There are a lot of bold claims made with TV shows - promises of bold storytelling and that they will show you something you have never seen on television before. Go Back To Where You Came From Live delivers on its promises as it takes its on-air participants to dangerous and remote areas across the world, broadcasting back to Australia live. This is television on a scale rarely attempted.
SBS spoke with the producers of Go Back To Where You Came From Live, Rick McPhee from the production company CJZ, and SBS' own Joseph Maxwell about the ambitious series.
What is it about the format that makes it so unique?
JOSEPH: Go Back was a channel defining show for SBS. The challenge was not simply to repeat it, but how in 2018 to make it even more immediate.
RICK: We’ve done three series as the standard documentary. To reboot the series, to breathe new life into it and to make it compelling, SBS has decided to do a live version, so we can tell refugee stories in real time. It makes it a dynamic, global snapshot of what is happening in the world on those particular nights. We’ll be doing that by crossing over to different parts of the world to see what’s happening. For example, if one of our locations is facing being bombed, we’ll have someone there who will tell us what it is like to be in a city that is being attacked from the air.
Will the entire program going to be live, or will there be some pre-recorded elements?
RICK: There will definitely be some pre-recorded elements. When our participants go over there, they will shoot some taped stories before we go live. So, when we’re live it will be a combination of live crosses to them on the ground, plus taped stories of things they did in the days before the live broadcast. While there will be a combination of live and taped, the emphasis will be on the live.
What is it that a live segment brings that a pre-recorded segment can’t?
RICK: It brings a dynamic element. You won’t be sure what is going to happen. Two of our participants will be involved in quite a dangerous activity and no one quite knows what is going to happen. So, if it’s a taped story we know it has already happened. But live, the viewer will be in on the action and be there with the participants as they’re experiencing it live.
JOSEPH: We wanted to amplify the debate and the scale and knew that if viewers were able to watch these engaging stories in real-time that it would be so much more powerful. When we came up with idea of reworking it as a live event, our heart rates went into over drive - surely it wouldn't be possible? We took that fear and that ambition as a good sign.
How will the technical aspects of it work?
RICK: We have a number of broadcast techniques, using the latest developments in broadcast technology. Each location spot has a different bespoke technological process. In one location, We’re using BGANS, which is almost like a satellite backpack. Elsewhere we will be using a fly away kit. Some locations we’ll rely on using bonded cellular, which uses the mobile network. And when we’re crossing to people in other parts of the world, we’ll be using Skype or Facetime. It’s a whole different range of technologies that we’re using. It depends what we can get from that location.
What happens if the technology fails on you?
RICK: We go onto the next item and hope we can fix it up. This is fly by the seat of your pants television. We have no guarantee the technology is going to work. Of course, we’re testing it, but on the day who knows what is going to happen. It’s something that makes the show dynamic. Because there are live activities happening, we never quite know… we think we know what is going to happen, but we don’t. We might be crossing back to places we are not expecting to cross to because something is happening on the ground. So, it is a very flexible and fluid setup. We will be going where the action is. I think I know where I am going, but I’ll be following the action.
Obviously there will be safety precautions put in place in some of these regions. Do security precautions change depending on a live broadcast environment?
RICK: Yes. You don’t want a satellite link up for too long in some parts of the world. You don’t want to be in the same place for too long because you can be detected and located by a satellite. We’ve obviously got endless risk assessment and security with us on the ground, but live brings a whole new layer of complexity to it. If we weren’t going live, you could just leave and go away to do another story. Live, you are committed to a live cross during a set window, so we have to be broadcasting live at that time. It makes it more complicated and more dangerous.
Is there anything at all about this production that is easier than with most productions.
RICK: No. Nothing. People used to say that the previous Go Back To Where You Came From was a complicated and difficult program to make. This one is at least double.
'Go Back To Where You Came From Live' airs over three consecutive nights, October 2 – 4, 8.30pm, LIVE on SBS Australia and streaming live at SBS On Demand.
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