David Farrier explains how our stuff.co.nz smash hit Real Talk series came about. If you’ve missed the magic, the complete videos are embedded at the end of this post.
If you google “Ben Mitchell”, the first result you get is one of my favourite interviews of 2013:
The headline is beautiful in its simplicity: “Me and my car: Ben Mitchell”. I can only assume it’s part of a series (“Me and my car: The Mad Butcher” etc) but the fact is, I will never read another. None in the series could top the joy of Ben’s interview about he, and his car.
The interview left me infinitely curious about the nature of Ben’s personality.
Some quotes that stood out for me included:
“…are men more masculine if they drive a sports car or a V8? More feminine if they drive something economical and smaller? Do they think they are superior if they drive an elite car? I think European cars are wanky. And, if a woman is driving a masculine car, I say dude, you need to get out of that car because you’re chasing the men away.”
“I have been listening to a Hans Zimmer compilation. He is a composer who has written the scores of huge numbers of well-known movies so this disc has huge variety on it. I’m also keen on a bit of house music.”
“Bikes are for children”.
Mitchell’s never topped that wonderful interview, but came close in the Herald’s “12 Questions”:
“If a woman is bossy to me I think she wants to [sleep with me]. It’s a masculine trait. It’s not in a woman’s inherent state.”
“I think men have no balls because they have been emasculated.”
His comments about women, cars and bikes left me wanting more, so I thought he’d be the perfect subject for a face-to-face video interview for The Spinoff’s Street Week.
I wanted to avoid Shortland Street’s publicist, Rachael Keereweer, because I’d tweeted a mean tweet about her back in October, after reading “Me and my car: Ben Mitchell” for the 32nd time:
if i were ben mitchell’s pr person (or shortland street’s pr person) i’d send him a memo going: “NO MORE 12 QUESTION INTERVIEWS”
— David Farrier (@davidfarrier) October 13, 2014
Instead, I took to twitter and DM’d Dallas, AKA actor Cameron Jones, AKA Ben Mitchell’s friend. I knew Cameron because he used to date one of my friends. I found him agreeable and friendly, and knew we shared a love of conspiracy theories. I also found out in Woman’s Weekly that he could ride a horse.
Cam kindly passed on my interview request to Ben Mitchell… which then ended up with Shortland Street’s publicist. Bah! Humbug!
I was panicked at this turn for the worse, especially when Keereweer’s emailed me with: “I’m conscious of your very wise words on twitter suggesting the Shorty publicist not let Ben answer any more questions”.
But, by God, she ended up being a good one, and very efficiently set up an interview. She was trusting, kind, and had a sense of humor.
Then we here at The Spinoff had a brainwave: Why not get Cam involved in this interview as well? The fact is, Ben and Cam are not only colleagues, but also great friends. Why not sit them down and get them in conversation with each other? Instead of being a straight interviewer, I would act as a sort of moderator. A mediator. A muse.
It all went to plan. Both men were happy to get involved. Within no time at all, I was being led onto the set of Shortland Street by none other than Keereweer herself – the very professional whose intelligence I had questioned on twitter – to have a Real Talk (™) with Cam Jones and Ben Mitchell.
When I arrived at midday, Ben was cooking three steaks. Cam had just finished morning rehearsals. There was only one rule from Shorty PR: Don’t break the fourth wall. There was to be no shooting the sides of the sets. This was home of New Zealand’s most famous soap. Its only soap! (For now at least).
We weren’t allowed to fuck up its image by showing half a wall or a giant bit of rigging (the fact Ben and Cam were appearing as themselves on set and not their characters didn’t seem to be a problem. It’s a confusing rulebook at Shorty).
And then we were into it. I started with a short interview, using normal default questions like, “What’s it like acting on Shortland Street” and “What the best thing about Shortland Street.” After about 10 minutes of that, I stopped and said, “OK, let’s try some topics. I am going to throw some out there, and you talk about them.”
And then we talked. I mean, they talked. About cycling, evolution, men, women and pyramids. I didn’t have to do much – just sit there and watch. It was a bit weird for me. At times I sort of felt I’d left my body and floated across to the other side of set. My soul broke the fourth wall. My body – stranded, looked on – nodding, blinking, and not fully realising what was going on.
After it had all finished, I thanked Ben and Cam for their time. Ben told me I could come back one day and be an extra. Later, a friend who works on Shortland Street told me that prior to meeting me, Ben had thought I was an old man so was surprised when I (a spritely 31-year-old) showed up.
Back in the office, I edited the videos – not by cutting things out, but simply by switching between Camera A and Camera B to keep things moving. No dialogue was removed. This approach pleased some, but mystified others.
@guywilliamsguy by ‘golden’ do you mean ‘needs an edit’?
— Ana Samways (@AnaSamways) December 9, 2014
By and large, people seemed to enjoy the musings of Cam and Ben. Perhaps the highlight of the week was when Stuff.co.nz did what Stuff.co.nz do, ripping the video and compiling it into their own clip (hell, we don’t need the hits). But somehow Stuff seemed like a good fit for this content. It felt right.
People seemed to appreciate the content of the videos:
@davidfarrier Key word: Radiance.
— Taika Waititi (@TaikaWaititi) December 13, 2014
And lovely people like Jane Arthur even came up with some art.
I think I’ve found my muse. pic.twitter.com/ln7s1MDcS6
— Jane Arthur (@JaneyArthur) December 12, 2014
So, that’s how that happened. Maybe it will happen again, with some other people, from other shows. Because if anyone is worthy of airing opinions on a weighty topic (like pyramids), it’s actors.
Watch the complete Real Talk interviews below: