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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Developing yourself as a Character and TV Personality

"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."
Mark Twain 

Your probably thinking that the Hunting shows you see on TV are easily filmed; they go hunting and bring a camera with them to record what goes on. In reality, just like any other TV show or Movie, Outdoor TV shows take time and a lot of creative thinking before the TV personalities even set foot outdoors.

Successful storytelling is the essence of every successful Hunting shows or any show in general. Before you start to tell a story you need to know your Characters Traits (TV Personalities). Syd Field, in Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, states that, "Character is the essential foundation of your screenplay. It is the heart and soul and nervous system of your story. Before you put a word on paper, you must know the character." 

Lets take for an example that you are going to be the host of your own hunting show. You must first  develop your character personality. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Your appearance is everything. For example, if you are going to be this down-home boy from Kentucky, do not show yourself in a Tux in your show, this confuses your audience and draws them away from you because they can not connect with who you really are.  To make yourself into a compelling character you need to discover your 3 to 4 main Character traits. A TV Character that the audience usually responds best to has that one character trait that is unexpected. 

Lets look at Michael Waddell and discover his Character Traits and what makes him one of the most loved in the Outdoor Industry:

1. He has a passion for the Outdoors. He absolutely loves every aspect of the Outdoors. Michael has traditional values when it comes to hunting. He was taught and he believes that hunting is not about the trophy animals or the glitz and glamour as being on TV; it is about the camaraderie and appreciating the special feeling that comes from spending quality time in the outdoors. This allows him to make a compelling show about making bonds with other hunters and sharing the love for the outdoor. If he gets a kill than that just adds to the show, however, he can keep an audience entertained without having to get a trophy animal.
2. He has an out-going personality. He is an extrovert. He enjoys human interactions and he is enthusiastic, talkative and assertive. He loves spending time with his fellow hunters.
3. Comedian. If you have ever watched Bone Collectors you know that Michael Waddell has a sense of wit about him that makes him a fun-loving guy that you would want to be best friends with. He is a natural at being funny. Comedy is one of the most-loved traits of a Character, but also the hardest to pull off. Comedy is something that comes natural and you should never push it. Michael keeps his comedy to the appropriate level while on TV to appeal to a broad audience. Comedy is something that one should not create as a Character trait because you will most likely fail.
4. His unlikely trait that usually does not mix with the other is his Humbleness. He knows where he has come from and he knows his beginnings. This is not a characteristic that is seen with people who are comedians, extroverts and especially people that have a strong passion for something. Having a characteristic that is unexpected is what makes most TV Personalities or Characters off of movies interesting and gets the audience involved. This is not a necessity and you should not push it; it just brings you that much closer to having a character that your audience will like.

Example: Bear Grylls

1. Adventurous. Bear Grylls seeks out adventure and he has that drive to do something crazy. Adventurous is a compelling character trait because the audience is drawled into what the character is doing and wants him to succeed. The audience can also feel that rush of excitement as though they are experiencing it right along with the character. It is a trait that can not be pulled off half-heartly; it is one that a character has to be born with.
2. Motivational. For Bear Grylls is about overcoming obstacles and challenges. This is a big part of who he is as a person and what he depicts on his show and off. He struggled when he broke his back to become the youngest person to clim Mt. Everest.
Motivational is another character trait that will communicate with the audience. If it is true and authentic it will establish a bond with the audience and leave them wanting to watch more.
3. Passion for the Outdoors. Bear Grylls has a passion for the outdoors and how to overcome the obstacles that can come from them.

As you can tell these two Outdoor TV Personalities have different character traits but their TV Personalities are still loved by their audience. It is about staying true to who you are and exaggerating those traits on screen. It is confusing to the audience if your character has too many traits, try and keep your main traits to 3 or 4. Also, having that one compelling trait that is usually not found with the others is a way to be unique and will help your audience like you, this is not a necessity but it is a good trait to have. Some people do not have the Character Traits that will make him/her a good TV Personality, if that is you, don't give up your love for this industry, you can still bring the love of the outdoors indoors by videoing.

Once you establish your TV Personality traits you use those to outline your storytelling for each episode. You develop a filming style that shows those traits and "exaggerates" them. You don't make them look over the top you just portray those sides of you more while your filming.

This process of discovering your character traits and how to best utilize them while filming is a long process, but when it comes together just right you will have a compelling show that your audience will want to watch.
Developing yourself as a Character and TV Personality
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