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Old September 2nd, 2003, 01:14 AM   #1
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ENG News Stringer?

After searching through the threads on the board, I have decided to ask a possibly silly question...

I live in the Tampa Bay area. I have a strong interest in broadcast journalism, specifically shooting news footage.

Where I used to live in North Florida, the local stations would happly take your newsworthy tape and air it (for free, of course) if it was a relevant issue or story, (like a fatal car crash or structure fire, etc.) providing the footage was not too awful.

Of course, in North Florida, Farmer Brown's dog nursing a kitten was a *hot* news story. (no kidding--that was for real)

I have a little experience shooting ENG for a Low Power TV station where I used to volunteer on weekends (W69AX), as well as shooting and crewing for various public access shows locally.

I'm looking for somthing a little different to do with my equipment other than shooting weddings.

Does anyone know if stations in the Tampa Bay area buys footage from news stringers? If so, what are they usually looking for, and what format do they like it in?

I know WTSP (Ch-10) accepts footage titled "neighbornet", but don't believe they pay for it.

I have a XL1-S and a PD-150, as well as the usual kit that goes with.

Should I put together a demo reel of just generic footage demonstrating my editing skills, as well as my shooting skills?

Any ideas would be appreciated.

(and now, an answer for the the obvious question-- I have tried both emailing and calling. No replys to email, and the human firewalls at the stations says "I can take a message and have the news director call you back" -- I'm still waiting for that callback...

Thanks,

-Phil
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 07:15 AM   #2
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A reel might help, but I would suggest spending some time shooting news. When you get something news worthy call the station, tell them you've got some hot footage and want to talk to the news director. If he's interested, you'll have a sale, don't give it away. He won't take you seriously if you give away your product. You'll need to drive it to the station and that will be you chance to talk to him. Stations don't hire stringers, per se. Stations do pay for footage they don't have and need or want.

Follow journalistic guidelines concerning content or the footage will be worthless to the station. Get interviews, names and spellings, anything to improve the accuracy.

Donny Parrish does this type of work and can probably give you more details. He lives in rural, central Florida and does this full time.
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 10:14 AM   #3
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Phil,

Agree with the above comments and have a couple more to add.

1. Use a tripod! Biggest complaint about most submitted video is that they didn't use a pod or didn't hold shots long enough.

2. Don't give away anything. Phoenix stations starting point is $100 and goes up from there depending on story and quality.

3. Best way to get on the News Desks good side: BE AVAILABLE at a moments notice. What they usually need stringers for is the hot, breaking news story that's to remote to get there team to fast enough. Become a "Scanner Head" by listening all the time and being the first on the scene.

4. I've been using a GL2 for stringer work and it doesn't get you as far as someone with a Betacam so you have to be a bit more aggressive in some situations to get the good shots and good sound. Go for it till someone (with authority to) tells you to back off.

Good Luck!
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 11:27 AM   #4
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Go to b-roll.net
see message board
find freelance forum
very informative.
call station, ask about policies, formats, fees, uses, ownership rights etc.
ask to shadow thier overnight shooter. meet the overnight shooter, buy a scanner
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 04:58 PM   #5
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Thank you everyone so far for your replys. Excellent information.

With over 10 years previous experience as both a paid full-time firefighter and reserve police officer up in the Tallahassee area, I just miss being "in the thick of it" so to speak...

I got out of public safety when I got married because I wanted to *stay* married--but my blood still runs hot and I get "go fever" every time I hear a siren.

I'm just trying to think of ways that I can still be close to the action, and mix it with my other love - DV.

Go figure--with the experience I've had on the *other* side of the tape (pardon the pun) working as well as giving interviews to the media at scenes, you would think I would have observed how the media did their job...

Oh, and the tripod goes without saying-- I can't think of ever *not* using one, if I want a quality product...

thanks

-Phil
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Old September 3rd, 2003, 07:28 AM   #6
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Man, I know what you mean. 8 months since i quit news.
turns out my first love was being in the sh*t storm and shooting 2nd. Good thing I became a good shooter along the way. I still cant resist the urge to drive under "Blue Eagle" everytime its up and see whats going on. But, I didnt miss the wx this summer. good luck on stringing.

Oh yeah, you have a huge in...Knowing all those emergency responce folks means you will get the sound first, and maybe a tip or two leading to expanding the story. Plus your own ablity to read a scene.

Dont mention that to strongly though, let them wonder how you keep getting all the good CORRECT info before they (TV stations)do!
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Old September 3rd, 2003, 04:46 PM   #7
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I just came back over from visiting b-roll.net...

Good info on the site, many well-informed professional community members--but... man, they sure are harsh on DV!

Seems like if you don't own a Beta SP or somthing else in the neighborhood of $40K+, you 'aint $h**!

Not knocking the guys though. Most have many years in the business and have put down some serious coin on their equipment. I guess they deserve to be proud of it...

-Phil
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Old September 4th, 2003, 07:31 AM   #8
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it is a natural reaction. the economic barriers to thier livelehoods are being eroded everyday. they will always have the high end though.
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Old October 2nd, 2003, 10:01 AM   #9
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Phil
Do not fret over non returned phone calls - the News Director is not the person you need to schmooze - always ask for the Chief of Staff - he is the person who assigns and has the second ear to scanners.
Next if you get to a job before a tv crew - try not to get in their way - let them do there job - what you have to do is sell them on the fact that you were there before them and have some "GOOD" material of events that happened before they arrived. Offer them the tape - but MAKE sure you mark it well - so that people know that it is your material -
Fot the first couple of times do not ask for money - but use this to build a relationship with the local station - who can start to count and rely on your standard of work - Then start the process of offering to help cover missing shifts and weekend or even better overnight coverage when regular camera staff are on leave or sick -
By forsaking a couple of hundred dollars - you can build a professional career
Food for thought
Cheers
Mal
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Old October 3rd, 2003, 09:51 AM   #10
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Hello Phil,
I just now noticed your post sorry for not answering sooner, here goes.

Press passes are almost a must to continually do business, when the studios get to know you they may call you to go shoot a story if they have no one available. In order to get press passes you must be a business. This helps also, about 80 bucks and your in business. At the end of the year just add a schedule C to your normal 1040a, that may require an accountants help, but it is usually inexpensive. Press passes are not what everyone thinks, you can't just go anywhere, (ball games etc.) You should have a legit reason to shoot when you try to enter. I have been asked for them before so you may be asked at a scene to prove you are somebody. Get yourself a shooting vest, have nice shirts made up with company name on them. Business cards, your footage may be used for legal purposes if Law enforcement needs it, have business cards ready for law enforcement, but be meek and mild when talking to them, I can't stress that enough. Just offer the cards to FHP and they will graciously except them. But save the footage, sometimes attourneys will buy it. YES, Be ready to test your morals in this business.

You must be calm and collected when you drive up on a scene, here in florida you will be given a Florida State Sherrifs Assc. press pass and tag for your vehicle, don't put the tag on your vehicle or it will be stolen, when you arrive on scene place it on the dash so it can be seen. Sign your press pass, laminate it along with your picture and your name/organization and put it on a chain.

Scanner wise, you will need to monitor the local frequencies, you will need to find out if the Law, fire, EMS radio systems are trunked and or digital and buy the correct scanner for the job if you want to listen to them.

Stations will mainly buy from you what they can't get. If they can project that the Mama Quava Stumble Festival will occur on Saturday, they will be able to schedule a crew, If a man shoots a bunch of people at a shell station and you get the action they will buy from you. Provided, 1. you shoot well (more on this later). 2. you do not cause a problem between law enforcement or emergency officials (embarass the news agency). 3. Tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, you can stretch the truth to sell a story once but you will never sell another. 4. Have action they can't get when they get there. If a car is impaled in a building, you have the opportunity to get the ambulance, the fire trucks, the patients being moved, smoke, flame etc. If all you get is the car stuck in the building, they can show up 30 minutes late and shoot that and won't need you. Yes, news is supposed to be exciting and compelling.

Shooting, Wide- get a big picture of the area, medium- shoot the scene and tell the story, the entire car and some of the building, the crews working with the stretcher, etc. close- shoot the agony on the face of the man sitting in the car seat, the beer can in the floor board, Close ups of hands with handcuffs on them. Vehicle vs pedestrian usally knocks them out of their shoes, shoot a close up of the shoe, bullet casings, etc.

Unless it's fast moving and jaw dropping, tripod tripod tripod, don't shoot to many zooms or pans. shoot some but mostly shoot non camera moving shots and make absolutely sure they are for at least 10 seconds, action, stay on until it's over. Your advantage is being there, action action action, if it's not fast moving then tripod tripod tripod.

Always have good audio, get a sports earpice for 2 bucks and when you get out of your vehicle and put your camera on your shoulder put your earpiece in your ear. Shoulder mounted cameras are best, it seems to earn respect, yes we know smaller cameras are just as good but you are dealing with johnny law and he will sometimes be brutal to news folks. In the least do a voiceover if you can, have someone in authority tell what has happened while you either film the scene, or do an interview close up showing only a small part of their shoulders mostly their head. WATCH THE NEWS AND SEE HOW IT IS DONE, THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT.

A nice camera mounted variable light, At night it's tough enough without a good light. Interviewees at night will have to have a variable light as not to blind them.

White balance if your cameras automatic capability is not good, the XL1S is excellent and I only have to white balance under artificial light.

Have paperwork made so you can leave a sheet at the news desk. I made my own, I use perferated billing paper, I tear off the bottom for me and leave the top for them, you can get it at office depot. Log your mileage for taxes, According to the tax laws you can not claim gas and repairs on a vehicle that is dual use (personal and business) but you get to claim 34 cents a mile at the end of the year provided you logged it.

Price, never give your footage away, I once had a Tampa CBS affiliate call me for footage of a 5 year old girl shot in road rage in Sumter county and only wanted to pay me 65$ for it, It took me 2 days to cover the whole story. They said that is what they pay, fooey on that, charge 85$ delivered to the studio or sell it to another studio (however, prices may vary in your area). Yes I missed 65 bucks, but it was for a reason. One of the rules you will have to make is who gets the footage, Some news agencies expect that if they notify you of a story and ask you shoot it, that story is only for them. The key to the news industry is having a story or a shot that the other don't, this is a blood sport when it comes to exclusive stories. Prices for CNN and the Morning talk shows start at about 150 and go up depending on importance. Be careful calling news agencies before you shoot footage, In one instance calling them may sell a story, In the other their crew may beat you to it.

What to shoot, no suicides unless it's someone well known or has some great twist that would make it a story, car accidents involving death sometimes get bought depending on how many newsworthy events are occuring. Stories of Children, Stories of Animals, Fires with lots of flames, fires of businesses that are damaged badly. Death, Shootings, etc. If news is slow they are looking, if the space shuttle blows up you might as well go home as no local news will be broadcast for a week. Super bowl in town, Once they know you they may rely on you to help them, but mainly they can project this event and will have their crews do it and it will overpower any local news for that day.

Scanners in the state of florida are not allowed to be permanantly mounted in a personal vehicle, that is, mounted to the dash or a permanant antenna. They can be permanant in a full time news vehicle. (business vehicle with press passes). If you have an amatuer radio license, you may be exempt from the permanant mounting laws. You should check on this personally.

Remember, be professional don't let your buds tag along to see the action, be meek and mild, film the action, get audio, use a tripod, buy a good light, and find yourself a polorizing filter for bright days. Always keep your footage, you never know when something is not the way it seems and tomorow it turns out to be somebody famous and you have the video the world wants to see.

Last but not least, keep in mind this job is discieving, you may make 85 bucks delivered, but if it takes you 4 hours to; drive to the story, shoot the story, drive back to studio and dubb off, ( 100 miles or more on your vehicle) how much profit have you made. These news agencies will love to send you to Sumter County alot for a good reason, money!! Watch out for your own safety, no joking here at all, you will see what I mean if you don't keep your eyes open, the emergency crews may let you into their arena and they may no longer be paying attention to your safety when your inside their "zone". Along the same lines, don't get in their way and watch where you step, you sometimes have to be aggressive, you sometimes have to be reserved, they will keep you back at first, as the scene gets older things begin to collapse in, you have to feel this out for yourself.

I hope this helps, I wanted to start a stringer network in tampa but never did, I am sure the area has a few other independants working it.

Sincerely
Donny
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Old October 3rd, 2003, 09:25 PM   #11
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P.S. equipment.

Some news stations have a mini dv capable editing bay, others have a cable for your RCA ports on your XL1S and you dubb through them. Editing in a studio is sometimes tricky. You must dubb your complete tape without stopping, or in some instances the person who puts the story together can't piece together the breaks in timecode (don't worry about timecode as you do not have to manipulate it). Set in a certain mode, this does not occur, but I give them everything in one piece, no stopping. Dubbing to livetruck requires an RCA to bnc for video and an RCA to XLR for audio. Sat trucks have a stockpile of cables and will supply you with what they need. Some stations like fox have a briefcase size video editor that that has the capability to put a mini dv tape inside an adapter ( I think this system is DVC pro I'm not sure) and play it directly using the adapter.

As far as getting your foot in the door, You are probably going to have to get some compelling footage and show up at their front door. Get the phone numbers to the news rooms, when you get good footage of something that is fairly big even for that area, offer it to them.

Beware, some assignment editors will pump you for info then say, "I don't think so". It may take some time, but if you will be professional and not overly eager you will slowly work your way toward what they want , a "trusty news source for video" with a calm demeanor.

If you really want to do it, create your business, put together an informative letter with phone numbers, press pass info, Florida Division of corporations number, County business license number, a short decription of your experience, and send it to the Assignment editors with their name and address on it ( or Attn: Assignment desk) in a business format letter. Then start shooting compelling stories. Once your in you will learn what kind of stories they need. Don't call them to often with minor stories until you get a feel for what they need.

I hope this helps.
Donny
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Old October 4th, 2003, 12:52 AM   #12
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DV for News

Phil. I have shot news on DV, the XL-1, for a couple of stations in the Atlanta market, the 9th or 10th in the nation. Once for FOX and 5 times for Channel 2, the ABC affiliate. Fox is the only one that I had to argue with the producer about the rate for this exclusive footage that I had. These stations have producers whose job it is to get the story fast and first and that unfortunately includes trying to get it for the cheapest cost. They will only get away with what you let them get away with. If you act confident like you know what you're doing and you know how the game works, they will sense that and think twice before giving you a hard time. Freelance shooters is the direction that the news industry is going. It is cheaper to have labor with no benefits or liabilities to pay and they still own the footage rights. So, they better treat us right.

The producer at FOX tried to lecture me as to why he should only pay $50 for this footage because I am shooting DV. That's the kind of treatment you get for being honest. Well, I told him that I would have to get back with him and that I was going to call the other stations. That is a great way to get their attention and make them think twice. Sure enough they called me back and I got what I wanted for the footage. You have to remember this. The ball is in your court when you have the footage. You can just go home and all you are out of is time but if you do sell it to another station, these guys get to watch it on their competitors monitor in their newsroom while they hold their head in their hands while saying why didn't I buy that incredible footage? And oh yes, they ALL watch their competitors newscasts. You would not believe the power you have at crunch time being the pocessor of great footage. In today's competitive market, you could have the hottest footage on the planet and call the producer every name in the book and if he wants that footage bad enough he will then say, will that be cash or check?

Don is so correct when he says DO NOT give it away! You have then shown that you can be manipulated. If you are giving it away then you don't need to be in this business and you will fail. Now, they are not going to pay top dollar for everything. It will have to be exclusive or compelling. Also, don't tell them you are shooting DV if you are. The fact is that once DV is dumped to Beta in their truck it cuts with Beta so well IF you framed and lit it correctly that the dumbass producer that was hacking on you for shooting DV probably won't be able to tell anyway. The truck operator or studio tech doesn't care if it's DV, they're just doing their job. The fact that I am shooting DV was NEVER even discussed and Channel 2 is rated as the top news agency in Atlanta and then in the top ten markets in the country. I simply dub it to Beta in their truck or at the studio and they cut it, air it and send a check.

Now with all this being said, you do need to be a good shooter and that is your main selling point for justifying your rate. What good is the footage if it's all over the place or soft? Once you show them that you are reliable and competent, they will probably call on you more often when in a pinch or just accept your terms without hesitation. But make no mistake, as soon as they can find a cheaper alternative, they will take it. As far as rates. The cheapest that I have shot footage for is $100, $200, $250 and the most is $300, three times. When you're in a good relationship with an agency, negotiating a rate is basically a bidding game. You have to be tactful and know how to negotiate with them by understanding the value of the footage. It took a few times for me become confident to ask for more. I know what the boundaries are now.

One other thing, if they call you, then more than likely they are in a pinch and you will have the upper hand and more than likely will get your highest typical rate. In other words, if you are called by them they want it REALLY bad, but they're not necessarily going to say that, understand? The worst that can happen is for them to say no to your rate. I'm just waiting for that incredible exclusive where I can name my price.
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Old October 4th, 2003, 09:20 AM   #13
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memorize evrything these two guys just wrote, except,
well, maybe its different as a stringer
but in my experiance as staff, being meek and mild w/ law enforcement gets you sent around the block.

always be polite but firm in your rights, and always roll on every conversation you have with any authority figure.
if joe blow is standing around, so can you.

you will be singled out by every cop having a bad day or who is agitated at a scene.

they will deny everything to thier superiors, who didnt like cameras when they were on the street. walk up to every scene rolling tape. not just for any static you might get but for that explosion that happens as you are approching the accident.

do not put your cam on your shoulder during any discussion.
that is rude and showing your hand.

these self protection measure has gotten me out of the back seat and into the PIO's offfice to meet a couple of times.
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Old October 4th, 2003, 01:44 PM   #14
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It's good advice to expect to have to be aggressive at times and meek at times, as far as shooting without your camera on your shoulder or pretending it's not on you have to be careful. In the State of Florida, it is against the law to record a persons voice without then having some type of knowledge that you are doing so, a camera on your shoulder is just that kind of sign, and LEO's know this law very specifically. I have developed a trust with departments and PIO's. I get a lot more with cooperation than I would ever get by being pushy.

As far as pushing your way to a scene, that is all dependant on where you are at and what kind of agency you are dealing with. Some agencies have specific training to deal with the media, establish an area for the media, and give generic statements. Other agencies (usually smaller) may not know how to deal with you at all and the treatment is dependent upon what officer you are dealing with. Some officers will threaten to arrest you if you move. You also must be careful in interviewing important witnesses, victims, and suspects before they have finished with law enforcement, that is a no-no.

Some agencies will attempt to keep you farther back than the crowd of people. Some will welcome you inside to an extent and depending on the call. If an LEO shoots someone, expect extreme nothing. This is why I say that you must judge each situation carefully.
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Old October 6th, 2003, 07:36 AM   #15
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Note to self, know the law.

Hre in Texas,what i suggested is legal.

Funny, I shot news for a year in West Palm each and no-one ever informed me of that law.

And as Don said, build trust. It is so much nicer walking up to a scene with an established relationship rather than having to create one and get video and sound and all the action at the same time.
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