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I was recently invited on to ITV's This Morning with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby after the show had discovered my thrifty food blog, Millennial Hunter Gatherer. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. It was a great experience, but there are a few backstage secrets you might not expect...
1. It's all arranged at the last minute.
Despite the sleek, professional finish of the show, you might be surprised to learn it's all organised at the last minute.
ITV's This Morning had expressed an interest in my story the previous week, but they didn't confirm until 4 PM on the day before my appearance. Cue hurried packing at my house...
2. Even celebrity guests aren't set in stone.
You'd expect the professionals to have their slots lined up months in advance, but even these are subject to change.
Concerned that I'd meet someone famous but have no idea who they were, I asked the research team for the names of the other guests so that I could avoid an embarrassing moment the following day. They were happy to give me the run-down, but did stress that this wasn't confirmed.
3. As a guest, everything is organised for you.
Even for someone with a very small public profile, taxis are arranged, trains are booked, and hotels reserved.
All you have to do is throw a few things in a suitcase and wait for a driver to arrive at your door.
4. Once you're booked on to a show, you become "talent."
The driver who takes you to the studios will refer to you as "talent," giving your name to security as a kind of magic code to pass through the gates. Entering the building, you'll be welcomed by a smiling member of staff, who radios for a team member to escort you to the Green Room.
5. Everyone is full of kindness.
Without exception, everyone will be genuinely pleased to meet you. Of course, it's their job to be courteous and welcoming, but they really go above and beyond.
On a show like This Morning, the team greet multiple guests five times a week, yet nobody was jaded or even just polite and professional; it was enthusiastic smiles and welcomes all round, and even the hair and makeup team had read up on me. Several of the people I'd spoken with on the phone the day before came to introduce themselves, and all shared in my excitement at being on TV for the first time.
6. The Green Room isn't green.
It's smaller than you expect, but very welcoming. The Green Room host makes you a cup of tea, and you wait with real celebrities!
Along with professional models and regular guests of the program, I sat opposite celebrated actress Lily Collins.
7. They put makeup on your neck.
Yep. Strange but true. It isn't just your face that's given a makeover ready for the cameras, but they warm up the skin tone of your neck ready for the bright studio lights, too.
8. You needn't avoid the pastries in the Green Room.
Back in the green room waiting for your call, you might not dare to take even a sip of water in case you disturb the flawless makeup, but you needn't worry: as I stood off set just before my slot, someone from the makeup team reapplied lipstick and powder, and perked up my hair.
9. All is calm.
Although the guest list and running order is confirmed at such short notice, the day itself runs like a smooth, well-oiled machine. You might expect some level of chaos to be involved in the making of a live show, but it couldn't have been a more serene environment.
10. Tranquillity reigns.
Just off set, everyone whispers. Even during commercial breaks, the crew speak in low voices. Couple that with the smiles and welcomes that I mentioned earlier, and it's hard to imagine a more relaxing environment. Even the monitor for the crew to watch is turned down low, so it's hard to hear what the other guests on set are saying as you peep through the open doors waiting for your turn.
11. It's easy to forget that you're miked-up.
The microphone pack hooked onto your waistband isn't at all heavy and cumbersome, although I do wonder where they'd have put mine if I'd have opted for a shift dress rather than trousers...!
12. The set itself is more like a room than a stage.
Without a studio audience, the set doesn't need to be raised, or have a "front." The cameras move around inside the room to follow the presenters as they interview the various guests, rather than capture them from the edge. There were no stage directions, even amongst the professionals. No one mentioned "stage left" or "wings," but instead the floor manager and presenters simply talked about the sofa or the coffee table. And the big windows at the back of the room? They're screens.
13. Clocks are everywhere.
Every camera has a large digital time displayed beneath it. During advertisement breaks, the Floor Manager murmurs the number of minutes and seconds left. She has no need to raise her voice any further, because, as I said earlier, everyone works softly and peacefully. Contrary to what the movies will tell you, no one shouts "action" on a live TV show.
14. You forget you're in front of an audience of one million viewers.
In the ad break before your slot, the presenters have an informal chat with each guest. They've really read up on everyone, and their enthusiasm and interest isn't just reserved for the cameras.
Having had nothing but a pleasurable experience so far, the hosts are so skillful in putting you at ease that the crew and cameras melt into the background. The one million viewers watching live from their homes do not even cross your mind. You simply chat with the presenters, who draw out the stories with artful spontaneity, then round off the interview with charming and practised ease.
15. Selfies are fine.
The crew are happy for you to hang around off set waiting to take a photograph or two with the presenters, even apologising for the delay! Someone from the crew will even find a moment to take a couple of snaps for you.
16. There's always someone to look after you.
TV slot done, one of the team will escort you through the maze of corridors and stairs to collect your belongings from the Green Room, before helping you to carry them back up to the talent entrance where your car is waiting.
With smiles and thanks all round, I stepped out into the warm sunlight of a fine spring day outside Television Centre, and sat back in the taxi as the driver smoothly negotiated the roads past Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and over the Thames to drop me at the station, where my pre-booked ticket put me straight on the platform to get home. A completely stress-free experience.
Find out more...
If you're intrigued to know why ITV's This Morning loved my blog, head to www.millennialhuntergatherer.com
If you'd like to see my interview on the show, here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8pRGXJajIw&t=6s