A while back my mate Derek asked me if I was interested in auditioning for the role of an Australian Federal Cop in National Geographic’s show Banged up Abroad ( please re-read that ,it’s not what you think ). I thought it sounded like a bit of a lark and fresh off my success with Bizarre Foods I accepted. A few weeks later I showed up for my “audition” which was very relaxed. A lovely British lass by the name of Barbie was directing and I had the part of the interrogating AFP cop at Don Muang airport. I breezed through it first go and they were happy with my effort and let me go.
A couple of weeks later an email arrived saying ” Congratulations, you got the part ! “. Hurrah to me, this should be fun I thought and as per their instructions, I awaited instructions. What was to follow over the next few weeks can only be described as a shit shoot of the highest order. Firstly, they needed to organise for a tailor to come to my house as I needed to be fitted for a uniform. I was contacted by their Khmer “fixer” who will now be know as CLUELESS . She would prove to be about as useless as tits on a bull. I gave her our address, gave her my wife’s number in case they had troubles finding our house and asked they not be late as I only had an hour for lunch , had a large business to run and was not going to dilly dally. I arrived home bang on 12pm on the allotted day and waited. And waited. And waited. At 12.30pm I rang CLUELESS and asked her where the tailor was.
CLUELESS ; ” They are on the way, maybe 20 minutes more”.
ME; “Sorry, this does not suit me as I will have to head back to work in 20 minutes. I did ask you to make sure they were on time”
CLUELESS; ” Can’t you wait ?”
ME; ” No. I can’t. You can send them to my office at XXXXX address. I am available at 3pm”
CLUELESS; ” Where is that ? I don’t know where that is”
ME; ” So use a map……”
The tailors arrive 15 minutes early and I am measured up and off they go.
Some days later I receive another email with the FINAL SCHEDULE and FINAL SCRIPT attached. I am due to film at 1.30pm on the coming Saturday
( which happens to be Chinese New Year – a big day in my family so I have to reschedule a few things ) but there is no address or any indication of where I have to be. Friday afternoon rolls around and still no word on where I need to be. I am not the only one in this boat as other cast members are now rapidly emailing each other asking for location. I ring CLUELESS and ask her for the address of the location.” Ok I will SMS it now”. Hours later she still hasn’t so I call Barbie and tell her no-one is contacting any of us and I am getting a bit fed up with this turkey shoot. Barbie tells me Tim the Producer will call me which he does a while later…..to tell me that the location fell through and they now need me the following Tuesday at 5pm !. Thanks very much….I mean…..it’s not like I have planned my weekend around this or anything. I also ask Tim if they want me to bring shoes and a belt to go with my uniform because to the best of my knowledge Australian Federal Policemen do not go barefoot.
So Tuesday rolls around and I wait again for instructions from CLUELESS on the new location. Around 3pm I get an SMS ” Dear Brendan, I want to inform you we are filming at the Cultural Centre opposite the National Assembly and please make it 6pm not 5.00pm”. Brendan ? I feel so special now. Memorable even. I SMS back that I will be there but can she please give better instructions as there are two National Assemblies ( The Old and The New ). I wait her her to contact me etc etc. I decide to head to Garage for a beer or 3 to loosen up and Jeff and I even google Phnom Penh Cultural Centre with no luck. Around 5.40pm I speak to CLUELESS and she gives me more vague directions ” It is opposite Naga” so I head off in the peak hour riverfront traffic. I get to Naga and after several loops trying to find the venue and ringing CLUELESS for help (only to find her phone is off ) I think ” fuck this, I am over it”. I ring CLUELESS again and again and finally she answer her phone.
Me; “Exactly how much are you paying me for this ?”
CLUELESS; ” We have budgeted $50 for your part”
Me ; ” Well I don’t get out of bed for many more time that amount and you have wasted enough of my time. My price is $300. Take it or leave it. The next person I speak to had better be Barbie” or words to that effect……….
CLUELESS; Stunned silence.
I then head over to 3 Rivers for a beer and eventually Barbie calls. She pleads with me to lower my appearance fee and whilst she is very nice and I tell her I have no issue with her, I also stick to my guns and tell her I have been jerked around non-stop and my price is my price. She tells me to wait and 5 minutes later I get a phone call from Tim the Producer saying ” ok come on over and we will pay you what you are asking”. I make my way over to where the place is supposed to be and eventually I locate the crew. They are in the Khmer Kite Museum . I ask CLUELESS why she didn’t just say the Kite Museum as of course I know where that is as the sign has been there for ages . I tell her to take a look at the huge sign and tell me what it says and she ums and ahs and says ” This is the Cultural Centre” and I tell her again to ‘ TAKE A LOOK AT THE SIGN FFS ” I drive in leaving her standing there CLUELESS. Which she clearly is.
I change into my uniform which seems to be made of 300% rayon it is so stiff. No badges, no baton and where the bloody hell is MY GUN ? Still…at least it fits perfectly. I meet my fellow AFP copper – a Brit working for the UNDP no less. His accent is about as un-Australian as it comes but he is easy to work with and strikes me as a guy who would be fun to have a beer with. We are shown into a dingy looking office and before we know it we are given new scripts and I am very glad I studied the old one and committed it to memory. *shred*. Anyways, we are filmed from all different angles and are able to ad-lib a bit which is fun. Turns out my partner is one of the local Phnom Penh Players ( a drama group ) and i am naturally talented so we have good fun. The crew look like they are about to dissolve in their own puddles of sweat and the main actor ( apparently flown in from the UK ) should go back to stacking shelves in Cosco. After about 2 hours we are done. Barbie thanks me, I collect my now increased wad of money and head over to Talking To A Stranger where I have a few cold beers and some dinner before retiring home.
And there you have it. The Muppet Show Cambodia. Coming soon to a Nat Geo Channel near you.