Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mailbox: You should think outside the box, but how do you actually get out of the box?

Okay, I got this comment after my post about point of view:

I'm a struggling, new reporter and I'm having a hard time finding those good story ideas, rather than just those different angled shots. I'm sure when I get those story ideas I can then get those cool shots... What do you think?

For most reporters, there are "ray of light" moments. You know, when the skies suddenly part, a beam of sunlight shoots down from the heavens, and the light bulb goes on over your head. It happens when all of a sudden you figure something out, like how to use nat sound or how to write into or out of a sound bite. And there are many rays of light that a reporter must experience.

In this case, we're talking both point of view and point of view. Confused? You should be. You can have two points of view from the same person. The mental and the visual. Mental is how someone feels about the subject, visual is how they see the subject.

One of the first lessons I learned was from a veteran photog (naturally) while shooting a story in a kindergarten classroom. I had set up the tripod for him at its usual height. He took one look and shook his head. "Gotta get down to the kids level," he said, then proceeded to lower the sticks till they were at the eye level of a five year old. When he went off the sticks, he took every shot from his knees. The visual point of view was that of the students. Their petite teacher looked nine feet tall. But don't they all when we're little kids?

On that story he got tight shots of tiny fingers going into a jar of finger paint. Crayons trying to stay inside the lines. A great shot of a little hand pulling the teacher's dress, and the teacher's face looking right down into the lens. Simple concept, but very effective. You can see similar stuff in the Harry Potter movies, in any scene with Hagrid, who is a giant.

Now, the mental point of view. You're covering a story and you've got plenty of sound bites from people about how they feel about a certain subject. But you have to get inside their heads, walk in their shoes. Let's take a flooding story for an example. Suppose the waters are creeping dangerously close to a family's house. You can use all the sandbag video you want, but get inside the head of the family. What do they want to really save? Is it the house, which can be rebuilt with insurance money, or the wedding pictures, which can't be replaced? Why is the mother busy putting all the refrigerator crayon drawings done by her kids into Ziploc bags instead of packing up the flat screen television? You can show feelings through video, in the same way you can illustrate how a person sees things visually.

This won't happen for many of you overnight, but when it does, that "ray of light" will take your work to the next level.

Remember, as a reporter you're a trained observer. But you have to use more than your own eyes, and those of the photographer. You have to see the world as others see it to create a clearer picture, an truly tell the story from another point of view.

Which brings us back to our young reporter's original question... how do you find those cool story ideas? Again, the answer is point of view. Not yours.

When you drive to work, see things that you see every day from a different point of view. You drive past that farm with the miniature horses every day. Did you ever stop and knock on the door to find out why these people own them? Maybe they run some sort of traveling petting zoo. You drive past the house that the old man has been refinishing forever. But did you ever stop to talk to the guy? Maybe he's restoring his childhood home.

We see hundreds of things every day, and there's an interesting story behind a whole bunch of them. But you'll never find that story until you consider another point of view, then stop and ask questions.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano



Katie said...

Thank you so much for all of that! I'll keep a look- out, and keep reading your posts!

Katie said...

Thank you for the reply! I'll start keeping a look- out driving around. Thanks again.