In tonight’s 3rd and penultimate Behind The Scenes blog I have included some written pieces from the tribe that didn’t fit into the first two categories but are both important and interesting all the same.
It’s easy enough for us, as viewers, to be armchair experts when watching any show but sometimes we don’t know the whole story and it is at this point that narrative on social media can unnecessarily harsh.
Below are pieces from Tom, Mike and one member of the tribe who wishes to remain anonymous:
I was first contacted about the show after I had put a picture of me sleeping in a cave, from a video I had just put up on my You Tube Channel – Treadertube.
Someone had come across me on Instagram and thought I may be suited to this new prime time show for Channel 5, that they working on. They explained that it would be about a group of modern day British people, given the chance to experience what life was like at the beginning of time.
Reality TV is not for me and I didn’t want to be any part of that kind of show. So when I got a call from the Casting Producer I was keen to clarify what kind of show I would possible be taking part in. The Casting Producer assured me the show was being filmed as a ‘documentary’, no tasks or surprises. They’d be following our story, as that’s what appeals to a lot of people; it’s wouldn’t be like reality with hidden camera’s etc.
My fears were calmed! I wasn’t going onto a reality show, they’d said the magic word ‘documentary’! I’m aware of ‘structured reality’, ‘factual entertainment’, ‘docusoap’ and ‘docudrama’ as code names for ‘Reality’ but this wasn’t that!
Later on it was further described to me as a “History commission for Channel 5” and it was explained to me Channel 5 had been taken over by a big American Corporation that was beginning to raise the level of programming on the channel.
Naively I believed I’d be a part of something that really did aim to remove modern day people from their devices and get them to reconnect with a rural, hard but providing way of life. In hindsight I believed it because that’s what I wanted in my life; to ditch the laptop, the iPhone, the endless messages and the clocking-in clocking-out mentality.
Despite a love of all things ‘adventure’ the concept of throwing myself onto Bear Gryll’s The Island or similar does not interest me whatsoever. Why reduce myself to a starving, agitated mess for the voyeuristic pleasures and judgements of the general masses? I understand the desire to test oneself or push oneself to their limits but what I also understand is the altered reality that the presence of a camera brings, would the survivors of The Island still take part if it was just them, on their own, without any cameras?
Heading into the Stone Age
Eventually the morning of the experiment came and I woke with excited anticipation. Mostly riddled with the fear that I would be written off quickly by the others because of my floppy hair and quiet demeanour. My style isn’t Captain Flashheart crash-bang-wallop.
I’m quiet, observant and often mistaken for shy. I worried these traits would have me written off quickly but to attempt to be anything other than what I was, was not worth the hassle and a pretence that would not endure.
Joining the tail-end of a stretch of twenty odd taxis, parked in a curved formation in what felt like a pub car park I was to remain in the taxi for about 2 hours.
Peering out from my cab window I began distinguishing participants from production crew. Camera operators walked around poking their cameras in windows and I felt like a novel animal out of his natural habitat.
Eventually our group of 20 was divided between 4 Land Rovers and we met other participants for the first time. Whoever claims not to be judgemental is an idiot and should not be trusted. I made my opinions immediately and the resounding emotion was anxiousness as I felt that the assembled ‘cast’ were not the group of like minded individuals that would be willing to adapt to a wilder, primitive environment.
This is not to say they weren’t nice people! It just struck me that as a group we were not the right people to execute a successful couple of months of self-sustained living in the forest.
The Eagle Has Landed
Approaching every footstep and movement with caution, worried about making a bad impression and defining myself immediately as incompetent I was carefully aware of the cameras. Knowing that a lot of pressure laid on the production staff’s shoulders to get this day right, because today was episode 1. If episode 1 isn’t attention grabbing then who’ll tune in next week?
I assumed there would be some tricks, some challenge, something to cause a stir or get a rise. I was prepared to hand over all of my 21st century items and as I stood in a dispersed group facing Klint Janalus, (an ex American special forces guy), I collected my bundle of Mesolithic clothing and walked off to get changed in the cover of the woods.
The First Warning Signs
At first I bought into the idea of ‘authentic’ clothing, in for a penny in for a pound, I wanted an authentic experience and I was happy to wear these clothes, but after a second day the clothing looked more like costuming, as if it were borrowed from a low-budget historic representation of cavemen.
From all the research and reading I had done I found it difficult to believe that stone age man could render clay from dirt for pottery, build functioning communities and even take-down wild boar yet not cut and stitch a chamois into a t-shirt. I’m sure it looked good for PR shots and when we were all stood together it must have teased a smile from the faces of the Producers who had envisioned such a scene for a long while.
Walking together across the fields with Klint towards our camp he expelled advice. I kept close to him as I knew from experience that most of the best knowledge is dispensed at walking pace, it’s informal and off-the-cuff, when a leader addresses a group something becomes lost.
Klint was studying for his PhD in Stone Age techniques and communities so combined with that knowledge and the information the production staff would have given him he knew what we would be up against.
I liked Klint, out of site of the cameras he cussed and gave off a nervous energy, it felt a bit foreboding as if he was winging it.
And We Are A Go
Snaking across fields and up through a stream we finally arrived at the camp. Revealing itself through the camouflage of trees I saw a large straw teepee/wigwam dominating two smaller straw huts and a lean-to. Excitement rose and we dashed into the camp that had been built for us.
Bearing in mind that until this point no one knew what to expect, but my driver had let slip that there had been a lot of work that went into building the camp. It was an inspiring sight; an untouched Stone Age camp ready for action. As we closed-in some of us ran around whilst others peered on, our speeds of movement was mostly dictated to by our individual levels maturity.
I couldn’t keep a smile from my face and believed for the first time that I might have just been afraid of the unknown and perhaps the original concept I was sold was actually becoming a reality.
Like a herd of African game animals we smashed our way through the camp. Discovering and showing, moving and misplacing things, until the camera’s had caught enough of the excitement and Klint gathered us together for the final wrap-up before we were left to our own devices.
I was keen to fulfil Klints advice, he was, after all, the expert on Mesolithic culture and his suggestions were all for our benefit. You see the funny thing is that if our group was prepared to listen and take the advice as well as use our own initiative we would’ve made much better progress.
It would have been an actual success in terms of the programmes original proposition. But when you have a ten-part, two month, brand new show set to shoulder out Big Brother you can’t really have a group of people taking advice and using initiative. You need instability built-in but you need to count on that.
Although I have never worked on a ‘Reality’ TV show I understand that all stories are driven by conflict and drama. I argue that the conditions and environment would’ve been testing enough with a group of people more capable to deal with the premise, but that’s just not dramatic enough.
Someone breaking down because they’re dead fall traps have been unsuccessful for seven days straight just isn’t as juicy as someone stealing food. Everything gets reduced to the primitive and it’s the most simple formula possible: place a bunch of people without anything in common in a high-pressured environment and watch them crack.
All Klints’ advice was ignored. We fashioned no map, made no decent quantity of cordage. All over the camp there were items too specialised for our minds to comprehend.
You see, from my research and confirmed by Klint, was a fact that the Stone Age man was as clever as us, their cognition’s – their thinking – is the same as ours now. Not in terms of understanding, obviously we interpret the world different but to be simplistic about it; my point is that they had no less brain cells or capacity for learning. Our ancient ancestors were clever as hell! But you take 20 of them and leave them in a semi-detached for 2 months and you could guarantee they’d be dead by the 4th week!
Perhaps it was an oversight, or perhaps it was built-in to the format, but with zero training or preparation we were guaranteed failure before we event stepped foot into the camp. We were left dry-stored food that equalled a months calorific intake for 20 people (rationed, obviously), we ate it in a week.
We begun our journey into the Stone Age in the Autumn, when every foragable food source dies. My cynical side reduces this to the fact that with the imminent onset of winter we’d be under more pressure to secure food, rather than gleefully learning the art of finding edible plants we’d refocus on the attention-grabbing task of killing animals: a great way of polarising opinion and creating tension and conflict in the camp and in the living room.
We’d be more inclined to share body heat to stay warm at night, and basically our actions would be exaggerated by the difficult conditions.
Survival experts and assistants agreed with my bitter ramblings and said, diplomatically, that October, (autumn), was not the best time to start such an experiment.
There have been many tweets about how easy we had it with medical assistance, being given food and not being able to hunt efficiently. It annoys me that the edit hasn’t shown how hard it was, how we tried our hardest and just how badly our bodies reacted to the conditions.
We as a tribe worked for each other, strived for each other and cared for each other. This sadly doesn’t happen anymore in society and it worries me that this is the world my daughter will grow up in. I sound like I’m preaching but I’m not, although the situation was difficult, it brought out the best out of us. It seems to me that the easier life gets in the modern world, the worse people get towards not only each other and but also themselves.
The Other Side Of The Coin
Also I think it was unfair that production have been given such a bad rep by the public, they were there with us, in the highs and the lows; And if it wasn’t for them the show would never of been shown. Every single runner, soundie, camera person & production member did a brilliant job, not only capturing us but at times keeping our morale up when it seemed too dark to see.
Would I Do It Again?
Would I do it again? Your goddamn right I would! I loved the freedom from modern day stress it gave me, we don’t need a lot of the material things we crave. The question really should be would I do it differently? Your goddamn right I would! Or at least try to. I personally burnt myself out by trying to do too much on my own but I’d probably do that again as it’s in my nature to try and save other people from pain, be it physical or mental or suffering.
I can’t help it, it’s who I am. Is it s good thing? Probably not, but we can’t help who we are. I would love to something else like this, maybe a Bear Grylls type, with modern day equipment, there’s no way it could be as hard. I’m also not ashamed to say I loved my time on camera and would love to do more, but I think the old adage still rings true, nice guys finish last, so I won’t hold my breath.
Looking back it was the hardest thing I have ever done, both mentally and physically but it was worth it. I pushed myself further than I thought I could, to past breaking point, but I’ve found my limit and that’s not something many people can say now a days. I am proud of what we did as a family and I’m honoured to have met the people I did. My favourite person was Mel, an absolutely great person and someone I would do anything for both in there and out if she asked.
Production were so badly organised that the soon-to be tribe members were told that they had a place in the show but production weren’t sure when the show was going to take place. Initially it was meant to be in September but finally we were told we would be going in the last two weeks of October. They were clearly all over the place and from this point early on I was concerned.
At 7pm every night the crew would disappear back to ‘Base’, this was the hunting lodge about an hour away that you saw us evacuated to during the severe snow storm. We were told that there were ‘Rangers’ in the woods watching over us, at night, in case anything happened. It soon became apparent that there was no one around. We were simply left in the middle of the woods to fend for ourselves, surrounded by wild animals.
A senior member of the production crew was asked where these Rangers were as we hadn’t seen any them and they snapped back with “You’re not meant to see them, they’re here to look after you and not for you to see.
The reason we know there was no rangers was because if we wanted to go hunting they would have to arrange a ranger to come and supervise us, and we would have to give a days notice. Once we managed to get someone on the same day but we had to wait 4 hours ranger supervision to arrive.
After 6 weeks they decided to leave a radio, in case of an emergency, which was lucky because that was the night Paul got very ill and we had to radio for emergency help, 45 minutes later the medic arrived with crew.
The Break Before Reboot
We were treated like peasants from some of the crew. When we were evacuated we had to stay in the same lodge that all the crew stayed in. The first day we ate in the common room but after that day we were told we were banned from the common room and that we would have to eat in the hallway!
This is also were we slept, all of the men, for 7 nights and we weren’t supposed to leave the hallway. The girls were given a single bedroom to share.
The lodge experienced a power cut, due to the snow, and had to be run on a generator. At this point were were all banned from washing because of how much power was needed from the generator to heat the water. The crew took priority when it came to hot water and washing.
One evening I decided to go a try and get some milk from the common room as we had a kettle and a cup for each of us. I was spotted by one senior members in production who rudely pointed her finger at the door, just as I was in mid sentence asking for some milk, and shouted “OUT”!!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading all the tribe has had to say so far and I am really looking forward to tomorrows final Behind The Scene Blog, when Mel takes over with a guest post and a couple of the Final Five get to say their final bit too.
Thank you for reading