On the way to Raw Materials in Cowper St, Footscray, to be part of the audience for TV food show Love To Share, a thought strikes.
As someone who recently signed up for a talent agency with a view to broadening my income portfolio through work as an extra, it is this: Has not the television industry – and commercial television, in particular – perpetrated one of the great con jobs?
Instead of happily volunteering their time for the glimpses of glam it provides, shouldn’t audience members for television shows be paid for their time?
During the filming, I put this idea to an experienced TV industry type on the set.
She laughs – and immediately, if anonymously, concedes the point.
After all, myself and all my fellow audience members for this filming are required to sign a release form – just the same as any extra or actor.
Just kidding, really – after all, that horse has well and truly bolted.
Love To Share is a weekly program being screened by the Ten Network. The first episode went to air a few days before the episode of which CTS is to be part is put together.
The show is hosted by 2010 MasterChef competitor Aaron Harvie, who is joined by in-house show chef Darren Robertson, various other presenters and guests.
I’m no fan of so-called free-to-air TV or MasterChef – I reckon that particular show isn’t actually about food. Like so many of its ilk, what it’s about is TV.
So what am I doing here?
Well, it has foodiness elements, it’s being produced in Footscray, it’ll take up an otherwise free morning and I hope to generate a blog story out of the experience.
I’m a little wary, though. I’ve known people from the film and TV industry, and have been in recording studios when albums are being recorded, so I know full well tedium and down time can be and often are part of the deal.
So I’m interested in discovering if being present at the filming is better than enduring the tedium of endless promos and adverts that go with watching such shows at home.
I’m also curious and a little nervous about how the presence of a blogger/journalist brandishing a camera and with lots of pesky questions is going to go down.
Upon being seated at one of the dozen or so tables, audience members are asked to sign their release forms and sign up for the show’s website using the iPads provided.
There is nervous laughter from some of us as it dawns that we are not allowed to take the cool gizmos home.
My table companions are Amber and Jess.
We are also invited to partake of coffee, real champagne or both.
I settle for a nice cafe latte in a cardboard cup.
Before the filming process starts and as we are given ground rules by one of the producers, we are also delivered a bowl of dip, dipping vegetables and herbed and toasted pita bread.
Looking like a very pale apricot taramsalata, it is actually a very fine, tasty and lemon-y white bean dip.
It’s at this point, that I cave … and request a tall glass of bubbles.
The show sees Harvie hosting segments of the show interspersed with three more segments already recorded out and about by others – in the case of this episode, they cover Yarra Valley fish, hill country pork and beetroot.
The set is bright and cheerful “rustic foodiness”, with a cooking area to one side, sofas for interviewing purposes on the other.
I am impressed by Harvie’s ability to sound upbeat and spontaneous, even when has to re-start his opening preamble three times.
The rest of the crew are admirably professional, too.
Between producers of various types, cameramen, catering company staff and many others who may or may not have technical TV biz names, there are a lot of them.
Making a commercial TV show is obviously a very expensive proposition in a high-stakes game.
After the opening comments, the show’s first food comes courtesy of chef Darren, who quickly serves up a simple meal of steak, some sort of butter sauce and chargrilled cos lettuce.
Sadly, only a single audience members gets to sample it.
Then it’s time for Harvie to interview the guests – today that means singers Mahalia Barnes and Prinnie Stevens.
I’m struggling to hear what’s being discussed, the frequent delays are finding my hands desirous of getting hold of the book in my bag and part of me wishes I was elsewhere.
I prick up my ears, though, when Barnes tells stories about the cooking prowess of her famous father, who sounds every bit the dab hand in the kitchen that her Thai mother is.
The two singers and Harvie then move across to the kitchen area where, after more delays, they join chef Darren in cooking a soba noodle salad.
By this time, I’ve realised my fears about taking photos are unfounded – I’m far from the only audience member merrily snapping away.
In the end, I’m pretty much going wherever I please – except in front of the many cameras – and talking to whoever I wish, including joining a trio of producer types monitoring the filming on a TV off to the side.
A crew member who has worked on other, similar shows tells me this is quite unusual – the absence of the usual hard-and-fast rules about phones and cameras and do’s and don’t's apparently part of the show’s gameplan of being fully integrated in a social media sense and making audience members part of it all.
Makes sense, really, mobile devices, for better or worse, being part of every performance and every part of life these days.
As the soba dish is completed in front of the cameras – huzzah! – each audience member is presented with their own bowl of said salad.
It’s very good – fresh salmon, two kinds of mushroom, two kinds of greens, sesame oil and seeds, seaweed and more, including a hefty whack of ginger.
It’s a treat with my second glass of bubbles.
As we eat, the show’s stars and guests join audience members for a bit more banter.
It’s been an entertaining and enlightening experience.
If you’re interested in being part of the Love To Share audience, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The show featuring CTS is scheduled to go to air on Channel 10 on Saturday, October 6, from 4pm.
But as they say in the biz, check your guides.
Bonus: The filming took a tad over three hours and I didn’t incur a ticket for overstaying at my two-hour parking space in Cowper St!