Paying it forward…and back…

…to the next generation. Truth is I’m nearing the end of my career. Went from shooting production stills to news film and video to teaching broadcasting to retired and working part time with high school students and freelancing as a camera/shooter/videojournalist. Within the next year all of this will slow down…but never really stop. (I view doing nothing as the beginning of death.)

A friend and I did a presentation some months ago for the the local community college video production class. Now this is the place I graduated from decades ago when it had one of the best photography departments in the state. Sometime (I’m guessing in the 80s) it developed an RTV (radio TV) department that never quite got off the ground. Classes were offered and yes students learned but it always seemed to lag somehow. I know it wasn’t for lack of instructors trying…could have been lack of support from the admin or a plethora of other issues. But it seemed more like a holding cell than a jumping off point.

In the last year things started clicking though.

There’s been a move to regain the license for the radio station…adjuncts were brought in with a wide variety of skills and experience. And the student showcase “TV” program went from zero to a kazillion in the past semester.

All of this piqued my interest.

So I went back a second and then a third time to check things out. And may have found a new retirement gig. Mentoring the up and coming video-gen. Specifically those interested in news shooting and editing.

What is making this extra-enticing is that not all of the youngsters fit the suit and tie Ken and Barbie mold of the past. They remind me of the Viet-Nam era gang on campus back in the late sixties. Everything from quiet and middle class to bright and bold to right off the street and gangbusters going forward.

I’m heading out in a week with the latter…a musician with a personality too big to fit in a suit with a flair for what is important in his world and his city and his people and a vision to open people’s eyes up. We shall see where this takes us…whether he can tame his inner beast and funnel it through into a viable version of storytelling that has the potential to explode and open up news to an entirely new style. Or not. I’m hoping for the former.

Skillset for success…

cropped-200-seamore-bear-intvw-2.jpgBeen doing some gigs with a local producer and on the road we often discuss the woes of the world with slant on video production. She tries to hire local and has worked with seasoned pros and local university students and has seen large gaps in what said students don’t know. So here’s a quick primer on the skillset you need to get started in video…be it production or news.

Attitude. This is one of the top concerns…the know-it-all newbie who has just acquired thousands of dollars worth of book learning but is lacking sadly in essential areas. Coming in to a job with attitude is a killer for the employer. Courteous and humble works oh so much better and will get you a return gig more than likely.

Speaking of schooling…all too often colleges are heavy on theory and light on reality. Skills such as shooting and editing can be taught but they must be fully assimilated in order for them to do any good. What that means is daily use of said skills…not a story or two in a semester. One skims the surface while the other drives knowledge into the very physical core of the student.

And shooting – please don’t go all artsy fartsey and say that you actually wanted the shots to be wavering and shaky because you “don’t do” tripods. Use. A. Tripod. For Every Shot. Until you learn how to glide like an eagle or use a steadicam, stick to the sticks.

Please understand how light works and how to work with light. Know the basic rules of composition…and when to break them. What else? Well – sharp focus and proper exposure.

Audio – just because you THINK you can hear it doesn’t mean it’s good. Use a real plug-in microphone. Not the on-cam mike. Use a headset to make sure you hear good audio. Then play it back as a final assurance you got it clean.

Sequencing. The crown jewel of video. How to tell a story in a series of connected shots…shots that segue and flow into each other when edited.

I can’t believe I’m writing this…everything thus far is so far down the food chain in what a shooter needs to know…but all of these were discussed while heading to a gig earlier today as the producer lamented the lack of skills she is seeing.

Oh – and final word of advice. When you put up your demo reel, keep it short and focused. Three or four minutes at most. (My current demo reel is 3:05.) If you’re bad that will be obvious seconds into the reel – and no producer is gonna sit thru bad for longer than that. If you’re good it takes just the same few seconds…so why ruin it and take the chance the producer may back away. Make sure you show the basics mentioned above: exposure, steady shooting, composition, lighting…

And about your attitude. You are being offered an opportunity when you get a job. Don’t make the person who hires you regret it by treating them poorly.