“I’ve always liked acting the maggot so I’d say acting the maggot was the aim, as opposed to specifically presenting.”
Sean Regan is every inch the enthusiastic and charismatic character he portrays on RTÉ 2’s Elev8. As he clears away that evening’s varied props, ranging from carrots to Ritz crackers, to a pair of thick rimmed glasses, Sean and I discuss the world of children’s television presenting.
With RTÉ having made an open call for new children’s television presenters, this seems like as good a time as any to discuss this particular avenue of presenting and whether it really is as fun as it looks.
Presenting had not always been the career Sean had in mind. Having studied Business in UCD, he was one of those who applied for RTÉ’s last open call about four years ago.
“I wasn’t going to apply but then I decided to apply because they extended the deadline and I said sure why not!”
With only a small amount of experience from UCD societies, Sean never really expected to get the job. Yet, there we were, sitting in RTÉ’s Donnybrook Headquarters as Sean made a bowl of cous cous, bought an apple and discussed his experience so far of children’s television presenting.
“It’s very enjoyable,” he says. “You’re doing all sorts of interesting things every day. Every day is different.”
Sean is certainly appreciative of all he gets to do. He describes some of the highlights of his job as getting to meet intriguing people, being creative in the content he produces and gaining amazing experiences and opportunities.
His eyes seem to light up and his voice gets noticeably more animated as he recalls skiing trips, hover car races and the occasional press trip to London. “It’s unbelievable, it’s incredible.”
Reflecting on his own childhood, television was certainly a huge passion for Sean. Once his family actually got around to purchasing a television set that is.
“I didn’t have television until I was eight years old so when we got it, I was really into it.” Sean says, his enthusiasm mimicking his childlike wonder of the past.
With characters such as Dustin and Socky, shows like 50/50 and Blue Peter as favourites of his childhood, I do wonder whether it is any of these that inspire him in his own job now. I am quickly corrected. “The Hardy Bucks. The Viper is my inspiration,” he says, not even hesitating.
Chatting about television shows gone by and the likes of national treasures Dustin and Socky, the conversation quickly steers towards children’s television of the twenty first century and its huge developments in recent years.
“They’re moving towards incorporating apps and going mobile. That’s where people are consuming content these days.”
Elev8 has taken great steps in applying innovative and online aspects to its format. Creating content solely for YouTube, running online competitions and making a digital sticker-collecting app, the show is gearing itself for the twenty first century online viewership.
Television is becoming increasingly dependent on YouTube itself. “It’s all about figures.” Sean says.
The incentive of an audience already existing from a YouTube channel is something which greatly appeals to television stations. “Have you not heard of Stephen Byrne?”
Of course, ‘figures’ also encompasses monetary figures. With budget cuts, things have been noticeably scaled back.
“There’s never been an increase in the budget for the show that we have.” Sean says. In a world increasingly demanding of high quality content, producing Elev8 can be quite challenging. Perhaps that explains the inspiration of the infamously low-budget Viper.
Children’s television remains a responsibility, but not a burden in the eyes of Sean. Regardless of budget cuts and days when nothing appears less appealing than ‘acting the maggot’, “You take on a responsibility that it’s bigger than you.”
This responsibility and loyalty to his line of work insures that his job in children’s television presenting has no time for a bad day. “Who are you to go sharing that bad buzz with however many thousands of people are watching that show?” Sean says, adamant in his opinion that he has a specific duty to carry out.
A responsibility to maintain professionalism is of course something heavily present in all careers and so Sean’s job as children’s television presenter remains a career to envy. “I get paid to act like a child.” he says.
Talking about the future, Sean says with a chuckle “I’m going wherever there’s a party on, or income.”
Caoimhe Ní Chathail