into the 2006 year, if anything I was working less overall for Channel 9 with the loss of sponsors and shows…. which wasn’t helping the pay I was already getting. Instead of being shortchanged on working 47 hours but being paid 40… Luke was sometimes struggling to give me more than 20 paid hours at times. By August I started looking for other work, and ended up at NZ Post the next month… the shifts were in the afternoon to evening which cut out my ability to work on the News and so after close to two and half years or so of doing the show I told Luke I couldn’t do it any longer.

Ironically the same day I went to do this in person, he was going to call me about coming into work on a new show they were making, Dunedin Diary – with Dougal Stevenson that would air before the news once a week. I relented briefly – told NZ Post I had a prior one off commitment and would be late, and ended up helping setup and shoot the first episode in late September or early October. It was one of the last things I did for the station as far as paid studio work went officially.

I technically didn’t end my employ there until the very start of December, still helping with the occasional shoot, edit, or weekend sporting event OB not impacted by my NZPost hours. The day I came into say I was off it was ironically Marlies, who was the afternoon/evening presentation director, last day and so was also due to be finishing that evening. They had a big gift all sorted for her, and so when I came in at such short notice they had to scramble together a card for me. Mighty embarrassing for me, and silly that I left it that late to say I was off. It was just part of the disconnect I felt with the station in my final few months… but I still feel fairly bad about it to this day.

As I said at the start of this entry, Nic continued on with COW TV for the following 2007 season and from all accounts the two years he did was exceptionally great in total. Luke was pleased with the effort he put it and from comments I’ve heard since, I guess he wishes Nic could have stuck around for at least one more given how it went after. The replacement after Nic, who had also come from ScarfieTV from when Nic had left that did most of his work outside of the studio, outside of the office, and it changed the direction of the show and from some unconfirmed accounts it pissed off the sponsors a lot. I wasn’t there to see it, but the attitude and separation also impacted on the sponsoring so much that it may have been this that changed the future of the show too a few years later.

While I’d managed to make that museum video piece out of the first six years, COW TV didn’t last to repeat that six years later. At the start of 2011, after 11 seasons… there was no new sponsor to replace Speights, who’d finally decided not to renew their brand ownership. As much as they tried to sell it at Channel 9, it was considered like poison to the brand for anyone else to touch it… the association was too strong, and so the show was later replaced with one called Scarfie Land. Ironically the format of the show was almost a return to how COW TV began; 1 episode, pre-produced, running 30 minutes once a week. Callum Macdonald, who I worked with often through 2004 and 05, later returned to full time work at Channel 9 after I left Dunedin, and aside from being a general production worker like I had, he worked on the first few seasons of Scarfie Land before he left Channel 9 for England last year.

When I’ve been back to Dunedin like I did a year ago (holy hell, it’s been a year now since I last went back!?!) I’ve caught up and talked to Luke about the show and now it’s been gone for a little while I get the feeling it’s changed the dynamic around the station quite a bit. For good and bad I guess… having to look after the place he doesn’t have to worry about crazy unpaid youth running around the halls, drinking beer, and making a mess… but at the same time there just isn’t as many younger people running around, making creative stuff, and training for future work. Maybe regardless of how the show ended up, this might have happened anyway… less direct TV watching, more creative online video and social media especially… TV alone, not just Regional TV, is facing an interesting future. In 2005 Jez had interviewed CowTV’s creator Clark Gayford at the music awards and he seemed shocked the show was still going then. The fact then it went on for other 5 seasons after that might have surprised anyone. But sadly, it’s obvious COW TV was never going to last forever.

It’s been well over 10 years since I started on COW TV, and almost 8 since I left it behind. It however has for some reason never left my mind as an experience, just simply because it was just mostly fun. I don’t know if I didn’t annoy people or step on toes, but I hope I helped make some good laughs even though we were never really sure if anyone was always watching. The people I worked with on the various years of the show, all the ones I still know of have done so amazingly well in the past 10 or so years – most are still working in media, the strike rate is so much higher than my film school numbers. Channel 9’s down and dirty, make it work, fix the problem, just get onto it ethos and the studio show’s freedom with only technical restraints bred such well skilled people they just naturally seem to do better than others. It’s nice to see that as a legacy, and hopefully be considered part of it. And really I was glad to be a part of the show. As the tagline for the show was in 2002, summed it up so well – it was such an experience, it really was “more than just good friends.”

COW TV (2005 – Part 3)

Production goes out live 3 times a week...

Production goes out live 3 times a week…

Continued from 2005 Part 2.

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.

Our French friend Jerome, who we met in Queenstown, and I look positively thrilled at another one of Sarah's production meetings sometime in September 2005.

Our French friend Jerome, who we met in Queenstown, and I look positively thrilled at another one of Sarah's production meetings sometime in September 2005.

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.

Callum shoots some live studio stuff on Cow TV.

Callum shoots some live studio stuff on Cow TV.

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.

Then OUSA Social Activities President Rob McCann joins Helen and Hamish on the couch in mid 2005.

Then OUSA Social Activities President Rob McCann joins Helen and Hamish on the couch in mid 2005.

Callum Macdonald takes a break from the VT and graphics desk to pose for a photo.

Callum Macdonald takes a break from the VT and graphics desk to pose for a photo.

The lovely Victoria Rushton was our main sound operator for most of the year.

The lovely Victoria Rushton was our main sound operator for most of the year.

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.

On the last show of the year, we deconstructed the set and left presenters Hamish, Jez, Tineille, and Joe (not pictured) to fill the final airtime with anything they wanted.

On the last show of the year, we deconstructed the set and left presenters Hamish, Jez, Tineille, and Joe (not pictured) to fill the final airtime with anything they wanted.

On the final night, I was the handheld studio camera, but I am chatting while commercials play to the control room. It was one of the last handheld CowTV studio camera shifts I ever did.

On the final night, I was the handheld studio camera, but I am chatting while commercials play to the control room. It was one of the last handheld CowTV studio camera shifts I ever did.

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.

The almost entirely wonderful core 2005 Cow TV Crew (except for Helen who couldn't make the last night).

The almost entirely wonderful core 2005 Cow TV Crew (except for Helen who couldn’t make the last night).

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…

COW TV (2005 – Part 2)

Some of the CowTV crew shooing. From L to R, Ryan McMahon, Ivan Larsen, Callum Macdonald.

Some of the CowTV crew shooing. From L to R, Ryan McMahon, Ivan Larsen, Callum Macdonald.

Continued from 2005 Part 1.

So after a rocky few weeks we arrive in April. On air in the studio is basically sweet, the one area where shows flow and the presenters seem to take over without effort. That’s not to say there isn’t some personality clashes here and there… but in general on air looks amazing. Hamish had returned as a presenter as I mentioned, and Anna had returned and then left…. but the run of presenters that made the show work that year – no understatement – was amazing.

Jez Brown was probably the most obvious presenter choice of the group. During Orientation we’d copied the idea somewhat from the year before and had people audition down at the Uni Campus during the daytime daily fair. Jez did Radio hosting at the student radio station, was obviously an ideas guy, and just perfectly fit the idea of a presenter and this came across as soon as he auditioned. He contained to do slots on the Radio1 Otago Student station as well as coming into to host 3 nights a week… but it was his humour and ideas that made him stand out without question. Any chance I had to help make a skit or something with him at the time was worth jumping at.

Helen O’ Leary had also been a presenter audition. Her brother had been involved with/friends with some of the COW guys from previous years including Cam and Matt in ’04, but why and how she ended up auditioning I’m not sure. But she was great, especially with Jez on screen which had them bouncing off each other. What was also great was often how game she was to often break the image of innocence or normality that she would otherwise have on screen. Jez often made great use of this, especially in one of the highlight videos of the year – At Home With Helen.

Helen and Jez right near the start of the year, just worked together amazingly right away.

Helen and Jez right near the start of the year, just worked together amazingly right away.

After Anna Hegarty dropped out of being a main presenter again, we quickly found a replacement. Ironically there was a connection to 2004 here as her eventual replacement was Tineille Charteris. She was a presenter audition from 2004 and she had stuck in my mind simply due to an incident where we took her on a flat raid to someones house as a possible presenter and she’d a) handled the situation amazingly, but more importantly b) had pulled out a dirty stained “cloth rag” from under some random guys bed and then proceeded to question what it was and why it was under the bed. She didn’t get the main gig in ’04 of course, but this later incident had stuck in my mind and when Sarah had asked about any other possibilities early on… so I mentioned her, Sarah got in touch, and she was added.

Tineille Charteris during the last show of 2005.

Tineille Charteris during the last show of 2005.

Joe Hackshaw, yet again presenter audition. Joe wasn’t a main presenter as such, but focused on Music and Sports stories and interviews. He would fill in on set when we were short a presenter, or before or after his segments. When not there instead he worked as crew with the rest of us on cameras and so forth.

Joe during one of his video events for Cow... Busking DJ.

Joe during one of his video events for Cow… Busking DJ.

Ben Wallace took Hamish’s spot as the Night and Day news presenter later in the year. I don’t remember much of his background other than he was friends/flatmates with Callum and had an exceptionally dry sense of humor. I often ended up shooting Night and Day stories with him and/or Callum over the year and they were always a blast.

I don't have any pics of Ben, so I post this one of Hamish doing a very Hamish thing.

I don’t have any pics of Ben, so I post this one of Hamish doing a very Hamish thing.

Personalities clashed of course. Jez and Hamish didn’t really get along, and was seen on screen often with occasional awkward outcomes. With Helen getting on well with Jez, she also didn’t work that well with Hamish but was often the balance between the two that somehow made the three of them work on air. Joe Hackshaw also got on the wrong side of other presenters as well from time to time. Everyone else seemed to work well, and on air they mostly tried to keep it smooth. What probably helped however, as I mentioned, was a more common problem – the show’s producer, which kinda also bonded the crew together a little more.

By late April, the Uni Games was due to take place over the Easter Weekend. This year’s location was in Auckland, specifically on the North Shore. Sarah arranged for her and Hamish to attend via sponsorship (Hamish was picked not just on his persistence but also the fact he was the early presenter choice and this was organized quite early on).

When they returned Hamish returned with unflattering stories about various incidents in Auckland, including Sarah’s ability to vanish for long times and not really producing large amounts of content from the trip alongside some other more scandal filled comments I won’t bother repeating here. Indeed the proof was there in the former at least which was a limited group of interviews and sports montage materials from a very slim number of sports (even though there was almost 30 sports you could see at the games). This progressed later the following month when Channel9 was invited by Taranaki TV to come be involved in the “Farmers Games” and again Sarah and Hamish went. Why Hamish went I’m not sure, but again this event only provided more divide on issues with Sarah when they returned to Dunedin. In this case thankfully they weren’t expected to shoot as much, with the (now long defunct) Taranaki TV providing all the coverage.

I hadn’t been entirely blind to the other local issues either being complained about. Sometimes it seemed like we could just go out and shoot anything and Sarah was keen to include it. Other times she had a specific schedule she wanted us to fit into even if it didn’t really work. As the weeks went on every show was scripted into specific segments and events, this worked fine, but when it came into forcing pre-existing material or making stuff no one wanted just because it was selling some perfume by Britney Spears from the Farmers department store – things got more difficult.

When it came to live shows Barry found her difficult because she’d often take over Directing behind him, so he was turning up less often to do it… leaving her to direct the shows. This was a two fold issue because Barry was a great director, better than her, and yet it meant Sarah was even more controlling than usual about how the show ran. She was certainly far more controlling of all the roles than other producers, and also more likely to say no to us going out to shoot an idea even though it wasn’t costing anyone anything but their own time.

Director Barry in much happier times, enjoying a drink in the Cow Hole.

Director Barry in much happier times, enjoying a drink in the Cow Hole.

Between this though I did have fun events. I covered the Leith Bike Race again with Ivan, news segments with Ben, music and sports stuff with Joe. I went out and covered the Destiny Tavern incident plus the actual Destiny Church visit to the Uni with Hamish, made a fake Star Wars trailer for the release of the 3rd of the Prequel films that year, filmed the Jaffa Race once more – which we were blocked from, mostly because we were late but we made it about something else, and of course filmed plenty of Walk of Shame segments. The latter was often with a variety of presenters which made it interesting more so than before where we’d only used a couple for the whole year. Again, outside of producer problems it was the presenters and crew that made the work fun.

Me, watching back a video edit I'd done on the linear edit suit... this was back when people still edited on tapes, kids. Amazing I know.

Me, watching back a video edit I’d done on the linear edit suit… this was back when people still edited on tapes, kids. Amazing I know.

I’d been doing all this while I was doing 3D animation study at Aoraki along the street, again each day I walked the short distance to the studios to work on the News later to help work on COWTV stuff. It helped now I lived near town as well, however in late May my relationship broke down and I moved back across town to my parents place, which meant it was a long distance to come and go late at night and work on the show. After all the issues combined with my recent personal woes as well I considered dropping off the show at this point. But somehow I was talked into sticking with it… why I did I can’t remember, maybe it was due to the relationship thing and needing a fun distraction at the time, but I made a choice to do so. So as June began I continued coming on in to help with the show, mostly for the benefit of other other amazing crew and not so much the producer…

COW TV (2005 – Part 1)

Our wonderful director watches....

Our wonderful director watches…

Continued from 2004, Part 3.

So after my return from Wellington at the end of 2004 I had, as mentioned in my last post months ago, decided I would make a return to Channel 9. Hopefully to both continue to help with COW TV as well as hopefully pick up more work from the station. In mid Jan, I walked back into Allied Press and popped back up to the usual haunt that was the station. When I got in I popped into the news room, where I saw some of the familiar reporting team. I then was told there was a new, yet also old, Production Manager I should pop by and see if I planned to make my return.

Yes, the place was an actual station with some camera equipment...

Yes, the place was an actual station with some camera equipment…

I popped down the hall and knocked on the door to introduce myself, and was met by a woman. This was Charlotte Young. Charlotte had been at Channel 9 earlier in it’s life, when it was independent and had much more cash flow prior to it’s collapse in 2002 that Allied Press bailed it out of. As she was due to have a child, her role currently as the Production Manager was only temporary until later in the year. When I first arrived I had to explain my background of having been there the previous year. I think it felt like I was pitching myself as just walking in the building off the street and asking to have a camera put in my hand. But once she realized I wasn’t just talking myself up and did know people there and what was happening at the station things seemed to go a bit smoother.

As much as Charlotte was fine in the production management role, she did make a couple of choices related to COWTV for the year that would end up biting some of the crew in the ass later. This will be explained in more detail as we go on. In any case I was told by her that a producer was being considered from an advertised role over the holidays and that she’ll get back in touch. She mentioned the show was being reduced to 3 x 1 hour shows down from the 5 we had the last year (now Mon, Wed, Fri) as well this year might include a paid role or two of production assistants in the budget due to the reduced episodes, at least for the first couple of months, which I was hopeful of getting. Otherwise if I could be available again for news work I’d gladly be made use of.

With the hope that I could get that paid work for with COW on top of the news, I managed to make some time to pop by the Student area of town and visit past both Callum as well as Hamish who lived down the street from each other. After chatting with Callum for a half hour or so, I popped by to see Hamish. He had last years presenter Rob Jackson around sleeping in his window seat, as he’d just returned early from some Orchard work in Central Otago with no place to live. I told Hamish about my experiences in meeting Charlotte, and he reiterated a similar experience of showing her previous Night and Day News bits with little expectation he’d be picked up for any work, especially as a main presenter for 2005, earlier the same week. It was then Hamish dropped an idea that if he wasn’t a presenter he’d breaking off to do his own show independently, which he had already dubbed ‘Studentville’. His idea was to produce it himself and then broadcast it on Channel 9 as well as other regional stations possibly if he could, and get Rob Jackson and maybe I involved in presenting and shooting respectively.

It’s worth noting here, something I didn’t mention about about 2004 was, the OUSA (Otago University Students Association) ended up paying for and producing their own half hour show called Scarfie TV during the year which once a week (well three times, as it replayed twice after it’s original screening each week) at 9.30pm before COWTV, for about 12 or so weeks of the year. The show’s production was included people I would later work with. But at the original launch time the straight news and info show was a contrast to the usual irreverence we took at COW. Being made also by mostly volunteers or low paid staff the production had also had problems and was often late in arriving before broadcast, and during it’s first or second week Hamish had made quite a bit of a thing about it for a Night and Day news segment. So I thought it was kinda funny that he might approach this issue himself producing yet another show (It’s worth noting ScarfieTV later made a return later in 2005 as a 10 episode production that screened as a 7-8 minute segment actually within COWTV once a week).

Of course his reason for this was if the new producer was underwhelmed with his chance at being a presenter he could go off an do something different. So once this person was chosen, Hamish went and pitched himself heavily again with his history of the news segment to be a main presenter for the year. He would eventually get his wish and would be named as one of the presenters for the year, meaning ‘Studentville’ was no longer a thought. Rob considered a return himself, but aside from turning up at random episodes, as the year went on he lacked further interest in COWTV – and mostly for a specific reason which will become obvious. At the same time once I’d heard from him a producer was in place (Charlotte never got in touch with me), I made sure I stopped by to meet this new showrunner for COW.

Producer Sarah sits also in the directors chair, while I roll VT's on a show sometime in the middle of the year.

Producer Sarah sits also in the directors chair, while I roll VT’s on a show sometime in the middle of the year. At this point the crew is watching an interview with Shihhad.

Sarah Andrews was chosen by Charlotte as the producer for the 2005 year. Sarah’s background was from CPIT in Christchurch where she did 3 years of TV production study. She was also a sales person who had a decent background in sales for both radio and print I believe. The catch was she lived in Balclutha, which was over an hour and a half south of Dunedin, and so she definitely wasn’t surrounded by Student Culture. Nor recently in her life either having been there for a number of months. And so certainly not by living well out of town. These issues probably should have been a clue to how things would go for the rest of the year, but at the time I didn’t think much of it. This was a bad mistake.

I pitched myself for helping out on the show and what sort of things the history of the show was prior to her inclusion, as she only had limited experiences of the show near it’s beginning in 1999. Again, this should have been a clue. Instead of me going into detail here about issues, I’ll just short list some of the things I did in the following weeks. Firstly, even though I pitched myself well and did support Sarah’s work by knowing the equipment and production requirements in Channel 9 – Charlotte hired someone who’d barely ever been in the studios, let alone worked there, as Sarah’s support production person. Ironically I knew this person from Aoraki and was good friends, but they didn’t have the production knowledge of the show and station and people like Hamish and myself ended up still filling the gaps of knowledge frequently. There was a comment made by many at the station at the time, both male and female, that Charlotte created a girls club at the Nine in hiring more women into paid roles. I don’t have a problem with hiring women at all personally, provided they’re going to do the job right. Sadly while the person I knew from Aoraki ended up being an asset when they caught up on how the place worked… Sarah’s future certainly didn’t do well for Charlotte’s choice at the start of the year.

Secondly, over the first few weeks we answered every question Sarah gave us and then assisted in shooting hours of footage, only to have her eventually turn it around into weird montages with no story or content, and then otherwise ignore or change everything about the show. As a producer she had this right if there was paid staff in place everywhere, but the show was so involved into it’s presenters and crew producing content for nothing this was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people, myself included.

On that front, both third and finally, good will and history provided the show with a decent number of returning crew – people like Barry, Victoria, Ivan, Callum, Will, etc. beyond myself. Also Anna Hegarty also returned briefly at the start of the year to present, but more or less vanished as the weeks went on. She was also provided with both new crew (including people who’d be there almost every night like Bert Holmes and Ryan McMahon) and a string of amazing new presenters including Jez Brown, Helen O’ Leary, Tineille Charteris, Joe Hackshaw, Ben Wallace and Hamish of course. But as those weeks would go on both hosts and volunteers would seemingly be treated much more unappreciated than the level of praise leaped upon by Cam and Matt the previous year. Again, this was confusing because they helped make the show work yet Sarah had no concept of how this made her job easier.

The presenting line up as per Feb 05, L to R - Helen O'Leary, Hamish Coleman-Ross, Anna Hegarty, Jez Brown.

The presenting line up as per Feb 05, L to R – Helen O’Leary, Hamish Coleman-Ross, Anna Hegarty, Jez Brown. Anna would leave not long into the year, and Tineille would take her place.

At the time though I didn’t quite notice it straight away, it was the slow level of decent that went on over the coming weeks and months… but I think by Easter I’d begun to noticed how much negative comment there had been, and by May I was certain things weren’t going as well as I’d hoped myself…


Today I sold my car. Kind of.

I have it still for another few weeks until I actually drop it to the buyer so I can get to and from work until my last shift on May 23rd, but I’ve accepted the offer and taken half of the price with the other half due on delivery. But my trusty white Toyota Corolla Wagon is coming to it’s end of my ownership.

My car as it was in May 2014.

My car as it was in May 2014.

It’s hard not to be connected to your car when you’ve owned it for some time. I purchased the car back in March 2007 and in the past 7 or so years I’ve done over 150,000km and it’s never given me any mechanical issues. The only problems I’ve had come down to the usual wear and tear; batteries, tires, belts, etc. The car was built from standard shipped in parts but not overseas like most cars on our roads, instead it was one of the NZ built cars, something they stopped making in 1998. My car was made and put on the road in December of 1995. The ownership history is an interesting mix of being used for a government department, a rental car agency briefly, and several private owners. The car was well serviced when I got it and I’ve tried to make sure it’s been well kept as much as I could.

With it I’ve driven around the country at least twice in most places. In the past year with having to drive much further to work than before I’ve been racking up around 700km a week on average, with a total of around 37,000 in just the past 12 months alone. A total added to easily by two road trips also undertaken at the time. By the time I hand it over the car will be at over 330,000km in total. I can only wonder what it’s future will be but I’m sure it’ll continue to be just as reliable as it has been for me.


Avalon Studios - Stole this from Ric's goodbye post!

I’ve been working at my current job at Avalon Studios for over 5 years now, and aside from the odd moments, I’ve never disliked it. I also had the luck of training here at the school (which closed in 2007) back in 2003 years before working here. I joke sometimes all I do is push buttons a lot, and I do, but what we’re doing is either live content, recorded shows, archive materials, and lots more. I’ve learned a lot and got to teach people too. It might not be in my original plans of working more with field shoots and camera and lighting gear, but as a full time job it’s been great to still be involved in the industry.

Avalon Studios is an amazing facility that sadly for more than half it’s life just hasn’t been used the way it deserved to. I’ve said it to plenty of people, both who work here and others asking about my work, but if it was located elsewhere in the world the place would be always humming along. Instead, outside of contracted company staff, the core company that now owns Avalon runs on only around 30 staff. For a building made to fit hundreds (and did at it’s peak) that’s insane.

Built by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) in the early 70’s, Avalon Studios opened as a purpose built facility for the main hub of New Zealand television. And that’s what it did when it opened in 1975. Any NZ made television between then and 1990 probably either was made at, shot by Avalon crews, or had begun in it’s halls. And if it wasn’t any of those it was instead being transmitted or retransmitted from the facility. The NZBC was split in the 70’s, radio and TV into separate entitles, and TV became “Television New Zealand” or TVNZ and under the focus of a new “state owned company” things were going to slowly change.

By 1989 the face and shape of TV had indeed been changing as a drift towards Auckland over the years finally reached a flow over and Avalon’s future would be forever changed after 1990. Less and less was produced over the years, and through into the 2000’s TVNZ looked at selling the facility, which it accomplished back in April 2013. And while it’s never fully stopped producing content, come this October 2nd when Trackside, operating two racing channels, finishes broadcasting after almost 22 years of doing so at Avalon (the full run of it existence so far, it too also moves to Auckland), almost 40 years of broadcast operation comes to an end as well.

I’ve spent a good chunk of last year editing a reel to be played in the lobby of around half of the almost 40 years of content made here. And it’s just been crazy to think not much more prime time TV would be made here. The facility will go on as a dry hire site for commercial, film and some TV productions which come in from the outside… but the staff I work with on a day to day basis will sadly be let go. The knowledge and experience of these people, some who’ve been here since before the place opened, shouldn’t be left to go to waste.

I will be leaving this job at the end of May, before I end up being another one who is in October, and yet I would have loved to have been leaving knowing that the facility was going to have a future with a well crewed team. I will miss the location, but I will miss the people I’ve worked with even more. The fact instead in a few months it’ll be mostly empty is criminal… people in this country just don’t know what we’ve got right in front of us.


Dunedin Harbor Basin

In around four and a bit months from now I will, all things going to plan, be traveling overseas for the first time. Why it’s taken me so long is due to so many reasons not worth writing into this because… well it would take days to write and read no doubt… but it’s been that I have wanted to leave my country and see more parts of the world for a very long time.

For around 15 years I would stare out of my parents front window to a view, not that different than shown above, wondering what was outside of my hometown of Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island. Until my late teens I didn’t even really venture outside of my own city however, and neither me or my parents could never afford any real travel barring a couple of trips around Otago or into Central Otago in the early 90’s.

I don’t know when exactly my viewpoint really changed on wanting to visit more places, especially given when I was younger I was the type of kid who would really want to stay at home overnight. Not being at home was rare for a while. Sometime around 11 or 12 or so I guess that changed and I would do the usual sleepovers at friends watching movies and playing games (usually stuff beyond our age range we probably shouldn’t have been watching) and having pizza and other junk food. But sometime around high school, and with outside access to the world via the internet in the mid to late 90’s I guess I got more keen on the idea. And so I spent more time thinking about places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do…

It wasn’t until a year or two after high school that I finally went to see a more distant part of my own country, visiting our capital city of Wellington and my good friend Andrew for 3 weeks at the start of 2002. That was my first plane trip, my first visit outside of the South Island, and I had a great time. After this I studied in Wellington for 6 months in the second half of 2003 and it became my second home over the following three years (I went between the two at least a dozen times) until in late 2006 I moved there once more and have been living there since.

I’ve been lucky though, between work and other trips I’ve managed to see a great deal of my own country in the past 12 years or so, probably almost 80% I guess. Most people don’t even see that much of their own country before travel overseas I’m often told and New Zealand is so varied and interesting I feel lucky to have seen everything I have. One day I will return and see the other 20 or so % I’ve missed out on, but currently it’s time to look forward to seeing new places overseas…