Thursday, February 21, 2013

Okay, one man bands, help is finally here.

I've had a lot of good response to both of my broadcast journalism books, but, as I've mentioned many times, I've never shot a frame of video. There needed to be a guide for those who find themselves shooting their own stuff.

Finally, and it's about damn time, someone has written a such a book.

Lucky for you, the author is a photog who shot wonderful stuff for me years ago, so I can vouch for him. The shooter is Rick Portier, one of the smartest photogs I've ever known, and he's put together a simple, easy to understand pocket checklist to help you navigate the electronic minefield that comes with being handed a camera and tossed into the deep end of the pool. If you've ever returned to the station with video out of focus, a standup out of frame, an interview subject lit like the Phantom of the Opera, b-roll in a lovely shade of blue, no audio, or video grainy enough to pass for a 1950's home movie, you need this book.

Rick has formatted it into a digital version just like my own pocket checklist. (You'll notice the covers are similar.) It's designed to be downloaded to a phone, iPad or whatever you carry with you so that you'll always have it on hand. And the price is right: a wealth of knowledge for five bucks.

You can pick up Rick's book at Amazon and Smashwords right now. Barnes & Noble's Nook version coming shortly. Here are the links to the Amazon version and one available on Smashwords, which offers downloads to practically every device out there.

Coming up, right after the break....

Help is coming for one-man-bands. Not kidding.

Stay tuned.

(How's that for a tease, you sweeps producers?)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Always have an "escape tape"

It happens at the end of every sweeps month. Pink slips fly as the ratings come out. Or contracts end and are not renewed. Yes, when the calendar turns, there will be people without jobs.

And there will be people who give their two week notice. But often the two weeks becomes one minute.

Some stations have a "get the hell out" policy. You're not working here anymore? Out the door. Right. Now.

I've seen people escorted out of stations like criminals. I have one friend who was shown the door and not even allowed to clean out his desk. The contents were dumped in boxes and delivered to his apartment. Management can get pretty heartless sometimes. (Some of you are asking, "Sometimes?")

And when this happens, lots of people are left out in the cold without resume tape material. You're not allowed in the building anymore, but that's where all your best work is.

Hence, the "escape tape."

People who are shut out end up having to call friends still working at the station in an attempt to get copies of their work. Management knows this, and often keeps a threatening eye out for it. Your friends may take the risk, or not.

Bottom line, don't let this happen to you.

Get in the habit of making copies of your work and taking them out of the building. Do it once a week. If you knock out an absolutely killer package or anchor a great newscast, make a copy that day. You can always find someplace to edit everything later. But the key is to get your copies home where you have access to them should you find the station door locked.


Monday, February 18, 2013

The real pros are polite

While covering Carnival Cruise Line's Voyage of the Damned for three days last week we had a lot of down time waiting for the Flying Dutchman to reach port. Throw about fifty or so network veterans into a small space, and you hear some interesting conversations.

One of the topics centered around that fact that no one got into an argument about anything. We're all fighting for the great interview, the "get" that will make our employer proud, but no one was stepping on toes. I waited quietly for an interview as another reporter finished up, then another reporter waited quietly for me to wrap up. When fifteen or so cameras were crammed together, there were no flying elbows. Reporters crouched down under lenses or sat on the ground. One white balance for everyone, one mike check for everyone.

Then we talked about how it used to be when we were just getting into the business. Shoving, scrambling, jamming a camera into a small space. But back then we were cowboys, and have gotten too old for that stuff.

It's also impolite.

We realize we all have a job to do, and it's a lot easier to do it when you treat the people next to you as the competition rather than the enemy. Your battery dies? Someone will lend you a good one. Mike falls off the stand? Another reporter will pick it up for you. Someone else's light stand about to fall over? You grab it and hold it until they're done. Because eventually you'll need a favor as well.

Those scenes in movies with reporters shoving each other like rugby players in a scrum are from a bygone era.

Be polite. Your job will be much easier if you're friendly to the competition.