Neil: We’ve been friends since 1982 when we both worked in regional TV in New South Wales. I worked in news and production…Gai in graphics. She was newly married. Years later we met up in Brisbane. By then I was married with a young family. Gai was divorced and had taken a new direction, working in production. We crossed paths every few years at TV stations or on Outside Broadcasts.
…. then fate intervened!
Gai: In 2013 after 18 years as a network producer, I returned to my home town in NSW, in search of a new sense of belonging. In the same year, Neil had been lured back to regional news in NSW. Fate intervened and we were re-acquainted! This time we were both free to pursue more than a friendship! We ended up on the Gold Coast in search of a new project, and the next chapter of our life. Together!
Our love of animals
Neil: Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved animals. From my first dogs, a gorgeous golden retriever and a black and white border collie, through to the delightful German Shepherd cross who was with me all through my teens and my best friend. Swimming with dolphins was a life highlight.
Later there were two moodles who I loved so much it hurt! Raised from tiny puppies, this pair of fluffy balls of energy were constant companions.
Over the last five years, there have been many dogs, cats, birds, chickens, rabbits, horses and various other four-legged friends. The year long pet and house sitting adventure, Village to Villa saw a swag of new friends appear.
Why am I so drawn to animals? Animals are totally honest.
Animals love unconditionally. Pets bring so much joy.
From guinea pigs to orphaned lambs.
Gai: When I was growing up in a small country down, we had a string of pets from cats, dogs and guinea pigs – to lambs, calves, chickens, ducks and bossy geese on my grandmother’s farm.
When I finished college I got my very own dog. Basil was a sweet Australian Terrier. He’s been gone for many years now but he’s still “my dog”.
My love of animals went hand in hand with my job. For 18 years I worked as a writer and producer on long running TV program “Totally Wild”. The focus was on all creatures great and small. I experienced many privileges and joyful animal encounters.
On a stretch of the Queensland coastline, I watched as hatchling sea turtles emerged from their nest on the beach and ran for their lives into the surf.
At “Dreamworld” I walked with a majestic white Bengal Tiger, then bottle fed a tiger cub.
My sister and I strolled with fully-grown cougar and Andy, her handler.
I met Steve Irwin and with my 2, now grown up nieces, sat on the grass at “Australia Zoo” with Harriet, his 170 year old Galapagos Tortoise.
Possibly the most joyous moment was sitting in the Meerkat enclosure at “Werribee Zoo”, as the inquisitive young ones climbed all over me!
These are the highlights that sustained my yearning for another pet. When Neil and I came together, that longing began to grow again, in both of us. And it was a big part of our decision to travel by via house and pet sitting.
What could be more soothing after a day of sightseeing – than smooching with an affectionate dog or cat.
How about spending an entire month during the springtime, living in a French Chateau at no cost to you?
We were lucky enough to do exactly that during our year of house sitting. We lived in a French Chateau in South West France.
This is a video about Chateau du Mauran in the south west of France.
The garden was at its best when we stayed at this stunning French Chateau.
From early to late May we watched as nature did her most amazing work. The roses were resplendent but the real stars were the Wisteria and the “Van Gogh” Irises. Perfection together.
Staying in this amazing house for a month, gave us many stories for our TV series “Village to Villa” We lived like locals and enjoyed authentic travel experiences with neighbours, friends of the house owners and people we met along the way. We will share them all here on this blog. If you’d like to follow our incredible year long journey, please leave us your details in SUBSCRIPTIONS – and we’ll send you a note when we post another story. Thank you.
Can 2 producers really shoot video for a 13 part TV series without a crew?
Neil McLean and Gai Reid are the only members of the camera crew for their 13 episode TV series “Village to Villa”. We developed our “TV production in a back pack” so we could travel for one year and shoot a TV series without a camera crew!
Having covered 4 countries – living like locals – we have now begun the huge editing phase. Luckily we have 2 awesome editors. Meet our crew.
Gai & Neil have worked in television production for most of our working lives. That’s a scary number of years!
Gai experienced a little bit of everything during her time spent working in regional television in NSW and Tasmania. Mostly she has worked in Brisbane networks as a writer and producer in factual programming.
Neil has worked mostly in news in regional and the networks of NSW and Victoria– as a reporter, reader and news director. We both know what it’s like to spend a week or longer on the road.
Normally when a TV crew travels to shoot a program – 4 people would check in 12 to 18 pieces of luggage, including cameras, tripod, lights, sound gear as well as crew suitcases. NOT for TV Production in a back pack.
Because of the nature of our project – we couldn’t take a traditional camera crew. So WE became the crew!
That meant we had to figure out another way to bring you what we knew would be engaging and inspirational stories.
We came up with PRODUCTION BACK PACK!
We streamlined down to the absolute minimum gear – we had to carry it where ever we went. It really was a production in a backpack. AND it enabled us to shoot a TV series without a crew.
Most importantly – we wanted to record authentic travel experiences that filled us with joy!
We wanted to be able to talk to strangers without intimidating them with a large camera on a tripod. They needed to feel comfortable in order to open up and tell us their stories. We wanted to make story gathering a pleasurable experience for everyone involved.
So when we set out on one of our many trips – we had a suit case each and ONE backpack of camera gear!
We used a Nikon digital SLR with external Rode mic; a Samsung Galaxy-K phone with external Rodes mic; occasionally a basic Samsung phone; a Sony Action Can and a seriess of mounts. Sometime we shot an interview with 2 different angles. We found a fantastic tripod that folds down to about the size of 2 fold up umbrellas. THAT’S IT! This is how we were able to shoot a TV series without a crew.
We wanted to be one of the early adopters of using a mobile phone camera to shoot a series – to show that it COULD be done.