Friday, December 19, 2008

The Endless Lament

Rueing the day he learned to shootTen minutes to showtime, Jensen grew intense. Chest thumping, brown locks wet and limp, that crazy biker look in his eye. You know the one. It all began in the morning meeting when, over a conference table filled with holiday goodies, he drew the shortest cheese straw. That can only mean one thing for a photog in my shop: Holiday Concert Live Shots. Matt took it like a man, crushing the cheese straw under his thumb and trudging off to meet the rest of his day’s fate. His fellow shooters watched him walk off with nothing short of awe, then spent the rest of the day showing their support by assiduously avoiding his gaze. Dead Man, Squawkin’.

Julie GlistensOkay so that overdoing it, but we gotta have some station lore. See, every year El Ocho throws a couple of charity concerts; you know, orchestras, cherub choirs, Santa Claus on ice skates. It’s a large time, but the whole thing doesn’t go off without a modicum of hype and backache. Sure, it begins as harmless promos, then bleeds into anchor babble, but it all crescendos with a series of breathless live above the ice as skaters and oboe players warm up. Which is where your veteran photog comes in, usually one just hours from their Christmas vacation. It’s a live hit the Chief often absorbs. This year Matt took it. To the chest.

SIngers SingOn the surface, the assignment’s not so bad… ’swing by’ the Coliseum in a live truck, throw up the mast, hook up a camera and point it at the lovely Julie Luck. From there she’ll take over, poised and radiant as she tells viewers how they can enjoy a free night of good music and cheer if only they’ll bring themselves and some canned food to the Coliseum. Provide her with a monitor and she’ll damn near co-host the show. Toss in cute kids skating lazy Susans along with the bleat and warble of a forming orchestra and you got the makings of a variety hour. What could go wrong?

Atop CameraP-l-e-n-t-y. From the hundred of school kids blocking the service entrance to the security guard who only talks in pops and clicks, half the battle is just getting there. Matt made it in okay regardless; by the time that I arrived the mast was up and the truck locked, cables snaked from the back to the coliseum’s hook-up box, part of the in-house video patch-board that’s nowhere near as simple to use as management believes. From there, I wound my way through the bowels of the great room, dodging full grown cellists and half-pints dressed as Nutcrackers. There, across the ice, I spotted my furry friend.

Jensen SweatsHe was only a speck at first, but the nearer I got to his rink-side perch, the more I realized something was wrong. Why else would a man of his carriage flit from darkened light to power-strip like that, pointing to his ear and cursing the very Gods of Broadcast? I didn’t know but before I could get to him and find out, the orchestra launched into ‘Frosty the Snowman’, rendering anything past a pantomime pretty much impossible. Just then Matt’s light miraculously turned on, allowing him to lunge for his lens and cue Julie, who then launched into her easygoing spiel as if nothing was ever wrong. Perhaps it wasn’t.

Skaters SkateAll I know is Matt looked positively distraught for a minute or three, before settling into a rhythmic slump behind his camera. Not that I was worried. He’s been doing this for longer than I, cutting his teeth on the great Spam riots while I was still cutting some high school class. If he wants to grumble and cuss while exceeding expectations, I say give him some space. The man can field strip an optical disc with one eye duct-taped shut, all while dropping one-liners like a movie pirate. Besides, I got a glint of satisfaction in his eyes as he shook his fist at the rafters, reminding me of a lesson he taught me so many moons ago: Achieving television on a daily basis will quickly erode the soul, but it goes down a little easier if you bitch about it along the way.

No wonder he's so jolly...

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