Monday, December 17, 2007

The Joy of Lonecasting

Tree LensSo it’s a week before Christmas and much of your reporting staff has wrangled a day off. What do you do? Well, if you’re the suits at El Ocho, you turn to your industrious photogs, most of whom only wish they had the day off. That’s what happened this morning as a trio of lensmen fanned out across the Greater Piedmont Googolplex to make some television -- all by their lonesome. In that, there is nothing new. Shortly after those guys in the horn-rimmed glasses fired up the first test pattern, some joker grabbed a camera and went hunting solo. Since then, thousands of anti-social auteurs have hoisted the lens, asked the questions, written the script and edited the footage - usually without all that pesky credit!

But this isn’t about credit. Rather, it’s about the art of the grab; that practiced act of gathering data with one eye in the viewfinder and the other on the clock. Why the emphasis on punctuality? Simple, when some caffeinated housecat is counting on you to fill a two minute news-hole come five o clock, you ain’t got time to dick around. Sure, I wanna sprinkle my coverage with nuance and beauty, but it doesn’t matter how splendiferous my pictures if I don’t get the damn thing done in time. It’s this economy in thought and action that separates the broadcast news photographer from the filmmaker, the commercial producer, that dude in park interviewing squirrels with his camcorder. No sir, they’ll be no masterpieces forged on our watch. What we do is TV news - with or without a reporter.

Now, I’m not here to slam the reportorial race. God knows I’ve done plenty of that in the past (most satisfactorily in this magazine article). What I do hope to drive home is this: electronic news can be collated a variety of ways. Most polished of course is the two person crew. We in TV have refined that approach to the point of parody. The over glossed correspondent, the ubiquitous live shot, the impromptu nod shot after the fact: all perfectly acceptable components to the clattering machinery that is your local broadcast. But the solo paradigm is equally viable when used correctly. My bosses seem to understand this and it’s kept me in the game far longer than if I simply piloted live trucks. The only reason I even bring it up is to show the sages and the haters that shooting stag ain’t so damn newfangled after all. Now on with the show:

Joey Flash was first out of the gate. A relative newcomer to the solo mode, he more than makes up for it with enthusiasm and an oddball persona. Before I could even set up my story, Joey was out the door, mumbling something about car dealers putting toys together in Burlington. What he returned with was a cogent piece of coverage that was shot, written and sliced with care. Will it affect the rotation of the Earth? No. Is it better than some day-of projects I’ve seen two people produce? Damn skippy.

Next up was Weaver. If we haven’t heard much from this consummate cameraman as of late, it’s because he’s been too busy raising the bar around here. Always in demand by reporters seeking a top-notch showcase, the Mighty Weave doesn’t get out that much by himself. When he does however, he proves himself a suitable foe for yours truly. Today he tackled the otherwise mundane subject of holiday shipping with a lesson in how to shoot and edit repetitive action. It may not be the slickest minute-twenty on his reel, but if I know Weaver, he’ll find a trophy-race where it will no doubt dominate.

As for our last piece of TV tonight, it’s yet another look at retail hell. Actually today was the first time I set foot in a mall in six months. But my vague directive to do something on holiday shopping called for a visit to a local thunder-dome, so I saddled up. Not wanting to take to the chest, I avoided Greensboro’s Four Season Town Center and headed straight for Hanes Mall. There I noshed on a Cin-a-Bon, battled food court zombies and pitted the sexes against each other. The resulting piece will win me no awards, but I’ve a lot less on air with a lot more help.

So, what’s the point of this overlong epistle? I dunno - just wanted to show you how the sausage was made. I don’t expect to sway non-believers. They’ll no doubt point to a lack of hard-hitting facts or poofy hair-do’s as reason for their disdain. That’s cool. But maybe now you’ll better understand why my colleagues have to choke back our bile whenever some new media windbag lectures us on how to produce video alone.


turdpolisher said...

you guys hit the tri-fecta! nicely done and not a helmet-hair in sight.

jim said...

Please tell me you don't really have a reporter named Neill McNeill.

Lenslinger said...

I'm afraid it's true. Main anchor, actually. Real name. Lovely fellow.

jim said...

Lordy. Imagine the abuse he took in grade school.