My TEDx Talk: Problem-Solving and Adaptation in a Digital World - Page 7
The director agreed to let us see each interviewee on camera for 30 seconds, in the interview chair, immediately after arrival and before makeup or prep, with the correct eye line and with no one standing in the light. The crew was poised to make quick changes. This short inspection determined whether we raised or lowered the key light, bumped it more to the side for more lighting ratio, or more frontal for more light in the second eye.
Those 30 seconds were critical for us to scrutinize our subjects’ particular facial topography, wardrobe, and glasses. The light struck everyone’s bone structure and complexion differently. We didn’t really know how the lighting would look on our actual subjects until we saw them.
I had been a pre-law, government major in college, and it was a thrill to meet many of these public servants and to shoot in D.C. But one of my biggest challenges came about when I found myself tongue-tied around Bill Clinton.
I’ve met six former or future Presidents, and I’ve shot five of them, filmically speaking. Richard Nixon is the only one who got away. Of the three in The West Wing Documentary, Jimmy Carter gave us exactly a half hour of his time, including pleasant greeting, interview, handshake, and group photo. Gerald Ford was recovering from a stroke and affable, but only to a point.
But President Clinton—whom I had long admired for his politics, intelligence, and wit—greeted each of us, did the interview, shook everyone’s hand, thanked us, posed for pictures, and then hung out chatting for another half hour as we wrapped. Less than a year removed from the Presidency, he gabbed easily about public policy issues and his own future. But what was in my heart that day, what I couldn’t bring myself to say, was the fact that we had both recently lost our dogs.
Harry Truman once said that if you need a friend in Washington, get a dog, and the Clintons did exactly that, early in his second term. But his dog Buddy was killed by a car a few weeks before we interviewed the former President, around the time our family dog Sophie died of old age.
What to do? This work often involved judging how personal to get with VIPs. I usually tried to maintain a friendly, professional distance. But I wanted to say to President Clinton, “Enough about Republicans and taxes. We’ve got something in common. Let’s talk about our poor dead puppies.”
I made a bashful, professional decision not to. But I wrote him a condolence letter a few days later, and he responded warmly, four short months later.Continued on the next page