Monday, January 14, 2008

Power to truth?

I'm my way to NH to work on CNN's coverage of the NH Primary. Its the first job of the year. 2007 was a very good year to live in the Boston area and work in the film business. Its kind of amazing to have grown up around here with dreams of working in this business. Being convinced, quite happily actually, that my living and future lied away from this town only to be here now doing the very thing I always wanted to do, in a city I don't really want to live in. That's another story for another day.
I actually did this very same job for the same people 4 years ago. It's amazing all the fairly life changing events that have occurred since then, but here I am on my way to NH. One of the things that has changed in that time is that I have learned to completely remove any opinion I have of the project or the people I work for. A big reason for this is my experience working on the CNN NH primary coverage 4 years ago.
In case you've forgotten, 4 years ago, VT governor Howard Dean ran for president with a good deal of initial steam. This is the week he went down in flames with a hearty "yee-haw". No matter how you feel about Dean's politics or his chances, I think we can all agree that no one should lose their opportunity to be president of the United States because of a very small moment of a unbridled enthusiasm in front of his loyal followers. But that's exactly what happened. And in a fairly significant way, I helped undue Howard Dean's dreams.
I would describe myself as a reformed news junkie. Cable tv news used to be my heroin. CNN was my dilaudid. For years I depended on CNN to provide a safe mostly non biased(nobody's perfect) haven for the liberal and the interested. The run up to my employment on CNN's primary coverage was very exciting. I really looked forward to working in the nerve center of tele-journalism as the country decides its next leader. The job itself was pretty straightforward. Grid, studio lights, DMX cable and dimmer board. At that point I hadn't worked on too many big budget movies or the like, so I was truly impressed with the location newsroom we had lit and the unrelenting fury of activity that is a TV newsroom. Then it happened, Dean loses in Iowa and gives the speech. The next day that clip(just the scream, of course) ran every 5 minutes on the network, and I thought to myself "man, that seems a little unfair to the man. Not getting a lot of new voters from CNN today". The next day they're marching in pundit after pundit to discuss the clip(just the scream, of course) and framing the question of whether this blurt of enthusiasm actually has anything to do with the presidential race. All the while the clip(just the scream, of course) is running in every news cycle. I started to wonder if someone at CNN has it in for Dean or what? The next day they're "reporting" on the results of their own poll asking viewers basically if they thought Dean was too crazy to be president. A co-worker said to me "its over for Dean." He was all too right. Dean got waxed in the primary of the state next to the one he governed. His forward and innovative ideas about fundraising and campaigning got waxed too. Did we find out that he stole millions from innocent people, was a card carrying klansmen, dressed in drag for kicks, cheated on his wife? Nope, Howard Dean's crime was to be real with his people. That's certainly not a quality were looking for in a President. Is it? The following day, CNN's last in NH, The video clips for their news cycles, repeated every hour were as follows... A clip of the 16 year old african american kid who had just been pardoned in Fla. after being convicted of killing another african american child. Three Black kids break dancing for the senile Pope, and Howard Dean(just the scream, of course). Draw your own conclusions. But as an fairly media savvy minority living in America, I was disgusted beyond words.
CNN NH 2008 was a lot smaller affair. Instead of setting up a big studio, this time they decided to shoot the American Morning program in a couple of Manchester restaurants. Much smaller, run and gun type of affair. It was truly nice to see Kira, the CNN lighting director, and the rest of the guys from Kaye Lites. The job, despite being overnight and at TV news pace(as opposed to the much more deliberate movie pace), it was petty easygoing and fun. With one exception.
It can be somewhat challenging to be black in this business(almost any business, I guess). But because of the fraternity like atmosphere of some crews, it can be easy to find yourself on the wrong side of some locker room humor. You learn to smile, Swallow it or come back with something equally offensive under the guise that you're big enough to join in the fun. I've learned to be kind of ok with this because a) for the most part, these are my friends and b) these are the people who put money in my pocket. Its a fine line that often takes the fun out of what is usually a pretty fun job. But last night was different.
Someone who is not my friend, not worked side by side with me for years, and definitely not someone who puts money in my pocket said something completely out of bounds. These are the times I feel my ghetto anger rising. I kept my cool and just looked forward to revenge. At some point there will be an opportunity to pay this dickhead back, but for now the next paragraph will have to do.
In approaching this blog, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with it besides tell people about this very interesting time when they made big hollywood movies in my hometown. I was sure of one thing. It wasn't going to be about naming names and blowing up people's spots. Its a fairly small community and that would probably limit longevity, and just not be cool. I've decided to make an exception. If you do something profoundly racist or sexist or just plain fucked-up, then you may get your spot blown. I just decided that making it in this business for some people is hard enough, and anyone who makes it harder for everybody to feel comfortable in a business that suffers from way too much boys club politics, will get blown up. So congrats buddy, in the very first ASB post, which has a mandate not to name names. You managed to get your lame semi-pro ass blown up. Way to go dude....

John Disemone is a racist asshole!