Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Politics of Pressers

Okay, so I don't drag my light kit into EVERY press conference, but if the set-up is a hopeless black hole, I'll definitely run back to the car (given time of course - no one ever arrives late to these things, do they?) Seriously, I gotta give props to the shooters at the local CBS affiliate here in town. I swear, those cats don't take a leak without an extra light or two tucked under each arm. Must be something Skortis puts in the photog’s lounge water cooler over there. Sure, it’s a tad extreme, but if we all drank from that cup, things would look alot better around here.

All of which proves an old showbiz adage of mine: “A friend in the field is worth two in the newsroom”. Hey, I’m all for being friendly with the cubicle cows back at the farm, but none of those grazers ever saved your bacon with a fresh tape, extra battery or cryptic whispers in the back of the pack. Trust me, it happens.

Speaking of press conference protocol, I'm continually flummoxed by the lack of thought put into podium placement. How many times have you walked in to find a speaker backlit by a huge window, or stuck in the dark end of a noisy warehouse floor, or the ever ubiquitous white-walled overcrowded company conference room?

I mean, some of these PR yaks pull down pretty major coin, right? Couldn't they tear themselves away from fashioning over-worded press releases to consider how their CEO will look on TV? Seems to me it would be a no-brainer. Perhaps I should open a press conference consulting business, swoop in on businesses and berate their staff for creating so much cinematic carnage over the years. Then I could charge them a boatload for the advice so I could start over-dressing like the rest of them. Maybe something in pinstripes...

My favorite press conference lighting fiasco actually involved some TV types - or at least some smarmy production types from an unnamed local affiliate They were at the hospital conference hall when I arrived. From the amount of equipment they dragged in, I was expecting Pink Floyd to play a few sets before the head surgeon announced the exciting new E.R. wing. No luck - the presser kicked in with the usual corporate claptrap and some rather unusual lighting.

Imagine a podium standing between two giant tied-off bunches of helium-filled balloons. On either side of the balloon-bunches, two powerful lights faced inward, blanketing the outside edge of the balloons in magnificent light, but leaving the podium head-space wedged between in pitch-black darkness. Even the hospital zombies who just dropped by to raid the snack table couldn't understand why someone currently in the Witness Protection program was addressing the E.R. staff.

It made no sense to me, but I bit my lip and rolled tape until refreshments were served. I probably should have suggested an alternative lighting approach, but the two production goobs seemed excited to be out of the station, and I didn't want to kill their buzz. Had they been crusty news types, it would have been far easier to broach the subject, notwithstanding the torrent of good-natured trash talk, rude hand-signals and shout-outs that would have followed any production tip. Ya just gotta love news people.

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