Verge Meets: Alex Zane

StubHub Extreme Tenting Video shoot with Alex Zane, Park Royal, London, UK - 22/05/2017 Picture: Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images

Alex Zane is possibly one of the UKs biggest film buffs, and so we were super excited to know all about how he got to land his dream job and his latest project with StubHub which is sees him in a slightly different light to what we know and love him for!!!

Can you tell us your journey from the start to where you are now?

I was five years old when I watched Jaws for the first time and remember pleading with my mum to let me watch it and her replying, “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!” which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best response, because the concept of jeopardy was largely unknown to me being just five! Either way, I watched it, the consequence of which was that I have never been in the sea since (there was a short period where I refused to have bubbles in the bath because I needed to see the bottom), but… it also spurred my lifelong love of cinema.

I’ve been working for Sky Cinema for nearly ten years now and it’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for me, except with movies rather than chocolate, which I’m indifferent about. Interviewing everyone from Tom Cruise to Tom Hanks to Tom Hardy to people not called Tom is something I feel lucky to do as a job.

Along the way – and in no particular order – I’ve dropped out of UCL Medical School, been the only kid at my comprehensive school to carry a briefcase, made a pretty special prank show called ‘Balls Of Steel’, hosted ‘TRL’ on MTV, made a really nuts prank show called ‘Space Cadets’, went back to uni at Goldsmiths, hosted the breakfast radio show on Xfm, got to the finals of the UK ‘Dungeons And Dragons Championship’, dropped out of uni a second time, appeared as a zombie in ‘Dawn of The Dead’, got a tattoo of a shark when I was drunk, appeared as a TV presenter in universally loved comedy sequel ‘Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo’, made up a really cool story about why I got the shark tattoo that didn’t involve being drunk and briefly held the world record for the most number of high fives performed in an hour. There was some other stuff too, but that’s all I can remember right now.

 What would you say has been your career highlight?

Interviewing Steven Spielberg on the balcony of the Odeon cinema in London’s Leicester Square ranks pretty high, seeing as Jaws was where it all began for me. He said afterwards that it was “the best interview” he’d had all night. So, yeah, I know that’s blowing my own trumpet but, y’know, it is Steven Spielberg. So, there was that and also meeting Burt Reynolds. I loved Burt Reynolds as a kid,  and was lucky enough to interview him in LA and the interview went really well . At the end of our chat, Burt said “That was a great interview, what’s your name” and I was like “It’s Alex Zane” and he replied, “I’ll remember you”.

Lo and behold the following day I walked into a bar with a friend and Burt Reynolds is in there! So, I said to my friend, all casual, “Oh look it’s Burt Reynolds, I know him” and obviously my friend thought I was bluffing!  So, over we go and I said, “Hi Burt, sorry to disturb you but we met yesterday, I interviewed you…” and Burt Reynolds looked up at me, there’s a brief pause, and then he says “Oh yeah, it’s Alan, right? Alan Zone.”

And that’s how you end up being called Alan Zone by your friend FOREVER.

 Our readers are student based, so what advice would you give to students who are looking to venture into the entertainment industry?

Get as much hands-on experience as possible. Whatever element of the entertainment industry you want to work in, the best thing you can do is get as much work experience as you can. When I was studying Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, I was also working as a runner for Avalon Television on the now defunct Channel 5 show ‘Jenny Eclair’s Private Function’, which involved everything from lugging pieces of set around at 6am on a Sunday morning, to trawling round Soho’s adult stores looking for the weirdest sex toys you can buy for a feature on the weirdest sex toys you can buy. But the people I met on that show went on to give me some of my first writing jobs in TV.

If you’re looking to get into the TV or film industry, potential employers are going to want to know what practical skills you have, such as can you operate a camera, set up a shot, do you know how to edit? Shadowing people who are currently working in these fields is the best way to learn. If you hope to be a broadcaster, specialise in a subject that is important today. The idea of the general ‘TV presenter’ has pretty much gone, now you have chefs who present cooking shows, people who know about property present property shows, so whatever your passion is, start thinking about recording yourself talking about it and getting it out there.

The extreme tenting looked like great fun, tell us a bit about that?! 

I worked with StubHub on a series of tongue-in-cheek videos on how to put up your tent in extreme weather conditions whilst at music festivals, from torrential rain and thick mud, to heatwaves and gale force winds! The videos, which can be found on StubHub UK’s YouTube channel, include a list of do’s and don’ts, like: Do take extra toilet paper, as it’ll be the most useful thing you will bring and by the final day when portaloo Armageddon begins, it can be used as a form of currency. And: Don’t pitch your tent at the bottom of a hill, as you will wake up in a sea of mud – and with it being a festival, there’s only a 50 per cent chance that it’s actually mud.

 What are your plans at the moment, can you tell us what you are up to?

I’m currently working on questions for Hugh Jackman ahead of an interview I’m doing with him. His new film is the musical ‘The Greatest Showman’ about the life of P T Barnum, so we’re discussing what he considers to be some of the greatest musicals ever put on-screen, it’ll be on Sky One this Christmas. Then I’m heading over to Boston to chat to Denzel Washington on the set of ‘The Equalizer 2’.

 Is there an aspect of your career you have enjoyed more than other areas?

I like the travel. As cinema becomes more and more about the international markets, so do the locations in which they are being filmed. I was in Hong Kong covering ‘Transformers’. New York for ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, and I visited a film set in ‘Budapest for Blade Runner 2049’. That last one was fascinating, watching Ryan Gosling having to do a complex choreographed fight scene over and over again, in the middle of the night, when it was freezing, with waves from Europe’s largest water tank splashing over him and a rain machine pouring down on him. I mean, it’s genuinely one of the only times I haven’t wanted to be Ryan Gosling.

 Of course, following on what aspect of the job is your least favourite?

I’m not going to name names but occasionally you are reminded of the age-old adage “Never meet your heroes”. When I interview someone and they turn out to be rude or unnecessarily difficult, it isn’t just a bad day at the office for me, it means that every film I have ever watched and enjoyed with that actor in, is now taken from me. I can no longer lose myself in their movies, as I’ll always remember how awful they were to interview. Thankfully, it happens very rarely, I can only think of two occasions in 15 years.

 You remain quite a private person, how do you find coping with fame in general is there a key to handling fame?

Hmmm, I don’t know really. I guess I don’t really think about it very much. I think if you ever start to consider yourself as famous – or perhaps a better way to put it is if you ever start to see your fame as having some form of currency that should be recognised by those around you – that’s when you run the risk of becoming an asshole. I just try and be nice to people, keep my head down as much as possible, and get the job done.

Alex is the star of StubHub’s Extreme Tenting campaign, you can watch his top tips to erecting a tent in extreme weather conditions here: youtube.com/user/StubHubUK. Visit stubhub.co.uk to buy and sell tickets to the very best music festivals, gigs, sports matches and theatre performances across the UK.