You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy™
Saying thank you after 30 years.
I emailed one of my first bosses. His name; Bob Giraldi.
Bob is a legendary director now. He probably was back then.
I simply said; Bob, thanks for showing me the way.
Bob gave me my first job out of college when I didn’t know my ass from a hole in a ground.
My dad use to say that. I still don’t know what the hell it means, but..
When I got out of USC, I was unclear if I wanted to be a film director or a broadcast journalist.
Why did I thank a boss from over 30 years ago?
This moment of reflection begins while covering a story in downtown Nashville. The weather is perfect. The sun is shining. Stages are being set up for the CMA festival that will engross Nashville this week.
I’m suppose to do a security story. Security of fans? Security of artists? Security of structures.
On the surface, a security story is boring. It’s the the journalistic equivalent of watching yeast rise.
I mean really; what are cops going to tell you? Nothing.
So I’m talking to the commander of the central precinct and I just feel like this story is going nowhere. It feels stale like day old chocolate pudding.
Conformity pisses me off. Sameness distresses my soul. I need to push the limits, I need my work to make a statement.
This story is sucking.
“I want this to be cool,” I blurt out to the top cop. “I want it to look different, to be energized.”
“It will be,” he laughs. “You always make stuff look different.”
I close my eyes, clear my mind, and open my creative soul.
It’s as if I took my endorphin medicine and I suddenly I see the street in a brand new light.
I see the sun glimmering off the blue reflective panels of a nearby building. A sniper could be hiding there, I think.
I notice the texture of the paint on the feed store on the corner. It’s peeling, and looks like it belongs in the 1950’s. The bricks are chipped, forged in an era long ago.
I watch as a cloud rolls across a blue sky, momentarily blocking the sun. There is a temperature change of light as it dims ever so slightly.
On a bus bench nearby, I see a couple from Iowa. They are over weight, worn out from walking up and down lower Broadway.
“That’s a pretty small T-Shirt for a woman of such great stature.” I think to myself.
I see a banner with the face of Carrie Underwood. Her skin is smooth and air brushed like an angels wings. I’ve seen Carrie Underwood in person and this banner is way cuter.
Across the street, I watch the spinning guitar of the Hard Rock Cafe. There’s something Honky Tonk cool about a gigantic spinning guitar.
Downtown CMA’s is like Disney land for country music drunks.
But it’s also a terrorist mecca,I think to myself.
I video tape a garbage can by the sidewalk. This is a place to hide an explosive. I see a cargo van parked on 1st avenue. A fat man rolls a port a john out of the back. What if that was filled with fertilizer?
My thoughts go to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
As the clouds pass in the reflection of a blue windowed building on 2nd avenue, I think about the mood I am going to set. I want to ask questions to make people think. I want to create a 90 second movie that makes you hush your kids at dinner; “Wait a second jimmy, I wanna hear this.”
Everywhere I look, I see trouble. Like leaving puppies in a box on the door step of a Kroger, this all feels wrong.
To the untrained eye, tourists listen to street musicians and scaffolding is being erected and country music fills the air.
But in my thoughts; I see a mad man’s massacre.
My mind’s eye is sharp. I’m looking through my view finder with purpose. I tilt my camera, slightly changing the axis. The street is bent at a 45 degree angle. I feel like Hitchcock. I pan the camera to the right watching a blur of people and cars and barricades ghost by. I will slow mo all of this in post. I lock the camera down and point it at the statue of Elvis on the corner. Citizens walk by like ants fleeing a picnic basket on fire. I will compress this 2 minutes of video into 5 seconds. It will dance like a fire works factory full of napalm.
No boring ass security story today boss.
I hate convention. Push it. Make it memorable. Dare to be different.
I call up the art department from the street corner. “Hey Vince can you drop a sniper scope in my folder?’
“Yeah. Cross hairs. Something I put over some video.”
“You’re crazy Cordan.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks.”
A sniper scope graphic is edgy, perhaps too edgy. I know when I feel uncomfortable, then I’m getting to that special tingly place that only creative dreamers dare to go.
I think about the components as I drive back to the station. I will open with time lapse footage of the stage being erected. I will play country music full over the image. The sun is bright and the colors vibrant.
After a few seconds, I will fade down the country music, and replace it with something more dark and sinister. I will dissolve the sun shining happiness with something grainy, something black and white, perhaps with a splash of steel blue.
I want the viewer to see the city scape through the eyes of a madman. I want to raise awareness to be vigilent, to be safe.
As I talk about the WHAT IF scenarios that any police force must anticipate, I roll the sniper scope across the screen. It targets a building, a parking lot, a patron walking across the street.
With just a simple image, suddenly anyone, anything becomes a possible target.
My package is informative, as I ask about “credible threats” about where a bad guy might strike and how officers will react to the unknown.
But visually, it is edgy. I like it. It’s like a 90 second movie.
I think about my choice to be a journalist and not a director.
Then I think, maybe I’m both. Why not blast the story with a lightning bolt of cinematic energy. Why not be director who is also a journalist? Why not?
And this is when my mind spins back 30 years. I suddenly think about my early influences working with Bob Giraldi Productions, right out of college, not a pot to piss in.
I was a punk ass kid with no idea what the hell I wanted to do. I was wet behind the ears, right out of a frat house. I had all the life experience of a new pair sandals that had never walked a beach.
I end up as a Production Assistant. My title is craft service. My job is to make sure there is a constant array of food and drinks for the cast and crew.
I use to go to Safeway and buy $1000 dollars worth of M&M’s. It was crazy. What an insanely wasteful profession.
I poured more junk food into more purses of more starving actresses than you could imagine.
Bob Giraldi was all ready a legend. He specializes in music videos and commercial production shoots.
Working with Giraldi Productions I had a myriad of cinematic experiences.
I worked on so many projects. I remember one monster undertaking called Hands Across America. We traveled to the hinterlands where residents off a small town joined hands with celebrities. I can’t remember what the cause was for, but it was the 80’s and there was always a cause.
Bob G. rode a golf cart with cameras and speakers blaring. He rolled down streets and sidewalks for more than a mile. He shot faces and hands while regular citizens and super star celebrities swayed back and forth singing aloud. It was unbelievable.
I worked on every Coors Light Silver Bullet Bar Beer Wolf commercial. If the cans weren’t perfect, we didn’t use them in the shoot. I had so many cases of slightly imperfect Coors Light in my apartment it was stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I learned to make milk out of white paint and I watched people paint hamburgers so they looked grilling perfect.
I worked on the Less Filling Tastes Great campaign. I remember hanging out with John Madden and Bob Ueker as they told war stories between takes. Wow.
I loved the job, but it was so damn slow.
I decided I needed to work at the “speed of News” and I needed to go with my heart.
But I would take my passion for directing and videography and incorporate that into the very fabric of my story telling.
By and large, I have shot my own stories most of my career. Some call it one man banding. Others call it VJ-ing.
I like to call it News Directing.
So I thanked Bob Giraldi for allowing me to watch a legend work, to see how the pros put a story together.
Maybe he read the email I sent, maybe not. Either way, I am glad I got into news. I’m glad I always look at the world through my special crazy lens and then encourage others to see it as I do.