VJ Report from Afghanistan

One of our instructors here at The Travel Channel Academy is Bill Gentile.

I first met Bill in 1993, when we were training out very first group of VJs.

Bill was a photojournalist for Newsweek, who had cut his teeth in Central America.

One of his best friends was shot dead next to him in Salvador, while they were working.

It was no easy job.

This is a real videojournalist. A real working journalist, whose career has taken him to war zones and hot spots all over the world with this camera and little else. This is not a cameraman shooting industrials off a tripod or some part timer picking up work at local TV stations. This is real.

Go to his site. Take a look at his work. See what real videojournalism is all about.

Bill took to the VJ model immediately, and began to combine his photojournalism and video journalism.

In 1998, he won a national Emmy for Cinematograpy for Trauma, Life in the ER, a series we produced for TLC. The show as produced by Pam Yates and shot by Bill, along with Susan Meiseles, a Magnum photographer we took into video and Alan Deutsch.

Today, Bill is a documentary filmmaker, as well as teaching at American University.

All of his work is done ‘VJ’ style, and his work has appeared on Nightline, ABC News, Frontline and lots of other places.

Above, and out-take from his most recently completed documentary – shot over 6 months in Afghanistan.

And today, of course, he’s teaching our students at The Travel Channel Academy. You don’t get this kind of instruction every day.


11 responses to “VJ Report from Afghanistan

  1. (Sigh) yes Bill is a very talented guy. He can teach a lot but he is also an example of how people can not make a living being just a VJ.

    Bill is better known today as a fine educator with real world experience. VJ work, even for Bill with all that experience and ability, does not pay the bills.

  2. sure it does.

    i see a sleek yacht a few posts back that says “BIG$”

  3. $ – I’m not sure your statement is accurate.

    We don’t know WHY Bill isn’t working full time as a VJ. To make a statement saying he can’t make a living working as a VJ seems presumptuous.

  4. I’m saying he doesn’t make a living.

    However, like some, he does make a buck teaching VJ skills.

    If Bill and others were so sure of the direction they are promoting, why aren’t they actually practicing what they preach?

  5. Please understand I know Bill and respect him and his long career. I also respect Mr. Rosenblum even though I disagree with him on some issues.

    I see a school teaching people skills which lead to not much more than low paying part time jobs or better vacation videos.

    It just seems to me the only people making a living from the VJ theory are those running classes to teach others, who then if they are “lucky” come back and teach others.

  6. $ – what I meant is I understand what you are saying.

  7. No worries. I understood you the first time.

    I can’t help but feel more respect for you Cliff even if we don’t agree on everything.

  8. Hi All,

    I’m not much of a blogger but since my name has been invoked here I thought it appropriate to inject a few thoughts.

    Those of you who are skeptical about the VJ approach certainly have reason to be so. The economic model to uphold the craft taught by Michael Rosenblum still is very much in flux. Only a few have managed to parlay the skills into solid, rent-paying jobs. A few people at WashingtonPost.com are good examples. Most of us still are trying to figure out how to make the Internet work for us.

    But I would urge you not to miss the larger point. I am a journalist not because my craft is going to make me rich, but because it offers me the opportunity to participate in a dialogue about issues which I believe are vital to me as a person and to us as a nation. In 2005, for example, I went to Iraq as a video journalist with no guarantee from a broadcast network, no advance, no day rate, no insurance, no support. I spent two weeks with a platoon of U.S. Marines in the town of Iskandariyah, just south of Baghdad. Luckily when I returned, PBS bought a seven-minute piece – that barely paid my expenses for the trip. (see http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/iraqmarines.html.) From that trip, I also made a 30-minute documentary about one Marine who returned to his home in Maine. (See http://www.billgentile.com and go to the “Film” section.)

    My point here is that the skills I learned from Michael have allowed me to continue to participate in the larger conversation about what I believe is a defining experience of our nation’s history – the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I might have been able to do this as a print journalist, or even as a photojournalist, but I believe video is more powerful than print and that I have more “voice” with video than I did with still images. Try to make a living as a still photojournalist today and you’ll find out how difficult the entire field has become.

    Would I like to earn a ton of money for my work? Of course. Would I begrudge Michael Rosenblum for having done so? Never. And until I figure out a way to make a living exclusively as a video journalist, I’ll use the craft as just one of a number of skills at my disposal for supporting myself – and for participating in the broader discussion about issues that concern me.

    Thanks for your attention.

    All the best,

    Bill Gentile

  9. $ – Thanks – I hope I continue to earn your respect.

    Bill – Thanks for the update on what you’re doing and why. I know all to well the challenges that face todays print photojournalist.

  10. Innovation strategists define “disruptive” innovation as innovation that allows consumers to perform tasks previously requiring a trained specialist.

    The video revolution is disruptive innovation, part of a larger ground shift in the whole world of media and communication. To complain that VJ won’t work because pros cant make enough money, is like complaining that literacy puts letter writers out of business.

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