Moments in Wisdoms – Tips of the Week

We continue our look into the wealth of knowledge on our site.  This week we have tips of the week from from Deborah Potter, Nathan Thompson and Leighton Grant.

October 2nd 2012 –  Deborah Potter “Edit Backwards”

Words have power and the most powerful word in a sentence should come last. I could have written: Words have power and the last word should be the most powerful one in a sentence. But that would have put the emphasis on “sentence” when I wanted to stress “last.” See the difference?

Sometimes, this kind of writing just happens because it’s the way we speak, but often it’s the result of careful revision. Save some time to review and revise what you’ve written and you’ll wind up with a stronger story. And when you do revise, edit backwards.

Look closely at the ends of sentences. Have you ended with the word that conveys the most meaning? Or have you allowed an unnecessary phrase to sneak in and steal your thunder? A few examples from stories I’ve seen:

“They gave up and left the area.” Why not just stop at “left?”

“The chrysanthemum show featured 51 varieties of the flower.” Pray tell, what else would it have featured varieties of? Kill “of the flower.”

“After fighting breast cancer for 20 years, she died of the disease.” If she died of something else, by all means tell me. Otherwise, delete “of the disease.”

Editing backwards will help you spot wasted words and even entire sentences you can dump. Just think how much time you’ll save. Maybe even enough to add more NATs!

May 9th 2012 –  Nathan Thompson “Take Risks”

My challenge to you is to take at least 1 risk (preferably more). Do something that you’re not used to doing. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Learn something new. Challenge yourself!

  • If you normally remain silent and let your reporter do all the talking, throw out your own question at the end.
  • If you usually shoot everything off the sticks, try shooting off the shoulder more…and vis versa.
  • If you tend to shoot from one spot, move around and shoot from all over the place! Shoot from high vantage points looking down, low vantage points looking up, sling your camera out the window, set your camera on the ground or on moving objects, and most of all zoom with your feet! Your camera will go wherever you take it, so don’t be lazy!
  • If you always shoot with the zoom button, flip over to manual zoom and give that a try. I shoot almost everything with the manual zoom and I LOVE the speed and control it offers. There’s certainly a learning curve, but it’s worth it in my opinion.
  • If you typically always white balance, try learning about color temperature (degrees kelvin) so that you have the understanding to use white balance presets.

One of my favorite risks to take is to see how many different framings I can get from a single interview. This is risky because changing framing or position during an interview means you might miss an important sound byte. It’s a practice that involves anticipating the shot you want next and waiting for the perfect opportunity to frame it up quick enough so you don’t miss anything significant. Switching your shot usually works best while your reporter asks a question. So during that time I might move my tripod to a different location or throw my wide angle lens adapter on to get a wide shot. Or if I hear a personal/emotional byte approaching I’ll quickly pop in tighter. Whatever the case, I never look at an interview setup as just one shot. There’s almost always potential for multiple framings/angles. Just look for opportunities for visual variation and when an idea comes to mind, go for it!

May 31st 2012 –  Leighton Grant “Gather Moments not Elements”

When gathering any news story the basics are the same, solid video, great sound…etc. We often hear news people say, “We’ve got all the elements for a good story”. This is commonplace, but I would like to see people change that outlook. Why not replace the word “elements” with “moments”? When gathering a story, a great sound bite goes a long way but a moment lasts. It sticks with you for days, maybe months. I believe the news gathering process would be more rewarding if we change that simple phrase. Some might say what’s the difference? It’s a mentality. Getting elements is about making a phone call or hitting the street but getting moments is about timing, patience and persistence. It may take getting out the door an hour earlier but at the end of the day, people will remember your story. I will take a one moment story any day over a three element story, provided fair coverage to the subject was presented.