Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Becoming Me

His Main Concern Was That His Cheek-Bone Implants Be In Focus...

I began my TV career cranking out commercials for fat lady dress shops and used car lots, until fate placed me on scene at a hostage situation with a betacam and a bad hangover. After that, I was hooked on Electronic News Gathering and soon found myself accompanying reporters to events both scintillating and dull. That went on for awhile and I learned alot. It was the dawning of the age of 'COPS' and I followed more drawn pistols into more drug-infested hovels than I could keep track of. But the most hazardous duty I ever pulled was babysitting a certain reporter we'll call 'Blayne'.

Blayne was a pretty boy wannabe from the monied enclaves of the Old South. Never one to be bothered with natural sound and sequenced video, he was only concerned with making sure I got his cheek-bone impants in focus. Here I was learning to be a spot-news lenslinger and day after day all this gentrified pansy cared about was where his overstuffed make-up case was.

So, in an effort to rid myself of this life-sized Ken doll, I made a deal with the devil and became a one-man-band. I bought a few suitcoats, a few ties and trimmed my mullet into something more suitable for broadcast. More importantly, I learned to shoot in the can, frame my own stand-ups and write under deadline. Everything I put on air wasn't perfect but I learned lessons during my time as a solo artist that pay off to this very day.

But after jumping ship to a rival station and becoming a 'one-man-band bureau chief' (ugh!), I started getting a little crispy. Though my newsgathering skills were honed to a razor sharp edge, I still cringed whenever I saw myself on-air. Truth be told, my on-camera schtick was the weakest part of my skill set, and while my bosses never complained, they didn't exactly shower me with the cushiest of gigs. Instead, they relied on me to fill their newscasts with enough crime and grime to choke a vice cop. So when an unlikely chance to take over my station's promotions department came up, I jumped on it - even though I knew I'd soon regret it.

Boy, did I. Two years of cranking out schlock for the world's most unsavory GM left me thinking about climbing the tower out back and picking off co-workers with my paint-ball gun. Instead, I thought long and hard about what it was I wanted to do in TV. I wasn't dying to get back on air, having never felt entirely comfortable with it in the first place. No, what I wanted to do was take pictures, capture sound, and mold it all into a cohesive story by each day's end. So I slapped together an escape tape, scored a photog gig in a larger market and told the GM where to stuff his promos.

Career-wise, it was the best thing I ever did. Free of small-market limitations and with the help of some truly kick-ass shooters, I took my skills to a whole new level. Whatsmore, I used what I'd learned as a one-man-band to perfect my own brand of the anchor package. Now, whenever staffing shortages don't tie me to a reporter, I operate solo - shooting writing and editing packages that our anchors voice. For me, it's great: I get to put the stories together the way I want to, never having to worry about reporter two-shots, unwatched shoot tapes, or being written into a hole.

Yes, my time in front of the lens and behind the pen has made me a better photojournalist. I even dabble in some on-air voodoo once in awhile in the form of the occasional morning live shot substitute gig. Why do I punish myself (and the viewers at large) with visions of my ugly mug over their morning coffee? Ego, perhaps. But more importantly, to slay that dragon I once only wounded - and to show that dry-cleaned blowhard Blayne that even an under-groomed, under-educated photog can make good TV.


HockeyPat said...

I remember Blayne. I hear he underwent a successful sex change and is now enjoying life as a man.

I hope one day to figure out how I became me. Right now I'm sure it's someone else's fault.

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