Monday, 14 May 2007

Elving Away Behind the Scenes

Hi, Eggshaped here.

As you will know if you’ve been following this blog for the last few weeks, the recordings of QI have begun; and what a great few shows we have had so far.

I thought I’d give you a very brief insight as to what an elf does on the day of a recording (or at least what I do). As our work is mainly question research, you may think that we have a relaxing one when we’re filming – but actually there’s a lot to be done during the day.

I personally arrive some time in the early afternoon, though other elves do arrive earlier, and immediately get a copy of the day’s script (that is, the script which contains the day’s questions, the notes on Stephen’s cards, and some of the links between questions – other than that QI is, of course, unscripted) and head up to our office. The elves’ office is lush. It’s a huge room containing plenty of computers with a massive window overlooking the Thames; it even has its own balcony which will be great if the weather bucks up in the next few weeks!

The filming process begins with a warm-up with some stand-ins. Stephen asks them the questions in the same order as the show, this helps the technical peeps get an idea of how things will work, gives us an idea of how the questions will go, and gives Stephen a chance to familiarise himself with the questions.

After that, the guests will come in for their warm-up. This gives the techies a chance to test microphones and see if the guests’ clothes are camera-friendly; it also gives the guests a chance to get into the swing of things. Of course, we don’t want the guests to know the evening’s questions and answers in advance, so the elves come up with 5 brand new warm-up questions for each show. It’s a shame that sometimes the guests come up with brilliant material based on these questions which never sees the light of day!

After that it’s time for dinner, and the audience are just beginning to make their way in. While the audience arrive we like to keep them amused with a number of “factoids” which come up on screens around the studio, which I will usually type up. The screens are connected to a laptop into which I manually type the facts, I usually print off a couple of lists of facts from the QI database which I supplement with ones of my own: those of you who come to lots of shows will notice quite a few repeats of my fave facts – but hopefully I’ll try to keep them pretty fresh.

The warm-up (usually Stephen Grant) begins, and the elves take their place in the gallery (which, if you are looking at the set, is to the left, behind the curtains) where we are watching the show with a couple of laptops. We’re listening carefully for any factual errors which creep in or any questions which are asked by the guests. While it would be nice if we knew the answer to every question (we do pretty well from our original research) you can’t always predict which way a question will go, so we often will find ourselves googling away.

Stephen has got a screen in his desk which we post corrections or facts to. He also has an earpiece which he uses to communicate with the director. You'll notice he uses that when he does pickups at the end.

The show ends, hopefully a great success, and we make our way to the green room where the show is discussed and the bar is slowly emptied.


QI Fanatic said...

Thank you very much for your post James. That is some really fascinating info there.

Michelle said...

I've been googling around trying to find a place to post a correction to The Book of General Ignorance but I've had no luck. So I'll post here. The first answer in the book is wrong. The tallest mountain using the authors' way of measuring is Mr. Lam Lam on Guam which starts at the Mariannas trench and tops out at well over 30,000 feet. If they want to be picky they should at least be correctly picky!


Vlad said...

Re: Michelle's note. I've only started reading the book recently and I'm quite disappointed now; I want a refund and yet I don't wish to stop =))