One-stop shopping

When your assignment destination is Sausalito, it’s going to be a good day. The folks who live there are a little tired of all the tourist buses rumbling through town, so they decided to put some restrictions on where the buses could go.

A pretty simple story – get video of the buses and sound bites with the upset neighbors.

Everything went according to plan and the story turned out pretty well – no hiccups. Still, there were a few things I remembered about being an MMJ and shooting, writing and editing my own story.

This was an ideal MMJ story -  one-stop, Sausalito. Sure there were various locations within the town, but it wasn’t the more difficult assignment of going from San Francisco to Berkeley to San Jose, which I’ve done.

Another thing that swung in my favor today was the producer’s decision to “break out” other aspects to the story, rather than asking me to include them. Sausalito isn’t the only locale getting fed up with the tourists – San Francisco is also thinking about limiting buses around Alamo Square where the Painted Ladies are, and soon might even restrict who can go down crooked Lombard Street. Had the producer asked me to include those elements in my story, I would have had to

  • go shoot the video in those places, and then break the rule of only going to two places max for an MMJ story or
  • ask the station to include file video of those places in my story, which would have meant I would no longer have complete control over how my story went. The more people who are involved in producing and editing a story, the longer it takes. Because I could do it myself, I knew how much time I had and what the final product would look like.

So my video of the buses was pretty good and so were the interviews, but I needed something for a standup. Hopping on and off a bus wasn’t really an option because they’re moving and to shoot it myself would have taken a lot of setup and time. But as I was shooting video of downtown Sausalito, I saw something that sparked an idea for a standup. I believe this is one of the advantages of being an MMJ – by looking through the viewfinder, one can come up with ideas and lines to include in a story that don’t jump out if one is just working as a reporter. 

In this case, this is what I saw:

 Downtown Sausalito, CA

Downtown Sausalito, CA

Check out the story to see how the standup turned out.

Takeaways:

  1. MMJs really need to have a tight, tight focus on their stories. It’s a big help when producers can have the anchors tell other parts of the story, leaving a single, simple core element for the MMJ. Mike Sugerman’s rule still rules: MMJs should go to a maximum of two places to shoot video.
  2. MMJs can have an advantage over a separate photographer/reporter team, because the MMJ thinks as both. Sometimes looking through the viewfinder leads to an idea that wouldn’t have arisen otherwise.