Photo by Josh Larios

Duct Tape Thinking

In field production we had to be resourceful. In Kentucky, bungee-cord the cameraman into the logging helicopter to get the flyover shot of the National Guard raiding the illegal marijuana field. At 6,000 foot elevation, zip-line the small video camera down the scrabble of the California mountain range and catch it with mittens to cushion the blow, getting the feeling on video of falling, getting hammered by rock, and dying. Somewhere in the Midwest (I don’t remember where) walk into a small town TV studio unannounced and convince the program director to let us use the recording studio to do an emergency voiceover update, drive the tape to an airport and put it on a plane. When in 100-degree heat in Arizona, use the car with air conditioning on full blast as a green room to keep the reporter from melting. In Delaware, when entire buildings were wired to explode, we would position a remote camera just out of the blast zone to get the shot.

Sometimes it was all just about getting the shot, to see if we could arrive at a new way of rigging a camera to a remote control airplane so that it looked the right way and saw the right things, or other times it was about discovering a way to conceal a camera in a cap or a coffee cup. Mostly it was the challenge of duct tape thinking. The creative constraints of field production required that we push ourselves for solutions.

It was a good way to think. Sometimes we failed. (The remote control plane idea never worked.) When we succeeded it was a tremendous victory, or at least it felt like it when the story aired. It gave us a back-office tale to tell. “You see that shot? You want to know how we got that?” It takes a certain kind of person to care about that, a producer, or a maker, or somebody who is curious about how things are made, who doesn’t take things for granted.