Who Becomes a VJ?


….Drew Carey, student…. PF Bentley… Instructor…. Risk Takers…

One of our regular contributors here got in touch with one of our VJs, Karin Thayer. Following that, he did a bit of research into Thayer’s bio, and posted the following:

And BTW, here’s a little Google info about Karen, it doesn’t look like she is very concern about where the money to buy groceries will come from.

Not exactly your average VJs profile.

Former teen actor and model through Grimme Talent in San Francisco

Speaks fluent German, worked in German film industry

Has a brown belt in karate, is a licensed sharpshooter and holds a multi-engine pilot’s license. Is known to fly her own plane to get aerial shots for her films.

(December 2006) Shooting and producing film about the only gay bar in Jerusalem, titled “Freedom On The Rocks.”

(May 2006) Quit KRON 4 News in San Francisco after less than a year, after being a videographer trainer and “VJ” (video-journalist”) reporter.

“Not your average VJ profile”….

And now, I understand.

Quite to the contrary, this is your average VJ profile.

Thus, let’s be clear: not all VJs have brown belts in karate. Not all are licensed airplane pilots. Not all are sharpshooters. But all of them, (at least many of them) like to be leaders instead of followers. People who become VJs today tend to be individualistic – early adapters.

VJ today is cutting edge. It is not for the conservative or the ‘faint of heart’.

The people who are drawn to this now have a wide variety of backgrounds – some were White House photojournalists for Time Magazine; some were former writers for Letterman and Jon Stewart; some were network producers. But they all have one thing in common – an appetite for adventure and a high risk profile.

They are the kind of people who will take off for Cambodia or Afghanistan or New Orleans because they think there is an important story there to be told.

Now, they are coming up head-to-head with people at the other end of the ‘risk profile’ spectrum. People who have spent their whole lives in very conservative, very predictable and stable jobs. (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

So what we are looking at is a clash of cultures… and characters.

The new and aggressive meets the old and established.

The old and established are resentful: ‘who do you think you are?’

The young and aggressive are cocky.

This is what happens when the world changes.

I have been posting VJ pieces. I will continue to do so. It’s the right forum for it. No matter what I posted, the old and established will have problems with it. If I posted Harvest of Shame, they would complain it was not ‘hard news’.

The world is changing.

And as is always the case, the early adapters embrace change first. And like all early adapters, there will be bumps and mistakes as well as discoveries and revelations. That is the thrill of being there first, and the risk.

For those willing to accept the risks and the uncertainties, the ride is exciting as hell. For those who are risk averse, the ride can appear terrifyingly uncertain and scary as hell.

For me, I would always prefer the roller coaster to the merry-go-round.

But it’s not for everyone.


26 responses to “Who Becomes a VJ?

  1. Michael you are so full of it. I know you are going to delete this one too because you have no backbone to hear the other side of the story.

    You sure know how to twist things around to make yourself look good, regardless if it’s the truth or not. I never contacted Karen, I have better things to do. She’s the one that contacted me because you are the one who asked Karen to write me and tell me of how good the VJ thing is.

    I didn’t come up with any profile for VJs, you did. What you are doing now for your convenience you are changing the profile that you originally created for your VJs, and that is that according to you anyone off the street can become a successful VJ if they take your 3 weeks course. My argument with you for the last five years has been that no one can achieve any success in television without considerably more education and training than your 3 week course and anyone who believe they can achieve that in 3 weeks is a fool for giving you money. Five years later you don’t even realize that you are in full agreement with what I’ve been saying all along. All you have been showing as successful VJs are people who indeed have substantial education in the production business.

    You see, if I have to or want I can step down do what you call VJ projects at anytime and it will be infinitely better that any of the VJs garbage that you’ve been displaying here with pride. But the kind of work that I do everyday your VJs can only dream of being capable to do, and they can only dream to even come close of making that kind of money that clients are willing to pay me.
    The crap that you’ve been showing here I would be ashamed to put my name on it. That kind of work would put me instantly out of business not your VJs.

  2. Nino, Min!me, et al – being a part of the B-roll crew, I wonder why you and others that are like minded continue to come here and post comments.

    You know flat out the paradigm that Michael espouses along with myself and others is in direct conflict with your position. Yet you and others like you continue to come here and make derisive comments – and to what end do you think these comments will result?

    Changing our minds? Not likely.

    As far as I can tell, I see the actions of the very stable, very conservative ENG shooters who are comfortable in not taking risks feeling threatened by those who are willing to take risks.

    And as Michael said – there isn’t anything wrong with that.

    And yet – the followers of your perspective feel it is their duty to try and convince people that your way is the only way. To save us from ourselves and the heresy of the Solo VJ paradigm. And it is becoming quite tedious. It reminds me of the bible thumping crowd who state that if you aren’t saved, you’re going to hell.

    Guess what? We have free will and are making our own minds up about what we chose to believe and not believe. If we choose to follow the Solo VJ paradigm and we are wrong – we have no one to blame but ourselves. But you come and try to tell us we are wrong – as if we need parenting. Stop it!

    These rantings only remind me of why the more noise one makes to prove they are right, the more I look for reasons why your way isn’t the only way – and I’m finding that almost daily.

    Change or don’t change – it doesn’t matter – the profession is shifting either way.

  3. To start Cliff, Michael is the one that got me into this little cult of yours here, not a very big one I must say. Out of thousand that Michael allegedly trained here in the US, how many of you are here, six at the most? Not exactly a loyal following that scream success isn’t it? Until two weeks ago I didn’t’ even know that this place existed. I found this place because I notices links on my website coming from here, I came here and what do you know, I found my name and some of my posts from elsewhere misquoted here. I grew up in the street Cliff; I don’t take crap from anybody. Michael has and still is dragging my name here; the “contributor” that he is referring to above is me and everything that he said is untrue. Michael only wants you to hear what he wants you to hear, he has been doing this all along, if you could only see the posts he deleted you’ll see him and the entire VJ sting under a different light. Maybe you are plenty satisfied to live a lie but I’m not, especially when it involves me. So even if he didn’t drag me in here, are you guys afraid to hear opposite views. Are you just going to pump each other up in believing that you are the future of television and reject everyone that can prove that you are wrong? What’s next Cliff, are you going to shave your heads and start your own little commune somewhere on a hilltop in California? So in your opinion is okay for Michael to stir controversy on B-roll and Medialine but it’s not okay for others to do the same here.

    Cliff, I have no intention to make you change your mind, actually I could care less what you do, but if I can prevent some young guy from making the same mistake that you are making then I will have accomplished my mission.

    I would love nothing more that being able to take my little camera anytime I want and just go out there and find stories of great interest to me without having to carry around two tons of gears and being financially capable of not caring if anybody will buy or pay me for those stories. Actually when I retire that’s most likely what I will be doing. Unfortunately in the real world thing are a bit different. As a man I have responsibilities that I take very seriously. When I immigrated in this country 38 years ago I had a good education, a heart full of dreams and lots of empty in my pockets. I got married 37 years ago to my only wife and we put 3 lives into this world. My oldest son has a master degree; he is an investment banker and a financial analyst. My daughter is a school teacher; she is currently finishing her master and she will continue for her PHD and my 17 years old son is a computer wizard and also my partner in EFPlighting.com and he has his education all paid up to whatever he want to be, it will be something to do with computers of course. He actually since he started High School has been making a small fortune designing web sites for small local businesses. I also own a four bedroom house with a pool in a very nice family area of Florida and we are all looking right now to buy a beachfront townhouse together on the Gulf of Mexico as a family vacation retreat. All this was made possible by the skills that I was able to acquire thru the many hard years that I sacrificed to gain an education, something that has been paying dividends ever since. I don’t have to move to London to get a job, I can be with my family everywhere I want to, and my rule has been that I will only travel for no longer than 7 consecutive days because being with my family is considerably more important than my work.

    And Cliff one last thing, take a suggestion from a veteran, I’ve seen your work, you got a long road ahead of you.

    Happy father’s day.

  4. I don’t think I expect to change your mind Cliff. What I do look to accomplish is, at times, to add a voice of balance and experience to the comments section.

    Your words, attitude and work examples of VJ success are something I encourage any and all to see and then visit.

    That alone will help others to see and understand what people like myself and Nino are addressing.

    Having you come back time and again to make shrill claims of knowledge and experience only help me accomplish my own goal.

    I mentioned them below but I’ll do it here again.

    You have a lot to learn. To help you on your way I offer these basic tips.

    Learn how to use a tripod. Seeing your interview with the singer shot off a tripod that wasn’t even level was truly funny. There are times to use Dutch angles and there are times not to. In this case, you were just lazy. The main interview or your story looked like it was shot by a grade school AV student.

    Your piece was so long and so video poor. The angles and number of shots? You obviously didn’t shoot enough to make anyone stay interested in it.

    Missed opportunities that were staring you in the face. How come no sound from the student of the singer? Instead you did the lazy person story. One long interview and some quick, unimagninative b-roll that you strung together.

    No beginning, middle or end. Just one big glob of interview and a bunch of jump cuts that did nothing to advance the story. There was no story! No image that stands out at all! Why is that? Because you don’t understand that the visuals are just as important as the words and sounds being heard. How many shots did you shoot for how long a story? Not enough. Lazy, lazy lazy. Then I bet you took your time putting this thing together, only to be told by “mentors” the obvious. Too long. Too dull. Even cutting it down doesn’t save it from that fate.

    You’re learning. Which surprises me when I read your long list of seminars and classes attended. You seem to want to act like you are alreayd some kind of success at being a VJ when the truth is so obvious by viewing the small amount of work you’ve already produced.

    With time you may get better but it’s going to be with a lot of time, and even then, even longer before your efforts are good enough to compete for a steady paying job either in broadcast or the internet.

    Good luck Cliff. I look forward to seeing your next piece in another month or two!

  5. happy father’s day to all you mothers out there.

  6. Min!-Me – Must have struck a nerve. Now go back to your cushy, safe, non-creative, non-risk taking job (Just Over Broke).

    The continued adolescent insults demeans even more what you say you represent.

    I have a nice fathers day to enjoy.

  7. As a way to extend a hand across the waters…..

    Could ! or Nino look at my last piece on Charleston and give me feedback? My wife is one of the TJ’s so I do have a dog in the fight, and I’ve written here before, so you know where I’m coming from.

    ! had some fairly ruthless commentary on Cliff’s work, but I’d like to know what kind of knocks he’d give me. I’d welcome it as a learning opportunity.

    No need to leave it here unless it would add to the discourse. You can email from the site, and click on my username to get there.

    Fun Fact: Rodney King never actually said “Can’t we all just get along?¨ It’s a misquote, though that’s basically what he was saying. For some reason, I like that our culture takes misquotes and makes them real – just to add a happy little note.

    I had a mediocre Fathers’ day and wedding anniversary (wife in Peru), for those keeping score 🙂

  8. You want comments too!?!?

    Honest comments?

    I felt you did a good job. Yes, early in the learning curve but you actually had a plan. You actually talked to more than one person. You actually used a tripod the way it should be used. You had a beginning, middle and end to your story!

    Could it have been better? Of course, any story any of us does could be better but yours was solid for a person at your level of experience. Well above “others”.

    Your story had character, feeling, emotion. The idea of showing the town was simple but you delivered something personal, with a message. A complete message.

    Your tripod was level!

    Suggestions? Keep working on the well composed shots. You had them. You can do even better. I liked the way you worked your kids into the story. Very natural. Very real. Not scripted. Honest.

    That’s what a VJ story should be aiming for. That personal touch you delivered but it wasn’t all “me” or “them”. It was both. No, not a hard news story but still a nice slice of life. Showing your town through your eyes without being visually lazy.

    Keep it up. Look for more facets to share from there. An interesting person or place. Maybe even your side of the 5 Takes experience. I know that can’t be easy. You’re a good supportive husband with a great family. I know you’ve been doing some of that sharing already but it could be made into a nice little piece once she spends more time down there with you up here. More life without her and how you try and maintain the relationship.

    Enough from me. I don’t dislike VJs as a whole. I dislike people who are phony about what and who they are. You are real. You are sharing that reality and it shows in your product. Viewers know and understand that even if they may not be able to specify what “that” is.

    Keep up the good work. Keep learning. Just like the rest of us are.

  9. “Could ! or Nino look at my last piece on Charleston and give me feedback? My wife is one of the TJ’s so I do have a dog in the fight, and I’ve written here before, so you know where I’m coming from”.

    Love to, where’s the link, and I’m never ruthless, sarcastic sometime for those who deserves it but always constructive.

  10. Just click on my username at the top of this post. Thanks.

  11. Do you have another link? Unfortunately for some strange reason your name “sturgesfam” is the only one that’s not underlined and doesn’t link. I tried on 3 different computers.

  12. I thought it was just me!
    The link is http://www.marysturges.com.

    By the way, my dad got his BA in RTF, but wound up being an executive at Lockheed Martin. I’m hoping I got all the good genes from both parts 🙂

    I am blessed that I have a trade that I love (working with lasers and computers) and an expressive medium that I can do (my Bob Ross paintings are terrible!) I feel strange being in the middle of this.

    Will I retire as a tradesman with a hobby (I love my trade), or will I be the one to topple Kaite? I doubt it’ll actually be me doing in Kaite, but when I was in high school I never thought I’d get to even play with a laser. Certainly my wife being on a travel show was not something I saw coming.

    My very first “real job” was with a medium-sized company started by a man named Emil Scordatto who emigrated to the US as a trained engineer but had a radical idea about how to tell how long it would take for blood to clot. He set off on his own and started Medical Laboratory Automation. In his old age, after years of growing his company and always being the #1 market leader in the field, his son Dick sold the company to an Italian company and was made very rich (pop was already very rich from his invention and successful company). Dick went to engineering school but, as far as I know, his major contribution to the affair was selling the cmopany. Emil was a combination of skilled engineer with creative inventor.

    One of Emil’s first inventions was a portable cotton candy machine.

    Bill gates, on the other hand, didn’t finish college. When IBM asked him about an operating system (something he didn’t have), he told them to go talk to the guys who made CP/M, a disk operating system (DOS) written by a grad-school friend of my Dad, the late Gary Kildall. Bill Gates only wrote BASIC, and not the MS-DOS which made the company the giant that it is. The CP/M deal fell through and Gates bought DOS from a Seattle company without telling them that IBM was shopping for an operating system. CP/M (though not its creator – an actual creator) fell into obscurity.

    Since then, Microsoft has designed some things, but usually buys technology that it re-brands as Microsoft. Gates is a cunning businessman (if not exactly ethical), but not a real creator.

    As a kid of 39, I’m glad we have the Michaels and the Ninos, becuase none of this makes sense to me. I don’t want to say that truth lies in the middle somewhere, because I don’t think it does. My bet is that Nino is actually a creator in a trade he loves, and that there are many creators in that trade. Real changes seem to come about when passion meets skill. The question to me then becomes: must the skill be learned as a tradesman’s apprentice or in school, or as a result of a new technology narrowing down the needed skillset? Of course, a skilled camera operator doesn’t have to learn that part of the art if he wishes to create. But can it work the other way? My Bob Ross paintings are terrible. Would I create art if I went to art school? I’d make better pictures but would it be art?

    We all know the joke about the plumber coming to the neurosurgeon’s house, fixing the problem, and charging the man $300 for a half an hour’s work. When the surgeon replies, “That’s insane! I don’t make that much an hour, and I’m a brain surgeon.” The plumber replies, “Yeah, I didn’t make that much when I was a brain surgeon either.”

    It is just fact that someone plying a trade will be paid regularly. Some of those will be creators and innovators and will rise aove and be noted. But there are people who, driven by passion or inspiration, will learn enough of the trade and will pop up too, and as technology starts to bridge that gap, we will see more and more laypersons.

    The junk on YouTube was not created by people who took one of Mr. Rosenblum’s classes. I have no idea as to their successes – they were driven by a passion to take a class in VJ, something that is cutting edge. We might not see them yet, but some of those folks will combine their passion with the skills learned at a VJ school and will produce great stuff.

    My wife, who had about a total of an hour behind a camcorder in her life was calling me up and giving me editing advice after the very short bootcamp before leaving for 5 Takes. She’d say “Mr. Rosenblum wouldn’t like the way you did….” A humbling experience. I’ve since spent many hours on the web reading the work of those who post here and learning about editing. Now, according to !, my shooting needs some more work.

    I watched a program about TV with the kids yesterday. In it, they showed the inside of a control van at a NASCAR race. They showed the director calling out “Ready 11.” “Take #4” and so on in what I would call orchestration. That director was not simply skilled; he was an artist. I bet he hauled cables around for a few years first – the price of that school – but the artist was in there already.

    Jim, writing on a Mac because he tired of the mishmash Windows world.

  13. “Hi. My name is Jim and I have a problem with logorrhea.”

    “Hi, Jim….”

    By the way, my BS is in zoology. Go figure.

  14. Jim, let me start by offering my deepest sympathy to your city in view of the recent loss of lives. It was a tragedy and we all hope that the lesson learned will prevent similar tragedies from happening again.

    Now to your video, one world of caution, whatever you learn in the next few minutes don’t show it off right away with Mary, you don’t want to make her feel bad that you are now better that she is in doing these things. Just kidding.

    To start pick a theme and stick to it, I know this was supposed to be some sort of tour of your beautiful city (been there many times) but in reality it turned out to be about children having fun in you city, nothing wrong with that but concentrate and enhance it.

    Every show has to have a lead-in, a main body of the story and an exit or end. Within the main story you have sub-stories, also with a beginning, main body and exit that will lead you to another sub-story. All this sounds fancy but it’s something very easy to do.

    Let’s start with a few rules first. Rules are meant to be broken but not until you master them first. A 2 minutes good video is much better than a four minutes not-so-good video. Never repeat the same scene unless there’s a good reason for it. Vary your shots; never go from a wide angle shot into another wide angle shot. The basic rule especially at the earlier stages of videomaking is: wide, medium, close-up (CU), then get out of that scene backward, from your close up to medium and again wide, repeat. CU (close-ups) are very important with children, their natural expressions are priceless, take full advantage of it. Word of caution here don’t try to do close-ups in you wide angle setting; you’ll end up with distorted faces. Take a look at the video of the dating game in London by Mike Kraus on “A VJ Story”, the distortions make those poor girls look really ugly. You should fill the image from about six feet away, that will eliminate possible distortions.
    Also let the children do the narration, you do the opening and the transitions, nobody can tell of how much fun it was like they can. After they are finished playing sit them down and let them let tell the camera was it was like, you can use the video or only the sound bytes. Careful, one at the time or they’ll step on each other voices.

    I’m just going to give you a few examples; I’m already blacklisted by the 300 words or less guardians here.

    Start your video with a composite of scenes of the fountain; calm scene. Again wide, medium and CU. Keep your cuts shorts but long enough for the viewer to know what it is. Then show the door of your van opening and the children pouring out screaming and into the water and let the show begin.
    In each sub-story use the same techniques. As example, on that flower edge, have the kids come toward the camera then stop and smell the flower. Get POV (point of view) of what the kids see, in this case a CU of the flowers. Then go on to that railing. Have the kids approaching the railing on a wide shot, medium shot of them looking toward the water, but we still don’t know what their looking at. Back view of them with their heads in the foreground and the water at a distance. Then side shot of one of the spotting the dolphin, you already have it the shot but it should be a CU. Now it’s time for the dolphin. Back to the kids and their expressions and a wide shot that includes the water to conclude the sub-story.

    On the swing, again the 3 basic shots, also move off the side with a longer setting on your zoom to compress the image. Let then swing with the kids come in and out of the image as a cut-away, slow it down in post if you have to.

    Keep the camera on the tripod, I know that you have one. Don’t move the camera during the shots unless you have to and the shot calls for a moving camera, as example following a child running. Study and compose the shot and let the action evolve within that framing

    Transitions: remember this; always straight cuts forget about all those cute effects. A dissolve usually indicates laps of time. Fading out and in to and from black usually indicates a change of place including getting into in and out of the video.

    This should be enough for the first lesson. Go back and redo it.

  15. See, I tricked you into giving me a free online class!

    Thanks for taking the time to write. Usually, I find out different things that don’t work when I sit down to edit. Wish I got a shot of this. Why didn’t I tape some ambient sound so that won’t sound stupid. I did some reading on basic continuity editing, so I hope I didn’t break too many of those rules.

    I actually forgot to grab the tripod – it was back in the car. Thanks again for the critique. I’ll try all that on the next one. Anyone else want to tell me where I went awry, please do. I love learning from all you guys.

    I don´t actually live in Charleston, but go there for work a few times a month. But I do live in South Carolina and my state is grateful for the sympathy.

    Not to start an argument, but I just want to know, if any VJ’s are still reading this thread, are there any of these traditional production techniques that are not used by VJ’s for certain reasons? Everything Nino wrote above sounds like it would make a good piece to me, but would still fall under the solo VJ paradigm. As I understand it, the VJ is able to do a competent production on his own. I didn’t read anything above from either ! or Nino that didn’t sound like good advice for any videographer.

    Thanks Mr. Rosenblum for letting me post this here.


  16. Actually Jim the difference is very simple. In conventional film and video productions there’s a discipline that filmmakers follow. Each shot is planned and composed following the rules of composition and lighting, once the director of photography (DP) who is basically a cameraman who’s in charge of the aesthetic is satisfied then he (she) rolls tape or film. VJ is amateur style shooting; you roll tape and shoot everything that you see, basically you follow the action until the action stop. At the end of the day you review all the tapes and pick the shots that you can use to put together a program. No composition, no image aesthetic, no working your shots around optimal lighting.
    Considering that your wife is shooting for a program that will appear on The Travel Channel take a look at the series starring Samantha Brown that have been running for about eight years now. Those are all planned shots. I believe that Samantha latest series is in South America.

  17. Jim the difference is very simple. In conventional film and video productions there’s a discipline that filmmakers follow. Each shot is planned and composed following the rules of composition and lighting, once the director of photography (DP) who is basically a cameraman who’s in charge of the aesthetic is satisfied then he (she) rolls tape or film. VJ is amateur style shooting; you roll tape and shoot everything that you see, basically you follow the action until the action stop. At the end of the day you review all the tapes and pick the shots that you can use to put together a program. No composition, no image aesthetic, no working your shots around optimal lighting.
    Considering that your wife is shooting for a program that will appear on The Travel Channel take a look at the series starring Samantha Brown that have been running for about eight years now. Those are all planned shots. I believe that Samantha latest series is in South America.

  18. Nino said: “VJ is amateur style shooting; you roll tape and shoot everything that you see, basically you follow the action until the action stop. At the end of the day you review all the tapes and pick the shots that you can use to put together a program. No composition, no image aesthetic, no working your shots around optimal lighting.”

    Not according to my training materials, Nino – and I consider myself a VJ – albeit still learning. And according to my reading material provided by Michael, he doesn’t espouse that way of shooting either. If one cannot edit in camera, something is seriously wrong. I learned to do that as a still shooter, and I’m learning that now as a Solo VJ – thanks to Michael’s guidance.

    I feel your statement is misleading and continues the FUD campaign the Solo VJ detractors like to quote – although it is clearly out of context. I have seen so called trained video professionals produce crap that could be mistaken for VJ material. So once again, the message is clouded in suppositions made to distract from the core issue.

    The Solo VJ is not an end all solution, but it does bring to the profession an opportunity to allow those with a forward thinking vision to earn a living doing what they love – and that is why I choose to work towards working as a Solo VJ. We can produce things that would take longer with a multi person crew and accordingly, be larger in budget than someone who is skilled working as a Solo VJ could.

    The demonstrated condescension of someone doing what they love has been a rather harsh commentary on the lack of professionalism of those like yourself in the business. If anything, one would think to look to those who have many years of experience like yourself as someone to look to. Instead, we are degraded in public to feel less than adequate by these “Professionals” – which is a pile of…

    We all want the same thing, there is more than one way of accomplishing it. But once again, I read the same broken record about how the Solo VJ paradigm is for wannabe amateurs and how you produce your work is the ONLY way to work professionally – which I and others disagree with.

  19. Not to disagree with someone who has provided me with such useful info, but my wife is not doing any shooting…

    First, let me humbly thank those of you who have given me feedback. I am not a skilled shooter yet: I want one of those VJ classes myself. But I have been watching 5 Takes rather intently and feel informed enough to clear that part up. And then I’ll throw in my opinion as an observer just to make it fun.

    5 Takes uses professional shooters for the broadcast and VJ´s for the web content. I’ve seen both shows and the Samantha Brown ones are completely unrealistic; but that’s what they are there for – to show you what it would be like if you could stay at the finest hotels in each location. They are pretty but not real. It’s Katie on a Cruise.

    Which is fine, but I personally like the 5 Takes show better because it is showing more of what the average person could go do and see. I wish they’d have a regular season with more episodes (just not with my wife, please, unless I’m going too). This is what I see a “Travel Channel” being good at. Why they won’t do it is a mystery to me. I’m tired of seeing rich people parasailing. Why the TC is airing another Latin America show at the same time is rather astounding. I don’t think the TC knows what role to fill yet and is just doing its best.

    The TJ’s got the bootcamp: a few days of VJ training, which is not much compared to a VJ class. The TJ’s are not providing content for the show, but only for the website. I think that’s too bad, because they each have terrific insights into the places they are going and have done lots of research and would make a great show if left to use that (they, of course, give the show a personality and each contributes his own part to the mix). I’m not giving away trade secrets about the show: one can simply watch it and see that the TJ’s are all in front of the camera.

    I think 5 Takes *could* (should) be done completely with VJ’s, and with no professional shooters, and I bet it would be more compelling. The TJ’s would need the full Rosenblum class first. But the freedom to find and fill their 9 minutes a week would be the canvas to fulfill their art. Each of these 5 is passionate about what they are doing. I know Mr. Rosenblum teaches proper shot composition and editing in his classes.

    The TJ’s on the show were picked for their uniqueness – not just personality on camera, but also in writing and in how they deal with people. These would make excellent journalists, and they make for good talent as well. If they were collaborating as a group of trained VJ’s, they’ be awesome.

    A show done by TJ’s would be great, but somebody would have to buy it first. You can read a Rosenblum blog about a week ago about how it went pitching ideas. 5 Takes is at least going forward. Not as fast as I’d like.

    I think my wife could create excellent content for the show, but she spends each day as “talent” and must “journalist” in her limited free time. If she were responsible for 9 minutes of the show, she’d take the time to plan her piece, shoot it properly and edit it to say what she wants. Perhaps the “shoot everything, make a story later” is how it is done by amateurs, and it would be one of the ways a solo VJ could shoot an event taking place. But even if it were an event taking place, a VJ would work on the fly, thinking about how shots are set up from moment to moment. For feature pieces, of course, the VJ could plan shots, wait for the best lighting, etc. But that is not against the VJ paradigm.

    It’s like anything. If somebody will buy a product, people will step up and make it good as competition demands it. As people continue to hire VJ’s, it follows that the VJ’s will have to provide what the buyers want. Right now Travel Channel wants safe stuff. When more outlets carry VJ content, the Travel Channel will want it, because the market will want it. The production quality will be there, because the VJ’s will find it (in training, experience, technology, finding a Nino to tell them why their piece looks wrong) in order to make their material sell. Some will be professional broadcasting folks that get sick of being locked into stale content while the amateurs are having all the fun. That’ll be good for everyone, because it will raise the bar for everyone. Some will simply have drive and passion and will figure out a way to make it happen. As has been pointed out before, the technology now fits in a backpack.

    Perhaps the next phase in the evolution is to send a Nino out with the 5 – and it would be just those 6 people. Let them be real VJ’s and be responsible for the content themselves. Get the crew down to one director who orchestrates the content and is a hub for sending stuff back for post (we’re assuming a “next generation 5 Takes” here), but the VJ’s create the content. The director would be there to put together the edited material from the 5 and make sure it complied with the show standards.

    I don’t think this is necessary for a great show, but it might be the next thing that a network would pay for. Maybe Mr. Rosenblum could comment here.

    Please don’t judge the skills of the TJ’s by their vlogs. They are doing those in spare time and are just what they say they are – video blogs – not feature pieces. 5 Takes is an advance toward the good stuff. Watching the TJ’s on the web is seeing what a VJ doing a travel show *might* do.

    So, I congratulate Mr. Rosenblum on getting that show onto the Travel Channel, and I hope he can get 5 Takes 2.0 on the air someday. He’s probably already pitched it 🙂 Someone will eventually take a chance and make that kind of show and a network will take a chance and buy it. There’s a “tipping point” which hasn’t happened yet, where things will start sliding the VJ way (note: “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent read.)

    Before “Survivor” there were no reality shows. Now it’s all the networks want to make. It’ll be the same for VJ’s, especially when it comes to integration into the web. 5 Takes has taken the first steps into that world. The next phase will be to shift more of the creative control over to the TJ’s and let them shine.

  20. Cliff, this is what Michael wrote two days ago and this is also what Michael has been saying for that last five years.

    “However, as we both know when we go out to shoot news or docs, we don’t work from scripts. (if only). We are, more often than not, simply accumulating lots of ’stuff’, that will later be sorted through in the edit to craft a story or piece. The writing come after the pictures, not before”.

    Explain to me what’s different from what I just said?

    There’s the structured and the unstructured methods of productions. The structured one has worked for years and has a proven track record. The unstructured method has been successful only with people of great talent, it worked not because it was a style, it was a personal style. Michael has been getting a lot of mileage by using the names of these talents to prove that his VJ system will work, but the reason that they worked and made history is because they were unique; if we start saturating the market with untalented and untrained people doing basically the same thing it will no longer be unique and different.

    Few years ago some film students made a movie titled “The Blair Witch Project”. Basically is was a movie shot VJ style or with the VJ’s look. The movie was a success. Of course it was followed by scores of copycats; even the original creator tried to make a sequel and failed. No other successful movie was ever made with that unique style.

    The bottom line is that we are all wasting our time with these discussions. What Michael and the rest of the VJ has failed to keep into consideration is the viewing public, will they accept or reject the VJ concept, so far in this country they have not. Broadcasters are investing heavily into high end HD productions gears and not even considering small cameras.
    HD productions are more skill demanding and there’s a critical shortage of qualified people as the volume higher end productions are substantially increasing. Producers are having real difficult time finding qualified people as skilled veterans are reducing their workload or retiring and younger production people are not expanding their skills fast enough to meet the demand. My web site EFPlighting.com was created mainly to speed up the process.

    I’m not here to shake-up the world guys, I’m a humble servant to the people that ultimately pay me, and that’s the public. I know that my services are in great demand and broadcasters are willing to pay me top dollars for what I can do for them. Michael and everybody have been telling that I should try, try what, being poor? I spent the first third of my life being poor, thanks but no thanks, I have no intention of going back, As I said, if I was wealthy I probably would pick and choose my own things only, but unfortunately I’m not. I have to go where the money is and I have to make sure that I have the necessary skills to meet the actual demands, not dreams.

    Only time will tell.

  21. Actually Nino,
    If you took my course you would see that we teach a very very disciplined way of shooting. It’s called the 5-shot method. But when you shoot a news piece or a true documentary, by definition you don’t know what is going to happen, so there is no script. It there is a script for news or docs, we call it staging, which we don’t really like.

  22. Cliff wrote:
    “The Solo VJ is not an end all solution, but it does bring to the profession an opportunity to allow those with a forward thinking vision to earn a living doing what they love – and that is why I choose to work towards working as a Solo VJ. We can produce things that would take longer with a multi person crew and accordingly, be larger in budget than someone who is skilled working as a Solo VJ could”.

    Cliff, I just don’t know anymore how to say that the VJ thing that you and Michaels call “innovative” has been done for years, it’s nothing new. Few tried and succeeded, most failed. Soon or later you will come to the realization that until now it has been a huge failure. Don’t take my word, go to your TV and count how many VJs originated shows are there.
    The day that you are going to make a living doing the VJ thing I will apology and buy you the best diner in town. But so far I’ve asked Michael repeatedly to the point that I was labeled by him “persistently annoying” to show some VJ that is doing a decent living, or at least the equivalent of the lowest paid cameraman, that should be an indication that at least you are moving in the right direction. I even asked him to show me how many VJs are being successful doing web projects. Out 1000s that Michael trained in this country there must be quite a few. I also posted the same question in a number of forums that I participate. Do you know how many replies I got? None!!! Michael himself was only able to come up with 3 of them, who BTW were already trained and successful in the production business before they became VJs. and two of them are in Europe. I’m not arguing that it can not be a success, but how can you call something successful if you don’t’ have a substantial percentage of documented successes to show. What criteria do you guys use to measure success?

    You and Michael keep talking about this “solo paradigm” what exactly it is that? How many people are on those “5 takes” series, I don’t know, five at least, 8 or 10 I think, not exactly a solo isn’t it?

    Cliff, you said:
    “We can produce things that would take longer with a multi person crew and accordingly, be larger in budget than someone who is skilled working as a Solo VJ could”.

    On the “5 take” series you have 8 or more people with cameras doing the shooting that one single camera would normally do and who knows how many computers. Even if way below standard wages we are still talking about paying all these people, plus there’s travel, lodging, food, transportation and more, so Cliff, tell me again about cost saving?

    I worked on those early Samantha Brown shows that BTW are the longest continuous running show on the Travel Channel, it started as Great Vacation Homes some 8 years ago and they have produced dozens of show ever since. You can have all the opinions you want about those shows but you can’t argue with proven success. The only reason that I left the show was that the travel was getting longer and my personal policy is that I will not stay away from my family for longer than one week. Plus if you stay too long out of circulation you can’t serve the rest of your clients and risk losing them.

    We had four people on that show, producer, DP, soundman and Samantha. We produced two 30 minutes shows in six days working leisurely about 8 hours a day. It was a structured production, the producer was incredibly organized, the shoot was like clockwork and we had a ball doing it.

    By the way, “solo” is an Italian word that means “alone”.

    I have at least a two dozens of self-project that I’ve done by myself over the last 15 years; they were all profitable because I had a specific direction and I knew where I was going with them. If you want me I’ll tell you about them, no charge Jim, you don’t have to trick me.

  23. Nino, I think your offer would provide valuable insights if you are willing to share your experiences with some of these projects – either here or in email correspondence.

    As I have stated in more recent posts – I see the Solo VJ not as an end all, but as one component, albeit what that importance of the Solo VJ paradigm seems to be is a hot topic.

    I have stated I’m still learning and we all should continue the process of learning. My world view is changing – refining if you will – about what one is capable of as a Solo VJ.

    What my challenge has been is that others have eluded that Solo VJ’s had NO Place in the content creation and post process – and that I strongly disagree with.

    If, as a result of continued dialog, I am able to see a more defined perspective on what is and is not possible via the Solo VJ process, isn’t that a part of the process of becoming a professional – not overselling and under delivering?

    As a client recently stated to me (yesterday actually), I have been retained by them because of my unique vision, my skills of being able to produce video, shoot, edit, narrate, and deliver to them in short time the video projects I’m retained for that meets a high level of professional quality to represent their company. What I do for them is on budget and on time – isn’t that what you do as well? I may not have the same high profile clients as some, but that doesn’t negate what I or others like myself do.

    Nino, I respect the work I have seen of yours, your willingness to share your lighting expertise and I have begun to apply that information to the work I do. It is a part of the learning process – and I’m always willing to learn from someone who doesn’t bring an arrogant ego to the table. Michael has done that for me, Jim and many others.

    I sense that there is a meeting of the minds in your tone and I appreciate it as it now allows me to be more open to what you have to say.

    Thanks for moving to a more respectful tone in your last couple of responses. I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say.

  24. Take my word Michael, the last thing that you want is me in your class.

    So tell me something, how often is a camera present while the news is actually happening? Almost never. The camera and the reporters are there after the news already happened. Once they get there they have to so some sort of research or investigation so they can get their fact straight. Only after they got all the necessary information they will roll tape. So factually they are conducting a research, research does not have to take a month, it can be done in minutes. Most news reports take considerably longer, you’ve been there. Even with a simple fire you don’t just roll tape and show the fire, you’ll need information to find out what happen. You don’t just talk to a fireman or a policeman. They don’t give out information because most of the time they don’t know what happened, up to that point everything is speculative. So even with news, yes, you can not pre-plan it days in advance because it would not be news anymore, but planning before rolling tape is equally important, the only difference is that you have much less time to assemble your material and there’s a lot at risk if the information you are collecting and giving to the public is inaccurate. Investigating and reporting skills even in local news are considerably more difficult to assemble that with a long form documentary.

    Even on documentaries I can’t think of any that doesn’t require some sort of research and pre-planning. If you are going to do a story about birds flying south, you might not be able to make your plans with the birds but you still must do the research to find out where and when this will happen.

    I was a boy scout when I was a kid, yes, we had those in Italy too, and our motto was “sempre pronti”, “always be prepared”.

  25. Even on documentaries I can’t think of any that doesn’t require some sort of research and pre-planning.

    I totally agree with you on that Nino. Even while working as a photojournalist I always had an assignment sheet that explained what the story was about. That at least gave me a general idea of how to visualize the images to be shot.

  26. Actually, I know Karin Thayer and she is not a brown belt, sharp-shooter or any of those other things, except for being fluent in German. She’s a washout from the indy film industry who is living hand-to-mouth freelancing reality TV segments in Australia currently. Some people I know added that other crap after having a few too many one night. But as a “journalist” I guess you didn’t check your sources (ie, get in touch with Karin to verify), did you?

    And that’s the problem with the whole VJ thing. You teach people how to work a camera and use a laptop to cut, which is all fine and good. But you don’t teach *journalism.* You give station managers the delusion that they can turn anyone–college interns, baristas, hobos–into reporters in three weeks. Ain’t gonna happen. Your own blunder with Karin Thayer’s “biography” is proof enough of that.

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