Sunday, May 27, 2007

A New Freelance Job

Some a-hole with a "Choose Live" license plate cut me off at 80 mph on I-75 yesterday. (Note: This person is not necessarily an a-hole because his car sports a "Choose Life" license plate. It's probably coincidence.) If this idiot loves life so much, why was he driving as if he had a death wish? For himself and for me.

I was driving, or attempting to drive, to Englewood in southern Sarasota County to field produce my first story for A Gulf Coast Journal, a TV magazine show that airs on WEDU, the PBS affiliate in Tampa.

Field producing means doing everything a reporter does except that after I write the story, someone else will narrate it. In this case that will be the show's host Jack Perkins. He hosted a series on the cable channel A&E called Biography. That's how I know of him. He also used to be a network TV correspondent.

Our subject is the Sarasota Association of Radio Control Auto Racers, or SARCAR. "Middle aged men playing with toys," racer Dean Yiapis describes them. Races happen on a former tennis court converted into a track at the Englewood Recreation complex. Cars one-tenth the size of normal ones can exceed 30 mph on the track.

Cars are difficult to control and crashes happen routinely. One driver found himself bumping into walls so often he named his operation "Oops Racing." Unlike full size car crashes, the drivers always survive. Usually the cars do too.

Photographer Alex Gazio shoots most of the story on a Sony CineAlta camera, an ultra high-end HD camera which costs around $120,000. But perhaps the most dramatic video comes from a small Sony HandyCam costing only a few hundred dollars. Alex ties it to the chassis of one of the cars and gets an "in-car camera" view. He played back the video and the shots of other cars from that perspective is super cool.

Now it's a matter of logging the nearly three hours of footage we shot and writing a script. This will be interesting because I've rarely written stories for other people and never have I done it for someone whose pace and delivery are so different from mine. Not only do I have to think in someone else's voice, what will be especially challenging is matching Jack's slow and contemplative delivery (think Charles Kuralt) to a story about racing cars.

Jack won't be at the shoot. He won't see the tapes. All he will know of the story is the script I send. He won't be able to adjust his tone to match the tone of the story. I've never met the man so I have no idea if he'd even care to try. So I have to write it in a way that suits his normal delivery.

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