My week covering the Brits and the Oscars

I’ve been at Sky News for less than two months and I’ve already had my share of memorable moments.

I’ve negotiated for our entertainments team to fly with Iron Maiden on their private jet to Mumbai for the opening night of the tour.

I’ve bargained with a PR that we interview Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell in front of the Sphinx.

But this? Well, this is ridiculous. I’m stood on the red carpet – although in truth it’s a fetching shade of yellow ’70s sand – at Elton John’s Aids Foundation post-Oscars party – with a nearly dead mobile in one hand desperately trying to call London.

I need to get in touch with the newsdesk as we’ve just had three British winners arrive at the party at the last minute and I want to bring them up live as soon as possible so we can get them while the elation is still clear on their faces, rather than desperation to get into the party because they’ve been stood waiting for their interview.

I’m stood hopping from foot to foot, waiting to get a signal, when one of the winners hands me his Oscars and says: “Go on, have a blast on this”.

So I have his Oscar in my other hand when Stevie Wonder walks past and says: “Hi, how you doing?”

By any standards, this is so incongruous a situation that I almost expect springs to burst out of my head in a cartoon fashion as my brain gives up attempting to process this information. Biggest childhood hero, holding the most beautiful paperweight in the world in my hands – and yes, what everyone says is true, they really are surprisingly heavy – in Los Angeles on Oscar night.

It’s so surreal, it’s crackers.

However, I know it must be real as, like every journalist in the world, my biggest concern in all truth is that I’m losing battery on my mobile.

It’s a bizarre end to my busiest week since I’ve been in the job of entertainment editor at Sky News.

Brit awards

It started with the Brits. No matter what you think of the ceremony, this is the biggest night in the calendar for the British music industry.

I’d started at Sky News just after Christmas, looking after a relaunch of their entertainment coverage, so making sure we cover this well is a big test for the new department. We need to get our coverage right and deliver entertaining, intelligent coverage of the awards.

You can’t pretend that covering showbusiness is like covering the events in a really hard news story, although some hacks that have been on the beat will tell you differently.

Our coverage needs to acknowledge that on one hand the Brits is essentially an elaborate annual marketing conference for an industry with a very uncertain future – but we also have to have a laugh with it and look at the fashion and interview the celebs with a bit of wit and enthusiasm.

We have a score because the Kaiser Chiefs’ PR invites us to their recording studio to film an exclusive interview ahead of the ceremony.

That gives us a nice piece to go with on Tuesday morning, and then we had planned to do a look ahead “runners and rides” piece for the following morning to tee up the ceremony that night.

We’re told there is a blanket ban on access to the Earls Court Arena for rehearsals but go down there to film a piece to camera on the steps and strike it lucky.

Tony Cooke, who is looking after PR for the ceremony, is a member of the old school whose agenda is based on helping you do whatever he can rather than stopping you from doing anything at all.

He finds out there is a gap in rehearsals, gets approval from the also very helpful Brits chairman Ged Doherty, and gets us in for a guided tour of the backstage area while Paul McCartney starts playing Live and Let Die in the next room.

It gives us some cracking pictures and delivers a nice line, confirming that Amy Winehouse is definitely playing the next night.

It’s a big favour from him to let us, in but ultimately covering showbiz is like any other job in journalism. You need to know your brief and to build contacts and trust so that you have the access you need to get the story.

Premiere

I dash from there back to the office, brief my deputy Fiona White, and then go on to field produce at the premiere of the Other Boleyn Girl in Leicester Square with our new showbiz correspondent Steve Hargrave.

There’s a bit of a formula to getting the coverage right on the red carpet. You need to liase with PRs to know what time ‘the talent’are due and then keep the gallery updated so they can go live at just the right time. The last thing you want to do is leave Scarlett Johannson or Natalie Portman freezing in the cold as you might lose them.

But equally getting them to the live point is an inexact science as stars often wander off to sign autographs, which means if the programme comes to you and they’re not there Steve has to fill until they make it.

That happens a bit tonight. Johannson is very popular with the punters, but we get through it. The Brits the next day is a pretty seamless operation.

Fiona looks after it, because I’m going to the ceremony, but she is a very experienced pair of hands – in truth, pop stars are much more likely to want to talk to her than me with my bruised potato looks – and the organisers know how to get the talent through to you.

We do the Osbournes and Kylie, package up for the next day, finish after midnight and then it’s a plane early the next day to LA.

The Oscars is surprisingly chaotic. There are numerous receptions and pre-awards to negotiate, but our other correspondent, Matt Smith, who had travelled ahead, has managed to set up Tilda Swinton and Julie Christie interviews, which is a result.

The event itself is freezing cold and wet, but standing on that red carpet the morning of the event, there is an undeniable excitement in the air. It’s a long day because the time difference means we have to get up early to do lives for our afternoon programme back in the UK and we then work through to do the same for the next day’s breakfast show.

So one team packages the ceremony while I go with the other to Elton John’s party, which gives us a position to do lives for Sunrise. No one really knew where to go this year because of the cancellation of the Vanity Fair party, so we’re all unsure if we’ll strike gold and get Oscar winners.

It’s getting very late when a load of Brits turn up who’ve won for visual effects and best short. They’re not household names but they are fantastic fun, and their delight is written all over their faces.

We finally wrap at 2am when we’ve run out of battery and go to a hot dog stand for dinner. I look down at my hand and think ‘now it’s a chilli cheese dog, half an hour ago it was an Oscar.” Like I said, it’s just daft.

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