by Mark Anderson, former NPPA photojournalist of the year
Some of you may know that my dad recently passed. He was my hero and defined the words gentleman and optimist. When he was stationed over in France for the war, he and his Army buddies loved to read Shakespeare. Growing up in Iowa he quoted Shakespeare all the time. (I thought it was normal that dads did this.) One of his quotes stuck with me over the years and I wanted to share it here…
“Nothing is but thinking makes it so.” Read those words again. Nothing is but thinking makes it so. In essence, our actions are defined by our thoughts. We manifest what is on our minds. The popular book “The Secret” is all about manifesting our thoughts into reality. I recommend reading it.
Think of it as self-talk. Professional athletes do it all the time. So can we. My own self-talk when I am out telling stories is very simple. “Wide, medium, tight, super tight, get the moment.” I say it over to myself a hundred times while covering a story. I am hyper-focused on it. We manifest our thoughts. We really do. Dave (Wertheimer) and I brought this simple storytelling philosophy to KSTP when we were there.
Great storytelling doesn’t require some deep hidden secret or some magical formula, it’s as simple and fundamental as this statement: “Wide, medium, tight, super tight, get the moment.” What is your self-talk while out on assignment? What’s running through your mind? Lunch? Well, that’s not a bad thought as lunch is important. Maybe you are grousing about the story. (We’ve all been there.) Remember: It’s an honor to tell stories. Your story and the people you are covering need your best commitment.
We know that the building blocks to a great story are wide shots, medium shots, tight shots and super tight shots. It does not get much more elementary than that. Edited together they make for a wonderful sequence — just as the eye sees life. Life is a series of wide shots, medium shots, tight shots and super tight shots. They are like pieces to the puzzle. Life is NOT a series of medium shots cut together. Your self-talk heavily influences your outcome. If you are out complaining about your boss or whatever negative thought you may have while on assignment, your story is going to suffer. That is baseline reality.
When we are focused on this kind of self-talk (WMTST) all of a sudden we are aware of all kinds of gorgeous wides and tights. Why, (I’ll say it again) because we manifest our thoughts. Plus, when we record a variety of wide shots, medium shots, tight shots and super tight shots, your editor will LOVE you for having your bases covered. In the end, we all edit faster and hit our deadlines quicker when we have all the pieces to the puzzle. If you don’t believe me, try to edit a story with all wide shots.
On top of shooting wides, mediums, tights and super tights, remember the moments. Moments, moments, moments! If Elvis is running naked along a corn field, what are you going to do? Set up a tripod, wait for the clouds to pass or the color temperature to warm up (well that would be nice) but moments are fleeting, just get the dang shot. Shoot and move. Be nimble on your feet. Anticipate. Don’t be afraid to go handheld if you need the moment. If it does not exist on tape or a digital file, it does not exist for your viewers.
Moments are simply emotional scenes. It may be laughter, sadness, happiness or suspense. It could be a simple smile. The emotion is what people remember. Rarely do people remember what we said or what we did, what they remember is the emotion, how we made them feel … the moments!
WMTST makes your story air-able. Moments make your story memorable.