December 14, 2015

Bankstone News is still trying to catch up with all the web-TV it’s got behind on lately. E.g. Episodes 3 and 4 of Insurance Ache’s smash-hit reality video serial sensation The Broker’s Apprentice, which provided our six eager contestants with a salutary life lesson: never take what an insurer tells you at face value.

At the beginning of Episode 3 we see l0v£ Insurance’s Jonno Rork tasking the two teams with “making a movie” to promote the joys of insurance broking. This, he says, they will be showing to a selection of Sarf London sixth-formers to see who does best at luring these hapless innocents towards a life in broking.

Speaking of hapless innocents, the remainder of Ep 3 sees Teams Perspire and E Valve partly planning, to some extent scripting, and then hilariously attempting to direct and star in their respective promotional films.

Team Ee Vole’s storyboarding meeting, characterised by judge-minder Jonathan Swifty as “a bit slow” sees high-minded talk from the cerebral Charlie (never call him Charles, he gets really angry if you call him Charles) about the history of the Lloyd’s market and ‘the primacy of the insurance industry.’ Beardy Dan, when not discretely sleight-of-handing the overflow from a chronically runny nose, proposes featuring images of big things that might need insuring.

In the Perspire planning session, Tristan, a livid red rose between two shrinking violets, and a man by no means uncomfortable with the sound of his own voice, quickly takes over. His strategy essentially involves claiming personal credit for the insuring of everything ever insured. Nicky tries to tone things down, suggesting that when we say “I helped get lives back on track, I helped those houses get rebuilt” we can say that we mean the insurance broking industry as a whole. ‘That’s awesome,’ agrees Tris, secretly thinking ‘that’s not going in my script!’ The team’s minder Lemuel Kenning is well impressed: they are sticking to the brief, keeping the audience in mind, and trying to make it engaging.

Moving on to filming, we first see team Ee Volvo in the studio. Ginny looks like she was born to bring autocue scripts to life. She wasn’t. Caught like a rabbit between green screen drapes and hot studio lights, she seems confused even about her own team’s name. Halfway through the shoot, with Dan also having tried and failed to deliver some lines to camera, the team decide to regroup and come up with a new strategy. Eventually they appear to plump for talking about teeth and stuff.

Unimpressed minder Jon Swift lolls in the darker recesses of the tiny studio, a broodingly idle reclining presence, fingers alternately locked behind his head with elbows splayed, playing with imaginary braces, or knitted above his belly. Charlie hangs back, looking like he’d rather not be associated with this whole farrago. All in all, there’s nothing in ‘the filming of’ Ee Volve’s video to suggest we’ll be watching anything other than a total car crash in Episode 4.

When Team Perspire finally get into the studio, Tristan outlines a plan that involves having all three team members on screen for the opening seconds, before the other two walk off leaving Tris centre stage to brag about how he arranged the insurance for various high-profile global events. Nick and Em get little spots of their own later. Nick suggests the word ‘you’ appears on screen in big letters to show that their film is not just about Tris and his co-presenters, but also about YOU! This is called relating to your target audience.

Things get slightly awkward when Tris experiences difficulties around shirt-tucking, trousers, and voice recording technology, and briefly appears to be under the impression that a studio recording technician intends that a mic lead should emerge from his ‘bottom hole’. Nick attempts to drag the attention away from his leader for a second by claiming that he is going to faint due to excessive heat and ‘strangulation’ but is only joking. Tris shows off his advanced skills in pointing and gesturing, playfully inventing a little dance routine to highlight these. Emma has been mostly standing around with a clipboard looking like she wants to take control but can’t quite face confronting Tristan head on. But as the three depart, everything appears to have gone swimmingly well. “Smooth” is Nicky’s verdict.

Moving on to Episode 4 and the unveiling of the two teams’ masterworks, we arrive at Bishop Challenger’s School in leafy Beckenham, home to globally venerated concrete effigy the Mossy Messiah. This hardcore Catholic seminary founded in 1590 rejoices in the Latin motto Quantum poets tantrum Audi, which roughly translates as ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.’

What will the students make of the two teams’ efforts? The sixthformers’ ‘before’ comments suggest our heroes may be in for a challenging reception. Not interested, one frankly avers. Another suggests that insurance broking is probably something to do with ‘numbers and money’ and therefore intrinsically unappetising.

Team Perspire’s vid is up first. Tristan steps up to introduce it. If you have any electronic devices, he begins, please make sure they are switched… on! Sensing the blank-faced ranks of sombrely clad sixthformers warming helplessly to his cheeky charm, Tris pursues his ‘down with the kids’ gambit, by suggesting they have their twitter accounts open (bearing in mind he’s talking to 16-18 year olds).

Cutting from Tris live to Tris on film, we hear how he insured the World Cup and London marathon, then from ‘nurturing’ female Emma about how she likes to ‘be there’ on the end of a phone to help people who’ve been flooded or something, and from ‘relationship’ specialist Nicky about how he goes out boozing and for cheeky Nandos with clients and insurers. ‘YOU are the next generation,’ an on-screen trio of Perspirers explain to the students, and it’s all about YOU! Cue warm applause. This slick, action-packed video is going, like grimly efficient Staines pop-rockers Hard-Fi, to be hard to beat.

Team E Value wander onto ‘stage’ to introduce their oeuvre, getting all technical from the get-go and clearly going way over the tops of these kids’ heads. Where Perspire proved dabs hands at pointing to invisible text and images on unpopulated green screen backgrounds, Team Ew! Volvic are utterly hapless, with hands and images colliding awkwardly, ending up superimposed, or missing their targets altogether.

Either they’re hapless, or they’ve simply been sabotaged by mischievous video technicians wilfully dropping things in out of place. Either way, the video is dry, technical, jargon heavy, obsessed with explaining what brokers actually do, and woefully devoid of slickness, cheekiness or street creed. As it ends with the chorused intoning of the mantra “Insurance broking: no limits, no boundaries!” the three just won’t stop talking, with Dan likening broking to sorting people out with the right mobile phone deal.

Who will the students’ pick as winners of this week’s task? The answer may come as a bit of a shock. Although the audience members all agree Eeeeeee Volve’s video was a bit pants, they seem to have taken some perverse pleasure in being treated like grown-ups and given a lot of tedious detail about what insurance broking is and how it works. They even seemed to appreciate hand-outs, business cards, and offers of days spent shadowing Ginny, Dan or Charlie.

So Team EV win by a landslide (despite their lacklustre stuttering ‘movie’), while video pros Perspire are left wondering where and how it all went wrong. Sour grapes comments along the lines of ‘but our movie was much better’ are mysteriously absent from the closing sections of the episode, which features only the victorious Team Eeeeevil rationalising about how they must have won because they were able to think outside the box and took a more mature approach.

All in all, a stark warning of the perfidious perils of democracy.

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