Return of The Talent

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Thailand
23rd August, 2009
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We’ve started filming in Thailand at the Care for Dogs shelter in Chiang Mai. It’s a sweet little place that is only really let down by the stench of dog faeces everywhere – although I’m sure this is partly to do with the humid Thai weather.

Anyway the crew has ventured out with fond memories of Mexico still flooding our minds, but also with a determination to make our days a bit shorter. We’ve got some cracking stories involving hill tribes and elephants lined up so it should be an exciting ten days.

My new name is Chai apparently…

Oh and on a final note we’re all boycotting Mr Gamble, A.K.A. The Talent, as he flew in to Thailand on business class whilst the rest of us crammed ourselves into cockerel class with the freaks and weirdos – we were not happy bunnies.

Banana Fingers

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Thailand
24th August, 2009
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Luke is attempting (and I use the word attempting as the imperative word here) to take the series on a new tangent and introduce a hint of humour into the show. This is in the hope that it will make him a real “character” and extend his career in TV – I presume he wants to get an invite onto Have I Got News For You. The only problem is that his comic timing is a little bit amiss; yesterday whilst taking a severely injured dog to be x-rayed he decided it was the right time to make a “funny” comment, claiming that it was “good that somebody else was doing the work for him”. Absolutely “hilarious” I assure you…

And after this he got on a role and has been dishing out lines left, right and centre. My favourite today was his description of his fat fingers whilst doing intricate suturing: “I’ve fingers like bananas”… Yes Luke, your fingers are just like bananas… Ridiculous…

Apart from that it’s been an immensely satisfying day, with some great operations and Luke has worked like a Trojan. It’s just a shame that he’s more Timmy Mallet than Bill Hicks…

The Business of Saving Lives

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Thailand
25th August, 2009
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What a hard day it has been for all of us, not least Luke; we spent the morning chasing our tails in a vain attempt to get some sick animals from the local farmers that Luke could look at. I can’t help but feel that it was a bit of a waste of time; the best we could muster was a dog (yup another one) whose tooth was rotten and his penis was covered with a TVT (transmittable venereal tumour). We were all pretty tired by the time afternoon came around and with a huge operation awaiting us it was pretty important that we regained focus. And we did.

There have been many times on this blog where I have mocked Luke and his antics, but there are also moments where I acknowledge the great work that he does. And this is one of those rare occasions because he truly worked his socks off this afternoon. Presented with a case in which a dog had a massive problem with one of his eyes, making him go blind, Luke decided to remove the eye to lessen some of the pain. It was an incredible piece of surgery. It takes a lot of skill and patience to do any kind of surgery even with the correct facilities and help. But when you are in an unhygienic dog pen, your assistant is inexperienced and slightly squeamish (understandably so due to the nature of the operation), you have a television camera recording your every move and demanding you tell the viewer exactly what is going on, and you are sweltering under the humid Thai sun, it is astonishing that you can perform the operation so well and stay so cool under pressure. Yet this is exactly what he did. Remarkable.

And even as I write this, back at the hotel digitizing the footage after a nice cold shower, Luke is still plugging away at the shelter operating on dogs that are desperate for his help. It is this side of the programme that viewers of the TV series will not get a chance to see. Luke has dedicated his time, money and effort into helping these charities around the world and he never says no to requests for help (often to the irk of us the TV crew who would like him to concentrate on the filming). He shows a dedication to his work, rare in the world today, and should definitely be applauded.

Pussy, Pussy, Pussy!

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
23rd September, 2009
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What a great day. I think this is the best feeling you can have after a day’s filming: captured everything we wanted, having fun, and looking forward to doing it tomorrow. Great feeling.

This time around we’re at the Lusaka Animal Welfare Society (LAWS) and they are absolutely amazing people. They are all really friendly and more importantly extremely comfortable in front of camera, which makes all our lives so much easier.

We had an absolutely fabulous day full of great stories: boy being chased by Luke for illegally selling puppies by the roadside, getting a gun shoved in his face and somehow ending up being asked to work for LAWS, a drunken old man shouting out “pussy” loudly to attract his cats and Luke getting named after a scraggy, bloated, lumpy mongrel because he looks like him. And people get on my back for comparing him to Timmy Mallet… Hilarious (actually Luke did have some funny moments today – a revelation).
Oh also I’m back to being called Bruce as I’m back in Africa.

ERROR 02-327

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
30th September, 2009
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This trip is turning into one brilliant journey. We’ve had it all from a young illegal dog seller changing his ways and taking up a job at LAWS to a number of buffalo mysteriously dying on a river out in Kafue National Park. And then today our camera stopped working with an ominous “ERROR 02-327” message. After much head scratching, button pressing and frantic calls home to London (from the magical telephone tree – the only area in the park where we could get a mobile signal) we found out that the problem was terminal and we would NOT be able to use the camera.
But Adam never gave up hope and after one final attempt of ejecting the disc, removing the batteries and tapping the side it came back to life. Obviously there was an error with “ERROR 02-327”. And so we were able to return to the Elephant Orphanage Project, where we had been filming when the problem was first encountered, and get Luke to play with a baby pachyderm in the Zambian mud. It was one of those magical moments that TV was surely built for.

Oh and what really made the day was that Luke managed to complete his final piece to camera on the first take. I think the thought of lions jumping out of the long grass after the 20th take was the telling factor.

We’re off tomorrow on a safari to film some African game; my first ever and I’m looking forward to it.

Planes, Buses and Automobiles

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
30th September, 2009
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We’re not having much luck with transport on this trip. Yesterday morning on the way to the airport (for our transfer to Kafue National Park) we had asked the hotel to book a minibus for all our equipment. However the receptionist had forgotten and so we were left in the hands of a Zambian minibus driver. He turned up asking to copy the music from our laptop onto his flash drive (we all looked bemused), a fuel tank on empty, drove at 120kmph as the bus lurched from one side to the other and then thought it was a great idea to pull into a bus garage to pick up more passengers. Nick the producer completely lost it and shouted at the poor fellow.

Then we took a flight from Lusaka to Kafue National Park on an islander plane. The thing was tiny and didn’t exactly fill me with faith. Once in the air the ride was a bit bumpy, but overall not too bad. But then we hit a bit of turbulence and the plane dropped. We all bumped our heads on the ceiling and Luke has been worrying about it ever since. The flight back should be fun.


And finally today we were driving in our highly sophisticated 4×4/safari hybrid car when we hit a huge ditch in the road. I was so busy swatting away the pestering Tutsi flies (they’ve followed us everywhere out in the African bush) that I failed to hold onto the vehicle and went crashing forward. I flew into a metal bar and bashed my cheek quite badly and cut my fingers. I think from now on I’ll put up with the tiny little blood suckers and hold on.

On a final note I would like to commend our driver in Lusaka, Geoff, who has been an absolute godsend. He is a great chap and has worked extremely hard ferrying us from place to place. And he has also managed to make us laugh with his very dry sense of humour and taste in music – the biggest Chris de Burgh fan in Africa. Thanks Geoff.

Elephant Safari

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
1st October, 2009
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Traveling out into the bush has been a joy and definitely a great way to finish the shoot. This morning we went on a drive safari in an effort to get some beautiful shots of elephants, buffalo, hippopotamus and hopefully some lions. What did we end up getting? Nothing. When the highlight of a four-hour drive is some pelicans circling above the vehicle and some wildebeest running around as specks in the guide’s binoculars you know it hasn’t been a very productive session.

But the afternoon proved much better as on our way to the airstrip to meet the helicopter we ran into a bull (as in male) elephant. And we got the full works as it flapped its ears, sounded its trunk and gave mock charges towards the car. All in all it was a bit scary seeing a massive creature like that charging towards the back of an open safari vehicle. You feel quite helpless, because if it did feel like challenging you there would be only one winner.

After our little meeting with our large friend we ventured on to finish the shoot in style with some glorious helicopter shots. The wildlife came out in force and we got sweeping views of herds of buffalo and marching elephants. Nick the producer was enjoying the moment running around like some extra from Airwolf.

Packed Like Sardines in a Tin Box

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
2nd October, 2009
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The final day of filming and it has been another epic day. We had an early start with a flight back to Lusaka on the Islander plane. It all went ok this time, no mid-air mishaps, although we were all a bit apprehensive on the approach to the runway as we’d been told that radar was down and there had been a number of near-miss collisions.

We rounded off the shoot with revisits to Richard to see how he was getting on at LAWS, and a final check up on some puppies that Luke had previously worked on. It all went smoothly.

But then we returned to the hotel only to discover somebody had been through our bags, whislt we had been away the past three days. I’m not sure about the other guys, but I’ve lost a pair of trainers and my not very old ipod. I’m pretty annoyed.

The last part of the shoot has been completing the helicopter shots back in Lusaka. And Luke driving was the order of the day. Unfortunately for Nick (the producer), Geoff (our driver) and myself this meant hiding in the back of the van out of shot. We were lying down like three stiff corpses or sardines in a tin box… Not exactly my finest moment in TV.


by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Peru
21st October, 2009
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We’re in Peru and it is hot and humid. Bringing two pairs of trousers seems like a bad idea now… We’re visiting a charity called Amazon CARES and I’m looking forward to it as the trip looks to be quite action packed.


by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Peru
23rd October, 2009
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We visited a manatee rescue centre today to recce for a shoot we are going to do later in the week. It is an absolutely wonderful place and I’m glad we are going to be filming there. The highlight of the visit for me had to be bottle feeding a juvenile manatee. They are such remarkable creatures – think underwater elephants – and seeing them this close up is extremely rare as they are sadly on the verge of becoming extinct.