To say that I was nervous was an understatement. Any time I had been required to do anything daring or extreme, a stuntman had to be involved! Yet, here I was, a 40 something actor being dunked in a helicopter crash simulator and having to swim my way out! Not just once, but six times! Yes, this time I was taking my ‘show’ offshore!
As part of an International Leadership Programme, I had been delivering a Communications Seminar across the globe for many months. I had seen the extremes of North America – ‘the Badlands’ of North Dakota, ‘where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain’ in Oklahoma, and the high rises of Corporate America. The next and final stop on my ‘road trip’ was to take the seminar out to the people of the Oil Platforms in the middle of the North Sea!
I didn’t know what to expect and the fear of the unknown was huge!
However, out on those platforms I met, and worked with a community who were appreciative, receptive, welcoming and kind. I experienced a camaraderie which reminded me of the kinda atmosphere I encounter as an actor on a film set or even on a theatre run.
From my experience I found that ‘Life on an Oil Platform’ is similar to my life as a Professional Actor. Here are my top 4 reasons why;
1) You have to learn the lingo
On an oil platform you can expect to hear a language which could be confusing to people from outside world.
In the theatre we use terms such as ‘the wings’, ‘break a leg’, ‘offstage’, ‘upstage’ and ‘corpsing’. It takes a while for anyone from the outside world to work out which is stage left, what is the fly tower and what is ‘the half’.
When you are working on television you have to learn an altogether different lingo. Who is the chief grip? What is a dolly? And it’s not at all shocking for a director to tell you “Once we’ve done a dirty single, we’ll do a quick reverse – are you going to need a sausage?”
It took me a while but by the end of my second trip to the Platforms I was beginning to sound like a local! Here are some of my top tips:
- When 12 big burly men tell you they are going to the beach, it doesn’t mean they are off on a jolly day trip to the seaside, it means they are looking forward to going home!
- Do not describe your survival suit as your “onesie” or to call your PPE your orange jumpsuit!
- Derrick is not one of your co-workers!
- The mess room isn’t normally described as the restaurant!
- I’m still to fully understand what a Pig is, but I know it needs a pig receiver too!!!
2) Everyone works in collaboration not competition
In the corporate environment to which I have spent a lot of time coaching and training, I have found that most people are hardwired to work in competition.
Platform life is completely different and it makes a refreshing change to work in such an environment where collaboration is already the starting point. They have a common goal and by truly ‘working together’ they manage to reach it.
The same philosophy runs true in acting.
Theatre, by its very nature, demands that anyone working on a production is an integral member of that team. The final performance could never be successfully completed without every member of the cast and crew working towards the same goal. A high level of trust, respect and cooperation is required by all.
Whether you are working on an oil platform or a television soap, teamwork requires self-motivation and self-discipline. You need to have the ability to contribute to the process, be open to actively listen to others, take constructive criticism, make relevant and useful suggestion and generally help drive the project forward.
3) Communicating and Communicaring
It came as no surprise to find that everyone working Offshore was already competent in their communication skills.
In order to truly communicate with each other, you need to stop wearing any ‘mask’ and be confident enough to be able to be who you truly are. On board the platform’s I met men and women who were totally at ease being themselves, what you see is what you get. They are there 24/7 with nowhere to escape so they can only really be themselves.
Everyone has a deep level of respect and care for each other but have a great amount of banter which was always delivered with a gigantic heart.
In life, I really believe we have to know how to respect each other as people need respect. Most people have some level of insecurity, so making them feel respected and understood so they believe in themselves is a gift. We are all built in different ways, but deep down, we are all the same. –We all have the same kind of heart. In my world, communicating and ‘communi-caring’ are the building blocks of a community.
4) Being a diva won’t get you far
If you are both respectful and grateful, you’ve got the best chance ever of carving out a career in the cut-throat world of television and film acting. I’ve worked with some big stars and what has always surprised me is how down to earth, non demanding and grounded they are. Never have I witnessed any ‘diva’ behaviours, strops or “do you know who I am?” moments. Anyone who behaves like that just doesn’t survive, it is not the industry for them and their career is only a short lived one.
Life offshore doesn’t have room for Diva’s either!! I certainly understood this first hand when I first asked for my double room with an en-suite and a sea view!!
The platforms are full of a real cross section of people, all working together and appreciating each other as human beings and not just co-workers. Everyone I met on the oil platform had their own unique personalities, different thinking styles and their own management style. In all communications and encounters, people took into account their own style along with their colleague’s personality to ensure that they effectively controlled and adapted to any situation.
My experience of life ‘Offshore’ was an incredible leveller! There was no culture of ‘them and us’, everyone mucked in and grafted hard. As an outsider, a ‘beach dweller’, I never felt anything but welcomed, respected, looked after and cared for. Thankyou to all