Celebs on the Ranch

Back in November I spent three weeks in Arizona working as the Series Director on a new Channel 5 show called ‘Celebs on the Ranch’. It featured ten familiar faces off the TV learning how to become cowboys and cowgirls in the real terrain of the southwestern US state.

Filming a reality TV show in America may seem at the opposite end of the TV and video making spectrum compared to filming online video at an office in Stockport, but both situations require very similar approaches. Here are two of them.

The cameras we used were Sony FS7’s and Sony PMW 300’s.

Firstly camera kit. We aimed to hire all of the equipment in the US. Considering the neighbouring state of California is a TV making hub, you thought this would be easy. But there is a big difference between cameras regularly used in the UK for broadcast TV and the US. In the end we hired over £120K of camera equipment from Film Store in London, and we took it all out there with us. A huge logistical nightmare as the Production Manager had to complete a Carnet listing all equipment taken out of the UK, as when we return we need to prove we have not purchased any kit out in the US.

Where was ‘Celebs on the Ranch’ filmed? Have a look right here at Cherry Creek Lodge.

Every film Bellyflop does requires the same attention to detail regarding kit. Each shoot we do is different, some require small GoPro cameras, we need certain cameras (such as if it’s a conference we need a particular camera better at shooting from a distance at the back of a large room). Although it’s easier filming in Stockport compared to taking kit to the US, we also need to plan travel- where can we park, which entrance can we take camera kit in, and are there any security issues with what we take.

‘Celebs on the ranch’ was a first for me- the first time ever on a horse.


Filming people not used to being filmed. Whilst our celebrity cast are very much used to having cameras in their faces, its wasn’t the same for the team of cowboys we were filming. Real cowboys. Their experience of meeting and working with the celebrities was as much a part of the story telling as was the celebrities meeting them. So from the offset we got to know the cowboys, chatted, and then once the cameras were on our shoulders they felt a bit more relaxed. We let them try holding the cameras, looking through the lens, we explained what we were doing in detail before doing it, and crucially we involved them in what was being filmed, asking them if we could do it better.

Here is my blog post about the first ‘Celebs on the…’ series I directed.

The show is very much about the horses they work with so we also sought their advice on how best to be around the horses, where to stand, and what equipment may scare them. By the end of the shoot all the cowboys were really relaxed, and on the last day we got the cowboys to actually talk to camera about their experience of meeting the celebrities- something we didn’t think they would ever do. All of this is precisely what Bellyflop do on a shoot. We aim to let the people on camera enjoy the experience as much as possible, and put them at ease.

Here I am with the brilliant camera crew.

I hope you get a chance to see comedian and presenter Stephen Bailey, along with Rancher Rick, meet the celebrities. It’s on every weekday evening at 9pm on 5 Star from 1st April for two weeks.

Jonathan Robinson is the Managing Director / owner of bellyflopTV, and has made broadcast Tv and online video for over 20 years.



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