Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend reading

Here's an excerpt from Bill Carter's new book, "The War for Late Night", which offers a great look at the entertainment side of our industry. Carter also wrote "The Late Shift", about the battle for the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson retired.

Meanwhile, this is the best non-fiction book I've read in awhile. It's Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" which is the story of a World War Two prisoner of war. She also wrote "Seabiscuit", another terrific book. After you read this, trust me, you'll never complain about anything again.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Passion: the one intangible you need

Most people in this world have jobs.

We don't. We have careers. There's a big difference.

If you have a job you can phone it in from time to time. If you have a career you have too much pride to do so.

Several years ago I had the privilege of working with a photog on his last day before he got out of the business. We were doing a story in one location; it was obvious he wouldn't have to move much for this piece. Kiddingly, I said, "Since it's your last day, you ought to shoot the entire package without moving the camera. I'll bring people to you for sound bites, and you can just swing around and get different angles for b-roll."

We thought it was a fun idea. He locked his camera onto the tripod and started swinging it around, getting different shots. Finally, he shrugged and shouldered his camera. "Can't do it," he said.

He didn't mean it was impossible. He meant his passion for the business wouldn't allow him to phone it in, even on his last day.

Call it passion, or pride in your work, or whatever. It's what runs through the veins of the most successful people in this business.

And if you don't ever feel it, get out. Now. Because you're born with it. You either have it or you don't. You don't develop it over time. It's in your blood, down to your DNA.

Many people think they get it out of their system and leave the business, only to come back.

Passion is like marriage; it's not about finding someone you can live with, it's about finding someone you can't live without.

Same goes for this career.

Many young people contact me, telling me they're confused after a few years in the business. They don't know whether to stick or bail out.

So here's the answer. If you can't live without it, that should tell you you're meant to do this.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What you can learn from the Academy Awards

In this business, you often have to crash and burn before you can learn a lesson.

Since Sunday's Academy Awards show was a full-blown Hindenburg disaster, we can certainly take a few lessons away from it that we can apply to the news business:

-It pays to read your script before going live, so that it doesn't appear you're reading a script....or cue cards. (James Franco)

-Shouting "Woooooo!" every time you mention a famous name can get old real quick. (Anne Hathaway)

-If you're not funny, don't try to be funny. (About half the presenters)

-If you ever win an award, have the class not to drop an F-bomb in your acceptance speech. (Melissa Leo)

-If you ever win an award, remembering your wife's name is a good idea. (Christian Bale)

-Even talented people can look ridiculous if given strange copy. (Robert Downey & Jude Law)

-Using Celine Dion music in any package can make viewers dive for the remote.

-When doing a package on someone who has passed away, do not use the song "Smile." (Apparently, the rights to "Walking on Sunshine" were unavailable.)

-Cutting the shoulders out of a Snuggie does not make for a good dress. (Kathryn Bigelow)

-Try to avoid any outfit that makes you look like an extra from Tron. (Annette Bening)

-If the script doesn't make sense, re-write it. (The whole "Gone With The Wind" thing)

-Supers are a nice touch when showing people we don't recognize.

-Chemistry between anchors or lack thereof (Anne Hathaway and James Franco) can make or break a newscast.