Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘theater

Nebulous Corporate Statements

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Movie Theater

A Tennessee man was killed yesterday by police in the town of Antioch after he attacked theater goers in a multiplex.  Twenty nine year old Vincente Montano was shot after he was engaged by a SWAT team as he tried to leave the Hickory Hollow cinema.  Witnesses said Montano carried a hatchet, a pellet gun and pepper spray into the theater.  CBS News reports three people suffered minor injuries.

This incident speaks to the prevalence of these kind of attacks and the need to be able to better identify potential perpertrators who suffer from mental illness.  To wit, at the end of the story, reporter David Begnaud read a statement from the National Association of Theater Owners  which in part said, “People have a right to go about their lives in peace and safety. The safety of our guests and employees is, and always will be our industry’s highest priority.”

Usually, when an entity makes a statement regarding performance related policy, they are doing so because of a recognition of a need to improve that performance or to defend an existing policy.  Regarding improving policy as it relates to customer safety, they may outline policy changes that include greater vigilance, increased presence of law enforcement, great adherence to existing law or closer security screenings for the safety of those customers.  Regarding defending policy, they may outline what they are currently doing and why that is sufficient.

This statement above seems to do neither and sounds, by contrast, familiar to any reporter used to receiving press releases from corporations that have style but no substance.  Considering that there have been several mass shootings in theaters over the past few years, it will be interesting to see if the National Association of Theater Owners go into any deeper explanation of their statement or announce any measures to provide more concrete protection for theater goers and employees.

Although the news cycle may forget this incident until the next one, the public will not.  And words with no action are no source of comfort for a public seeing more of these attacks. Perhaps it is not the responsibility of news organizations to parce corporate statements in the midst of crisis but a follow up story on changes to which such a statement alludes certainly might be appropriate.

Written by Interviewer

August 7, 2015 at 01:20

Oh No

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Theater people know the brief look that was exchanged between new, Face the Nation host John Dickerson and reporter/anchor Nora O’Donnell on CBS This Morning.  Dickerson was talking about Hillary Clinton’s just announced campaign and Ms. O’Donnell was asking him a question.  Suddenly, there it was.  Dickerson and O’Donnell were locked in this momentary glance that can be called the “Oh No” look.

When you’re onstage and you and another actor are sharing a similar thought, it can be a knowing look.  It can also be a shared joke that can cause both people to start laughing.  Or, maybe the laughing starts for absolutely no reason at all.  But if you can’t break eye contact, then you have to pour cold water on the look, which can be really hard to do.  SNL and news blooper tapes are full of examples of what happens when the look takes over; actors and anchors start laughing which in turn, feeds more laughing that becomes uncontrollable.  Episodes of the Carol Burnett Show showing this breakup breakdown between comedians Tim Conway and Harvey Korman are legendary.

In American film, theater and TV, this is called “breaking character“.  On the British stage, it’s called corpsing and actors receive pretty substantial training on how to keep it from happening.  Some actors focus on clenching their fists or biting their tongues.  Others are told by their directors that “they themselves” are not what is funny happening in a scene.  Still other actors say that after they work the scene enough times, they just focus on the work and the lose the urge to laugh.

I knew the Oh No look was in play because the director switched from Ms. O’Donnell’s face to Mr. Dickerson’s, and both were frozen in that sort of bulging eye horror of knowing they were each about to lose control if somebody didn’t do something fast.  The director, Randi Lennon, has probably seen this a lot and quickly went to and held the camera on Charlie Rose long enough for both Mr. Dickerson and Ms. O’Donnell to regain their composure.

I’ve mentioned something like this before, namely the bad marrying of a funny story to a terrible, follow-up story that can twist the anchor up sometimes.  What happened this morning is a reminder to TV people of something theater people know well – the Oh No look is a trap and one of the many hazards on a news set in the handoff between reporter and anchor.

Written by Interviewer

April 13, 2015 at 22:58