Saturday, November 28, 2009

And ... Action!

Because my reporting and writing has generally been limited to print media, interviewing people for stories has always meant taking notes while wearing a hardhat on a construction site, sitting in a fancy conference room, or while talking on the phone, bribing children of varying ages to be quiet with Popsicles and lollipops. Unbeknownst to most interviewees (hopefully), I've changed diapers, made pancakes and breastfed babies while conducting phone interviews.

I like to think I've gotten pretty good at focusing on listening and getting good quotes while all hell breaks loose around me.

But up until this past year, I'd never tried to conduct an interview while surrounded by lights and cameras.

I am a freelance writer for a lovely publication called "Seasons," which publishes three regional magazines four times a year. Last spring, Publisher Jim Tulley came up with this great idea to tape a cable show to accompany each issue, and run the 30-minute program on local cable stations. Cable channels are hungry for content, and Simsbury Community Television offered to help us produce a quarterly show. I'd be the show's host, he said. Gulp.

While I'm hesitant to refer to myself as either old or a dog, I have to admit it's been hard teaching this old dog a new trick.

I've got to think that if I did this kind of thing as a 22-year-old college grad, attempting to speak and breathe and think simultaneously wouldn't be so difficult. But it is.

For the most part, when I interview someone for a newspaper or magazine article, I give probably .01 percent of my attention to my appearance. My energy goes towards writing down complete quotes and thinking towards the next question.

Even when I've filled in for radio dude Colin McEnroe -- who, coincidentally, finishes each episode of the show with a diatribe about butternut squash or postage stamps -- I've been able to relax and groove during interviews.

But watching the first two episodes of "Seasons Up Close," it's clear that I'm ridiculously nervous. Those hot lights turn on and I'm like Cindy Brady in the episode when she freezes in front of the cameras on the quiz show.

The third time -- we can only hope -- was the charm. We just finished taping the winter episode, which, thankfully, featured five friends from my book club -- there to talk about, of all things, book clubs -- and began with a visit to Plan B in Simsbury, where our fantastic waitress kept our glasses full and our spirits high.

Here's to hoping that a bit of experience, a bit more Chardonnay and good friends will equal 30 minutes of watchable television.

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