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Behind the Magic


Last Saturday, Boyfriend and I had free tickets to go and watch ‘Catchphrase’ being filmed. For those not in the know, Catchphrase is a Saturday night TV show from the 80s which has recently been re-done. It involves contestants seeing an animation on a big screen and identifying the catchphrase. For example, we saw one where a guy was having a drink in a pub with a big cheque. Answer? Checkmate. (A mate who is a cheque!) Literally, “say what you see”. Simples!

The show is actually about 20 minutes long once you add in the advert breaks. We were in the studio for three hours. It was a lot more interesting than we expected. The set was a lot smaller than it looks on TV, and you get to see just how much is re-shot. Sometimes over and over. The presenter would say a sentence, pause, then repeat it slightly differently without missing a beat. Of course in the final cut, it would look seemless.

At the end, the presenter was filmed making puzzled faces at the camera, and pointing to where the contestants had been and saying their names over in various ways, and making random comments. This, of course, will be cut into the final edit and it will look like he’s reacting to the contestants in front of him, when he was really talking to thin air!

It wasn’t just three hours of watching bits be re-filmed. There was a lot of breaks and set checks and things, and we had a great entertainer to chat to the audience and keep us amused between filming. He would jump in any moment filming was over. It was great.

So, why am I talking about this? Other than it’s something different to do on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon, it goes to show just how much goes on behind the scenes that the audience never knows about. This is the same with other TV shows, movies, and even writing. How many times have you edited something, only to move whole chapters about? How many times have you inserted a character half way through and had to go back and enter the backstory afterwards? Have you ever written the ending first? This is all behind the scenes goings on that the audience (the reader) never sees. These are the secrets behind the front image. The audience doesn’t get to see the sweat and blood and rewrites and edits. They don’t get to see the swearing, the bad times, the times when nothing goes right. They don’t see the characters who just won’t behave.

The audience only sees the final product.

But that’s okay. It wouldn’t be as sexy if they saw behind the scenes. No-one wants to see an author slumped over a stained desk in their favourite oversized PJs, half a mug of cold forgotten coffee by their hand. They want to see the shiny prettiness when you’ve done the hard work.

And likewise you don’t always want to see what a mess your favourite TV show is before you get involved in it. But sometimes it can be fun to understand the effort that goes into something you enjoy. It can be enlightening.

If you have the chance, be nosey. It doesn’t always ruin the magic, and you might get an interesting insight into the unknown.

And if someone asks to see how you work out of curiosity, think about letting them. They might learn from you.

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