10,000BC – Behind The Scenes Part 4

Now I don’t think Mel needs any introduction but she was Steve’s number two at the start, we just didn’t see any footage of that (See Part 2) and then when he left, Mel stepped into the vacant leader position.

Everyone I have spoken to from the tribe has spoken highly of Mel, and at the end of this guest post there are some Final Five comments to confirm that.

So here you are…..


I think most of the camp mates would agree when I say, ‘watching a series in which you took part in, is a frustrating exercise’. In fact to watch a very heavily edited version of your life events can, I’ve found, occasionally mar the actual experience; changing perspectives of our memories and the victories that we earned during a pretty hard two months.
Since the show began, Twitter has been a constant source of joy and anger. It is a brilliant tool for an audience to engage with a show at distance; however it is also a platform that permits and even encourages some negativity. 
It’s easy to judge and this provides people the ability to ‘sling-mud’ and slander from afar. I know that in my contributing to this blog I am in fact fuelling the debate but I hope at least to address some of the criticism towards us.
Whilst debate can be very positive and should be encouraged; insults and rudeness are not part of a healthy or constructive debate. I understand this was an experiment, based on observation and that was therefore guaranteed to start discussion. Yet it’s easy for an audience to forget that we were just twenty people trying to do our best. 
Its true things did not go to plan. Yet this was never due to our laziness or for a want to ‘coast’ along. We all wanted this project to be a success; just as much as the production did. 
Two months is a long and valuable amount of time for anyone to invest on a project. Therefore I’m going to address a few of the subjects I have been asked about over the last ten weeks. I’ll try to explain why, from my perspective, we made certain choices within the camp.
Subjective viewing/Editing
First and foremost I would like to highlight something that everybody who chooses to watch and engage with reality TV shows, should really already know. This is an edited program; narrative and structure are added in the editing suite and very rarely do they convey the reality and complexity of a real life situation. 
I understood this going into the show. I had no illusion otherwise. That said, I have watched most of the show quite wide-eyed and frustrated. There’s truth in every second but without the context surrounding the events, I barely recognise my experience from the one on your TV screens. 

The general consensus among the cast was that the show would have been very different if we had been trained. I agree with this whole heartily; as just a week before I left I was given a “Training Guide”. This consisted of a booklet and a DVD and maybe this should have been a clue about what we were really wading into. 
I love being outdoors, as did many of the participants. Though I would never claim to be remotely expert on these things, I know how to look after myself in a ‘wild/outback’ situation. So I was looking forward to the two months being potentially gruelling. As I really wanted to be pushed to my limits. 
I’m not a middle-ground kind of girl. If I’m going to do something, I do it right and to the very best of my ability. So receiving a printout of You tube links and a couple of pages on what was edible on the forest floor was really quite a worrying start.
I believe it’s unhealthy to ruminate on anything; including what this adventure could, would or should have been. Yet I do know that whilst we received survival training materials, we were never trained in the importance of organisation and the need for social mobility in this situation. So the first few days were pure chaos!
When confronted with a situation, whereby every individual is trying to shout the loudest, for fear of not being heard, I found quite petrifying. If we had started with a calm and logical centre point, that we had gained from a real training experience together or through our cohesive knowledge base; then maybe we could have become more of a team from the start.
I also acknowledge that: yes it was chaos, yes mistakes were made and yes for the most part we ran around like headless-chickens; practically licking trees and wondering whether we could eat it, burn it or save it! However there were times very early on where we did bond and come together as a team. 
It’s just a shame that the edit decided to focus on the very small amount of drama. (I mean there’s almost a whole episode over a human shit?!)
This disregarded what was happening with the majority of the camp. As those moments of collaborative effort showed the best of what the camp and its occupants could be. I guess it’s just easier to sell a story of failure.
When I came into the project I knew nothing of what it was going to be like. My preconceptions went to the extreme of likening it to a Bear Grylls, celebrity-style, survival program or some adventure like scenario. 
I had visions of being dropped in the middle of the Scottish highlands with nothing. No clothing, no food, no tools and being left to it. As you see this was clearly not what the program was. It was in fact much better than this. It was flawed but still a better concept. 
I was amazed we had been given so much! I was foolish in my previous expectation; this was never meant to be a survival program, (it became one, it really did!) it was intended as a platform to see whether 21st century man can live in 10000bc. This didn’t mean it was about living and dying by the success of our next hunt, it meant survival together, testing whether we can live as a community and dealing with the hardships our ancestors could have faced together
Overcoming our current built-in, fast-food, rapid-response, high expectation lifestyles’ and seeing if we could let go of our modern sensibilities. I believe now, these were the hurdles all of us faced and that many of us fell at. We expected to thrive, we expected to be brilliant; no-one willingly walks into hell with a smile and though we knew it was going to be difficult, we had visions of becoming the ultimate badass and truly mastering our environment. Why step up to a challenge unless you think you can master it?
When the intervention came on day ten, I was disappointed. It felt like we had failed already. I understand peoples criticism; their expectations had matched my initial misconceptions, but what I don’t think was particularly well exemplified was other peoples grit, the drive to make this work. We didn’t take the boosted rations thinking, “Great! This is our safety net. We needn’t try so hard as production will just bail us out.” We thought we cannot let this happen again. 
There had been so many pitfalls in the first few days: the loss of the deer meat, the ill fitted and badly produced clothing as well as the insufficiently tanned skins we had which lead to the maggot infestation, were just a few! 
We felt like it wasn’t just the environment against us but circumstance too. Yet none of us wanted to break-apart what was promising to be a potentially life changing event. Again… Yes production had to intervene, and yes it changed the dynamic of the show but this wasn’t the death of the experiment for most of us on it. 
People can sit astride an intellectual ‘high-horse’ and question the validity of the show but I think these people fail to question how realistic the experiment could be in the first place. Trying to replicate a nomadic people who lived in a mind-set of prepping for months if not years ahead, just to survive. 
Tribes who would have had a stock of food for the harsher months, a people who had a largely different physicality as they did these tasks daily. They were a unit who hunted in large groups, in well-known areas. We are and were none of these things and no amount of reading would have prepared us for this hardship. 
The short-fall is that we did not start this experiment in spring, when food may have been bountiful, nor did we have years to hone our bodies for hunting and hardship, or even months together to bond and learn the skills we needed. The short fall was, we are 21st century people and we struggled like hell and that was the whole point!

When I first became involved in this whole project my initial excitement was about the hunting aspect. This may come as unexpected to viewers. As I feel the edit portrayed me to be anti-hunting, which isn’t particularly fair or accurate. I actually wanted to hunt. 
I wanted us to be completely successful and I found it was portrayed that in some sense I was quite happy for us to live off nuts and berries because it was the easy option. However this is far from the truth.
I did take control of the rations but this wasn’t to ‘eek’ them out for as long as possible. It was to avoid what had previously happened within the first few days of the experiment. 
I’ve taken a lot of criticism via social media over this choice and it is easy to disregard what it meant to take this control and responsibility. It was difficult to be “that girl” – what I felt was the voice of reason in a dire situation. 
I was hungry low energy and struggling, yet the edit does nothing to show the work we all did to prevail. Every single day was an uphill haul but only the hunters were shown in this light. No mention is given to those doing the lake trips, the fire wood collection and the root digging that is so massively physical and draining and happened every day.
I wasn’t particularly comfortable in this role. I can organise, as this is essential to my everyday life but I’m not a natural ‘manager of people’. I am terrified of confrontation and of offending anyone. On numerous occasions we as a group discussed what to do about the food we’d been given and no one wanted to take ownership, or make a decision. If at some point the group had decided to eat everything and see what happens; I would have supported that. But the truth of the matter is, that isn’t what we did. 
It became a matter of survival and being realistic about the situation. My favourite comment on our chances of making a kill and our hunting technique, made by one of our rangers there was “It’s like your trying to do rocket science, when you don’t know how to read.”
The entire time we were there I saw one pheasant. The small game we had hoped for just didn’t seem to exist! And yes there was mice but we discovered later on that they were not safe for consumption as they may carry tuberculosis… 
So we hedged our bets on what we had. Rather than on what was becoming increasingly a futile exercise in the circumstances. This can be criticised but this was the reality of the situation. 
It wasn’t just a TV show to us; after the weeks had ticked by everything became very real. Our small world became all we had and surviving it became a matter of holding on and buckling down. A very real and a very human reaction.

Typical day

A typical day was not monotonous but very structured. It always felt like we were fighting for daylight and against the dark. Every day we had certain regular goals we needed to achieve, just to ensure tomorrow would be possible for us. 
First and foremost was the firewood collection. I found it’s easy to underestimate how much wood is required to maintain a fire burning 24/7; not to mention the amount of wood required to create ember beds large enough for cooking on.
After all this came the specific goal for each day. This changed depending on what was required. Some days, usually every third day, we would take a trip to the lake. This was for food and cat-tail roots, whilst others would forage or shore up the camp. Whilst this may seem frivolous from outside. It was essential for our sleep, which was something we were all struggling with. 
It may be easy to assume we lazed around in an attempt to preserve energy, this is far from the truth. I honestly can’t think of one day where I stopped. We created ‘Stand-down Saturday’ – Where a few members choose to lie in. We also had ‘Honey Wednesdays’ the day when we ate Honey rations in the morning.  Though these in my experience were not particularly restful, it gave the tribe as a whole something to look forward too.
The evenings were dominated with preparing the evening meal and ensuring we were prepared for the night ahead in regards to fire wood.  We tended to turn in relatively early by modern day standards. We would try to complete tasks by firelight but this was surprisingly difficult and exhaustion usually won out!
The nights were a systematic routine of: Sleep a couple of hours. Wake up and realise you can’t see the fire. Panic that it’s gone out. Get up and find the embers, then get it going again. 
Once we were all sleeping the tepee after the intervention, this responsibility mostly fell-down to myself and Mike. Many times I would take this as an opportunity for some ‘alone time’ and these peaceful moments are something I sorely treasure from the whole experience.

I was always reluctant to be referred to as a leader. It’s a term that can be tainted with negative connotations and puts a lot of pressure on an individual. 
The edit seemed to hide most of us girls for the first few weeks. Most of the social feedback surrounding me attempting to, “step-up” was that I seemed to come out of nowhere and that is somewhat true.
For the first few weeks I was frustrated with the manner in which the experiment was unfolding and so mostly kept my head down busying myself with chores that sorely needed doing. 
In that time I made satchels for foraging trips, attended lake trips, jerked meat. I also made alterations to the tepee customising it for so many bodies and narrowing the door way to help with heat problems. 
I was very much intimidated by this mass of people and didn’t feel capable to hold my own in the situation. Saying that, people did recognise my work ethic and there were some wonderful moments where many of us came together to help get tasks done. Particularly in regards to improvements of the tepee, in which I did tend to take a leading role.
After the snow there wasn’t really a moment where I felt it necessary to step up. It just happened naturally. The men were out with Klint, being shown traps for almost the entire three days and so I started taking charge within the actual camp. 
I understood the importance of organisation and was trying to give structure to our group. I was lucky that my camp mates were patient and supportive of me. I felt the pressure of wanting to provide the best experience for everyone involved. We all needed to be survivors here. 

Though we did develop a code word for the moments I may have gotten too big for my britches or too militant in general. The code word was “Roger“. In hindsight maybe our “safety word” shouldn’t have been something that left me ‘Roger-ed’. I blame cognitive failure on that one…

So there you have it. A pretty good round up of events by Mel there, I’m sure you agree.

And now we will bring the 10,000BC blog to a close with some comments about the final 5:

Going in to camp, for me, was a shock to the system! It hadn’t even crossed my mind of all the everything I would miss. I felt very unsettled for the first week or so and was unsure if this experience was for me; even though I would of stuck with it anyway.
Bobby was my main man and I was gutted when he left. He made us laugh with his out spoken words and his prayers for burgers and a cold can of coke. 
Mary and I were also very close in there and she actually came with me for moral support for my first time going to the… eeeeerrmm bathroom……which wasn’t until day 5! 
Me and Mumma (Josie) bickered a lot and so did JP  and I. He drove me nuts at one point but we had words and moved on. I think he saw me as a little sister that he could take his frustration out on but you just can’t help loving the lad. 
I stuck up for JP right from the beginning, when I thought he was being picked on by the rest tribe. He always stuck up for me too and that wasn’t shown enough in episode nine, he was there for me 100%. 
Melissa is just….. well super human! Such a talented girl and I feel she’s going to go far in life. Mel always praised me and mum which wasn’t shown either. She understood we were completely out of our comfort zone and admired how mentally strong we both were.
Mike is just the loveliest man ever. Such a family man, I felt I’ve known Effy and Little Legs (Mike’s wife and daughter) for years. 

Mel, well what a girl , so talented and she did so much more than was shown. Such a tough girl too . Mike, a great all rounder. Devoted husband and father, kind, helpful and honourable. JP !! I saw him grow up in 10000bc, he is so honest it’s brutal but a kind young man who stands up for what he believes in – the truth. We will remain good friends. And my beautiful daughter so strong , kind & tough.

The edit favoured a negative narrative about many of our tribe and I need to say a little about the remaining few. These guys made the experience what it was. Once the snow set in the option to walk away became unbearably attractive. I hope people can see past what’s portrayed on the screen and acknowledge the grit and strength of character it took to stick it out. Of the remaining five I was possibly more comfortable in the ‘alfresco’ lifestyle. So the determination it took from the others is even more commendable.
I found the show has been a little dire to watch; drawing attention to the hardships while distorting the reality. It was a human experience; the people made it what it was and what it was a privilege. We sung together. We joked together. We laughed together. We cared for each other. This was the best part of the 10,000 B.C. experience. Just as I’m sure it was the best part of life 12,000 years ago.

One thought on “10,000BC – Behind The Scenes Part 4

  1. Thanks, a very useful post.

    I've been camping in areas not too dissimilar to the game reserve for nearly 50 years. So, I've explored many similar areas looking to see what I could find and I could never understand why I couldn't find anything much at all apart from blackberries.

    So I was really looking forward to the program to find this magical “thing” that Mesolithic people must have eaten. So I was bitterly disappointed to find that even though you really put a huge amount of effort in you still had very much the same problems as I did.

    The more I hear the more it sounds to me that the area you were in and/or the season was just wrong. Strategically, the way to hunt is to start with a lot of traps for small game – because there's a high chance of success and you will quickly learn what works even if not very successful to start with. Then, as you work out which traps work, you've dot a higher chance with the few big traps you can make.

    I just couldn't understand why that did not happen. I assumed there were rabbits or birds which you were just ignoring. But now hearing that there was only one pheasant implies to me that this area was devoid of much game at all. And if there's not much game, that implies the area doesn't have much food. So I am increasingly convinced the area was a very poor quality piece of ground which in no way could maintain the tribe.

    However to be fair to the organisers that's probably not something I would have known beforehand. But it is perhaps one of the most important conclusions from the experiment – people just didn't live on poor quality ground like this.

    The other huge learning point which I never seriously considered was the social side. As someone interested in technology my real interested was in the Mesolithic “gadgets”. But seeing how the group didn't start working well together until it started acting as a group made me realise how important the social side of things are – I'd probably say more important that any technology.

    It really made me start to appreciate what human intelligence was for. I'd only really thought intelligence was about gadgets. Turns out that group intelligence really changes a bunch of losers into a bunch of survivors. All that bitching, politics, backbiting, social graces, grooming – all that stuff I really don't see much point in – is what made humans able to survive in marginal areas like this when other animals could not.



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