Wednesday’s trip to Yosemite was a dual purpose event. Or possibly more. I took three of my students on a field trip to learn how to interview officials and just plain folks and create a video story. I was also shooting a video story for the Lodi News Sentinel on whether the poor US economy has changed the demographics of park visitors.
The possibly more: a trip down memory lane for me. The two and a half hour ride up threw me into past drives…and none as leisurely as this one. Driving up for general news stories on holiday crowds, weather, new features in the park. Speeding up for breaking news events such as fires, crimes, rockfalls. One exceptional two day trip to do a story on a group of pleine aire artists. Yosemite in summer, fall, winter, spring. With the exception of the artist story, every trip had a deadline, and I was the time Nazi. The minute we left the office, my brain began calculating how long we had until we had to turn around and get back to base to meet a five or six o’clock deadline. Factor in reporter viewing the tape, writing the story, me editing…we usually had to be heading out of the valley by 1 or 2.
Another unexpected bonus: none of the kids had ever been to Yosemite before. They marveled when they saw Lake Tulloch on the way up.
San Pedro and the Old Priest’s Grade (you pray going up and down you’ll live thru the ride) had them breathless. (or maybe it was my driving)
The heigth of the tall trees on the road into Yosemite wowwed them.
And the valley, when first glimpsed, almost stunned them. Yeah, they made the usual teen talk, trying to belittle their feelings. But the looks on their faces…the requests to go back to Yosemite Falls, the way these usually noisy, energetic guys just sat in the meadows looking up at the sheer cliffs said it all.
First stop was the Administration building to interview public information officer Scott Gediman. Scot gave us an ebubilant greeting (we’ve been friends and professional aquaintances for years) and we immediately began talking about my story…and we both explained to the students that this was called a pre-interview. Kind of establishing the general content of the interview, checking on information to help focus the interview. I told the kids that I’d called Scott the night before to give him a heads up on my angle so he’d have time to pull facts for me.
We walked outside the building to do the interview. Jose, Jose, and Ivan – the latter two took broadcasting and the first two (yeah Jose and Jose) were both in one of my English classes. Jose the middle guy was in both classes. Let’s just call them the guys or J1, J2 and Ivan.
Anyways…I showed the guys how to check light and set up the camera and mike so that we would minimize setting up for our interview subject. Explained that often people like Scott had very busy schedules and it was impolite to make them wait…and it was more professional to be ready to get them in and out. Today was an exception for Scott – he had time for my interview (first, so the guys to watch and learn), and all three student interviews.
J1, who is a second language student still trying to build his English vocabulary, was focusing on fire danger.
J2 wanted to do a story on the most popular park attraction.
Ivan wanted his story to be about the most popular park attractions. (more than one)
They’d each been required to write down their story focus and at least three questions on the way up, and they were ready. They played musical cameramen – each shooting for the other and the third student holding the reflector to get light in under the Smokey-the-Bear hats that rangers wear.
Jose1 surprised me with a request to interview Scott’s assistant (not a surprise to Scott, who pointed out that Carie was much cuter and younger than him). J2 had to give him some assistance wording his questions, but he pulled it off wonderfully.
We spent the next seven hours riding the free valley shuttle to locations and taking my van around to scenic areas the shuttle didn’t stop at. And we kept bumpping into Scott and Carie, who were escorting a Japanese video crew around. They were shooting for one of the top talk shows in Japan. So the guys got to see a real crew in action.
They also learned how to talk with strangers. I tell my kids that while their parents tell them not to talk to strangers, in my class they have to talk with strangers (and I’m nearby monitoring, good teacher that I am).
They took it easy at first…interviewed a couple of pre-teens about their favorites spot in the park. Then I had J1 walk into a random campsite with me, introduce himself and explain his purpose for being there…and interview one of the children and parents about campfire safety. (I piggybacked by talking to the dad about the economy and how they planned their trip.)
Jose 2 and Ivan did their stand-ups on the trail to Yosemite Falls. Their biggest problem was remembering a simple one sentence on-camera segment. But I give them credit – they bravely gave it a shot (several shots). Remember – these guys are all only 15 or 16 and they are not used to talking in public, let alone standing with an invisible mike on, camera pointed at them, reflector blinding them, and speaking out loud. I suspect the reflector was the worst part of it.
Jose 1 asked to do his standup in a quiet area. While he is a very polite and intelligent young man, he is also very shy about his English skills. Again, Jose 2 assisted me in helping write and translate meanings of words.
I’m writing and editing my story today and running it into the Lodi News Sentinel offices for preview and approval. The guys will work on their stories when we get together in a week for the 48 Hour Film Project.