Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11: Most times, life just doesn't make any sense

When you go through a horrific day like September 11, 2001, you can't help but ask why things like that happen.

In reality, those questions are no different than the ones we ask every day about things that affect our lives.

Why am I stuck in my current situation while the person at the next desk has moved on to great things? Why am I blessed with talent but can't seem to get a break? Why does the person with less talent rise to the top while I tread water?

There are no answers, most of the time. You just have to do your best, live your life the correct way, and hope the intangibles line up for you.

A 9/11 story that might shed some light concerns a friend of my mom's from the New York area. The woman had a son who had lifelong medical problems; one in particular sapped the man's energy to the point that it was all he could do to put in a day's work. The thing was, he couldn't work two days in a row. His body simply wouldn't allow it.

His mother asked the questions with no answers his entire life. Why my son? Why this illness?

Not fair.

Then again, life rarely is.

Her son, despite the physical struggles, managed to get a good education and get a job in the financial industry. He was fortunate in that he found a company that understood his medical problems and let him work every other day.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The company was housed in the World Trade Center.

September 11, 2001, fell on a Tuesday.

His regular day off. So he was at home.

Sometimes it takes years for things to make sense.

And sometimes, they never do.

All you can do is keep giving one hundred percent, and let life take you where it wants.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It pays to network, but only with people you can trust

One of the things I always tell my clients is to send me an email when they send out tapes. Give me the call letters of the stations and the names of the News Directors. When you've been in the business as long as I have, chances are I might know the ND, or someone in the market who can give me the inside scoop.

Just as important, I know the names of some cylon NDs to avoid, as well as some companies that treat people like dirt.

Each of you needs someone you can trust (not in your own station) who might serve as your networking expert. If you have a mentor or a reporter who took you under his wing during your internship, it might be a good idea to let that person know where you're applying.

Many times I've been able to pick up the phone and get my client's tape to the top of the stack, or simply put in a good word with the ND or someone who works at the station. An unsolicited personal reference from someone who is not an agent can often carry a good deal of weight.

But remember, the person in whom you confide must be trustworthy, which is why I suggest you not tell anyone in your station where you're looking. Sure, there are trustworthy people in your shop, but a slip of the tongue can cost you.

The old adage of, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is very true in this business. You should make use of every contact you have when job hunting, whether it is laying the groundwork for you or waving a red flag when it's needed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The harder current events test

Okay, I got a bunch of emails after the last test, telling me it was way too easy and not at all challenging.

So the gloves are off today. 20 questions, five points each. There's also a bonus question. And there's some basic history and social studies thrown in.

Post your grades in the comment section... if you dare.

1. We all know the Speaker of the House is third in line for the Presidency in the order of succession. Who is fourth in line?

2. Who is the Justice who has been a member of the Supreme Court the longest?

3. Which state has the only Governor who is legally blind?

4. What is the capital of Afghanistan?

5. What was Kathleen Sebelius position before she was appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services?

6. Whose terms always expire during mid-term election years?

7. Which two previous Presidents have made speeches to the nation's schoolchildren via television?

8. Name the "Green Jobs Czar" who resigned over the weekend and the document he previously signed which caused a great deal of controversy.

9. Explain the "trigger" option being discussed in Congress regarding health care.

10. Ted Kennedy eventually held JFK's Senate seat, but he was not the person appointed when John Kennedy left the Senate in 1960 after becoming President. What was the reason Teddy could not be appointed to the seat?

11. What is the name of the original producer of 60 Minutes who just passed away?

12. Which NFL team signed Michael Vick?

13. What is the minimum speed at which a storm can be classified as a hurricane?

14. How much money did the government spend on the "Cash for Clunkers" program?

15. Which former Boston Red Sox player is considering a run for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat?

16. Which member of Obama's cabinet also served under George W. Bush?

17. Who has been named to succeed Charles Gibson at ABC?

18. Name at least two members of the "Gang of Six."

19. Explain the concept of "cap and trade."

20. What is the official name of the swine flu?

Bonus question: There are nine Supreme Court Justices. Give yourself one point for each one you can name.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Enough with the jump cuts already

I was fortunate in that I learned to edit from a CBS producer. The very first lesson he taught me was the rule about jump cuts. They were absolutely forbidden, and this illustrated the importance of getting good cutaways. Back in the day the only other way to avoid a jump cut was to throw in a dissolve, and that took an act of congress from the production department.

In all my years as a reporter, I'm proud to say that I did not have a single jump cut in any of my stories.

Of late I've noted that many resume tapes routinely contain packages with jump cuts. Since so many of you edit on non-linear systems, this is easily avoidable with a dissolve, but it dawned on me that many of you probably don't even know the true definition of a jump cut.

So here goes: A jump cut is something that cannot break the laws of time and space.

Confused? Here's an example:

First shot: A politician giving a speech at a podium. Next shot: Same politician sitting at his desk.

That's a big time jump cut. In effect, the politician has "jumped" from the podium to the desk, which, unless he has a Star Trek transporter, is physically impossible.

Another more subtle example:

First shot: Politician at his desk, talking on the phone. Second shot: Sound bite of politician, still at his desk, phone on cradle, talking to reporter.

In this case the politician hasn't jumped, but his hands have and the phone has "jumped" from his hand to the cradle.

Two easy ways to avoid this are the use of cutaways, and a dissolve. A dissolve implies a change in time, which is what we see in both examples. If you're editing tape-to-tape, you'd better have some cutaways. Non-linear, throw in a one second dissolve.

The reason to avoid jump cuts is that they simply look awkward. On the other side of the coin are wonderful sequences built by a photog in which every shot matches perfectly. In the second example we might go from the politician on the phone, to a tight shot of his hand holding the phone, to the phone cradle as the hand hangs up the phone and then leaves the shot, to the sound bite. Takes time, but worth the effort.

If you're still not clear about jump cuts, talk to a veteran reporter or any photog. While you make think they're commonplace, trust me, people who have been in the business (and do the hiring) appreciate the subtleties we see in packages. Following the old-school rules shows that you have attention to detail, and can also take the time to do things right.