How I Got Started in Television

 It happened more or less by accident. 

I was assigned to do a photo layout for a newspaper on a TV station that was broadcasting "live" Sunday morning telecasts of church services.

Given the difficulty of taking equipment on locations in those days, the church services were conducted in the TV studio.

>> I was standing in back of the large studio getting my pictures when I noticed that one of the cameramen was trying to keep (with varying degrees of failure) from throwing up in the handkerchief that he had over his face. He had pulled his camera into a corner of the studio, out of everyone's view.

He had "tied one on" (again) the night before and was very sick. With the help of a telephoto lens he was trying to get the basic shots.  At that point no one in the control room above the studio was the wiser.

I knew the family of this man and I knew he had a problem with alcohol. I heard the management had already warned him that if he didn't straighten up, he would lose his job.

Seeing that the man was clearly "in a world of hurt," I  put down my still camera and made a gesture of reaching out for his camera.  He understood and gladly let me take over, not knowing that I had never touched a TV camera before -- let alone be involved in a "live" TV production.

I put on the headset and tried to pick up on the flurry of commands from the director.  Before long, the director understood that something was "different" and I was forced to tell him that I had taken over the camera.

" At that point he guided me through the moves I was to make, probably much as he would explain procedures to a somewhat mentally handicapped individual.  It worked and at least the show wasn't a disaster."

 

>> That summer I got a call from the same director.  Because of vacations, he didn't have anyone to cover a camera position for some commercials. The shots were easy and he thought I could handle them.  I did, and soon thereafter I joined the regular crew rotations.

>>There is a final irony to this.

Although I suffered my share of failures during my learning phase, eventually became a director. 

The first shows I directed were the Sunday morning church telecasts in the same studio where I had accidentally gotten my start in television.

-Ron Whittaker


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