Thursday, September 22, 2011

Schmuck Alert: Milwaukee's Worst

FOX6 News Photojournalist Clint FillingerSince my only visit there was as a drunken sailor, I have fond if fuzzy memories of Milwaukee. Which is why it's such a buzz kill to see a member of that fine city's police force acting like an utter choad. Hmm? Well, what else would you call a cop who stopped staring at a house fire just long enough to hassle the oldest photog he could find? Sixty-eight year old Clint Fillinger was shooting footage of said fire from behind the police tape when a sergeant (who should know better) suddenly insists the accredited news photog back up. All the way up. Fillinger does, but as he's shooed away from an area where the public is allowed to gather, the veteran of forty-five years on the street doth protest...

"Don't give me that bullshit!" he snaps after the cop tells him moving back is for his own safety. This apparently was more than the sergeant could bear, for a few seconds later he sets aside his concern for the sexagenarian and pushes him to the ground. Fillinger is soon in cuffs, all because he spoke up when a confused constable decided the Bill of Rights only applies to people without TV cameras. Oh well, at least local residents were able to sleep better that night, knowing that Sergeant Safety rid their streets of this journalistic scourge. I guess that's one less house fire the people of Milwaukee will have to bothered with.

All sarcasm aside, this case is just the latest in a series of disturbing encounters between cops and photogs. Seems every week someone with a badge makes a rash judgment call that results in an awkward YouTube clip and new footage of their chief trying to explain why they put some camera-guy in a headlock. Why is that? Have the laws of our land grown too numerous to manage? As a news shooter I'm expected to recall every major intersection within three counties, any and all accepted light temperatures and enough greasy spoon locations to choke a mortal man. Is it too much to ask the police to remember what it is that gives the authority to arrest people? Doesn't seem like too much to ask...



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Rut Above

Cuts like a Doof
Sure, I've had a tiff or two with reporters over the years, but as far as YOU KNOW, I've never pulled a knife on any of them. These days, however, that kind of thing wouldn't be a problem. Hell, it might win you an Emmy! Now, where is that new category? Ah, here it is...

'Best Use of Cutlery in an Overwrought Stand-Up' 

At least I think that's what a Columbus, Ohio news crew was trying to win they other day when they broke out a blade to better convey their message. Their message? I dunno - something about some lady defending herself with exaggerated hand motions. Truth is, I was so distracted by the shimmering knife and artificial urgency, I didn't hear what the breathless reporter was saying... you know, kinda like a viewer would feel!

But hey, who cares what those annoying folks at home think? The important thing is the reporter found a way to differentiate himself from the pack, a move I'm sure sparked a round of clumsy high-fives in the newsroom (if not shame elsewhere). You know what they say... Every time a reporter find a new way to 'walk and talk' on camera, a consultant gets his bonus. Not that I am totally guilt-free. Back in the re-creation craze of the early nineties, I alone barrel-rolled over squad cars, posed as evil silhouettes and ran through the ghetto my camera held low and rolling more times than I'll ever admit in a court of law. I just ... grew out of it. And chances are out industry will too, shortly before our needless theatrics  are relegated to the internet-ready wristwatch, where the screen is so small, no one will notice what that the reporter is (over)doing.

So remember, newsies, props are BAD - even when they won't poke somebody's eyes out. Step out of those hip-waders, put down that giant thermometer and for the love of all that's holy, take off that Catholic priest collar. Just report the freakin' news, in a manner that won't embarrass either of us. You'll both thank me when the Blowtorch Bandit rolls into town.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rebel Without a Head

In the justly underrated 1958 horror flick I Was A Teenage Cameraman, movie-makers attempt to cash in on the young werewolf hit of the previous year with the story of Stanley Troubleslate, a bumbling young news shooter who begins turning into a TV camera after he accidentally locks himself inside the station's equipment closet and falls asleep in a pile of goo. Though its clunky transformation scenes made for a decent preview, the film's premise peters out early when Stanley becomes so encumbered with then state-of-the-art broadcast gear that he can barely move - let alone lumber menacingly toward breathless ingenues. An acne-ridden Leonard Nimoy stars as young Stanley, though the Star Trek legend distanced himself from the movie after it was savaged by critics, ignored by audiences and generally thought to be a waste of perfectly good television equipment. Too stupid to be taken seriously; not funny enough to lend itself to irony. (Showing every three hours all month long on HBO)