My 1995 TV News Photographer Resume Tape

Published On August 10, 2011 | By Mike Carroll | Shooting News, The Next Book, TV News Vault

One of the big cloudy mysteries in the TV news business is The Resume Tape*. Or “Get-Away Tapes” as they’re called when you’re starting out in a tiny, unknown, nothing berg of a map on a dot that has a TV station, and probably a morning farm report. An entry-level, small- to micro-market station that barely pays anything that you’re desperate to get started at, and then just as desperate to get out of.

[*Yes, we still call it a Resume Tape, even though tape itself is very nearly extinct.]

All that said, this was not my Get-Away-Tape. This is my tape from 1995 after having already been in the TV news business for a dozen years and having been at KCRA-TV, the station that I’m still happily employed at, since 1989.

The general rule of a resume is that you want to show variety – that you are capable of shooting anything. Stories you need to have are:

1) SPOT NEWS: Downtown Shooting – with reporter Tracy Bryan

How you handle a breaking news event, like a fire, a shootout, a multiple car crash scene with casualties. You want it to be footage that you shot of an event that you arrived to shortly after it happened, where you are active and in close with the action and getting great natural sound of the action. Not after a scene has been taped off and you are kept at a distance and must shoot from a tripod, with no opportunity for natural sound of people and activity.

2) GENERAL NEWS: Homeless Camp Clean-Up – with reporter Tim Herrera

A general assignment story that you handled in a particularly interesting way. The vast majority of what we do is general, same-day news. It’s how we shoot it and make it interesting that makes it stand out from the rest of a show rundown.

3) FEATURE: The Girls of Summer

Features are where photographers have an opportunity to shine and show off all their creative skills. How you can shoot and edit something that may take several days of work, and often on your own time, to make something special. A real resume tape diamond of a story. This may be a story that you worked on with a reporter or that you did on your own.

It’s also virtually all shot on a tripod and has some of my better composed shots.

4) SELF-INITIATED FEATURE: Robin Gage – Cable Access Diva

This one I included because “it’s just out there!” Free-form and loose cannon, just like it’s subject. Who was a great blast to work with and hope she’s doing well in TV somewhere.

This should be a story that you and you alone created. It may be all interviews and natural sound – an “In Their Own Words” type of thing, or a “Natural Sound Package” or “Nat Pack” as we call it. This should be something that you dug up on your own and produced, shot, edited and everything. The purpose of this story is to show that you can work on your own when necessary and don’t have to be lead around by the hand by a reporter.

How you order these stories is always a topic of discussion. Should I start out with my best stuff? Should I start out with hard, breaking news? Should I start out with my best story, even if that’s a feature? What goes first???

Others argue that you should always start out with Spot News. Hit them with something hard and dramatic off the top, even if it’s a little rough.

Frankly, I’m in the later category. Breaking news always leads a news cast. It’s the bread and butter of a news organization and where they stand out or sink in the ratings. If you can’t shoot good, involving spot news, with blood and screaming people and crying and everything that goes with it, then you should be in the production department or shooting commercials or some other part of the business. But if you want to work in TV news, I think that Spot News has to lead your tape.

These should be outstanding examples of what you do. Not average or what you did last week – unless they ask for that as a follow-up tape.

Back to the reason for this resume tape, which is the last resume tape I ever made. In 1995 my life was going through some major turmoil on the personal side. I loved working at KCRA, but I was feeling a need to get away to a different location. A special projects producer with whom I’d done some of my best work had moved on to and expanding independent station in Los Angeles and called me to tell me that the station was hiring her a special projects photographer and she want to work with me again. I’ve always loved L.A., and still do. I sent in this tape and they flew me down for an day and a series of interviews. Everything was looking good. Then they decided to go in a different direction, more breaking news driven. This would have been fine with me, but they decided to just hire a local freelancer instead. It made good business sense because that’s a lot cheaper than hiring a shooter full-time as staff. In then end, it turned out to be a good thing. Within the year the expanding news operation was virtually wiped out by new ownership, who preferred to fill the news time with syndicated programming – talk shows and sitcom reruns. A lot of people were let go. And L.A. is not a place where you want to be hitting the streets looking for work in TV news. I stayed in Sacramento and, I’m happy to say, inside of a year my private life had turned completely around.

Nowadays, would I still arrange a tape this way – provided I were looking for a job?

No.

The reason?

I think the Resume Tape — or Resume DVD — is dead. I advise everybody to register their name as a domain name and build their own site. If somebody is interested in you, they want to see what you can do Now. They want to click on a website and see your work today — this instant. And they should see a well-rounded — and on-going — body of work. Not one that you’ve built up over the past year, but one that is continually growing, continually evolving and continually improving.

That said, you’re also going to need examples of the above mentioned four categories on display your site.

Good shooting.

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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