Friday, April 9, 2010

Mission Accomplished

You know that sensation you get when you successfully complete something you set out to do despite the odds feeling stacked against you, the feat seeming near impossible, and a thousand doubts in your mind telling you that all your hard work could potentially end in failure?

Affirmation? Attainment? Achievement? (lots of 'A' words)

Whatever you'd call feels so damn good

Rewind to mid January when I showed up at NBC for the first time for my internship orientation. The producer gave us a tour, went through the rules and handbook, and did his whole shpeel about how to make the most out of our internships. And then he said something that may have registered as little more than a fun fact to the other interns, but sounded more like challenge to me. And there's nothing that I love more than a challenge. 

The producer told us that one of their previous interns had even done his own story and gotten it on the web, but to his knowledge, he'd been the only intern in the history of the DC Bureau to do so. 

Read as: Jacquie, your mission should you choose to accept it is to become the second ever intern in the history of NBC's DC bureau to get a story on the web. You have three months. No pressure. 

And then life happened (as it always seems to). Days turned into weeks turned into months and then one day we had a "check-in, see how your internships are going" lunch intern meeting with the bureau chief, ie: the boss man. I got there earlier than all the other interns and sat down for a good five minute one-on-one with the boss where he asked me what I wanted to do, how my internship was going, etc. I told him I wanted to be on air and he said, "What have you done here thus far that's going to help you achieve that?" Realizing that my answer to his question was "nothing", and hearing the boss man subsequently kick my ass into gear, took the challenge to a whole new level.

So I racked my brain for story ideas. What can I shoot myself? What would they want an intern to do a story about that no one has yet to cover? What kind of access am I capable of getting myself? And somehow the cherry cuisine story came to me. I pitched it, they loved it, and then I realized, "Okay now I actually have to do this thing." 

My producer checked me out a camera, equipment bag, and tripod that literally weighed almost as much as I did, and at the very least was way heavier than I'm capable of carrying. I later found out that most of the equipment bags have wheels on them but conveniently those were all checked out when I got my camera so I got the monster backpack to lug around. The day I checked out the camera I walked from work to the metro at a snail's pace looking like a hunchback. I woke up the next morning in so much shoulder pain I actually had to buy some Bengay for my shoulders just so I could hold the camera without crying. From that moment on I decided I was taking cabs everywhere else I needed to go with the equipment. 

So I had the equipment, now I needed a story. I called a few restaurants on the list of 70+ that I had found online as having cherry menus for the festival and set up some shoots/interviews with their PR people. I didn't lie about who I was, but I also didn't offer up the whole truth. I told them I was with NBC4 and would like to include their restaurant in my piece on cherry cuisine (truth). I did not however say that I was an intern, this was the first story that I had ever done for them, and I didn't even know how to use the camera (unnecessary details). When the PR people cc'ed me on the emails to their restaurant managers and chefs saying that NBC4 would be on location to shoot, and cited me as the "producer", I started to panic that these people were going to see right through my inexperience and back out of the shoots when I showed up.

Then I realized I probably had several thousand dollars worth of NBC's equipment in my possession so someone over there must believe me. I woke up the morning of my shoots, dressed the part, put on my NBC credentials badge, grabbed my gear, and told myself, "Think big to be big." That day, I was a producer for NBC4, and no one thought differently.

Fast-forward through exhausting days of shooting over Easter weekend when everyone else was out enjoying the beautiful weather, going into work three extra days this week on my own time to digitize my tape, verbate the interviews, write the script, edit the piece (on editing software I'd never used or even heard of before, I taught myself in a day), write the print story, and get the nice people at WRC to post it to the web. When I saw my name, my footage, my story, my hard work on the front page of NBC Washington's website (it ran there the whole first day it was posted), everything was worth it.

Mission accomplished. I showed the story to the MSNBC corespondent I intern for who was extremely impressed that I took it upon myself to do something like that. She forwarded the link to my story on to the bureau chief and a few other producers in the building. One of whom sent it to the producers at the New York City Bureau and another who replied back to all in the email saying I was going to run that building one day. The three restaurants I shot for my piece all saw it and sent me emails telling me they loved it, saying they were going to post it on their websites, telling me to please consider featuring them in future food pieces I do, and even asking my personal address to write me a hand-written thank you. I was on cloud nine all day long.

My story was a simple local food piece, well-done but not without technical errors (using the equipement for the first time by myself and editing on software I was unfamiliar with resulted in some amateur audio and shooting errors)...but it was out there, on for the whole world to see. And all the positive feedback I was getting from it at the bureau was affirmation. Affirmation I had chosen the right major, affirmation I was heading in the right direction, affirmation that at 20 years old I was on my way to a achieving my dreams, affirmation that all my hard work wasn't going un-noticed. And boy does that affirmation feel good. And then my corespondent said, "Start working on your next one." And that's how it goes. Pitch, shoot, write, edit, publish, repeat. And I can't wait to get paid for it.

Or watch my story here:

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  1. Great story, great blog, and a great job!

  2. I love the video story too! Awesome! there's nothing better than finding your passion AND being great at it! :)