Just imagine if your entire day at work was caught on camera. Every argument with a co-worker, every wrong decision, every meal break – captured by a crew and broadcast on national TV. Sounds pretty terrifying, right? Now imagine that your job requires saving lives and dealing with emergencies in high-pressure situations.
That’s the reality facing the unassuming heroes of Ambulance Australia.
Everyone from the paramedics in the field to the call takers and dispatchers in the emergency control centre had camera crews shadowing them as they went about their daily business.
The result is a revealing series that reinforces just how hard our emergency services work. But for many of the stars of the show, saving lives is the easy part – it’s being on television that takes some getting used to.
When you’re used to getting your job done quickly and with little fuss, suddenly finding yourself miked up and on camera can be confronting.
“At first, I was nervous about being scrutinised, but I realised this is what I do every day,” paramedic Tammie Marshall, 35, tells TV WEEK. “I don’t need to be any different.
“I think my patients were more shocked when we would arrive and have a camera crew following us.”
Tammie’s colleague Joshua Payne agrees, however, he also believes that sometimes the crew were a welcome distraction for the people they encountered on the job.
“I found a lot of the community fed off having a camera there and it helped distract people from the reason they called,” Joshua, 28, says.
Meanwhile, for Mathew Johnston, the Ambulance Australia production pushed him out of his comfort zone – in the best way possible.
“It was a little strange having to put microphones on at the start of the shift and driving around in an ambulance full of cameras,” Mathew, 23, says.
“But it ended up being this incredible learning experience.”
Camera crews working on reality TV productions love to use the line “pretend I’m not here”, but it turns out there’s a method to their madness.
The sooner the crew become part of the furniture, the better it is for everyone.
“Our camera guy was an ex-police officer, so he was well aware of the nature of shift work and understood our job well,” Biffie Branagan, 31, explains.
“When a patient was sick and it was an emergency, we really just got to work, did our job and didn’t really notice them there.”
Joshua really got lucky, landing himself a cameraman who used to be a paramedic!
“My guy was a very seasoned bloke who had worked in the emergency services,” he says. “He knew exactly what was going on and how to film in a manner that didn’t upset people.”
Ambulance Australia airs Tuesday, 7:30pm, on Network Ten.