Appearances, Spin and Reality (or What's Below the Media Radar)
BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Robert K. Pappas, Director of "Orwell
Rolls in his Grave"
Rolls in his Grave is my first feature length documentary. Never
an activist, I trained as a fictional filmmaker at NYU Grad Film and
directed a couple of features (attempts at humorous love stories).
However, my lack of formal journalist experience might actually have
been a strength. The following are a few images from the making of
April 2001, Washington: I'm staking out the TV studios
on North Capital Street that house CNN, MSNBC and FOX, waiting to importune
Mathews, Hume, Fred Barnes or whoever might emerge from one of those
cable news talk shows. I'm alone, with a DV camera on my hip that could
easily be mistaken for a weapon. A car pulls up and out pops Senator
Kerry. He walks inside, apparently on his way to an interview, while
his driver waits in the car. 20 to 30 minutes later Kerry comes out
of the building. By this time my attempt to appear unobtrusive is actually
making me look more unsavory -- I'm disheveled, with my shirt and hair
sticking out. Maybe Kerry had been warned by his driver, if not he
should have been. He looks over at me, some thirty feet away, camera
still brandished at my side. Kerry stops, turns, looks at me and then
approaches, a half smile on his face that's a bit wary. Here's what's
goes through my mind: "This dude is big and tough, and he's decided
to confront this guy who may want to do him harm." Half way to
me he speaks: "What the hell are you doing?" he inquires
without malice. By now he's in front of and is as tall as me. "I'm
trying to nail pundits coming out of the building -- too bad you're
not a pundit," I blurt only semi-coherently. Kerry cracks up,
starts laughing. "Go for it." My next thought is: "What
a charming ballsy person." He looks at me, "Good luck, take
it easy," and
walks to his car before I realize that maybe I should have asked him
about the media. The point of this story is that elements of the press
keep saying that he's charmless, mannered -- a typical politician.
As someone who often tries to size up actors in auditions during which
time they're often trying to fool you about who they are, Kerry seemed
the opposite of the way pundits try to spin him. My impression
was that he is incredibly charming, spontaneous, and brave.
2002, Washington: I'm taping a news conference near the
Capital. There's war in the air. But at this news conference, families
victims are emotionally pleading against us invading Iraq,
their argument being that such a war will increase hatred of the
US among certain groups, and actually help foment terrorism. Plus,
say, their families were collateral damage in the 9/11 attack --
what about Iraqi families? Very moving. What strikes me about the
conference though is that out of perhaps a dozen camera crews on
hand, not one
is from an American network. They're all foreign.
Early February 2003: I call a guy I know who works
at FOX in New York. Earlier on I had asked him for an on-camera interview,
do it. "How's it going at FOX" I ask. He replies simply: "It's
the super bowl." "It's the super bowl?" I repeat. "Yeah,
it's the super bowl." Then, I get it.
September 2002, Washington: I'm filming in the hallways
of the Congressional Office Building, maybe 8 or 9 in the morning.
There's a line of perhaps
30 guys who look like the people who line up near Tompkins Square
in New York City at a local soup kitchen. They're mostly black. "What
is this?" I ask my guide. "They're place-holders" she
responds, "They get paid to save spaces reserved for the public
in Committee hearing rooms, just before the hearing begins, lobbyists
take their place." I think to myself, "What a simple image
yet what a perfect example of what goes on behind closed doors in
our government." For some reason though, you'll never see this
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Rolls in His Grave" from BuzzFlash.
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