The recession has hit everyone I guess. Far and wide, old and poor, rich and young. For me, young and poor, I’ve relied on the participation of corporate sponsors for making my 4x4 adventure TV shows for years now. I’ve managed five 13-part series and I have been told, and don’t need reminding, that I have the best job in the world. When I am not sitting editing and writing my shows, (Which I love) I am out in wild places shooting them. (Which I love even more) But there is a snag. About a third of my time is less glamorous than it sounds. That’s the third of a year when am I in the dreaded GP with my begging bowl. Finding sponsors has never been easy. I am better known in the country now that I have ever been. I get stopped almost every day if I go out – in shopping malls, the petrol pumps, in a crowd and even once getting my hair cut. And yet getting the funding for each series gets tougher and tougher.
Last year was the turn of Four-Wheel Drive, the combination travel and technical 4x4 show. I do think that every time I do one of these series, my work gets better, and this is by far the best of all the Four-Wheel Drive series. This year it’s the turn of 4WD-Take A Deep Breath. I’m driving an especially built Land Cruiser across Africa to the UK, in 13 shows, while my brother-in-law rides his bicycle the same route. But the normal sponsorship channels have dried up altogether. One large sponsor who agreed earlier in the year, pulled out despite me securing national newspapers, magazine and radio to supplement the TV. They decided that TV wasn’t the best channel this year – so I was left to find other means to procure the funding. This all sounds like a sob story – but it isn’t. My fans have come to my rescue in a huge way. Of these, right now, the only corporate is Toyota. They made the most significant contribution and Alu-Cab, the company with whom I worked to design and build the vehicle, have come in too.
Albert Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, like any sane man, things have changed and the cheese has moved. And so must I. Unfortunately the cheese has moved overseas.
So I will be leaving this wonderful country to find pastures new. There are a few reasons, and putting the more obvious ones aside: South Africa’s broadcast industry is unlike most others, in that I have to pay large sums for my shows to be flighted. Last year’s series, one third of the entire budget went to the broadcaster, one third went to production costs (why I can’t take a proper crew on my shoots) and one third goes to pay for my kid’s education and a roof over their heads. I’m simply not making ends meet.
In the UK there are networks that will pay for the shows, and in 2005/6 my first two series were broadcast there, and I was paid – not a lot, but money did change hands, and in the right direction. The UK is also the centre of the world’s non-fiction film industry and with my experience there is lots of freelance work with networks like Discovery and Nat Geo, to mention just two.
I also decided to move to the UK because I was not about to give up on my drive across Africa. I was also not about to give up on my future plans; I want to follow in the tracks of the 1972 Trans-Americas Expedition from Alaska to Cape Horn - driving the very same Range Rovers that did it then. I want to go to Burma, find two pre-'70s Land Rovers, rebuild them and drive back to where they were built in Solihull, England. And what about the USA? I simply cannot do this based in South Africa. Will I miss South Africa? I don’t even want to think about how much. And as far as my South African followers are concerned, I will do everything to get my future shows broadcast here.
Keep a watch here. My Kickstarter project is about to be launched.
best as always