(From May 27 – June 2nd issue)
Here is a nice story about the real and sometimes unreal world of television and production. Some time ago I did some work for a BBC television crew that was in the province. They were doing a story on the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland and the moratorium. My role was that of “fixer” and field producer.
BBC didn’t know anyone in Newfoundland and didn’t know where to begin to tell their story, but I did. I knew where all the bones were buried and where everything was that would help them in the direction of telling a good yarn.
First stop of course was Petty Harbour. It is a “de rigueur” made-to-order location for visiting film crews. Nice beauty shots and a quick drive from the St. John’s hotels. Nice pictures of and thoughts from people displaced from the cod fishery. Petty Harbour was quickly becoming something of a movie set with everything except permanent lighting in the harbour. Quidi Vidi was also a great place for shots to make the BBC piece come alive.
The BBC crew were good chaps who didn’t have a clue about Newfoundland. They didn’t know who to interview or where to go to tell the story, but I did. I hired a boat for them in Petty Harbour to take them out “on the water” and arranged for a couple of interviews with “fishing interests” in a shed down on the wharf. Yes, we also went for fish and chips in St. John’s. Up to Leo’s. The BBC crew loved it. I even made a few calls and got ourselves admitted to a Sunday morning Mass for some local colour. That too was Petty Harbour.
We wrapped the whole thing up in a couple of days. The BBC people never did learn to say the word “Newfoundland” correctly, but that didn’t matter. While it all sounds a bit false and staged they did tell the story of the moratorium correctly for the viewers in Britain. They also paid me well for my efforts and I paid some of the participants in the piece for their time. Everybody was a winner.
That mirrors my thoughts on Anthony Bourdain and his take on Newfoundland. I know not many of us throw axes. We don’t eat nice meals in our sheds. The “screech-in” as a Newfoundland thing is still almost cringe-worthy and Anthony did get the name of the restaurant Chafe’s Landing wrong and never did get a good grip on pronouncing “Newfoundland.” There were some little things like that, but he DID seem to get his fingers somewhere near the pulse of Newfoundland.
In the end Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown was a television piece that told a part of Newfoundland’s story in a small way to the world just as the BBC story did some years ago. It was pretty good.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]