How Metal Detectorists are Portrayed on Television and Movies

Metal Detecting TV Shows

Dear television and movie producers, can you please avoid portraying metal detectorists as uneducated villains, or looking like we came from the backwoods or are buffoons? 

A few shows did us right, and one that did it the best and showed the nuances of the hobby was the BBC series Detectorists. Thank you, Mackenzie Crook, but boy can I list a plethora of shows and movies that did us wrong.

A good example, there is a new romantic movie where the villain is a greedy metal detectorists. The same movie also has a bunch of metal detectorists scanning the beach with inexpensive beginner detectors that would not even work in such conditions and wouldn’t be used at that level of detecting. The second example is one of the reality shows that focuses on metal detecting where you see metal detectorists jumping and rolling on the ground when they find a button or coin. 

In fictional shows, you see things like the wrong metal detectors being used for the sand or soil that the actors are detecting. Most of the time, the detectors are not assembled right sometimes, you see the coils are on backwards or the coil cord is not wrapped around the shaft. Usually, the actors are using cheap accessories, like spades, that serious metal detectorists would never use. Dangerous practices are seen on these shows, such as metal detectorists not wearing gloves or having on the wrong footwear, which is a safety concern. Not to mention the casting of the metal detectorists to look homeless, scruffy or unintelligent, and criminal-like.

What I don’t see showcased much, which could easily be done on reality shows, is the level of depth we go into before we walk out the door detecting. Map overlaying, studying old maps and aerials, using LIDAR, as well as researching the history of areas we want to detect. For beach metal detectorists, studying the tides and storms. The research is all time-consuming but equally important as swinging the machine and what it takes to get good finds. Looking for fruitful locations is just some of the sophistication it takes to be a successful metal detectorist, and this is all done before we walk out the door. Also, today’s metal detectors are minicomputers, and it takes patience and easily 100 hours of use to understand most of the settings. The settings change with soil conditions and customizing them is a science on its own. Successful metal detectorists have spent hours zeroing on what tone and VDI numbers are worth digging or not digging so they can find treasure in the trash. Basically, it takes some intelligence to be a metal detectorist and this needs to be portrayed better on reality shows.

The lack of what scriptwriters, producers, directors, and prop folks are showing is actually giving those who want to get into the hobby false hope. They think if you get any metal detector, simply walk out the door, turn it on and you will find treasure after treasure. It is portrayed as an easy hobby, leaving a lot of newbies frustrated.

Let’s discuss scripts that characterize metal detectorists as villains. Just don’t do it. It has taken us years to gain acceptance, get the right laws in place, and show the positivity of metal detectorists. Throwing us under the bus and portraying us as villains erases hard work of those who have gone to congress to get legislation to fight to preserve the hobby and, there are places for us to detect and for future generations to detect. Many detectorists and metal detecting club officials have gone to their local leaders and park board meetings to keep everything in good faith. Making us villains takes all this effort backwards.

My word of advice to scriptwriters and producers is, if you are going to have metal detectorists in your fictional movie, please hire or seek a volunteer who is an actual good metal detectorist. Make sure your movie portrays metal detectorists correctly. Have the right equipment properly set up for the type of soil or sand that they are detecting. It is also important to make sure actors are swinging the metal detector right, such as having the correct clearness that is mostly no clearness, keeping that coil to the ground, and not doing what we call a banana swing. Avoid making us villains in the script, and show that we tend to follow laws, be kind, helpful, help the environment, and so on. Finding a good metal detectorists to consult is as easy as sending me a message on this site’s contact form, and I can help find a local person where you are filming. You could also use the metal detecting directory feature on this site to find a local metal detecting club near where you are filming and call or send them an email to see if someone is interested in being a part of the production as a consultant. 

If you are going to be filming a reality show, please portray us as a sophisticated, educated group of individuals who have a talent for patience, details, researching history, and looking out for each other and the community. Show the quality friendships that develop in the hobby. Explain how much research goes into the area that will be metal detected, such as map overlaying, using LIDAR, as well as looking at aerial new and old photos, and studying footprints of paths, houses, mines, or orchards that used to be there at one time. Keep it real, show there is just as much, or more leg work happening during the research before finding a quality location to metal detect.

Basically, let us help you. If you portray metal detecting in the right light, trust me, detectorists will promote the movie or television show to everyone around them.

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  1. I agree with you Joanna however the part that you failed to mention or I should mention is that these reality shows are hunting for a specific treasures and are directed by heresay and never end with a solid ending or no completion and it seems like 99.5% of the stories or digs turn out that way.

  2. I completely agree. Metal detecting is much more difficult than it is ever portrayed. The hobby is minimized most times. Showing people that it is as easy as swing and dig is minimizing the knowledge, skill, and patience that makes for successful hunts. Like you said, it discourages some from really digging in and enjoying it.

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