Wednesday, June 28, 2006

You Tubin' It

Another of my rural British Columbian escapades, circa spring 2006. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Broadcast yourself

Friends, foes...

I have taken the step of uploading a couple of my stories onto the internet for your viewing pleasure. They probably won't mean a whole lot to you since they're especially "local", but these are two semi-visually-stimulating stories that I've done over the past 6 months. I shot, wrote, edited, and produced both of them--as a 'VJ'--or for the uninitiated--a 'Video Journalist'.

Just thought it'd be interesting for some of your asses to see why I'm out here living in the almost-boonies...learning to craft television stories, still a rookie, but hopefully with some potential. Picking up a few new things every day--determined to get somewhere with this career.

Enjoy.



Try it, you'll like it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

God bless America....'s TV news Posted by Picasa

Retractions and updated statements

So this week I recieved my second story critique. The aformentioned Austin, TX television photographer who gave me my first lesson kindly passed on my demo DVD to another photog at his station.

This man is obviously very skilled at what he does, and knows a lot about teaching people what he already knows. He critiqued every one of my 5 stories, picking apart the details, and giving advice on how to tell my stories better. Really amazing ideas on how to improve, and easily digestible, even for a rookie like my ass. The man obviously has a style, and it works for him. Watched some of his work on his station's website (http://www.kvue.com/photojournalists/). These are phenomenal visual storytellers.

Say what you will about American TV news, but many of the people in their industry (both the reporters and the photographers/editors) are brilliantly skilled at focusing your attention on a story and making you really feel something.

Anyway, it was really motivating to have this fella view my work, and to let me know that I have a lot of work to do on my craft, but have some good fundamentals already down pat.

I found this past week of work to be mentally and physically draining. I'd leave the office unfulfilled and feeling like I hadn't accomplished much. Maybe it was just a bad week of news--basically just filling black, not really telling anyone's story. Or maybe I'm wasting time thinking too much about getting the fuck out of dodge.

Anyway, I'm trying to counteract those feelings by continuously searching for job-related inspiration. Today I registered to become a member of the National Press Photographers' Association. It's basically the world's biggest club for photojournalists, both for newspapers and television. They have conferences every year, publish a fantastic monthly magazine which comes with the membership, and have mentoring programs hooking up rookies with seasoned vets. I'm already on it--I'm hoping to spend a day at a station maybe down in the Seattle area with a photographer...see what tricks I can pick up, and get some advice about moving up to a bigger market within the next couple of years.

*Sigh*....But for now, I'll just enjoy their magazine.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A huge geek, loving a hugely geeky job.  Posted by Picasa

Critiquing the critique.

So as summer rolls around--I'm now an entire month past my one year anniversary of being gainfully employed in the television news industry. It is indeed a cause for celebration. One year into the biz, and I'm not bored yet...not any jaded than I was before, and still aware that I have a lot more to learn before I'm even half way decent at my job.

If you're keeping score at home, at the end of May of last year, I hurriedly moved my life to small-town Smithers, BC, to work as a remote-correspondent video journalist for a small television station in the ugly mill-city of Terrace. Got my feet wet as a photographer and editor, had my stories run on their horribly low-budget newscasts for about 5 months, and got the hell out of dodge. Lovely place up there, abyssmal television news organization.

I landed safely in a new job at a larger TV station in a larger, but still rather small city in BC's southern interior. I've now been here for about 8 months. I've made mistakes, I've had some successes, I've learned on some new video/editing equipment, worked with some people who are a lot better than me, and I now feel comfortable doing just about whatever needs to be done on the job.

I'm still learning as much as I can, but I'm itchy again. It's time to get moving to a bigger place with more daily news stories. If I have to shoot one more story about community gardening, bears wandering the city, or the fricking Walk for MS, someone is going to die.

At any rate, a couple of resumes are out there as we speak--telling prospective employers that I'm on the hunt for a new gig in the big smoke. This industry, however, is incredibly frustrating when you don't have a ton of friends who are plugged into major markets--friends with references, friends with friends in high places. I'm hoping my demo tape will catch someone's eye--that's really all I can do. That, and just WAIT.

In the meantime, I have taken it upon myself to soak up as much as possible on my own. At my office there is next to ZERO feedback on my work. If my stories sink or swim, I'm the only person who seems to care. This really bothers me. I could come back with crappy video and a whole shit load of nothing--the only thing that matters is that it fills the time slot and doesn't air anything "too fictitious". It's a sausage factory--as I'm certain most TV news programs are--but the quality control and organization just aint there, and that's really why I want to leave.

So...how do I learn when I'm not being told what I could be doing better, you ask? Well, sir,
the only way I can--by asking people with more experience than me to give me the lowdown on what I'm doing.

At www.b-roll.net you will find an international community of television photographers and editors who basically whine, bitch, rant, and rave about everything to do with television news. There's video on there of some of their best work, and blooper reels of some of their worst. There's also a forum where young photographers, editors, and journalists can ask for a critique of their work.

A few weeks ago I put out an 'ad' requesting a critic with a lot more experience than I have. A number of people responded--I mailed out out three of my demo DVD with different types of stories that I've shot on it (spot news, human interest, general assignment, sports, etc.). It's the same DVD that I send out with my resume. I picked three photographers/editors from different parts of the US to send it to.

Yesterday I recieved my first critique from a 10 year-experienced photographer/editor in Austin, TX. And although it's better than nothing, I have to admit...I was pretty disappointed. The critique was basically a page long...consisting mostly of compliments for my work which he thought seemed more mature than my one year of experience with a camera and in an editing suite. He told me the pacing of my stories was a little slow for his liking, which was semi-interesting (but if you watch American TV news, you'll understand that this is a pretty fundamental difference between news in Canada and the US), and told me I could work on capturing emotion a bit better with my closing pictures. These were the only nuggets of interest I could take out of his critique. It was far too short for my liking, and I wish he could have been a lot more specific about things.

But...at least it's got me thinking...and inspired to scrutinize my own stuff more often.

Two more critiques to go...followed up with another DVD every four months for a new critique.

It's all about learning, people.

What else is there to life?

The mob scene Posted by Picasa

The Constantines--reprazentin'  Posted by Picasa

Sasquatch -Whatta wide shot  Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 22, 2006

An orgy of indie rock Posted by Picasa

Lordy lord, I am a very mediocre blogger

Hidey ho,

Wow...what a sad display yet again. I was on such a roll--I'd written two work-related ranty posts in two days--with the ambitious promise of more gripping journalism-related non-fiction to follow. Rather pathetically, my ability to post here turned flaccid yet again, as my literary erection flattened out into blog-world apathy.

Back for another round, but promising NOTHING this time. Not that anyone reads this fucking thing to begin with.

As the spring springs along the scorchingly hot weather stains my lily white, pimply skin, and new music tags along for the ride. Living way out yonder in the BC interior means I haven't had the chance to see any decent live music for months--I think it's been over a year since I've been to an indie rock show, actually. Jesus H.Christ--even when I lived in the sticks of Japan I made it into the city to see a good show now and again.

Fear not, fans--next weekend I am scheduled to be absolutely inundated with a veritable cacophony of live music--shit of only the very highest quality--stuff in the buzz band section of any indie rock snob's Ipod. Geez--did you already forget that I'm a recovering music snob? Oh, you didn't? Wow. I almost did.

Next Saturday my sis and I are headed down to central Washington to an outdoor music festival called "Sasquatch". If you're not in the know, it's a 3 day event, been around for a few years--brings in some of the year's new non-Billboard charting favorites along with some more notable headliners. This year on the Saturday the headliner is Ben Harper--not my favorite--along with the Tragically Hip--also not a band I'd typically travel too far across the 49th to see.

The schedule is stacked from there, in my pretentious opinion. The Flaming Lips--possibly the world's most entertaining, stuffed animal suit-wearing live band, The Shins--everyone's favorite indie folksters made eternally famous on the Garden State soundtrack, Stephen Malkmus--Mr.Pavement himself, still pumpin out the wonderfully out-of-tune tunes, Iron and Wine--the folkiest of indie bands, the perfect music for a late spring day in the sun, and Sufjan Stevens--a name popular with the cardigan-toting set who has some gorgeous pop tunes.

So that's 5 names I'm thrilled to see play on the same day--plus at least 3 other less-well-worn bands who I will tell your smarmy ass about right now:

Rogue Wave are a bunch of ugly dudes and a lady from San Fran who play a unique brand of widely-palatable indie rock--taking cues from the Shins and the Beatles. I think most of their songs are written by their front man (last name Rogue)--but the band simply sounds comfortable playing together--melodic and full of vocal hooks--and according to an interview I read, they understand that good bands have members who "know exactly when not to play during a song". If you get that, you'll get Rogue Wave. Key word: Comfortable. Look forward to seeing how that musical comfort translates into an outdoor festival setting.

The Constantines are a pack of indie-lookin' Torontonians who have been around for a while and have heard, over and over again, the inevitable comparisons with none other than Bruce fugging Springsteen. I can't help but concur--it's mostly the singer's raspy howl which harkens me back to my childhood infatuation with 'I'm on Fire', and 'Dancing in the Dark'. Imagine Fugazi backing Springsteen, and you'll get the basic picture. I know it's a shitty way to pigeonhole a band, but work with me here, people. I'm a lame music writer.

Band of Horses are a group of wild black stallions who a number of Washingtonian ranchers have tamed and digitally recorded--the first band ever fronted by a mammal other than a human. Sure there have been recordings of sea creatures--and of course Enya does some killer samples of killer whales, but this shit is da bomb.

Ok, ok, I'm just fucking with you. Band of Horses are a band from Seattle who play epic rock songs with layers of guitar and huge, echoing vocals. Again, as a terrible music critic, I shall rely on a comparison with the Shins vocals mixed with a less country-fied My Morning Jacket. Lovely stuff--can't wait to see them.

So...five Sub Pop bands---all of which are awesome, all playing on the same day. It's like the viagra pill for an indie rock hard-on. Here comes the jizz.

Love ya.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Kamloops...appearance isn't everything. Right? Posted by Picasa

Garbage jumbalaya day

Hola.

So yes...I promised a day-in-the-life-of-a-journo blog for at least a week, and gosh darnit, I will deliver. May it fascinate and enrapture you more than you ever imagined you could be.

Today ended up as a 3 part jumbalaya of journalistic junk. One of the reporters took the day off, so I was handed the videojournalist's role today, instead of playing the photographer/editor that I usually play.

The Stories:

1) I started out the day with an idea for a story about how much garbage is plastered around town, ultimately a souvenir of winter's snowy white demise and spring's revealing brown arrival. Took a bunch of video of some really nasty city hillsides literally covered in filthy shopping bags, cardboard, and the usual fast food restaurant litter.

The story was basically debunked by city engineering who say because there've been no public complaints this year, they have no reason to think 2006 is any worse of a year for road trash than any other. I ended up doing 2 interviews with city staff, and then writing a live-voiceover script for the anchor to read over the pictures--basically about the amount of trash, but with a disclaimer from the city engineer who says no one's bitching about it, therefore it's not a problem. I likely disappointed the big boss, who was expecting a full story out of it, but shiiit, if it ain't a story because no one's complaining, I ain't making it into one.

Amount of black airspace filled: 1 minute 26 seconds

Lesson learned:

Don't tell the boss you have a story all lined up unless you know you have a story in the bag. Otherwise you look like a little shit who can't get the job completely done.

2) With the first story gone slightly awry out of lack of newsworthiness, the boss handed me a story about the local Conservative MP who's been AWOL from the public eye, basically since the federal election. Since the MP is in Ottawa, it wasn't much of a story. Just required getting a simple clip from the Conservative riding president, and then writing and editing it up as another live voiceover bit.

Amount of black airspace filled:
58 seconds

Lesson learned:

Hmmm...that's a toughy. Didn't learn much here...it was pretty fricking straightforward. When I showed up to do the interview, I didn't quite get as dramatic a comment from the fella as I'd hoped (he was quoted in the newspaper as being ticked off at his own party's leader). I guess what I learned from that is to always ask what comment the person actually has for you before you head out to clip them. Not that I wouldn't have been forced to get the vague comment he gave, anyway.

3) My final chore today was to get a local comment on a provincial story. The left-leaning Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives came out with a report saying the province's new-ish policies on welfare in BC are taking away government support from a lot of people who actually deserve and need it. 42% fewer people got welfare last year than in 2004. That's 100,000 fewer people on welfare. The boss asked me to get a clip from a local poverty advocate. Nice lady, gave some pretty pointed comments on what the province needs to do to keep poor people from becoming abyssmally poor.

Amount of black airspace filled: 50 seconds

Lesson learned:

Technically, nothing. Editorially, very little. I guess I just learned that 42% fewer people on welfare in just a couple of years is a pretty big ass stat, and probably deserves some press, if nothing else. So I guess it was good that I was part of that. Otherwise, I learned almost dick all from that task.

Daily total amount of black airspace filled by my pictures and scripts:

Approximately 3 minutes.

Day's summation:

As a whole, today felt more or less like a waste of time in that I had the rare opportunity to report and didn't end up flushing out a full story for the first time in ages.

Fascinating stuff, eh?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring appears in Kamloops, ass-first. Posted by Picasa

The inevitability of learning...something

Compatriots.

I know, I know...you've been checking this blog on a twice-daily basis for the past month just in case it was ever updated. And I know, I know, you've missed me ever-so-much. Well, here I be.

Alas, I have very little to say for myself. Life is moving quickly and sluggishly all at once. Days fly so fast I hardly remember what I did. Months crawl by, like a pack of injured tortoises, moving so slowly I want to kick them all in the ass. Seemingly accomplishing next-to-nothing, although I suppose I'm learning something about my craft simply by osmosis. Or, as I like to say as I point to my own hardened-shell of a brain...."Something's going in there".

But hey, hey....spring appears to have arrived in Kamloops. The filth-tinged ice has spontaneously combusted, leaving in its wake a heavy stain of road salt and sidewalk gunk. Highway garbage, buried under months of rotten snow, has been strewn everywhere, like boulders carried on the shoulders of a receding glacier and plunked at random on the flattened landscape. The mud-caked gears on my bike shook off their permafrost this past week, and yesterday it was warm enough to head out for a ride without having to cover my face to shelter my skin from the evil might of frostbite. This is good.

Meh. I've decided I'm going to try to write more on this here blog. Even though there may be three people in the universe who actually care enough to fully digest my run-on-sentence-laced grumblings/ramblings, I guess it is somewhat cathartic to express whatever it is I'm feeling on an almost daily basis. No wonder all of the wankers who update their blogs six times a day with banal, self-indulgent tripe seem to enjoy this shit so much.

So... I've decided for at least a week, I will run a daily blog about what I did and/or learned on the job. Perhaps there will be at least a kernel of interest in it for aspiring journalists and photographers. Or maybe not, but such is life.

So fasten your seatbelts, and prepare to be bored to fucking tears. Or maybe not. Who the fuck knows.