Filming a Team Online short documentary
So, PokerStars are releasing a short documentary film about me today. To be completely honest, when I was first discussing joining Team Online with PokerStars, this was the part of it that I was most hesitant about.
I generally live a pretty normal life. I have a group of friends in Bristol who mainly also played poker at the same university as me, some good friends in Northampton who I've known since school and some other good friends from university dotted around who I keep in touch with. So while it has obviously been amazing to make the sort of money that I have been able to make through poker, I don't really live some baller lifestyle, traveling the world and doing crazy stuff like the stereotypical young poker player.
I mainly sit around playing poker in the flat I rent with my girlfriend, occasionally venturing out to play some football or to go indoor bouldering (a new hobby that my friend Simon has got us into).
Now and again, I can even be found heading out for a few drinks with my mates. I'm really happy with all that but I felt pretty stupid about the idea of them trying to make a video about me as if this will all be thrilling for everyone to watch.
You can therefore imagine how delighted I was when I got the schedule and they were going to be filming it on a Monday and Tuesday. "How are you possibly going to make my life look vaguely interesting by following me around on a Monday and Tuesday?" and "You're just gonna end up with two days of footage of me sitting around in my pants clicking buttons" were two of the thoughts going through my mind. Nobody wants to see that.
Anyway, Chris, the head of Team Online, assured me that they just wanted to get my poker story to introduce me a bit to people who know nothing about me and that it didn't matter what we were doing. Also I knew that Ryan Firpo was going to be making the film. Having seen Bet, Raise, Fold and a few of the other Team Online videos that he made, I knew that he was good, so I decided to just go with it, do what I'm told, and trust that it'd somehow work out alright.
Next up was deciding what and who we were going to film. My girlfriend was in her last week of experiments for her PhD so she didn't really have time to be a part of it. Luckily, despite not really being the type of people who love being in the public eye, my mates in Bristol were really good about it and agreed to do whatever was needed. In particular, I know how much my old housemate Simon hates doing anything like that, so I was really grateful that he agreed to be in it.
It would have been nice to be able to visit Northampton and talk to a couple of my old school friends as well, but you can't have everything I suppose. Ryan and the crew were already traveling a load filming a few of these back-to-back, and we only had a couple of days to film, so Ryan decided it'd be best to stick to filming in Bristol.
We ended up going bouldering together, and they just filmed us there and then kicking a football around after so that we could talk about where my "Kanu7" screen name comes from. Then they filmed some interviews with me back at my flat and we walked around Bristol a bit.
The filming ended up being pretty fun overall actually. Ryan and the crew were all clearly really good at what they do and were all very easy to get on with. That made it easy for me to just do what I was told and answer any questions in a relaxed way.
A quirk of doing interviews for stuff like this is that the questions they ask won't be in the final version so you have to say what the question is during your answer so that it makes sense when people watch it. Usually it's not too bad but there was one scene we filmed where they asked me to talk about my Bluff Europe poker awards.
I had to pick them up and say "oh look what we have here, a couple of poker awards, I'll just talk about these for a while..." To make matters worse, Eve, the editor of Bluff Europe had come along for the filming to write an article about it so she was standing behind the film crew watching.
So, I was trying to talk about the awards in a way that didn't sound ridiculously self-indulgent given that it would appear that nobody had asked me about them, while also making sure that it didn't sound like I was saying they weren't a big deal while Eve was standing there. Very awkward and took a few takes as I kept laughing as I tried to introduce the awards. Somehow the scene even made the first draft of the video, but luckily for my dignity, it didn't make the final version!
The other thing that was a bit awkward was being filmed outdoors around Bristol. It's not like there's one guy filming the thing on an iPhone. There's a crew there with a big camera and mic, etc, and we're walking around a city so the streets are not exactly empty. I guess some people would really like, that but I just focused on what I had to do and tried to ignore the fact that it must look like I think I'm some huge celebrity wandering around Bristol with cameras following me.
Luckily (or not) I had prior experience of something worse which made this time seem a bit better. When I did my first photoshoot for a poker magazine, we planned to just take a few photos around Bristol in the early afternoon while most people were at work. The photographer's train was delayed though and it was getting dark by the time he arrived. It was also getting pretty cold and pretty busy as everyone finished work.
Due to the lack of light, the photographer stuck a big light on the top of his camera which was constantly shining on me while the photographer told me to do various poses, while hundreds of people walked past wondering who this distinctly average looking clown was who thought it was a good idea to pose for photos in the dark and freezing cold around Bristol at the busiest time of day. I thought if I managed to get through that without dying of embarrassment, this would be alright as well.
After filming, I did an interview with Eve about the whole thing. Having spent the last couple of days with cameras in my face whenever I was speaking, it felt so much like an informal chat that I think I just rambled about anything and everything with no regard for whether what I was saying was suitable or useful for an interview. If she's brave enough to attempt to get some useful stuff from it and actually write an article about the whole thing then I'll be interested to see what I said because I have no idea!
With everyone gone, it was time for me to get back to actually playing some poker and down to Ryan to put everything together to make the video. I had pretty much nothing to do with it after that other than getting sent a couple of drafts and giving a bit of feedback.
I have to say that once again Ryan did a great job with it. That's pretty much my poker story. I really enjoyed some of the other Team Online videos he's made, so I hope people enjoy watching this one. If not, then never mind I guess. All you can do with these things is represent yourself honestly and hope it's well received.
I have really enjoyed representing PokerStars so far. I said when I joined that I wouldn't have considered representing another site for 3x the money, and I stand by that and haven't been disappointed. They're a cut above any other online poker site in my opinion, and I hope this video helps people to get to know me a bit and helps me to continue to represent PokerStars better into the future.
Good luck at the tables everyone and hope you enjoy the video.