Thursday, 01 December, 2022


David’s Daily 4 – Was I Nervous

Was I  Nervous? – Davids Daily 4

No,  I was not. Do you want to know what was on behind the set? Well, this is part of the story.

Firstly,  my mind was with my cameras. There was no cameraman. I was the cameraman, I was the lights technician, I was the audio technician, I was the costume director and makeup artist …. my mind was on my scarf, does it hang well, my jacket felt well, how am I sitting, was that the best angle, the lights, and the noise from the workmen outside, how would that affect the audio?…My face, the Ambassador was white and I black – did I set the white and black balance of the cameras well???

My eyes, the corners of my lids, are watery, or with white mucus, given the stress of the day and nonsleep. Nobody on set to see that. On set, everyone thinks of what they are doing only. It’s the job of the production team outside the set to look out for how you look on set. The camera captures everything!

I was the set director, I was the host.

 I had set the cameras and was conducting the interview.

There was no way I could tell that the cameras were still rolling and the first secretary who was looking on and disturbing me to stop the interview because the Ambassador agreed on 10 minutes was making faces…And she could not operate the camera. The ambassador had an important appointment and his official car was outside. The driver was coming in every 5 minutes and looking at his wristwatch.

 Then the weather had changed too, and I knew the black and white balance of the cameras (I used two) had to be calibrated. No one to do that for me. Besides, I had not slept all night.  I went to bed at 2.30 am. I left my apartment at 5.30 am, to catch the 6.30 am from my place to the location. I rode on the train for 4 hours, without breakfast. Not even a glass of water.  All night, I worked on my rig, to be sure nothing was forgotten. It is the biggest problem in production.

There are so many little things to put in place, and check, little things without which a recording cannot happen. In a big production, someone goes around with a list and a register and a marker to confirm everything is in place, before the trip to the location. Then I was in charge of the editorial also. I had to get the questionnaire ready. Guess what, when I got there, the Ambassador wanted it translated into French. But I had it only in hard copy. I and the 1st Secretary were in trouble. We had to find a way.

Quick thinking, I remembered I had also saved a draft of it in my email in-box, as I left the USB Stick I had it (I printed in a business center the previous – my printer had no ink…and it was just an “afterthought…the embassy did not ask for a questionnaire.

The ambassador said he did not do that because he was not sure it was an exclusive interview I wanted. I kept that away from the embassy so they did not reject my interview proposal…it takes time for an Ambassador to prepare for an exclusive interview.

Fortunately, I had a draft in my in-box. So I and the first Secretary went about retrieving this. But the embassy’s computers couldn’t access my private email. We had to think fast, so I used my phone, we copied the texts into the document, I sent it to her WhatsApp, and she copied it and sent it to the embassy’s server. From there, their computer could access the printer. And then it was printed. She quickly joined the Information Attache to translate, and things were ready. The Ambassador had been walking about like a caged lion, checking his watch.

Do you know that while the interview was on, he was sending SMS messages to someone, I guess the person with whom he had an appointment? I willed that out of my mind and eyes. It is difficult to keep something flowing on set when the person with whom you are on set discussing is doing something else, while you talk.

 It was my show, my opportunity, and investment, I was going to do push things to a successful end.

I knew I would set things right in post-production. But the quality of post-production is determined by how well emergencies are managed on set while recording. I was determined to manage all the crises as best as I could.

And walked to the embassy with the film rig weighing about 10kg. I walked for about a kilometer to the embassy from the metro stop. I was very tired. After the interview, I walked back, 1km, to catch the tram from the location back to the Central Station from where I took the train to the next stop

Then we had to change train to catch another to my city. I got back to my city at 7 pm, stopped by a supermarket, and bought canned beans and bread, with which I drank water and slept.

My feet were sore. I was too scared to check the footage. I feared my sleep will be ruined if the recording was bad. The next day, I checked the SD cards. One of the cameras stopped working after 25 minutes, I heard the click. It needs reactivation after every 25 minutes (Panasonic Lumix Z1000). But my warhorse, Blackmagic Ursa Mini saved the day.

 It recorded smoothly, everything. My biggest worry was the lapel digital mics. Audio is 75% a good video. If for any reason mine or the Ambassador’s, had stopped working, it would have been money wasted for the trip, my time, and energy.

That was my last cash for the month and I was determined not to let it go like a fool would. Not to talk of an important contact killed. They would NEVER wish to see my face in that embassy again.

I wrote to 9 embassies, only they were the only ones who responded positively, and the South Africans, and Brazilian too! The South African Ambassador was in Pretoria, but she promised to contact me when she comes back. HELL. No hiding place for a hardworking black man, as no one would employ me. I have to employ myself.

1000 things were flitting through my mind at ether speed in course of the interview, and I fought hard to be cool, as my mood affected the ambassador, who was looking for a way to run away. I had to fake it, I had to make the session more interesting than it was to me. I had to inject life into it, blow him away from his other worries by imposing an interest that wasn’t there in my questions. It worked.

And I had to establish permanent eye contact with him, otherwise, the session would not have flown. There were too many things happening “outside of the set”. I willed him to stay with me, heart, body, soul, and brain. And because I was starving, the energy to do that was ebbed, more than it flowed.

Now, you catch the drift? Now you understand. There is no business like show business.

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