Franzi Baehrle, from Germany, is a video journalist and MA Online Journalism student at Birmingham University. Here, she guest blogs about stumbling into a career as a journalist with a camera, about “doing it yourself” and the need for passion at all times…
So here I am. Writing my very first guest post. About video journalism. Which I just started a few years ago. So I’m not an expert. But I’m passionate. Being a video journalist has probably been the best coincidence in my life. It was nothing more than that.
To be honest, I’d never really heard of that before. Video journalism. Hmm. Until my future boss told me when I applied for a trainee position as a TV journalist in Germany, that they would only work with and train video journalists. Video journalists. I had no idea. But it sounded good. Film all on your own, cut it, write it. Sounded good. And exciting. And I wanted to work in a TV station. So I started my trainee position in 2009. And to be honest, when I looked at my new colleagues, their fingers where flying over the keyboard while they where editing, and I thought: “I will NEVER be able to do that”. Then I was taught to use the camera one like this one. (Some of my colleagues where also shooting as vjs with big cameras. Man. That’s a tough job…)
Then, no five-day workshop. It was more like a “come on, let’s go outside, I’ll show you the main things you need to know about filming with this camera”. And so we did. And not long after that they gave me a camera, a tripod, headphones and a microphone and told me to go out and shoot a story. I was thrown in at the deep end and that was good. The best thing to learn how to shoot video is to go out and do it. Of course, there is a lot you can read about – and you should! You should also talk to colleagues and get tips and feedback. But the best thing is to practice, to make mistakes and learn from them. And there is a lot that can go wrong….
But… since I’ve been starting to shoot videos, I couldn’t image not doing it. And I think you have to be passionate about it to be able to shoot good videos, as well as to always keep on learning.
Still, during my trainee and sometimes also nowadays, I didn’t get the impression that my beloved job had a good reputation. Some people, especially when working in the “old” constellation of a TV team, didn’t seem to see us as proper journalists, just as a cheap, less qualitative version due to cuts in the TV stations. Well, I already ranted about that here.
I think it’s getting better and better though. And I also think that video journalism will become more and more important, especially regarding online journalism. And: That everyone can be a video journalist. Really. Everyone. Why not?
Filming and interviewing at the same time? Being in charge of the audio, too? Do I look like I have eight arms and two heads? No. So how could I do that?
That’s what many people think. And that’s what I thought. But again, it’s just practice. It is possible to interview and take care of the video and audio at the same time. And it’s possible to learn to edit your footage to a nice story afterwards and take care of the text.
‘It’s frightening at the beginning and absolutely overwhelming. And there will be a lot going wrong when you start. And you won’t stop making mistakes in the future…’
And it’s so much fun. It’s such a good feeling to produce a whole report on your own. To be in charge of everything. And to know in the end that it was you who produced that report. You shot, you wrote, you cut. You’re the camera man/woman, the cutter, the reporter, the sound engineer, the editor. I also think that this can be an advantage, because you know best which pictures you need and want to have, what should be part of the video, which questions you want to ask, you know best how you want to have it cut and how the text should be like.
I remember one shoot where I wanted to take an intern with me and shoot the interviews, as I wanted to chat with my protagonist in front of the camera as well, to act as a reporter. The intern dumped me and I had to go alone, but didn’t want to give up my concept. I just tried to film it all by myself. And it worked.
I had my wireless mic, I turned the little screen of the camera in my direction to see if I was/we were standing in the right place and I checked how far I could move to prevent going out of the frame. I was absolutely happy with the final report and also got some positive feedback from colleagues. I was kind of surprised myself that it worked so well, but it was a good feeling that it actually did. And to know that I’ve learned something else, another possibility. Just by trying it.
And yes, it is frightening at the beginning and absolutely overwhelming. And there will be a lot going wrong when you start. And you won’t stop making mistakes in the future. But how could you learn from it otherwise?
But it gets better and you will feel the joy in doing it. If not, don’t force it. You have to be passionate about this. If you’re not filming with passion, you shouldn’t. That just doesn’t make any sense and won’t lead to a proper result. But give it a try and: don’t give up too soon. Video journalism is not just pressing the red button. It’s a lot more. But it’s great.
More about Franzi