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Monday, September 04, 2006

Vintage Computer Festival :How to Get on Television

Vintage Computer Festival - Web Log

How to Get on Television
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @ 1:46pm

To get on TV, follow these steps:

1. Collect a metric buttload of old computers
2. ???
3. Profit!

Ok, in reality, it's a bit more complicated than that. Anybody can collect a hundred or so computers in a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable budget. And that might get you an article in the local paper, perhaps under the "Interesting People to Avoid Getting Into a Conversation With at Lunch" column.

But to get on TV, one must collect enough of something that it eventually creates a gravity all its own, which then proceeds to pull people in its direction.

This is what happened with my computer collection, though I assure you it started out innocently enough. But the net result is that I recently spent a day being filmed going to my favorite collecting spots and buying old computery things for a pilot episode of a new show on The History Channel about people who collect (they call it "salvage") old technology.

With all the gravity that my collection exerts on the real world, it was inevitable that the producers would find their way to me. After several phone interviews it became apparent to them that I was THE guy to fill their "computer salvager" slot.

I've been on TV in various interviews for various purposes enough times that it's not really a big deal for me. Sure, it's fun being the center of attention, but in today's cable saturated market, 15 minutes of fame is more like 6-7 with inflation, and you're just another animal to be gawked at in this gigantic zoo of media. Basically, getting on TV is easy these days. Even a drunken idiot who subsequently gets arrested can attest to that.

So it shouldn't be surprising that I almost turned down the gig because I've been so busy this year working 7-days a week for several weeks at a time, and in some cases 24 hours (or more) a day. At one point, after being awoken by a phone call from the producer in the middle of a much needed midday nap, I went into show-me-the-money mode. "What's in this for me," I asked. Not surprisingly, her answer was along the lines of getting to be on TV, and then maybe you'll get some business from the exposure. Pfeh.

At that point I could have been a primadonna and simply told them to find someone else. I already had enough business as it is and I've already had my 15 minutes of fame (many times the vanity video library to prove it :) But instead I told her I'd get back to her. I really just wanted to get back to my nap.

Eventually, I let reality (and my vanity) get the best of me. The only thing to be gained from these things is the fun factor for friends and family. My nephews get to see me on TV and it's another video for my vanity library, even though taking the time out of my schedule meant more 24 hour catch-up days ahead of me.

The fact is, these cable shows don't make a lot of money. Most of the documentaries or series you see on channels like Discovery, The Learning Channel, The History Channel, etc. are produced on very low budgets by production companies that churn these things out like pizzas. Each is round and tasty but just like the one after the last and before the next but with different toppings. By producing these reality-based shows they take advantage of people who like the idea of being on TV to avoid having to pay real actors.

So they come up with an idea for a show and then pitch it to the channel. If it's met with approval the production company gets contracted to go out and find the "talent", film the spots, and then edit it into a nice half-hour or one hour show. They then present it back to the channel and if everything is as expected they get paid. If it gets good ratings it might end up a series and they get paid some more. If it ends up being really popular they might even get mildly rich. If they're lucky.

You'd better bet that if they come calling again when this thing makes it to series, they are either paying me or they are finding someone else. E-mail me if you're interested and I'll put you on the list (behind me of course ;)

I'll post an update as soon as I have a definite air-time.

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