"Film school, Schmilm school, how fast can you walk backwards?" Okay, I’ve never actually asked that of a new photog, but I’ve wanted to a time or ten. It’s not that lighting, composition and pace aren’t important; they are. But all the burnished cinematography in the world doesn’t mean squat if you can’t make slot. ‘Slot’: that’s teeveese for ‘you get to come back to work tomorrow’. Of course, those outside TV News would call it a deadline; but we behind your local lens have a had time wrapping our brains around the D-Word. (It’s like asking an Eskimo his native word for ’Snow‘;. Dude - you’ve got to be more specific.) In our world, everything is on deadline, turn-around times shrink every day and tomorrow doesn’t exist. As paradigms go, it’s kind of rushed - but the modern news photographer’s penchant for haste may be the one trait that keeps them employed in 2009 - the year that (I predict) will do down in the annals of broadcasting as the Beginning of the End.
See, the coffers are running dry. Now that Obama’s the President-Elect, there are simply no more political attack ads from which to gorge on. Couple that with quantum-leap technology and an economic forecast that reads like the book of Revelations and you sir have a shifting of the plates beneath the Fourth Estate. So how do you keep from getting swallowed into that gaping broadcast morass? Do what TV News photogs do best: Hustle. That is, after all, what separates us from the latte-swilling cinema geeks down at the independent film fest. Those cats are artistes, no doubt: they got the turtlenecks and Tarantino fetish to prove it. You, Mr. (or Ms.) TV News Photog, are merely first responders. You know like those E.M.T.’s we race to fender-benders all the time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of! The world needs people who can capture reality and deliver it to the masses - all before the tow trucks have dragged away all those sheet-metal cadavers.
I’m reminded of what my pals down in the Promotions department say. Actually, I kind of fade out when folks who lean on drink machines for a living tell me how television news should be. Don’t get me wrong. Those people got SKILLZ! But until they can drop in on a 4 o clock press conference and have it sliced, diced, fed and lit by the opening of the 5 o clock news, I’ll invite them to step aside, for I’d rather bum-rush a hostile news story than baby-sit a needy client any day. How else am I going to stay fit and/or relevant for the coming footrace? See, new toys and shrinking budgets are about to thin our herd considerably. If I were more of a techie I’d list the ten new machines you needed to master, but instead all I can tell you is to take pride in your accelerated pace. Know that it takes verve and a real set of grapes to dash in to happenstance and stick a lens in it, to ‘move through the room like an ambulance driver’. So cheer up fretful photog: your ability to backpedal before freshly made felons without slamming into a wall just may save your bacon, er paycheck.
But doing it while dressed like you just stumbled off a booze cruise? Now you’re just showing off…