Monday, 11 April 2005

Phil Keoghan stops in on Dunedin

Kiwi-born TV personality, Phil Keoghan, was in Dunedin recently promoting his new book No Opportunity Wasted, based on his new TV series of the same name. He's best known by most people around the world as host of the Emmy award winning Reality TV Adventure series, The Amazing Race.

This is of course my favourite show on TV, so I was stoked to be able to interview Phil Keoghan during his short stop in Dunedin for his promotional book tour. Here's a transcript of the interview...
You've been on your book tour here for No Opportunity Wasted for the last few weeks... What's it like to come home to New Zealand?

PHIL: Well I come home actually quite a bit, I have a place in the Coromandel, and I've been home every month since November... Any excuse to get home, I'm actually shooting a documentary as well about New Zealand being a great place to shoot movies. I've brought The Amazing Race here in Season 2 and Season 5, I've shot a few Discovery specials here... It's always good to find a way to get paid to come home - you know, when you're working.

You started your career in New Zealand in shows like Spot On and Short Sportz... and I understand it was a kiwi that inspired you to go overseas?

Yeh, well I had wanted to go overseas, but then I was on a shoot in Queenstown once, and I was talking to this guy about Sam Neill, and saying that I always admired what he'd done with his career... and while I was having this drink with somebody in Queenstown, he said "Oh, he's my neighbour. Why don't you write him a letter and I'll give it to him?". So I wrote him a letter, and he wrote back to me and gave me some pretty inspiring words... and I'd put in the letter to him that I admired the fact that he'd made it, and he wrote back to me and said "Well, in life you don't really make it... You shouldn't really feel like you're making it, you should just go out on a journey and see what happens". And so I've kindof tried to follow in that... Well, I would like to think that I'm on a journey, and that hopefully I'll never "arrive somewhere", that I'll always feel like there's something more to do... and I know that's how he's lived his life.

When you went off to the United States, you did a bunch of travel and adventure series' before The Amazing Race came along?

Yeh, I actually worked for Fox when I first went over... for four years travelling around America doing live news reports and things around the country - more like entertainment news stuff - and that was huge, you know, to do four years of live TV in the States... for a cable network at that point.

You're now heading towards your eighth season of The Amazing Race later this year... How many countries have you seen in the world?

Well, even before The Amazing Race, I had shot and travelled in 60 countries... and now, having done The Amazing Race I've revisited many, and I think I've pushed up over a hundred countries... I think there's some special club you can join if you go to more than a hundred countries!

You've been through seven series of The Amazing Race, with a whole range of different characters... Have you noticed a common thread in the people who do well, that do succeed in the competition?

I don't know what the secret is to doing well in The Amazing Race, because I've seen the most dysfunctional teams win, like Flo & Zac... I think my favourite winners would have to be Chip & Kim from Season 5. Prior to Season 7, Season 5 was definitely my favourite... I love Chip & Kim, I thought they were great... and they were probably the most popular winners that we've ever had on The Amazing Race... but they were totally different from Flo & Zac, and totally different from Season 1. Every season is totally unpredictable, and I think unlike a usual race where you're able to see people and know that, well you know, Dave is a really good runner or a really good driver or whatever, and chances are he's going to do well because he's won his last three races... On The Amazing Race when they start at the starting line, you have absolutely no clue... and that's part of the appeal of the race I think, because these so called "ordinary people" who are racing around the world for this million dollar prize... and we don't know anything about them... we find out along the way.

You're here in New Zealand promoting your new book, No Opportunity Wasted, which links in with a new series you've been doing in the States?

The book's essentially to help other people write their lists of things to do before you die - 8 ways to create a list for the life you want... It was a television series also in the United States, and I want to bring that to New Zealand. I've been getting people to go to
and find out all about the show, and just guaging people's interest. The way it works is we give people 72 hours and $3,000 to go out and do something that they've been procrastinating about... So people would apply... they don't know they've been chosen until we literally walk up to them, knock on their door, and say "Hey, is your name Dave, and was your dream to go ride a big, bad bull called Jack? Well you've got 72 hours and $3,000, so go make it happen... Stop procrastinating, Stop talking about some day, one day, wish I could've, would've, and should've... Go do it, Now!"

D: When you were 19 you wrote for yourself a pretty ambitious list of things you wanted to "do before you die", and you've managed to achieve a fair few of them?...

My list continues to grow, I continue to do new things... The whole point of having a list is that you should constantly be adding things, taking things off, moving them around, prioritising, that sort of thing... So it's not like you write one list and then you go, "Okay, I've got the list... done, finished, no more"... You should be adjusting it all the time.

So what's the main message you're trying to get through to people in your book and show?

The main message is that you can get more out of life if you focus on what you actually want out of life... And that if you write a list, you're writing a contract with yourself to set out to do the things you really want to do... and that there's no reason why you shouldn't be paid to do the things you really want to do in life. When I wrote out my list of things to do before I died, I decided early on that the best life I could have would be to actually get paid to do the things I wanted to do, like travel, meet new people, work in television overseas, and do different things. So, through design and focus you can come up with a list... and I think it's actually more difficult to write the list, than it is to do the things that are on your list... You know, it's just that you have to really focus, you've got to know what you want to do... Do you want to write a screenplay?, do you want to climb a mountain?, do you want to get married?, move to a new city?, travel?... What is the thing that is most important to you in your life? And your list should be very very different, completely different, from anybody else's... It should speak to what you want to do... And you might look at my list and go, "I don't want to go to the top of a volcano and eat dinner, I mean that's not what I want to do!"...

Yeh, I've seen the footage of you sitting on the top of a volcano having dinner... It must have been a pretty amazing sort of thing to do?

Well, for a while I was looking at doing different things in life... My list has kindof steered more towards helping other people live out the life that they really want... so I'm very focused on getting this book into people's hands, because I think it's a tool that can really help. When I test people about the things they want to do in their life, it's really interesting to me that... I'll say to them, "If you were to take your last breath tomorrow at 3.00, what's the one thing you would regret most not doing?"... And a lot of people sort of stop, and they go... "I don't know!"... And that kindof scares me, you know, it's like if you don't really know what you want to do with your life... then what is it you're living for?... What is it really that drives you?

Buy Phil Keoghan's book, No Opportunity Wasted,
here now, through

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