Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Stand Up GuyThough I live to sling a lens alone, no one’s ever called me a ‘VJ‘. Nor have I ever been referred to as a ‘Sojo’ 'Phojo' or ‘Mojo’ - though there was a time I was a real ‘Mo-Fo‘. But that’s not important right now. What IS important is the following revelation, courtesy of Pete Liebengood, president of the VJ training company OnQCo, Liebengood, one of many new gurus working feverishly to take the ’crew’ out of ’news crew’, sees both pros and cons of working alone.
"People like the idea of ownership of the story. It’s a motivational force for them to come to work each day. The other thing is, it’s hard. Some of them don’t have time to eat during the course of a day. I’m concerned about the burnout issue. It’s physically hard, mentally hard, it’s stressful, draining."
Do…tell. Pardon my sarcasm, but it’s not every day self-evident truths are couched as revelation. Still I shouldn’t scorn, for of all the talk of blazing new paradigms and TV stations going dark, the above epiphany is about as sensible as anything I’ve read on the subject of solo-newsgathering. Just ask the new reporter-chick who schleps half a TV station in high-dollar heels, or the print reporter who finds the baby-cam his paper bought harder to operate than the narrow notebook he used to power up. They’ll both tell you producing news alone calls for enthusiasm, a multitude of skills and the occasional deep tissue massage. Don’t get me wrong. Solo newsgathering isn’t rocket science. Hell, it ain’t even pizza delivery. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something; that, or impress you with their alleged talent. Be wary of either, for engorged technology and diminished expectations have leveled the playing field for all who want to get in the game. Just know this:

Hustle is still required. Whether you’re rolling up on scene with a camcorder from the late 80’s or sportin’ every piece of gear your station will buy, doing it all is rarely pleasant and only occasionally pretty. People in power or peril couldn’t give a damn what your philosophies are; they just want you out of their grill. You can do so with the purchase of a single tripod - a device just behind the camera battery in terms of importance. Score the best microphone you can afford and invest in a light kit and you’re well on your way to producing something that won’t trigger a wave of uncontrollable bowel movements across the land. But gadgets alone won’t get the job done. No you’ll need to place those contraptions at the right place at the right time - over and over again. Couple that punctuality with a grasp of video fundamentals and you’ll soon have something less than painful to watch. But how do you know if you’re doing it right? Simple. Make sure everything hurts at the end of the day. New VJ Brian MacMillan will attest:
“I think you have to love what you do, be excited about news, and it’s tough to get in there every day and do this. If you’re not excited about it you’re going to burn out.”
Oh, you’ll burn out. Then you’ll become enflamed again, if you’re any good. I myself have seen more peaks and valleys in my humble career than most cross country skiers encounter in a dozen seasons. What keeps me coming back is the visceral thrill of doing it ALL, the satisfaction (or shame) of near total control. Whether or not your product will please the palate - well, that’s a whole ‘nother show. I’m just glad to see someone admit it ain’t as easy as the on-line brochures would have you believe. So, if you’re among the neophyte set who desperately wants to eat this cameraman’s lunch, you’d better pack your own utensils - for there are more of me than you realize and we’re not above a foot race to beat you to the buffet. So can all talk of ’burn-out‘; for six months on the streets barely gives you the right to pass gas, let alone fade-away. As for me, I’m wearing Nomex underpants and soon as I dig out this well-worn wedgie, I’m gonna do my best to drink your milkshake.



Rosenblum said...

what cons?

Duff said...

Great rant. Sometimes I don't let myself admit how physically demanding the job can be, and before I know it I find myself beat down and exhausted. Maybe I should be a stuntman instead... physically demanding but perhaps a bit more glory, although I don't really like getting hurt. Guess I'll stick with what i know instead.

Oreo said...

I really enjoy waking up and wondering what I did to make that muscle hurt. I didn't even know I had something to hurt in that spot. I also love finding that bruise in the mirror and thinking,'Damn, that looks like it hurt! Why don't I remember it?'

As for time in, six months is more of a wash out than a burn out. Some might say the same about 2 years.