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How to Create and Sell Cutting-Edge Video
By MICHAEL ROSENBLUM
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013Michael Rosenblum
All rights reserved.
Your First Week: Anyone Can Do This
In this week, we're going to get an overview of how the world of television, video, and film has changed and how you can be part of a massive new opportunity. The less experience you have, the better.
In the early 1990s, I was teaching at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Everyone says, "Don't date your students," and this, it turns out, is very good advice. I wish I had listened. In 1992, I started to date one of my students. In 1993, I married her. And in 2003, I filed for divorce. But it's the dating part that we are interested in at the moment.
She was an aggressive 23-year-old who had worked for an English-language newspaper in Mexico City and now wanted to expand her journalism education.
I had graduated from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism only a few years earlier and had found a job working as a producer for CBS Sunday Morning, the CBS News program. With this, I was qualified to get a part-time position as an adjunct professor at Columbia teaching television.
I met Glenda at the student-faculty mixer, and to move our burgeoning relationship along, I suggested that it might be fun to shoot a "documentary film" together.
And thus it was that we spent a weekend in Philadelphia in the Emergency Room of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, called HUP. We had brought our video camera, a small handheld home video camera, in the hopes of shooting a real-life version of ER, the very popular TV show.
A great deal of "documentary filmmaking" is just a matter of showing up with a camera and waiting for something "interesting" to happen—then filming it. Emergency rooms are good places to wait for "interesting things" to happen. You sit and wait, and interesting things just come in through the door.
While we were in the ER waiting room, a young couple came in with an interesting story.
The core of any good film or video is in the characters. Casting is everything. And you don't get any good characters unless you start casting, so that is what I did. I leaned over and said to the guy who had just entered the ER, "How are you doing?"
This, in retrospect, seems a stupid question in a hospital emergency room.
The guy looked at me for a second. He was a big, menacing man with a mean expression, and I thought he might punch me in the face for having the temerity to talk to him, but then he saw the camera.
"Documentary filmmakers," I said, pointing at Glenda and myself.
So he smiled.
Video cameras are licenses to be just about anywhere and talk to anyone.
"TV?" he asked. Clearly, "documentary filmmakers," while holding sway with graduate students, didn't have the traction that TV has with the general public.
I smiled. "You bet!" I said. (Who knew? Could be?)
He smiled again, clearly at ease now. TV was something he understood. It's a shared fraternity. We all do it. Five hours a day. And who does not want to be on TV?
"I was shot six times," he said, leaning in a bit and sharing a confidence.
Well, you don't see that every day.
In fact, I had never until then even met anyone who had been shot even once, let alone six times. Of course, I had seen people shot in the movies. They fell down. They died. Maybe he was pulling my leg.
"Come on," I said, ever the journalist with the incisive question.
He could see that I did not believe him. A dark scowl crossed his face, which was pretty scary.
"You wanna see?" he asked, more intimidating than questioning.
Of course I did, and he lifted his shirt to reveal six small black bumps.
"Bullets," he said.
"I was shot too," his girlfriend added, somewhat competitively. "In the butt. You wanna see that?"
He shot her a glance that indicated that she was clearly not to drop her pants.
Just then, the attending nurse indicated that my new gunshot victim/friend could come into the emergency room and be seen.
"Can Mister TV man come along?" he asked the nurse. "He gonna put me on Channel 5 news."
The nurse rolled her eyes and said, "Sure."
"This gonna be on TV, right?" my new friend asked me.
"You bet!" I said. What was he going to do if it wasn't? Shoot me? Probably. Anyway, all four of us headed into the ER.
Now, as it turns out, when you get shot, particularly with a small-caliber bullet, so I am told, you don't fall down dead like on Law and Order. Sometimes the bullet just enters the body, and it's fast and hot, and the wound cauterizes and the bullet just stays there and ultimately works its way to the surface, like a splinter.
In the ER, a doctor on call showed me this miracle. He lifted our "victim's" shirt, and with a straightened paper clip, he tapped the top of the black bump.
Click ... click ... click.
"Hear that?" the doctor asked. "Metal on metal. That's the bullet."
The attending that day in the ER was a young woman doctor who took no liking to these kinds of people.
Frequent fliers, she called them. "Sew them up, send them out, and they get shot up again." She placed the new star of our soon-to-be documentary film on a table and began to extract the first bullet from him, without any anesthesia. She simply grabbed a set of forceps and began digging around.
My newfound friend with the six bullets screamed a scream I hope never to hear again.
The doctor put down the forceps and looked at this giant of a man, easily twice her size, and said, "You big baby."
He stopped screaming and stared at her.
For a moment.
Then she went back to work digging around.
He screamed more. Then the first bullet came out.
She held it in the forceps in front of him.
"Doesn't that feel better?" she asked.
He looked at her.
"That do not feel better," he said.
We were quite happily filming all of this with our video camera.
Then, with the camera rolling, the man's girlfriend reached over and grabbed the bullet from the forceps and shoved it in his face.
"You said you were shot with a .38," she said. "This ain't no .38. This is a Glock 9 millimeter."
It was a fantastic moment. And we had recorded it all.
Well, I thought, maybe this will be on TV.
We stayed at HUP for a few more days, shooting all kinds of interesting stuff, and then we came back to New York to edit it all together.
Now, I was the "older person" in the room. I was the person with all the TV experience. I had even won a few Emmys (okay, local Emmys at Channel 13 in New Jersey, but Emmys none the less). With all my experience, I proceeded to lay out the structure of the documentary film we were now going to make.
I saw it all very clearly in my head.
"We're going to get archival footage of the Vietnam War, and we're going to cut back and forth between Vietnam medical choppers and the ER in Philly," I announced. "The medical battlefield of Vietnam came home to the battlefield of inner-city Philadelphia," I narrated in one of those deep bass PBS "important film" voices. It was great.
Glenda looked at me like I was an idiot ... or very old ... or both, probably.
"I'm not doing that," she said.
"You're not?" I said.
"No way, José." Like a rebellious teenager.
"Well, what do you have in mind?" This was going to be good. The student filmmaker's idea.
Excerpted from iPHONE Millionaire by MICHAEL ROSENBLUM. Copyright © 2013 by Michael Rosenblum. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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