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The seven doll’s houses

There is an episode of the TV show “Friends” where Phoebe makes a doll’s house out of boxes. The other friends are most impressed with this doll’s house, especially with the candy room, aroma room and bubble-blowing chimney (except Monica of course, who still wants to play with her historically accurate mansion). Unfortunately, the cardboard doll’s house burns down, the fire seeming to originate in the aroma room.

It was a cool episode, but it was made all the cooler after I watched a “making of Friends” show in the special features on the DVD. This featurette chronicled the making of a single episode of Friends, and the work of hundreds of people who made it happen. There were writers, set-builders, camera operators, editors, costume designers, sound editors, music composers, foley artists, live audience herders, actors, and props managers, all working sixteen-hour days just to make half an hour of television.

The ones that most opened my eyes were the props managers. They make sure that everything the actors hold or touch works and looks the way it should. In particular, they made Phoebe’s doll’s house. In fact, they made SEVEN of Phoebe’s doll’s house: that’s SEVEN candy rooms, seven aroma rooms and seven bubble-blowing chimneys, all exactly alike. They had to make so many in order to get the scene right where the house burns down.

Yet to us the viewers, there was only one house and it was only in the episode for a total of three minutes. You wouldn’t dream that there would be SEVEN doll’s houses to produce these three minutes of television.

And it got me thinking about one of the major difficulties of my job: it seems easy. The students turn up to the MLC or our seminars or art events and we talk to them; they go to our website and find resources to use. It all seems so easy. But what people DON’T see the hours of other work: the data entry, the meetings with casual staff, the workplace safety training, the fiddling with web links, the data entry, the editing of videos, the painting, the design of posters, the printing, the laminating, the dishwashing and the data entry.

Well finally someone recognised all that work. Yesterday we got a Commendation for Excellence in Support of the Student Experience from the Vice Chancellor. While we would never stop doing all this behind-the-scenes work (because we really do love working with students), it is nice to know at least a few other people appreciate how much goes into making it look easy.

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