Filming Last Woman Standing: the best job in tv?
Shivering here in London, I initially thought that the ladies on Last Woman Standing would be living the dream. Travelling to exotic locations and getting to see some amazing places sounds pretty good when Britain is icy and cold. But from the very first episode when I saw them taking part in the blood letting ritual in Brazil, I didn't feel sick with envy...just sick! Having piranha teeth cut into my leg to get the blood flowing is too much for me, never mind the wrestling. But it's not just the five women who had to brave the heat, insects and lack of loos but the production team as well. I wanted to know what it was like to film in such remote places so I caught up with series producer Sophie Todd to find out just how tough things were. Was it worth it? She certainly seems to think so as she loved it, piranhas and all.
Here are Sophie's memories of the filming trip:
Making Last Woman Standing has to be one of the best jobs in television. You get to go to some of the most incredible places on earth and film cultures that most people will never get the chance to meet. But it's not a glamorous job; foot fleas, infected bites, and chronic diarrhoea are some of the less charming experiences that the crew also encountered during filming.
In each location some of the crew arrive a few days before the athletes to give the locals a chance to get used to us and our kit. The Kamaiura tribe, who we filmed with first, don't wear clothes other than a belt that covers a section of their stomach. That often means when you were sitting on the floor talking to someone, another member of the tribe would be standing next you with their meat and two veg in your ear!
Washing means walking into the lake and splashing loudly to scare off the stingrays and piranha that share it. The first time was pretty intimidating as I had an audience of young women and girls who were determined to see if I had anything they didn't under my clothes. They had my bikini off in ten seconds flat and scrubbed my body within an inch of my life.
The Kamaiura paint themselves with designs inspired by animals. I knew we were fitting in when they started to paint us as well as the athletes who were competing with them. It beats getting ready for work in London.
A lot of people ask what do you miss when you are away and the answer is not very much. It's amazing how little you need to get by. Most of the luggage we take with us is camera kit, tapes and batteries so there is no space for most of the stuff you think 'need' when you are at home. Obviously if a camera breaks in the middle of the jungle we are in big trouble so we take a lot of spare parts with us. Temperature, humidity and rain all conspire to ensure we spend a fair bit of our time patching things up.
And it's not just the technical side of filming that causes us a few issues. In order to get the close up action shots during the log running with the Xavante tribe, two of the DV camera operators had to be painted up and dressed as female runners and run alongside the teams. Now this wasn't too bad for Claire who had a sports bra of her own but for Chris it really was a test of his determination to get the job done! I'd like to say the rest of the crew gave him an easy time but they were pretty merciless with their comments. You have to be thick skinned as well as fit to work on this series.
But the ultimate experience has to be that of the athletes and the cumulative test of taking on six challenges is one that most people couldn't hack. Watching them go to hell and back, through pain both physical and mental, through rituals and ceremonies and coping with living and eating like their hosts makes you pretty proud of them. And the best thing about doing our job? It's that our friends and family get to share our experience of Last Woman Standing on BBC Three.
Sophie Todd is the series producer of Last Woman Standing.
Find out more about Last Woman Standing.
Watch clips from the programme.
See more videos from the series on YouTube.