Off-Camera Notes: Things I Have Learned About TV Production and Journalism Etiquette
March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
Recently, I came to a very important conclusion regarding TV journalism: what happens off-camera is just as important — if not more important — than what actually happens on camera. (Now, somewhere off in the distance, a professional videographer must be doing the accusatory finger-point and shrieking blasphemy.) However, I speak honestly from my own experience: most of my best interviews on camera have been preceded by superb off-camera interactions. By this, I mean the stuff that precedes the actual interview and everything in between: the tone of e-mail exchanges beforehand, the promptness of responses, the helpfulness of your/their response, the proper use of comma splices (yes, I definitely just wrote that there are proper ways to use things that you are never supposed to use in the written English language), and whether or not they share your (potentially very awkward) sense of humour when you finally do meet in person. These are all things that contribute to the eventual on-camera chemistry between you and your interviewee.
Honestly, the more I become acquainted with show business (not that I really know it at all), the more I am grateful to Mr. Bob McDonald. Although our encounter in the CBC Studio back in November of 2010 was, er, humbling (to say the very least!) I readily profess that everything I learned about off-camera journalism etiquette, I learned from Bob McDonald.
Of course, there’s still so much to learn. In an attempt to make the RogersTV experience much more worthwhile to me as an aspiring science journalist, I have started to make a list of things that I have learned since taking on this role as a community producer for Science Matters. The following list is definitively non-comprehensive, and in no particular order of importance:
- In e-mail communications, comma splices can be acceptable, even cool. [sic] (This took me a while to understand, since I have the tendency to be a grammar nazi.)
- When giving introductions and sign-offs, LOOK THE CAMERA IN THE EYE. No one is interested in looking at the white of your eyes, and plus – that’s just awkward.
- Interviewing scientists is NOT like interviewing artsy people. The former generally have no idea what you are doing or why you have a microphone in your hand; the latter will try to act for you the whole time, potentially making you feel very, very awkward. Be prepared to stand aside, watch them talk, and feel awkward.
- Try to be as friendly and approachable as possible once you meet the interviewee. It’s best to be warm, but not too personal. If you accidentally become “too personal” with your interviewee beforehand, it changes the tone of your interview, and makes it feel, well, somewhat disrespectful.
- Under no circumstances is it ever OK to bash past interviewees. Not on camera (of course!), not off camera — NO-NO-NO-NO-NEVER.
- Do not try to look like someone you are not. (ie. For as long as Bob McDonald is not getting his teeth fixed for the camera, I will not be wearing cover-up for my interviews.)
- Do your best to avoid bad jokes. Seriously. Not everybody is as friendly as you are – and some who are cruel enough will make it a point not to laugh.