I’m sure you’ve seen those programs where they stop unsuspecting people in the street and film them in funny situations for showing on TV afterwards. Some of the situations can be quite hilarious and the victims usually laugh and agree to have the film shown on TV.
Years ago I worked as a junior with an independent film maker and we were assigned to do such a film.
As I speak French well, the idea was that I would stop people in the street and ask them directions to a particular place in a heavy French accent. As they spoke, I’d pretend not to understand and I’d keep changing the location where I wanted to go.
The camera was hidden well out of view and the sound engineer explained the technical bits.
“The director will speak to you through this ear-piece” he said, “listen to his every instructions.”
“This is the latest microphone model. Cutting edge engineering technology.” he continued, “It looks just like a £1 coin, just two centimeters in diameter. Yet it picks up sound from a great distance.”
I pretended to be impressed.
“It doesn’t have a clip!” I said, “How will I clip it to my shirt?”
“You don’t” he replied with a smile, “you put it straight on your chest under the shirt. It goes straight on your skin.”
“You mean it is glued on me?”
“Not glued … we use the very latest adhesive solution on the market. Totally invisible, just like water. A tiny drop and the microphone is in place and no one will suspect you’re wearing it”.
Moments later I was ready for my first victim. I stood in the street looking confusingly in a map book and pretending to be lost. A tall man in a white priest’s collar walked towards me from the left. The director said in my ear “Aha … a man of the cloth. He’s bound to be very helpful. Stop him and … ACTION!”
“Scuze moi Monsieur!” I said in my best French accent “I cannot find ze hotel … where iz eet?”
He looked at the map and then proceeded to give me directions.
“Excellent,” whispered the director in my ear, “keep him talking!”
“Tres bien …” I said “Zat is ze hotel … but ze restaurant … eet haz moved … where iz ze restaurant?”
At this point I felt the microphone slip a bit from my chest. Obviously the adhesive wasn’t as good as I was told. It stopped again on my stomach.
“The sound quality has deteriorated,” the voice in my ear said, “get closer to him.”
I moved closer to the priest and asked another question.
“No good,” said the voice “I hear rumbling as if we’re on a train.”
I hadn’t eaten that morning because of nervousness. This was my first live interview. My knees were trembling. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were trembling too. A symphony of hunger pangs and trapped wind played softly into the microphone much to the distress of the director and the sound engineer.
“What the **** is that?” cursed the director in my ear, “fix it quick.”
I surreptitiously pretended to scratch my stomach whilst continuing the conversation in broken English with the priest. I tried in vain to push the microphone up to its original position but it slipped down a further few inches and stopped below the waistline !!!
“The rumbling has stopped” said the voice, “now we can’t hear a thing. Get even closer to him!”
How do I do that? I thought.
I can hardly ask him to bend down and address me down there so I can hear him better!
Can you imagine the conversation?
“Excuse me Father, I’ve had an ear transplant that went wrong and they put my ear down there. Can you speak a bit lower down so I can hear you more clearly?”
I ignored the director’s frantic screams and I tried to move the microphone again. But you can hardly scratch down there in public whilst conducting an interview with a priest … or with anyone else for that matter!
Perhaps if I pretended to get my handkerchief out of my trouser pocket, that should do it … Botheration!!! That didn’t work either. The microphone rolled down my trouser leg and fell on the ground.
“That’s better!” said the director’s voice “We can hear him but faintly. Get him a little closer”.
Easier said than done.
What do I do now? Do I lie down on the side-walk and say “We French are very relaxed people. We don’t panic even when we’re lost. Why not join me down here so we can discuss directions?”
I gave up in sheer frustration.
In my best English accent I said “Thank you Father. You’ve been very kind to help me; I know my way from here!”
He smiled in total confusion at my sudden grasp of the English language. He shook my hand and then … looking down he said, “Someone has dropped a £1 coin. I’ll put it in the Sunday collection plate!”
He picked up the microphone and walked away!