Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Not Freaking Out

This was supposed to go up like a month ago, but I think I burned myself out from editing all the things that I was working on! I guess I needed a little break. I was covering some pretty crazy things for Chicagoist and well, for myself.  Stuff I never thought I 'd have the opportunity to do, and honestly didn't even think I wanted to do, but when the opportunities presented themselves, when those invites came in, I just said yes. I challenged myself and faced my fear of falling on my face.

The first was was an event for the television shows Chicago Fire and Chicago PD--a panel with the casts of both shows and Executive Producer Dick Wolf complete with a red carpet beforehand. Once I realized this red carpet "interview opportunity" was basically Access Hollywood-style, I was anxious, but I showed up and got through it. I ended up with zero interviews since it was basically one long photo op that I wish I had brought a real camera for, but I made the best of it. I also learned that the business of covering television is a weird place. I now know all the character and actors' names from both shows. I feel like I know a little TOO much about these people.

(Todd Rosenberg)
The following week I got an out of the blue invite from Hubbard Street Dance to observe rehearsals with celebrity guests Nigel Lythgoe and Jenna Elfman. They were in town for So You Think You can Dance auditions, but came to Hubbard Street representing the Dizzy Feet Foundation. I brought my SLR for this one, but ended up with an eight minute interview with the pair instead, that I was of course, unprepared for. It turned out great though, they were both really nice and the conversation went well. The tough part was compiling all the material into a cohesive write-up. I'm still kicking myself for not including one of my favorite quotes from Lythgoe about SYTYCD*, but sometimes when I'm writing something--considering my focus, support points and what quotes to use--all the puzzle pieces don't quite fit together. Sometimes the points I find the most interesting don't serve the piece as a whole (or maybe I need to listen to what I'm saying here and change my approach. Chuck literally said in a note to the Chicagoist staff today, "I've always said if you find something interesting, the readers will.").

I'm learning how to conduct a better interview through experience, too. Sometimes you have zero research or not much time with your subject and have to stick with general questions while others you can get more in depth (like this kickass interview I did with choreographer Brock Clawson). I've even been paying more attention to the interviewer when reading or listening to interviews lately. The most important question I ask myself is...what would I be most interested in knowing about this person? This is your one opportunity to ask them!

I'm also learning that when you get to meet a celebrity or someone you admire, you don't necessarily get as overwhelmed as you might think because you have a job to do. But as a friend said to me one day when I was freaking out.... they're just people doing their job, they just have weird jobs.

*and that quote is: "We have to do something that is much more commercial, we have to appeal to a far wider audience than Kylian or ballet or anything otherwise we'd never get on television. It’s a very niche audience, ballet in particular is very sort of white elite in this country. We've got to appeal to a far greater audience than that so we try every now and again to educate as well as entertain and that’s a difficult thing to do, you don’t want to feel like you’re talking down to anybody, your viewers. At the same time when we talk about a pirouette we always say ‘you know when you did that turn, the pirouette,’ and then ‘when you were there with your leg up there in the arabesque,’ and so we always try and give the right terminology at the same time as helping people understand what the hell we’re talking about. It’s a fine line.”

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