Rare KCRA Behind-The-Scenes — The First Iraq War
It’s hard to believe that 22 years ago on January 17, 1991, the U.S. first started dropping bombs on Iraq.
These are massively big international news stories, but they have to be covered on the local level by local channels as well.
Everyone knew that the war was coming, but when the first reports started coming out about a U.S.-led air raid in Baghdad, KCRA-TV dropped all of it’s regular programming and went wall-to-wall with coverage from both NBC and CNN, as we are affiliated with both.
As soon as this happened, one of our news editors, Mark Greczmiel, who also did double-duty, on his own time, as an entertainment reporter, pulled out his personal camcorder and began documenting what was happening. I remember seeing Mark running around with his little camcorder and thinking, “That’s a cool way to do something.” A few years later I finally dived in with my own camcorder and made my first independent documentary Dog Soldiers: The Dogumentary, but I do have to say that I think Mark helped to plant the seed in my head. Mark has long since moved to L.A. where he has been a freelance entertainment producer with E! True Hollywood Story, among others.
This is a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of how a local news organization reacts and covers a story that takes over both the headlines and our lives.
MARK GRECZMIEL:Back in 1991, the whole world knew the battle to retake Kuwait was about to begin. In my TV career, I had never worked during a full-scale war. I have always loved doing behind-the-scenes pieces and wanted to document this historic event as seen through the eyes of the staff of a local TV news station. I grabbed my 8mm video camera and started shooting monitors, meetings, and people doing their jobs. Everyone was very tolerant and allowed me to be a fly-on-the-wall.I had always planned on editing the roughly 90 minutes of footage into a more concise piece but I never seemed to find the time. Eventually I just forgot about the tapes until recently. Thanks to laptop computers and Final Cut Pro, I was able to edit the material over two afternoons. It was both exciting and bittersweet to see the footage as a few of my colleagues had passed away since. Still, it was gratifying to see the news team I once was a part of, in action.
Looking at Mark’s film brings back so many memories. It’s amazing to see all the faces. It’s also amazing to see how many of the people working in the KCRA news department who are still there. Most of the assignment desk. Virtually all of the photographers and editors. The producers and many of the reporters have mostly moved on to bigger and better things. And at least one of the reporters, Mike Boyd, sadly, has passed on. But so many of the people are still here. (And that’s not because they couldn’t get a job anywhere else. When you work for a news organization that’s as big and as well recognized as KCRA, it can be hard to leave.)
I’m terrible with remembering names. (I still don’t know the names of our producers as some of them have been at the station for years. I know tell people that after they’ve been at the station for five years, then I’ll try to remember their name.) But here are some of the people from Mark’s film who still work there or have gone on.
There’s one point in Mark’s film where you see a much younger version of me, with hair, and a waistline, talking about covering a story on the night of the outbreak of the war, and then staying until 3 in the morning cutting it into a 3 1/2-minute natural sound package for the morning news and noon show, only to have the story never air once.
A few years ago I posted the never-before-seen story onto Vimeo and I’m attaching it here as well:
[Ironically, I wasn’t supposed to be working that week. I’d had the week scheduled as vacation and was supposed to be down in Los Angeles operating an Arriflex 35BL for legendary filmmaker Russ Meyer on a German music video that he was making. For years Russ had wanted me to shoot something with him, and was planning a color remake of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! that he wanted me to shoot for him. Although, I cannot imagine R.M. ever relinquishing the camera over to me. At the last minute, the German money shrunk and Russ shot the footage himself. I told him that getting paid was not a priority for me and that I wanted to do it just for the fun, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He later told me that the who experience had been one of his least pleasant and that he regretted ever taking part in it.]