Sat 23 Jan 2010
A quarter century ago when I was covering the insurrection in El Salvador for the old San Francisco Examiner, a gonzo TV reporter from the UK once told me his fantasy was to do a standup in the middle of a firefight with bullets flying all around him. It was a suicidal idea, of course, and he never tried it.
But here’s something that comes close, which I found earlier this month on Al Jazeera. It’s in a report now archived on YouTube describing India and Bangladesh rekindling diplomatic ties.
A short ways into the report, television journalist Prerna Suri does a standup in the middle of a New Delhi expressway with traffic appearing to barely miss her. It’s gratuitously nerve-wracking to watch, but it is good theater.
Friends who occasionally work in video tell me Al Jazeera didn’t use a “blue screen” to create an illusory background. They think the standup report may have been shot with a telephoto lens, which would compress the distance between the reporter and the vehicles behind her.
And even if the reporter is standing on a narrow median too low to be seen, it’s remarkable she never flinches as motor vehicles, some of them honking, crowd past her on both sides. Click on the following link and see if you can figure out how this disconcerting standup was shot. If you do, please submit a comment and perhaps you’ll get a job offer from Al Jazeera.
Post script: Professional cameraman Mark Allen of Inverness Park has provided an explanation, which is in the comment section. You might recall that last year Mark shot a 60 Minutes’s interview with chef Alice Waters, who hand-fed him a delicacy during the interview. Further update: Prerna Suri herself has now sent in a comment describing how the standup was shot.