Behind the scenes working on Gogglebox
Googlebox has officially taken off and become part of English culture, with people at work talking about someone who’s watching the television. It’s intriguing, absurd and also pretty groundbreaking.
I worked on the first series of Gogglebox, through the production company called Studio Lambert. At the time I joined, I was a nearly fresh faced researcher, who was used to sitting in front of the computer for long stints of time, or searching through footage on Big Brother for some juicy clips for the sister shows.
As I started work, we were in the final stages of casting. Whilst I wasn’t directly involved with the casting, we (myself and the other researchers and producers) were asked to sit down and watch audition tapes of the families and give our feedback on who we thought worked well, and who perhaps weren’t so strong. We were also asked to take a look at the camera angles, and to watch a taster tape that had been created with some funny content as a feel for what the show was going for. It was definitely a rough diamond, with a lot to be confirmed.
I think that’s the beauty of a show like Gogglebox. It wasn’t really pushed for big things, it was just an interesting idea and ended up succeeding; combining a good mix of reality and entertainment, which ended up being pushed to prime time. I also don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ll see it in America soon as well.
After the casting phase was completed we were assigned areas of England to cover. There was a South team, a London team, a North team and a floating team. I was in the floating team, which involved a lot of travelling, but it meant that I also got to see a few more of the people taking part in the show and it was a really nice show to work on.
The actual filming involved going to the families houses and setting up a mini ‘gallery’ in an adjacent room, which would run wires through to two hot head cameras in the living room, placed either side of the television. They would all be miked up and then we’d brief them on what they’ll be watching that day. Everything for one week would normally be recorded in one evening of TV watching, or for popular families, we might come back and film them twice that week. Studio Lambert would be given DVD’s of shows in advance that were due to air that week and apart from the news or live shows (such as X-factor), and the Gogglebox families would sit down for an evening of television. That meant that we’d have to ask families to change their clothes if what they were watching was supposed to be on a different day to the previous show.
Whilst the family is watching the TV, we’d be in the pop-up gallery watching what’s going on. The crew consisted of a Hot head operator, a sound man, a producer/director and a researcher. The producer/director would tell the hot head director who to focus on, as one camera would be on a locked off wide shot, whilst the other would be looking for those close shots that the show loves to feature, whilst the researcher would be live logging (transcribing). After the shoot, the logs would be sent to the edit, along with the footage and with recommendations of particular highlights to use.
Some fond memories of working on Gogglebox include being cooked a meal by Leon and June, having to set up the equipment in tiny areas of people’s houses whilst trying not to knock anything over, some beautiful country pubs on the road, and getting to know some really nice families.