Television director Mike Parker talks to Harlow College journalism and media students about his journey as a TV professional, and the shows he has produced in the past.
FROM travelling the world with Peter Andre to producing hit shows like The Jump and Geordie Shore, Mike Parker has definitely lived life to the full.
Mike, who has been an industry professional for a number of years, shared his wisdom with the students, reflecting on his triumphs and revealing his tips and tricks to navigate the rigorous TV industry.
Mike received his first big break in television when he landed the role of shooting researcher and later assistant producer on Katie Price and Peter Andre’s fly on the wall reality show: When Jordan Met Peter, which followed the celeb couple’s hectic, scandalous relationship that gripped the UK’s hearts for years. In the four years he worked for Katie and Peter, Mike insisted that this period of time was where he really learnt his craft in terms of shooting film.
“I was running around the country with them, filming in cars, on boats, planes – anything you could think of. That was my first big shooting role which made me who I am today.”
Mike insisted he sits firmly on Team Pete as opposed to Price which earned some laughs amongst the students.
After A levels, most student take a gap year to travel the world. As the TV industry is so fast paced, it can be difficult to find time to get away and important opportunities could be at risk. Mike on the other hand claimed that the TV industry is perfect for seeing the world whilst also earning a wage.
Following the split between Andre and Price in 2009, Mike was given the opportunity to work on the spin-off show, Peter Andre: My Life.
He said: “Pete is a lovely bloke. We went to some amazing hotels, like Australia, Dubai, South Africa, America. It was a great experience because it was quite a small team, we were all mates, and we were filming some really nice stuff and travelling the world.
“When you get to travel with work, you have to pinch yourself because you can be in some amazing places in the world but because you’re working you can forget that you’re standing on top of a mountain. You think: ‘God, I’d pay money to come here and do this for a holiday but now I’m actually doing this for work.’”
Another huge step for Mike was producing Channel 4’s hit skiing show The Jump, which saw a number of notable stars including gymnast Beth Tweddle, cyclist Bradley Wiggins, and television personality Joey Essex. As an avid skier himself, Mike snapped up the offer to work on The Jump.
He joked about the extreme filming setup he had to partake in, saying, “You’re basically chasing celebrities down a mountain on your skis or on your snowboard all day long. Skiing and holding the camera.”
Bradley Wiggins appeared on series 4 of the skiing show, which Mike shot and produced. He shared his experience dealing with the retired cyclist, with Mike describing him as a “bizarre character”. Mike reflected on how Wiggins came into the show thinking he was going to be the best skier because he has prior experience. But when fellow contestant and television personality Spencer Matthews was racing past him, he wasn’t best pleased.
“I think because he is so used to being all about himself on his bike, when he’s around other people he’s a bit socially awkward. There was a moment when I was following him and he really didn’t want to be filmed. Warren the instructor was getting him to do some ridiculous routine and he speaks into his mic: ‘I used to be a f****** Olympic champion and now I look like an absolute prat.’ You just think, that is absolute gold.”
Mike couldn’t stress enough the importance that journalism has in the world of TV.
“Inevitably the shows that I do, reality shows, factual entertainment shows, you’re interviewing people, trying to get really good content out of them. Some people are very giving and some people aren’t. You have to get under the celebrity’s skin and have that journalistic way of interviewing someone, it is really key.
“A skill that I learnt from a series producer that I’ve done a few shows with, she’s always said: after you ask a question, you need to ask why? Why are you okay? Why are you feeling like that? Keep quizzing and never give up until you feel like you’ve got the right answer in your head.”
Filming for TV shows is a combination of doing what feels right in the moment and planning for the edit. The right footage has to be filmed in the correct way, especially whilst working with A list celebrities; there isn’t a huge margin for error.
“When you’re filming, you learn something new every time you pick the camera. Initially you get too focused into the technical aspect of what all the buttons do on the camera etcetera and forget actually you’ve got to film a sequence here, you have to produce something that you’re going to give to an editor to cut.”
However while knowledge is important. Having a good personality is more important in the long run, especially in the TV industry.
“It’s about how you are if people like you and get on with you, and whether you show that you’ve got enthusiasm. You don’t necessarily have to tick all the boxes in terms of skill set, it’s more about being personable, it’s about being really keen, about having a smile on your face because at the end of the day, TV is all about people.”
Mike Parker (Left) is seen in the photograph above with friend and producer, Naomi Channell (Right).