Saturday, June 18, 2005

Seven Feet of Hell

I was perusing a Medialine thread when the following bubbled forth...

Once in a blue moon, I'll have that dream, more of a flashback really. There I'll be in the studio, rolling that pathetic red barrell out to Marvin while the local car commercial audio echoes from the rafters. Good ole Marvin takes the barrell, unlatches the door and reaches way down into the crush of thousands of hand-scribbled postcards. Pulling one up, he reads an awkward name from Lizard Lick or some other such forsaken place.

"You have seven minutes to call and claim your Seven Feet of Cash", Marv rattles off.

With that hated music bubbling underneath, the director punches a button and Marvin's visage turns to a cheesy graphic. As it does, I sprint down the hall, dropping off a copy of the postcard with the control room before heading up to the lobby to see lovely Mae.

She's always on the phone when I enter, sometimes shooing off mistaken callers, other times congratulating winners and telling them how they can get their cash. As she runs through the details, I pace and scheme, jotting notes and chewing my fingernails.

During the very worst dreams, the phone call never comes. After a flurry of confused viewers, the phone's blinking lights dim and Mae and I stare at it in near silence until the seven minute time limit is up. Reluctantly I take the abandoned postcard and trudge back to my office, where a desk full of storyboards, graphic requests and promo blather demands my attention.

About then, I wake up screaming. There in the darkness I realize I escaped that hell eight years back and I lie back down, slow my breathing until falling back into the grateful arms of slumber...

That's when some assignment dork calls my house with tales of an overturned semi, an early morning shooting or a fellow photog calling in sick. Oh well.

Send in the Clowns

My favorite gate crashing iconoclasts are at it again! Seems the Newsbreakers have shaken off their meds long enough to stage two more live shot interventions - with starkly different results. First in New Hampshire, a lady and her man-tiger interrupt a remote broadcast before yukking it up with the bemused correspondent. The encounter was coming to a friendly close when the reporter in question let loose with a braying screech that probably sounded a whole lot cooler in his head.

Next up, the electronic jesters travel to Pittsburgh for a slightly lower-key approach to media discourse. Seems the Newsbreakers can't figure out why broadcasters fill the airwaves with murder and mayhem. Pointing their un-logo'd lens at a grumpy reporter, they politely inquire about the much-hyped bloodshed - only to meet the one reporter in Pittsburgh who doesn't want anymore face time. As a fellow member of the working press, I'd almost rather he'd screeched at them. Almost.

Okay, so I may be the one broadcasting professional who loves these guys, but doggone it - I dig their moxie! One of my least favorite aspects of this insipid business is the bloated self-importance that poisons so many of our ranks. It's TV news people - you J-School grads may think you're saving lives, but nine times out of ten, we're shilling overhyped pablum between dog food commercials! Embrace the medium for what it is - and what it ain't. I certainly have. While I probably wouldn't welcome the Newsbreakers' shenanigans while I got a face full of viewfinder, here on my laptop, it sure makes for damn entertaining media critique. Check out their site, watch their videos and decide for yourself. I'll be here, conjugating verbs, polishing my lens and practicing my screech. A-WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Eye of the Intern

I have not always been kind to the newsroom intern. It’s nothing personal. You see, as a struggling raconteur and a fully-licensed cameramanthropologist, it’s my sworn duty to bag on the unpaid assistant. For years, I’ve answered that call - portraying all interns as overenthusiastic nimrods, underdressed strumpets and myopic intruders of my personal space. Most times I was right. But as I get a little bit older (and a lot less bolder), I find myself reconsidering the apprentice broadcaster.

Perhaps that’s due to the tight formation of interns currently circling my desk. As much as I view newsgathering as a solo sport, it’s hard to turn down these eager souls. After all, they just wanna do I what I do (isn’t that sick?). The very least I can do is take one with me when I hit the field. Otherwise, they’re relegated to some unmanned desk and forced to call various cop shops and beg for news morsels. That’s a daily fate I wouldn’t wish on anybody - minus of course a certain dark overlord of a General Manager I use to pump out dreck for on a daily basis...

But this post isn’t about my undying bitterness toward an inherently evil ex-employer. (I'm saving THAT for the book.) No, tonight we’re talking interns - more specifically the oddly astute duo now regularly appearing in the shotgun seat of my battered news cruiser. Intern Mike Crump (that’s what we call him; Intern-Mike-Crump) has insisted on showing up every day this summer for another round of chase-the-deadline. So far he’s proven immensely helpful, especially when it comes to locating a certain forgetful lenslinger’s keys, sunglasses, motivation, etc…This alone should win that dude a medal - or a chance at a real career (not one as silly as mine). Another unsalaried accomplice who’s quickly earning his keep is Scott Myrick (pictured here). This Elon University student is back for his second internship at El Ocho. While normally I’d prescribe some kind of ointment for that particular condition, I know a terminal newsman when I see one. Yep - Scott’s got it bad. I recognize the symptoms from my early days as an edit bay outpatient. If I’m not careful, I’ll be working for him someday. Lousy punk!

Still, I worry about what our young cohorts witness in the daily chase. With our extreme driving, strong language and insistence on bending space and time at a moment‘s notice, we photogs ain’t the easiest dates in the world. Simply put, we’d rather burn your huts than win your hearts. Thus, what runs through the average intern’s head as the guy beside him casually speeds toward his third police stand-off of the week would make for one hell of a blog. I liken it to a petty thief signing up for a lesson in safecracking, only to be kidnapped by a couple of grumpy serial killers for a tri-state crime spree. Somebody’s gonna get hurt. So here’s my begrudging nod to Scott, Mike and all the other interns who’ve put up with my rambling soliloquies as of late. Just remember - if you're not careful, the slightly unhinged deadline-slayer you see when you look my way, could someday be YOU.

So don't say you weren't properly warned.

The Big Link

I'm back from the coast but caught in the quagmire that is my overrun garage. While I separate things by animal, vegetable or mineral, do drop by The Big Link and check out a most worthy blogger and fellow member of the Fourth Estate. I'll be back later with beach photos, hastily-erected wordplay and the very latest in half-finished thought. Hey, what do you want for nothin'?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Skate-Ray and Tall Dad

We were biking along the shoreline when we saw them: stock-still humans knee deep in the surf, staring off into the distance like sunburned zombies. On instinct, I dropped my bike and signaled my 11 year old to do the same. Approaching the crowd, we fished my camera out of a bag, guessing aloud what might be holding our fellow vacationers so enraptured. A swimmer in trouble? A stranded whale? Weird pod-creatures from a crashed UFO?

Alas, it was only a fisherman, a lone figure in shorts and ball cap, reeling in a bent-back pole for all it was worth. As the stranger wrestled with the unseen beast, murmurs of delight and concern floated up from the crowd. Sensing tension, my daughter held back a bit as I approached the center of the pack. Amid the moms and kids I spotted a dad or two sporting their own lens. Challenged by their unspoken presence, I jockeyed for a better shot...

...just in time to get the landing of the phantom creature. As the silent fisherman hunched around his reel, a slopping black mass rose to view in the surf. Suddenly applause broke out amid the Soccer Moms and beat-red kids. The fisherman looked around uneasily as he pulled his quarry closer. Oohing and aahing, the crowd leaned in to see. A stingray! Or skate! No one officially proclaimed the gleaming black swimmer as either, but the visiting crowd splashed around and gleefully debated the matter.

Hook deeply engorged in it’s flesh, the stingray/skate convulsed and whipped its thin long tail. A few feet away, a three year old in arm-floats squirmed in her father’s arms as she screeched at the sight. A clutch of women in an unfortunate bathing suits stood about and shaded their eyes from the sun. Camera pressed against my face, I circled the crowd and collected close-ups. Watching my daughter with one eye, I scanned the curious pack as they peeked and commented on the flopping fish-thing. Something about this feels familiar...

“So what are ya gonna do with it?” A tall rangy Dad asked the quiet fisherman.

“Dunno - YOU want it?”, the fisherman only half-joked. His eyes darting about at the concerned collective.

Well’re not gonna keep it are you?” Something in the tall Dad’s tone reminded suddenly reminded of the PETA photo-ops I’ve covered.
The fisherman chuckled nervously and looked down tat the skate-ray. “Naw I’m a let her go. Probably cut that tail off - it’s right dangerous.”

At that, a few in the crowd repelled in horror. The fisherman heard it too; I noticed that through the viewfinder. As he looked around at the sudden mob, Tall Dad spoke up.

“No, no - she NEEDS that tail! Let her go!” A chorus of Moms murmured and nodded, like the Oprah audience members they watched every day at four.

Looking back at the squinting onlookers, the fisherman wisely acquiesced, shuffling off in deeper water to free the beast. Whatever his initial mission, he must have figured a floppy skate-ray wasn’t worth fighting Tall Dad and the Soccer Moms. Can’t say I blame him.

With a quick clip of his Leatherman, the erstwhile fisherman snapped the line to another round of applause. As the creature disappeared in the surf, the crowd slowly, reluctantly broke up. I was deciding who to interview when I heard my daughter’s voice.

“Can we go to Bird Island now?”

Sure honey. Daddy just fell into work for a moment…

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Up for Air

It's been a highly restorative few days, filled with family, seafood and funny hats. I find I have a talent for doing nothing, once I commit to the task. And I'm just getting started! So before I get back to my intense schedule of intensely inert activity, lemme poke around the photograsphere for a few quick seaside reads...

Colonel Corn takes his camera to a massive house-move and "fills her lens with two stories of wooden history." Along the way he discovers much about old-time detail, The Job and himself. An Most Excellent Report.

On the West Coast, befrank logs another boring day behind the news wheel, taking in-house meetings, local labor strikes, and a missing persons with a twist. Remember, beFrank never bores...

Closer to home, Weaver brings us the sad tale of a wayward canine and an old lady. Along with the rest of our correspondents, Weaver's reportage resembles the high-quality TV stories he's known for daily. I can hear him giggling in the edit bay now...

If, for whatever twisted reason, you wanted to know what it's like to be a TV news photographer, you could no better than these three random posts. What that does for humanity in the long run I don't know, but it makes for damn fine reading while the planet spins.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to drag all manners of crap to the shoreline.