Monday, August 3, 2015

That's A Wrap

Photo by @hicksm6
We finished filming Series 3 of Modern Life Is Goodish last week.

Blimey. That was an intense few months.

There isn't an easy way of making eight hour long shows. Making the powerpoint files - I reckon there are around 3,000 slides in a series - is always going to be time consuming. In the last couple of months there have been a fair few days where I've started work at 10 in the morning and not finished work until 3 or 4 the next day... and then only to get some kip as I lie in the passenger seat of a car as we head out to a small theatre for a dry run.

But there's no getting away from the fact that making the shows work live first is the best way of making them work on TV. And putting several hundred slides together - and trying to do it well - just takes a long time. I wish I could see a shortcut through it - but there isn't one I can see that doesn't chip away at the end result in some small way.

Photo by @thatsafineidea
I wanted to let the dust settle a bit before I talked about something that I've had a lot of comments on: the ticketing for the series.

It seems that this series, more people have been turned away and a lot of people have been sending me messages full of anger and outrage at the fact that the show has been - according to them - massively oversubscribed.

I don't think that's a completely fair reflection on what's happened. I'll try and explain.

They issued the same number of tickets for all the shows this year as they did for all of the shows  last year.

This year, the most we turned away was around 80 or 90 people. But on one occasion it was only 30ish. That's still more than I'd like to see turned away. But then, last year, issuing the same number of tickets meant that on one of our four recordings (we do two shows in a night) we didn't turn anyone away and we could have squeezed a handful of extra people in.

The factor that varies so much is not the number of tickets issued. It's the number of people who turn up.

For reasons that I don't quite understand, tickets for recordings are free. They always have been. I imagine they always will be. I like the idea in principle - after all, there's an income involved in the making of the TV show that has nothing to do with any ticket revenue.

But it also creates a problem. If you get a free ticket to something and then decide that you can't be bothered on the day... well, so what? If there's football on the TV? Or your babysitter cancels? Or you find yourself in a sunny beer garden and your mate's just got a round in? Or you weigh up the idea that you might not get in anyway and so decide not to spend the money on a train fare? There are no consequences. So people ask for tickets... only to then not use them all the time.

And this happens to pretty much every TV show that has a live audience. I know of one show - a big rating, popular show that has an audience of around 400 people. It regularly issues in excess of 3000 tickets. It rarely has to turn away more than 20 people and sometimes isn't full. That's a hell of a lot of people taking tickets and then not using them. And nobody knows until the day who is and who isn't going to come along.

I suppose they could try issuing 2500 tickets for their show. But what if the 500 tickets they didn't issue were the ones that would have gone to the 500 people who would have turned up... and they ended up only issuing tickets to the 2500 who don't bother?

On Modern Life Is Goodish the audience - there are around 200 of them - are in between the cameras and me. If we end up being 50 people down it will affect all of the shots. Having a full house is essential.

How would you solve this mathematical conundrum? The one thing that I know would solve it - selling the tickets - isn't allowed. It has to be based on guesswork and previous attendance rates. Which is what it is based on. Sometimes there's no excess. Sometimes there's a relatively large excess. That's down to the randomness of human behaviour and has nothing to do with those issuing the tickets.

I wish every one who requested tickets would just turn up. But over time, I've come to accept that this just isn't the case. Sometimes 30% of people show. Sometimes it's 80%. Most of the time it's somewhere in between.

Many years ago, when I made my first TV series - The Dave Gorman Collection - a decision was made to not over-subscribe the tickets for the first recording. We were in a tiny studio that could accommodate just 100 people. My mailing list at the time was tiny. So small that I could remember many of the email addresses. Because the gigs I was doing were in smaller venues I also knew a lot of their faces. Everyone felt so certain that because all the people asking for tickets were from that mailing list, they would all come and it would end up being rude to massively oversubscribe. So we issued 110 tickets for the first recording. 50 people turned up. The other seats were eventually occupied by people who had been turned away from an oversubscribed recording of Goodness, Gracious Me. They didn't seem thrilled by the idea of watching someone they'd never heard of, doing something a bit weird rather than a series of sketches by the people they'd been excited about when they left the house that evening.

It's the 60 people who didn't turn up that night who are the problem. It would be so much better if we could issue 200 tickets for these recordings and do so in the confidence that they'd all show up. But we can't. Because they simply don't. But at every recording this series - significantly more people got in than didn't. In fact, the number of people turned away is not only smaller than the number of people getting in... it's also smaller than the number of people who are requesting tickets but not showing up. Which illustrates how unpredictable people are.

It's an imperfect system. But when 280 people turn up. That's not because the ticketing people issued 80 tickets too many. On another night, they could issue 80 tickets less and end up with a theatre with only 120 people in it. There isn't a way of knowing who will and who won't show in advance. If there was - we'd issue 200 tickets to the right people.

Oddly, one of the people who sent a very angry email about not getting in to one of the Series 3 recordings did have tickets for one of the shows in Series 2 also. But they didn't turn up that time. In their head, we were supposed to issue two more tickets for the series 2 recording because we should have predicted they weren't coming... but issue  two less tickets for the series 3 recording because we should have predicted they were.

None of us likes to see people turned away. But insisting that we should have known how many people would show up and therefore could have done something about it in advance just doesn't add up. One thing we do do is ensure that anyone turned away on the day is offered a guaranteed seat at a future recording. But do you know what - some of the people who request that, then don't show up for that... and so the prediction game remains as difficult as it ever was.


Anonymous said...

Have always wondered about this, and how something free automatically becomes of less value. Personally I accept with TV recordings that you know there is a risk of not getting in and always have a plan B for the night. Out of curiosity what are the reasons for not charging for tickets?

Unknown said...

I came all the way up from Exeter to be at one of the recordings for Series 3, and because we'd travelled so far, we made sure we were queuing several hours early to avoid disappointment. While we felt a little bad for the people we saw turned away, we figured that they had exactly the same opportunity to be there queuing early the same as us. There is no perfect system, and besides, nothing in life is ever completely fair. We had a brilliant time, and enjoyed every second. Can't wait to see it on television.

Jess said...

Would it be allowable to charge a deposit that is fully refunded at the door? It might reduce the number of people asking for a ticket with the view that they 'might' feel like going on the day, leaving you with those with a serious interest.

I work in the NHS - there is undoubtedly a small cohort of people who feel that because access to care is free at the point of use, our time is somehow of no value and they can abuse the service by asking for an appointment then not show up for the most spurious of reasons.


Chris said...

I once turned up to a recording of Goodish series 2 at 2PM. First in the queue. Its right it should be first-come-first served.

Aimee said...

We travelled from Norfolk to be at a Series 3 recording in May, and because we were coming so far and paying to stay over in a hotel, I emailed the ticket distributors asking what time we ought to be there in order to guarantee our place. They ended up giving us priority tickets (meaning we'd definitely get in so long as we turned up by a certain time) even though I didn't ask for them. If you are really coming, it might be worth contacting them, especially if you have made special arrangements to get there.
Also we had an amazing time and met some great fellow Gorman fans who we keep in touch with now via Facebook, so it was well worth the 3 1/2 hour coach journey!

Melanie said...

You can tell I have watched all your programs because I read this in your voice?

Unknown said...

It not the fact that there were a few more, it was the way it was handled.
We were treated like sheep most of the time queing in one place and then moving outside to que again, and then back in again, but you had to be there

Emma Corsham said...

I didn't manage to get in to the recording, and neither did my a friend 20 people ahead and a friend the week before. But that's to be expected with TV recordings. Luckily we'd all come from London, so I didn't feel nearly as hard done by as the pair in front of us who'd come down from Edinburgh!

It's such a tricky game of assumptions. Which is completely understandable why they need to issue out so many tickets.

Richard is right about the communication not being the best from the audience team. They were up against some grumpy people, but blaming it on "a large production guest percentage today" isn't reassuring anyone!

Still, they sorted me out with priority on Frank Skinner's The Rest Is History. Which was very good and I look forward to seeing this all on the telly :-)

Johns said...

" One thing we do do is ensure that anyone turned away on the day is offered a guaranteed seat at a future recording."

That wasn't the case in when we were turned away. We were told to come back in a few hours and hope to get in to the evening show if some people had left.

Anonymous said...

As anyone who has been on a train knows, just because a seat is booked and paid for - even at an inflated price - doesn't mean they'll turn up either.

Frame shots of audience for 250 seats, but give out 500 tickets. The excess can be there or not - it has no effect on the filming.

Dave Gorman said...

@Richard Grimsdale-Yates: "It not the fact that there were a few more, it was the way it was handled." That's not the issue I was blogging about. I was blogging my reaction to the many emails/tweets I've received from people telling me that "you obviously issued far too many tickets" etc etc. You have another issue. It doesn't negate this one.

Dave Gorman said...

@Johns did you ask? (Also, that wasn't bad advice. Most people stay for both shows, but occasionally someone with a train to catch leaves in the break.)

Marion said...

Hey Dave. Do you know when the new series is going to be shown on TV?

Kevin said...

In common with some others who have posted, I got in as I took the approach of turning up hours before to make sure I got in, but it was very unclear where the queue was going to be located and so my early arrival was a bit wasted, as the queue didn't form until an hour later and then it was in the wrong place, so we were relocated by way of a sort of mass conga and ended up some way back in the queue.

It would be great not to have to arrive so early. (That said, I have tried and failed to get Wimbledon tickets and that process is a lot trickier! I even tried writing the stamped addressed envelope incredibly neat in case it was secretly being judged!)

I was going to ask if a refundable deposit would be allowed, but I see that someone already suggested it. Maybe you could then over-subscribe to a lesser extent and if you are not allowed to keep the lost deposits, you could share it out amongst the people who were turned away as a consolation prize to cover their travel. Or make it more exciting by pulling the name of one 'turned-away' person out of a hat and give them all the cash!

Johns said...

Hi Dave Gorman, no, we didn't ask. That's not how offers work is it ;) Although the lady managing the queue did offer us a sweet each.

Anyway, if the offer still stands, I'm sure we'd overlook the omission.

Unknown said...

Dear Dave

I can help you with your problem. All the time it takes to make your utterly splendid shows which I have just found on Catchup. You said in one that you would be back after the break "in a few short minutes". Here's your problem. Short minutes, I presume, have fewer seconds than the standard ones that most of us use. Less time to do stuff. Switch to standard length minutes. Or if you have been using the short ones, see if your supplier can supply you with long minutes, for especially busy times.

Just a thought

The shows are wonderful


Anonymous said...

We qued for the last recording on series three and where just inside the gate. I was thinking we would have no problem getting seats only to be numbers 36 and 37 on standby when we got to the desk. Lots of production guests apparently. The girl on the desk was really apologetic even though it wasn't her fault. It just shows no matter how early you arrive there is no guarantee of a seat. We were a little disappoint but knew the rules so made up for it with a few nice pints in The Elgin on the way back to the station.
Easier said than done but ignore the angry messages. I wouldn't have thought real fans would want to upset you.
Fingers crossed for series four tickets. All the best Dave.

Anonymous said...

I hate audience shots. Don't need to see other people's reactions to the jokes. It's like a tiny version of Gogglebox, and I hate that too.
If this system has to keep going you could always have a video stream to another room with a few chairs in it, so people can at least watch it if they want to.
Other solution is to chose a better venue. Plenty of places where you have visible seats close to the stage and lots of seats further back the cameras can't see, it wouldn't matter if they were full or empty.
I love the show so much that I would be absolutely gutted at wasting a whole day travelling and not getting to see it.

Dave Gorman said...

@Anonymous: there isn't another room in the venue that could be used for overspill. You're suggestion of other venues doesn't take into account the affect on atmosphere. Of course it matters if there are empty seats out of view. I'm not a robot. I don't just say the words, regardless of the way the audience are reacting... it isn't like pressing play on a tape recorder. The words come out slightly differently and with slightly different timing from night to night because of the particular audience I'm performing to. An audience starts to think as one - and it gives them a unique timing and it's my job to tune into that. If you put 100 people out of shot in a space built for 200 people you've fundamentally changed the atmosphere and the timing.

This is also the reason why sparingly used audience shots are useful. If it was just a lecture to the camera it would be performed differently. Those people you see in those shots are the reason the performance you're watching is that particular version of a performance!