Saturday, August 02, 2008

I’m With the Band...

I'm with the bandHoping to make up for all that American Idol pap I’ve foisted on the masses, I’ve hooked up with some teenage musicians whose sheer volume would make Simon Cowell shoot Coke out his nose. But these cats aren’t the least bit concerned about prissy Brits in glittery t-shirts; they’re too busy melting the stage at the local biker rendering it to cinders with their throwback assault on Classic Rawk. Having waded through tens of thousand of scittering young crooners in full body glitter, it’s refreshing to witness three sixteen year olds lay down some Foghat. It’s been a fun, sweaty, ear-bleeding gig and I’m only halfway through!

It’s also a return to my own roots.

See, back in the day I considered myself quite the music video director, an acid-washed clad figure skulking the lip of some local stage in a hand-held hunt for bass runs, bombast and backlight. Yeah, between all the snap-zoom drum solos and drunken fan pandemonium, I lived a thousand nights as the resident mosh-pit auteur of a small Southern college town. As a result, I was the grizzled helmsman of a half dozen really crappy music videos - long before I ever slung my first lens at a county commissioner meeting. Good. Times. But enough of my flashbacks, let’s meet the band!

Or not.

It's believed this little combo has a bright future. I'm hear to report they're having one hell of a 'right now'. If I were that cool at sixteen, I'd be phoning this in from my invisible jet. More on that later, for now just know my small involvement in their rise has been no less than serendipitous. It’s reminded me how potent live music can be, how happy accidents abound once the spotlights get going and how imperative it is to edit on the beat. That’s strong medicine for a segue purveyor like me - and it’s why I threw in with them in the first place. So while I beg my bosses for a day to put this metal epic together, know there’s some crashing drums, throbbing guitar and careening camerawork heading your way, courtesy of a preternatural power trio and middle-aged lenslinger who used to have a few rock and roll dreams of his own.

Party on, Garth…

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Tripod Safari

Upward Schlep
If this week had a theme, it melted a few days back. In fact, damn near everything’s starting to dissipate now that the most dreaded month of the year is here…August. Were it up to me I’d rip two pages off the calendar tonight and time-skip right over to September. Come to think of it, September’s pretty brutal too! It isn’t until October - when the crippling stickiness mercifully dissolves into a titillating breeeze - that my home state becomes bearable for upright walking man. I know, I know: folks lived in the South without AC for many a sweltering moon, but they also tolerated open-air clogging, that don’t make it right! How people of the past handled the heat without any relief simply staggers the imagination. It also makes me wonder just how bad The Waltons must have stunk, but that’s just one of those delirious notions that seeps through your skull when seconds after walking outside in the morning, you feel as if you’re wearing a unitard made of soggy burlap. Add thirty pounds of gear and an apathetic desk and you have a pretty good idea of why I fantasize about being an 911 operator these days. Sure, there’s a ton of stress and people lives are on the line, but think how chilly they must have to keep it in there with all those computers, coffee cups and brushy cop moustaches! C’mon - I’ll even wear the Jim Dangle short-shorts!

Hmm? A letter from a reader? Read it out loud? Okay. ‘Ahem…Dear Son, Don’t ever put that awful image in my head again. Ever! -- Mom.’ Wow, that’s really… harsh. Still, a man of my standing can’t afford any vanities this time of year. Nor can he afford to travel without a few toiletries and a complete change of Garanimals. Why, just this morning I dropped at least three pounds during a fifteen minute shoot just a few miles from my home. Perched on a bouncing wooden walkway, I slithered around my sticks and zoomed in the Natural Science Center’s newest attraction a few hundred yards away, Uri lumbered out of his cage in that displaced Anteater way; by the time it made it across the grassy knoll, I’m pretty sure I out-reeked the Vermilingua, if ya know what I’m sayin'... If you don’t, just know this: It’s damn hot in the Carolinas and elsewhere in this wonderful land. If you schlep a lens for a living, remember: milk really can be a poor choice. Stash some surplus deodorant and perhaps some Boudreaux’s in your news unit and your journalism will improve tenfold If you’re a reporter - or worse yet, a producer - please don’t remark to your photog friend just how sweaty you got when running out to your car during your lunch.

After all, most of us carry Leathermans and are reputed to be unstable. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Puddles of Glory

Watermain MeanderSo, when's a stretch of wet pavement worthy of the EXCLUSIVE treatment? When it's the one thing standing between you and your evening commute. Hey, I'm all for breaking new ground - but if interviewing a phone pole is what it's gonna take to get me home, I'll find a tall, chatty one. Then I'd ask him what kind of tree he'd be - but that's really not important right now. What is important is that you grasp both the fervor and the insouciance I use when clamoring at the banks of such a body of water as this. I have seen the future of my afternoon and a river of dishwater runs through it. Luckily I'm wearing mental hipwaders and waded in like a fly fisherman jacked-up on campfire coffee. I'd already bagged a couple of shots when the tiny speaker jammed in my ear exploded with overmodulated Chad:


My mouth contorted in a mask of pain, I lunged for the camera's volume switch and cranked it counterclockwise. When the sound receded I scanned the area for the source of the noise. Spotting Chad half a block away, I zoomed in my partner for the day as he tried to pin a microphone one a young mother he'd discovered playing with her kids nearby. I was about to join them when the woman's posture told me not to. A second later my suspicions were confirmed as the mother begged of from commenting on camera - something about not having 'her hair did'. Chad thanked her and continued his search for a (hopefully) outraged neighbor. A few minutes later he found a gentleman who was more than willing to ask my camera rhetorical questions. "Why's the city let a broken valve flood the street when we's under water rstrictions?" Not knowing the answer, we simply nodded, grateful the man was posing queries we could not. After one final question ("When's this gonna be on?"), we bid our guest adieu and repaired to the shore of the still bubbling brook.

There we got to work: shooting close-ups, wide shots and an on-camera segment in which Chad dramatically tapped the water with his foot. All the while his cell phone rang incessantly as city officials took turns dodging our questions. This of course distinguishes our assignments from few others, for we typically pace about the edges of controversy while playing phonetag with unseen executive types. No, the only thing that made the shimmering rivulets of taxpayer water the least bit unusual was the insufferable humidity that cloaked everything in sight. Actually that's not unusual at all; Carolina weather's a ball-dissolver this time of year - whether you're covering a drive-by homicide or an barely gushing manhole cover. So while rivulets of my own soaked every inch of fabric I was wearing, I tried to blink away scenes from Cool Hand Luke while beging Chad not to make me 'spend a night in the box'. This only confused my partner, but he took my delerium as a sign it was time to go. So we did, only to return in a live truck four hours later to find our little leak had been repaired. Still we carried on with our live remote, confident that no matter how fleeting the dried-up controversy may have been, for one brief, sticky and inconsequential moment, we OWNED that mud puddle...

And you thought my work wasn't rewarding.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Lens That Ate Frisco

(1951) 8-10PM *** San Francisco will never be the same after a mild mannered photog named Marvin falls asleep in front of the transmitter on his station's newfangled live bus and mysteriously grows to over seven stories tall! Will the city by the bay survive the meanderings of a confused young giant in polyester action slacks? Will the mayor (special guest star Ernest Borgnine) call in Godzilla for a Golden Gate smackdown? Will Marvin's bosses still insist he swing by Oakland for that malt shop ribbon cutting? Could that camera get any damn goofier? Tune in to find out!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gleaming the Tube

Lens SunriseSome TV News people live to prick the afflicted and afflict the prickish. Others simply have a technology fetish. Me, I’m in for the entrĂ©e; that languid ability to wander into others lives at key moments and retreat with their perspectives. It’s not a particularly admirable trait, but who gets to pre-order their DNA, anyway? Back in elementary school I was the kid with the Coke bottle glasses and the Steve Martin comedy albums committed to memory. I’d sink in my seat when talk of recess filled the chalky air, but mention the film projector more than once and I’d have that puppy field-stripped and threaded before you could hit the light switch. While the other kids farted, napped or flirted, I sat enraptured by the way the flickering light cast twenty year old reality on the wall. It did not score me a lot of chicks. Nor did I make it with the ladies when the only tenth grade class I regularly attended was Journalism. Being one of the few boys present, someone jammed a camera in my hand and proclaimed me Yearbook photographer. The title pleased me, for not only could I explore my interest in the frozen frame, I could scam my way out of most classes with claims of meeting the Golf Club for an important photo spread. Had I been able to see into the future, I might have put down the lens and picked up the Nine Iron. Were it not for my lack of athleticism, I might have been a pro golfer - or at least one of those manicured ass-hats I see preening on the greens every weekend.

But this ain’t about golf (of which I still know nothing). No, it’s about a search for meaning in business that pursues tragedy and pablum with equal fervor. I’ve all but abandoned my quest. No longer do I look for clarity in car wrecks, I don’t seek epiphanies in ribbon cuttings and what others find scintillating washes over me like so much white noise. Yet, I’m still etching notches in my tripod’s one good leg, still scribbling details in tattered notebooks, still twisting little vignettes into existence and forgetting their details before they even air. New neighbors assume I’m up on every pixilated tidbit; they don’t believe me when I tell them I don’t watch the news. But watch it I don’t; for I feel if that if I did, my skull would implode. Instead I sit here into the wee hours of the evening, back turned to a darkened HD set as I hammer away at this coffee-stained keyboard, railing away night after night at the inconsequence of it all. I don’t remember what I thought a life behind the lens would bring me but I thought it would make me wise. Instead it has made me weary.

Weary as I am however, I plan to soldier on. Like a veteran street cop who grimaces at the sound of breaking glass, I no longer yearn to chase bent sheet metal, I no longer want to witness every instance of county commissioner insanity, I could live out the rest of my days without babysitting another stand-off. But I do so dig the unfettered view, my now lifelong habit of taking in life’s pageantry through a glass-filled tube feels as natural as the summer humidity that wilts everything in sight these days. I’m like a junkie who’s tolerance for his drug of choice has robbed the once delicious buzz of exotic qualities. Maybe that will explain why I can look so damn bored at the latest flaming imbroglio. It’s not that I don’t care; I’ve just gotten used to not really having to. No one expects a TV news photog to have an opinion, let alone a vocabulary. It’s the kind of cameramanonymity I used to cultivate, for nothing gets you into and out of a tricky situation than appearing as if you think in half-formed grunts. But You Know, generous visitor - there is more behind my viewfinder than a guy with logos on his soul. Just keep it to yourself - would ya? I’ve got a lack of reputation to protect.