I’m retired…meaning not working for pay. But there’s no way I can give up doing what I love most, which is shooting and producing videos. I’ve had to come up with a plan…a philosophy…so I can continue my love without compromising my ethics…and here it is, subject to revision.
1. If you have a budget or can get a budget I can’t work for you. Sorry…there are folks out there who make their living doing video production and you should be paying them, not looking for a freebie.
2. If I am interested we’ll talk. If I say no, I mean it. This is my life and my retirement and I get to decide how to spend it.
3. I’m pretty independent…so not a fan of committees or micromanagement. We can work together if you are willing to discuss your goals and ideas and then trust me to come up with a concept and final project. Yes, you’ll get to see it and have approval rights at certain stages. But refer back to #2 if you have questions.
4. I steer clear of personal videos such as weddings and birthdays and the kind of videos you should either do yourself or pay a pro for. Again, my life, my choice of how to spend it.
5. There are a couple of non-profits and other organizations I love working with and they take priority over everything else.
Life is meant to be lived as we choose when we retire. So my retirement is a combination of personal preferences (gardening, travel with the husband), volunteering, and continuing to work on videos.
And that said, here’s the latest done for the San Joaquin County OES. Yep – they had no budget but a great need to get the word out about the flood threat continuing through July and possibly into August this year. And I had a great need to find a truly challenging project and had the good fortune to work with a department of friendly professionals who are as passionate about their work as I am mine.
Comes the day when we all have to retire…from work. At that point are we still journalists? Or former journalists? Or do we morph into something else as we settle into our new lifestyle.
My life is divided into segments. Child. Student. Photographer. Broadcast news cameraman. Teacher. Freelance VJ. And now retired…and no longer a journalist (although I still shoot stories and post them online for myself and area non-profits).
So I’m taking up a label my bud Kathleen has been using for years. She got it right. Shes a Visual Storyteller (aka VS) which really is the same as a VJ with, I think, more wiggle room.
There are some people who pass through your life who leave an indelible impression which forever changes who you are and will become. In my case it was Delta College photography professor Edwin Schwyn, who took an extremely shy little high school girl with an unabashed passion for photography and gave her a breadth and depth of technical technical knowledge that would sustain her throughout her career. I’ve thanked Ed several times over the years but he has moved to the back of my mind in recent years. However today at the Stockton Arts Week event I was hosting who should wander by…as remarkable as ever.
…into that good night. A poem read in high school that stayed with me…
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas (1914~1953)
The thought of growing old when in my teens seemed a remote possibility. Almost as much as the thought of once again being young seeming even more unbelievable. But in age I ponder how to use the time left…to do it wisely, wildly? To strike out on new adventures or continue in a comfortable rut or find a middle ground.
Thomas’s poem seems to want the aging to rage and fight against the final night. But the passion should be more about pushing one’s creative limits with a blinding passion that re-ignites love of life and all that make it worthwhile. Yes, anger is an emotion – strong one. But it is also a destroyer, not a creator. And I choose the passion of creating. In my case creating stories visually.
While I doubt that I can ever truly lay down my camera, I seem to use it less and less on on a day to day basis. But I still love the art and craft of storytelling and seem to be seguing more and more into discussion and demonstration – not so much in the learn/teach mode as share and explore. My visualization is moving from the nuts and bolts of wide, medium, close-up to a sense of light…dark…motion…feeling. A sequence of emotions that join together in an attempt to communicate.
I have something new to play with at a pace more suited to my age and abilities that will still allow exploration of the world and its inhabitants and my first loves. Seeing and communicating what I see so that others may share the vision.
Yep…I must be bored. Again. Decided to go back in time and start re-posting some of the oldies but goodies. Shake things up a bit and maybe re-find my love of writing by getting some inspiration from when it all clicked.
So we’ll begin with two from 2006. My first blog posting.
In reading (and re-reading) the latter I find myself amazed at the changes in the craft of creating visual stories over the past forty years. From a cumbersome chemical-based process to high-tech and digital. Wonder how an old dog would do in the modern mix at times…
If anyone has a favorite or topic they’d like to see shoot me a message or comment.
Videojournalism or reporting visually can make you highly visible. There ya are: camera in hand, mike out. You’re gathering news to put up…somewhere. On the web, on TV, whatever.
So folks see you with that gear and think, “Hey, I can do THAT!” Piece of cake.
That’s the visible part of your job.
The invisible part, kind of like an iceberg, is 80 or 90 percent submerged where no one can see it.
Like: how do you choose a story, an angle, which questions to ask/which to keep and consider asking. Which shots to get. What you DON’T shoot.
The invisible part of the job.
From what I’ve experienced, shooting can be the flashy easy part. And for every hour put in shooting, you may have another hour (or more) piecing together those random clips into something cohesive.
And (to the uninitiated) there are more layers.
Get assignment and figure out your angle
Make calls/email and set up interviews/b-roll
Log – transcribe NATs and interviews
1-2-3 might take three or four or more hours. Four and five maybe another hour. And poor old editing gets whatever is left. If you’re working with a reporter, pray that they remember to toss you enough time to edit the story together properly. If you’re a one man band, don’t box yourself in. Allow time to edit.
And for those who think it all comes together miraculously…think again. An iceberg is a pretty thing, but can be deadly. Especially come deadline time.
I pulled into the parking lot and the first memory hit. A bunch of drunken fishermen just before the 11 o’clock show pushing the buzzer non-stop. They’d caught a 6 foot sturgeon and they wanted it on TV. Now.
Second memory as I got out of the car. Being walked to my vehicle after the eleven many nights by the custodian. Homeless men on their way to the shelter often got tired and would crawl into any car that wasn’t locked in hopes of spending the night in relative warmth and safety.
1974. KXTV. Channel 10. My first gig in news.
And my oh my how things have changed. The tiny lobby is now bigger than the old newsroom. The hallway that ended a bit beyond the newsroom goes on and on and twists around in a building that seems four times the size of the old station.
And the technology.
I was visiting today to check out the weather sets (aka greenscreens or chroma key sets) to see how they’re lit to help out in a similar but vastly smaller setup at the Stockton Children’s Museum. Here’s what that looks like right now.
You can see the hot spots…something we’ve been battling. The lights are in strips…maybe a dozen LED bulbs. We’ve tried diffusing and blackwrap to control them but it kept coming back to intensity and positioning. Too much in some areas and not enough on the bottom. Kind of figured out we needed softer lights, thus the visit to the present news set in Sacto.
Now I’m gonna toss a bunch of photos of their set up so my electrical guys can see how it looks.
Simple solution. Fluorescents and we can work in the tight space at the museum…don’t even need the high studio ceilings to make it work. And they use the same lights pretty much for the chroma wall and talent. Three big grids front and center…placed as far back as our wall. They also hung a couple of smaller lights to hit the lower corners of the screen. Plus some lights coming in over the back of the wall to backlight the talent.
Fortunately I have a bunch of old shop lights I can experiment with to see if it will work…then can let the electricians get to work and do their magic.
But now back to memory lane.
Ward Koppel (morning show producer) lead me around the building through the news sets, newsroom, photographers’ room, edit bays, control room and master control. Where bodies used to thrive and work as a team, much has been automated from robotic cameras to a reduction of maybe 8 people in the control room to two now.
Shooters are pretty much Videojournalists/MMJs now using camcorders they can dock directly in the edit bays. TVU units make live shots both a challenge and more spontaneous. There’s a GoPro locker and each shooter has their own locker for gear.
Photos in order of appearance. Control room, newsroom, newsroom small set, another newsroom view with assignment desk, larger newsroom set.
And since my former nickname was “Scanner Mama” a new toy – a scanner that can handle the trunk system and can be programmed to recognize signals whenever you change locations. Mmmmm!
Gonna finish this up now with a dive into the deep past. Apparently Channel 10 celebrated 60 years on air last year and there are photos that tell the tale of its history posted all over.
Some of it recognizable. First up – Bruce McCormick, followed by my first reporter Rich Iberra. The cluster of photos has only one person I worked with – Creighton Sanders, sports director in the 70s. And my first and favorite anchor, Dick Cable.
A somewhat shaky shot from before my time of Governor Pat Brown.
More photos with folks I knew and worked with or against (other stations) over the years.
And the mystery photos. Who is that lady? Why is that cameraman rappelling? And who the heck is the cowboy who apparently was in a lot of photos way back when connected with the station.
It’s been a good day. I learned a lot, reminisced a lot…
Over the past decade I’ve been toying with making fiction stories…not news, but actual films. It began when I was teaching high school broadcasting and had my students team up to enter the 48 Hour Film Project 48 Hour Film Project.
Then after I retired from teaching I joined up with some talented teams as a crew member.
This year for the first time since leading my students I was Team Leader for a film done at the San Jose 2015 48 Hour Film Project…which took city winner honors. Which is why this week is being spent in Atlanta at the international 48 film festival – Filmapalooza.
Enjoy the trailer and movie. And let me know what you think. Our chops are no where near good enough to take any prizes here but still I’m proud of the cast and crew.
I began this blog way back in 2006 as a creative vent and educational site. Over the years I’ve seen the VJ model go from the original OMB (one man band) working in a bureau and overloaded with film or tape camera, sending in their raw media via bus or driving it up to the main station for editing…to the first intrepid souls who ventured out with a laptop and dinky handycam…to today’s full blown VJs working in markets from miniscule to major.
What was once a necessity to get news from far flung regions has become a staple part of the news scene. You can argue the good, bad and ugly of the model…and trust me there are good VJs, really really bad VJs and downright don’t wanna look at their stuff ugly ones. But you can’t push back the tide. And VJs being lighter and faster are riding the waves into the future.
So this is a kind of warm farewell. I’ve said about everything I need to…although it is possible from time to time another posting may appear. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Take care.