In the land of TV production where there are dozens of production assistants and crew to do all the heavy lifting, Costa Georgiadis is the real deal.
The Gardening Australia host is happy to get his hands dirty, literally. When I visit the ABC production on location in a garden build (not a makeover), the wildly-bearded host is building a garden for home for people living with disabilities. Carrying supplies, digging, hard yakka work and waiting for his colleagues to bring him lunch -there’s no catering van here – it’s just another day at the office.
“That’s pretty much how we bounce. If we’re doing jobs we basically do it ourselves. I collect the materials, and juggle that it’s going to be here and sorted,” he explains.
“The difficult part for us is when you when you’re doing a build you’ve got to film at the same time. I can’t be doing something in the background. If we’re interviewing or if we’re doing some overlay we’ve got to have Sound. I can’t be paving or shovelling out the back.
“But I love it because this is the part where I keep connected. I appreciate having my hands in the soil as much as I working on the story.”
For any shoot the ABC series has to operate on a crew of just 4: camera, sound, producer and presenter. On this story he is joined by veteran presenter Jane Edmanson.
Georgiadis, who began on SBS a decade ago, has been presenting Gardening Australia for over 5 years. He is a big believer in gardening as a way of connecting with people and, in some cases, raising issues for deeper consideration.
“If people are comfortable then they really open up and it’s not just asking questions. Anyone can ask a question and then someone can give you an answer. But I think there’s a difference between an answer and a feeling.
“I feel like, in a very short period of time, I’ve got to know the residents here and got a feel for where they’re coming from.
“It’s not intimidating in the sense that you can crack open lots of issues. It’s quite Trojan because you’re not you’re not coming hard from the left or hard from the right. You’re actually just coming in and saying ‘Gardening!’ Everyone drops their defences because everyone’s got a little bit of gardener in them, somewhere.”
Gardening Australia, which was nominated for a Logie in the Lifestyle category, has presenters across Australia including John Patrick (Vic), Millie Ross (Vic), Clarence Slockee (NSW), Angus Stewart (NSW), Jerry Coleby-Williams (Qld), Sophie Thomson (SA), Tino Carnevale (Tas), Josh Byrne (WA) plus guest presenters including Indira Naidoo and Carolyn Blackman.
Georgiadis regularly travels to horticultural events meeting both fans and uncovering story ideas.
“You meet those left-field, rough diamonds who are into this particular plant, or into this ecology or element of horticulture. They’re all out there,” he continues.
“They’re over that fence and until you just have a little peekaboo you mightn’t even realise. The person in the unit above you could be into their indoor plants or seed collecting.
“We’d love to do more travel, but it becomes a challenge budget-wise, and time-wise to get out there. Every weekend I’m out in the regions.
“There’s so much going on in the regions and there are stories aplenty, but the problem is you’ve got to get there, you’ve got to shoot a few stories, accommodation for 4 people. We’d love to do more, and we’d love to do much more in the tropics.
“As you’re aware with the changing TV landscape we’ve going to make more content on less money. So the stories have to be nimble.
“But it’s nice to do something like this, some practical stories not just ‘Let’s go for a wander around.’ Get the presenters hands-on.”
The series is also lowering the average age of its audience, according to Georgiadis.
“For a long time it’s been predominantly over 50, over 60. But there are more families and an Under 50s audience coming on board,” he says.
“When they did a survey (they found) the younger audience and older audience both wanted the same things -just in a different order. They wanted practical, design and inspiration. They also wanted seasonal edibility and they wanted activity.
“Kids are getting into gardening from preschools, primary schools. I get a lot of people come up and say, ‘We watch the show as a family.’ So those stats are slowly translating.”
With his distinctive appearance Georgiadis is popular with kids, and will even be animated into story form as a garden gnome in ABC ME’s Get Grubby TV.
Yet despite the busy schedule of 36 episodes a year, and the constraints of the ABC budgets, Georgiadis’ enthusiasm for his profession shows no signs of slowing down.
“I feel like I’ve just pushed the foot off the starting block because the time has rocketed,” he smiles.
“People say ‘How many times can you tell a story about paving?’ or ‘How many times can you tell a story about mulch?’ But I look at it and say ‘Each time you tell the story the way you engage, captures people again.’
“Every time you come out into the garden it’s not the same. The clouds are different, the skies, the temperatures are different, the harvest and the plant flowers are different.
“So I could do this forever.”
Gardening Australia airs 6:30pm Saturdays on ABC.