By Mark Neuling
Photojournalist for TechTV
really starting to hate stand-ups. The newspaper
folks complain about real estate and head shots. With
the television stand-up you get two for the price of
The purpose of the stand-up, besides face time for the reporter, is to act
as a bridge between segments of the story. It can be a crucial, narrative
part of the story-telling process. Not always necessary, but certainly
the tech stories we cover can be somewhat dull both content-wise
and visually, there has been an added pressure on both the
part of the reporters and the photographers to spice up
the stand-ups. Sometimes
they work, sometimes they’re simple, but all too often
they're a pain in the butt.
This is an example of a fairly typical television
stand-up by one of the local network sports directors.
arrived at work one morning at my usual time. After
getting my coffee and reading through the overflow of emails we
checked the computer to see what was scheduled for the day. The
only thing planned was a stand-up with one of our better producers
and the lead anchor, scheduled for ten o’clock. OK
this should be easy; I get to work with two vivacious thirty-something
young women who actually know what the heck they’re doing.
The producer in charge of the shoot is logging tapes at a near-by
workstation. She informs me that she isn’t sure yet
where we will shoot the stand-up, either here at our office or
several blocks away at the studio. “No problem, I’ll
wait to hear from you before I load the gear in the car,” I
tell her. “We’ve got the edit planned for noon,” she
nervously informs me. The added bonus is that there
is a possibility that this piece will be airing on ABC’s
``Good Morning America. ``
two hours pass; it’s ten o’clock straight up. I
stroll past the workstation where the producer is still looking
at tapes. She says nothing to me.
Everyone in television
has worked for “Action News,” even the talented
© Mark Neuling 2004
later the phone rings at my desk; it’s the assignment
desk notifying me that the shoot has been pushed back to
that noon edit session won’t be happening after all.
Another hour passes. Finally I get a call around a quarter past eleven, “Come
pick us up at the studio, we’re ready to go,” the producer tells
me. Again the plan has changed, now we are going to shoot the stand-up
in the anchor’s apartment. This means driving half way across town,
eating up more time.
meet the two women at the studio. I ask for directions. The
anchor snarls at me. Very unusual for her; she must be wound really
tight for this. She notices the blank look on my face and
asks me if I know how to get there? “Yeah,” I
reply, “but you better give me directions from here because
it’ll be shorter than the route I’d take from the office.” We
head towards the Haight.
|This is an example of “reporter involvement” during
Mark Neuling 2004
front of the anchor’s apartment there is one small
parking space available. In San Francisco an open parking
space happens about as often as a presidential election being decided
Electoral College. It just doesn’t happen. Never
the less the anchor tells me to park in this opening. Of
course the reason the parking space is available is because it’s
a red zone. The paint is peeling and faded and hasn’t
been painted in years, but it’s still a red zone. Since we
have the privilege of paying for our own parking tickets maybe
they can get me for two parking violations at once. The space is
so small I’m going to be partially blocking a driveway as
So the magic “Press Pass” that protects us from all
evil goes on the dashboard and we start to unload the car. I’ve
got to admit that the ladies carried most of the gear up the stairs
to the anchor’s apartment. “No prima-donnas here,” declares
the anchor as she heads back up the staircase with her second load. No
most certainly not, and that’s one of the things I most appreciate
about this job.
The story we’re doing is about software that will allow parents
to monitor what’s in the email on their kid’s computer. We
are likening it to parents snooping through a child’s dresser
I always like to reconnoiter the scene before I start to set up
my equipment. Since we need a dresser as a prop the only
logical place for me to shoot is in the bedroom. A stand-up
in the anchor’s bedroom; what every newspuke dreams about.
set up three lights. A key light with a small
soft-box, a back light on a small extension arm with
a warming jell, and the third light with a blue
jell to splash some color on the background, which just happens to be framed
through the door of the bedroom.
monitor I’ve brought I set up on the bed. Now news
shooters never use monitors in the field unless it’s for
a live-shot. We’re all equipped with monitors but I almost
never use mine for three reasons. One - I keep my lighting
simple. Experience tells me what I’m going to get. Two
- the thing is heavy. Three -I don’t want reporters
and producers looking over my shoulder and second-guessing my
|Some stand-ups don’t even require that the reporter
Mark Neuling 2004
because of the importance of this stand-up to the story I want
everyone involved signing off on it when we’re done.
I’m wedged into a corner of the bedroom and my lens can’t
zoom out wide enough to show the dresser and the anchor. Funny
how simple some solutions are, we move the dresser back a couple
of feet and now she can walk three or four steps to the dresser,
deliver her lines and I can get it all in frame. But something’s
Nothing in this room gives any indication that it belongs to a
child. If this stand-up is to be taking place at a child’s
dresser shouldn’t there be some toys or dolls around I wonder
out loud? Suddenly, seemingly out of thin air there appears
a teddy bear and a doll. Our scene is now complete, we can
finally roll tape. Never under estimate the power of what
you wish for, and never take credit for a good idea.
anchor clips on a microphone. We double-check the shot. I
tweak the lights some to compensate for the walk to the dresser. We
rehearse the delivery a time or two, and I roll tape just in
case we catch a great read.
|TechTV’s Dave Koehn consults with a reporter about
the script for a stand-up.
© Mark Neuling 2004
first take is good, we try another but the anchor flubs it. Two
more tries, my move feels real good on the fourth take and
interpretation is great. But the producer wants just
one more read. I exchange glances over my viewfinder with
the anchor, we already know we’ve got a good one in
the can but we’ll play along with the producer’s
request. Three or four more takes and we call it a
wrap. All this set-up for a read that will last less
than ten seconds.
load the gear in the car and despite the coolness of the overcast
day there are pools of sweat clinging to the front of my shirt. We
have to hustle back and get this into the edit session. Thank
God we didn’t get a ticket.
We narrowly miss rear-ending a truck near Octavia Street. It
would have been my fault too. A gallows humor envelops us. I
joke that at least I have an airbag. The anchor makes a crack
about having not only an airbag for protection but her wardrobe
that she has folded on her lap. The young producer sits
wide-eyed in the back seat, her already alabaster skin drained
of any remaining
Several blocks later an old BMW flashes its lights at me. What
now, did I cut this guy off or something I think? The young
driver pulls along side and motions for me to roll down my window. “Your
right rear tire is almost flat,” he informs me. Darn,
I’d noticed that the tire was low, but it’s brand new,
less than two weeks old and I’m supposed to drive to Sacramento
tomorrow. Will this day ever end?
The ladies seem to be relaxed and in a good mood as we arrive
at the studio. I head out to find a gas station. It’s
starting to drizzle a bit.
At gas stations in California air and water are supposed to free. But
apparently the attendant at this gas station has a different understanding
of the law. He claims that in order to get free air I have
to purchase gas first or feed fifty cents into the air pump. I’m
not in any mood to argue with this guy and I’m not about
to buy gas. I turn and walk out. The drizzle has turned
into a steady rain; I’m halfway to my car. What’s
a couple of quarters I think? I pull a dollar out of my wallet
and return to the office where I ask the attendant for change. There’s
a sheepish look on his face. He slides my dollar back across
the counter to me with a token on top. I appreciate his change
of mind. The tire fills slowly but seems to be holding air.
Closer inspection shows that I’ve got a nail in the tire. The
tire gods are conspiring against me. Two weeks ago it
was a screw.
Since I’m supposed to drive to the state capitol the following
day this has to be fixed. The guys in the tire shop look
at me quizzically, “Weren’t you just in here?” they
ask. “Picked up a nail, can you get it fixed today? I
can wait,” I say. They tell me it will be two hours
before they can get to it. I notify the desk that I won’t
be available for the rest of the day. They have
a new tire on the rim in 45 minutes and don’t charge me anything. I
don’t miss my train home.
Photo illustration by Mark Neuling.
© Mark Neuling 2004
shoot in Sacramento gets cancelled the next day and the story
never does run on "Good Morning America."
Mark Neuling ©2004
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Email info: email@example.com
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