“Once the Olympics get going, this building will be packed, which is why it’s so important …”
Nope. Too many words. I can do that faster.
So began a humbling, excruciating period of my Olympics experience. Our group had journeyed to the Sochi region’s mountain cluster to see the sights and shoot some stories. And shoot we did: I had already recorded enough video for three pieces, two of which would air in the coming few days.
By this point, we had reached the home stretch. After five bundled hours in the freezing cold, I simply needed to record one more stand-up. It would be the final on-camera line of a story about the Olympic superstores selling all the Sochi 2014 merchandise.
And I could not get it done.
“Once the Olympics get going, this building will be packed, which is why some –“
Nope. Tripped up on the last word. That won’t do; let me start again.
I talk for a living. True, I also shoot, write, interview, and edit video for a living. But mostly, I talk. I work in the communications business, and that requires me to convey a certain level of expertise with the English language.
Normally, I can handle that.
But on some days, my mental word bank gets tapped out.
The Olympics brings those days with conviction. Daily work hours run into the teens. Sleep comes on a hotel bed and often in short spurts. Food is … well, food is a story for another day.
To put it simply, very little feels normal. Dealing with the abnormal requires a bobsled-load of mental energy.
When that energy dwindles, so do one’s wordsmith tendencies.
“Once the Olympics get going, this building will be packed, which is why some fans buy their gifts in advance. In Rosa Khatur, Matt Pearl, 11Alive News.”
Aargh. It’s not “Rosa Khatur”. It’s “Rosa Khutor”. Let’s do it again.
The other big obstacle? Keeping all one’s stories straight.
Most reporters at the Olympics complete multiple stories per day, and in my case every story includes a stand-up. This past Saturday, I did stand-ups for four stories in four different locations.
(That vest is going to see a lot of airtime.)
I marvel at the story production that takes place at an event like this. With so much ground to cover, and so many shows or pages to fill, reporters and photojournalists constantly juggle multiple stories at the same time.
In many case, the mentality greatly changes how I operate. Instead of being able to focus on one story at a time, I find myself seeking out future stories while shooting my current one. If I see a great moment while hanging in the Olympic park, I break away to shoot it and then continue with my original task.
“This spot will …”
“This spot will be …”
“This spot will be packed …”
The good news? At the Olympics, stories pop up everywhere.
Different venues become hot spots for the fans. Different skies and sun formations create picturesque landscapes.
I have to train myself not to get too overwhelmed. I have to remind myself that, for example, if folks are crowding around the giant Olympic rings today, a new set of folks will probably do so tomorrow. Some moments occur with regularity, but some are sporadic and need to be captured on camera when they happen.
Beyond that, the “benefit” of the super-long workday is the liberation it provides. Unlike during a typical news day, I rarely face any overly hurried moments. Shoots get rescheduled and reshuffled depending on a wide range of factors. I typically receive a certain amount of freedom to determine which content I report.
From an overall standpoint, the Olympics are an absolute marathon. My trip even has the same number of days (26) as marathon miles.
“This spot will be packed once the Olympics, which is why many fans choose to buy their gifts before the Games. It’s truly not a bad idea. In the mountain cluster of Rosa Khutor, Matt Pearl, 11Alive News …”
Got it! Now on to the next one …
The other good news? Eventually, one somewhat gets used to it. That day in the mountains was just my second on the ground in Russia. The overload of stories caught me by surprise, to a degree, and since then I have tried to counteract it. I typically pre-write stand-ups far more often now, as opposed to doing them on the fly, and I keep a running schedule of which stories need to be completed more immediately than others.
This system will never be perfect. But it is necessary.
And I will keep churning out content … humility be damned.
FOR MORE ON MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: The Games have … begun?
FOR MORE ON MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: 10 observations from the first 5 days
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Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.