5 Good Tips for Producing TV Pieces

Last Monday, I started a reporter internship at SWR Landesschau Rheinland-Pfalz, a local (statewide) newsy TV show with a human touch at public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (I’ve been working with them for two years now).

It’S been incredibly hard for me as – what other people would call a “digital native” to actually do online stuff within that week, but that’s another story.

For now, here are some of the best tips I gathered during the last week among authors, editors and camera people that I wanted to record:

1. Trust the Team

TV is team work. It’s important to have a clear vision, but trust in the fact that you are with smart people. They might have very clever ideas (and more experience) that you did not even imagine. Show them you trust them, it will pay!

2. Always make sure you get people’s names right

Call people by their name (they like that), no matter how many people you meet during a day. Plus: It is crucial to have their correct name and spelling, if they talk on tape. Why? You will need an insert with their name and function. And if your protagonist has the wrong name, how credible are they (and you?) in the first place?

3. Be fair with interview partners and protagonists

They are human and it is probably the first time they appear on TV, so give ’em a break.  No regular person deserves to look like an idiot on TV. So let them have another go at that sentence where they stumbled or stuttered. After all, YOU are the one pressuring them into bringing all the information into 15 seconds. Also, help them relax, it makes things more natural.
Attention: Rule does not apply if you are raking muck. If you rake, you gotta rake. Most of the time, the truth needs a little pushing to come out. As an investigative journalist, you can’t allow too much pity.

Along with this goes:

4. Ask simple questions

Imagine: you are strolling around, looking for a perfect gift for, say, your fiance, and suddenly somebody pops up in front of you with a camera and goes: “blablabla, something political you haven’t heard about blablabla, what would be the solution to regain control over the economic situation?” – your thought: Umm…what?
Keep it simple so people have a chance to make an actual statement: How do you like XYZ? Why? How do you feel? How do you do this?

5. Know what you want, but never produce text before pictures.

This proved right on a shoot only two days later.
The lesson: Reality is never what you imagined it to be like! You need to have a rough idea of where you are going, but you need to stay incredibly flexible, because things will not (not!) be as you imagine.
Knowing what you want, however, also helps not to overwork your camera team. If you got the shot you want, do not make them shoot extra material that is nice, but won’t fit the story.

  1. February 25th, 2012

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