KCRA — Baylie Hankins–Modesto Cop-For-A-Day
Friday, February 16, 2018
As I pulled into the KCRA employee parking lot to start my day, as almost always, I had no idea what I would be doing. But I was hopeful that I would get to do one of my own reporter-photographer stories . It had been over a month since the Christmas holidays, where I had produced five reporter-photographer stories in ten days, and I was antsy to do something of my own.
The moment I walked into the newsroom, assignment desk editor Mitch Hanner handed me a printout of an event in Modesto, and hour-and-a-half away, that they would like a VO-SOT on. “Or if you would like to put one of your own things together, you could do that, too.”
Excited and determined to make something, I loaded up and started heading to south on I-5.
The story, up front, was not a particularly joyful one — an upbeat effort on a not so upbeat situation. A high school girl, Baylie Hankins, a junior year cheerleader at Beyer High School, who is fighting cancer. The plus side is that she has had eight out of twelve treatments and the prognosis is looking good.
The significance of the day’s event: Baylie is interested in a career in law enforcement, specifically in a K-9 unit, and the Modesto Sheriffs Department, and several other agencies from around Northern California were banding together and making her a “cop-for-a-day.”
As soon as I got to the high school soccer field where this was taking place, I knew it was going to be a chaotic bit of a shoot.
There was a police helicopter on the field and probably a hundred high school students in a clutch around the girl who was the center of attention.
Filming Note—Filming around groups of kids/students:
When I get to a scene like this I know that it is going to be busy with lots of people pulling the person who is the center of attention in lots of different directions.
Since I would be dealing with teenage high school students, it’s a given that there would be a lot of waving and goofing and photo-bombing for the camera – things that I NEVER put into a finished edited news story. I am a member of a professional TV news organization, not Facebook or YouTube. The story is not about putting them on TV. The story is about a young woman who is battling cancer and being made a Modesto cop-for-a-day.
My Filming Strategy
Seeing what the scene was like, there was no way I could photograph this on a tripod. So I grabbed my wireless stick microphone and put the news camera on my shoulder and started weaving my way in through the crowd as best I could.
Once Baylie was pointed out to me, I decided to simply focus everything on her, every shot — keeping the camera rolling, moving, walking around the crowd, trying to follow her, zooming in through the crowd to a close-up on her face when I could.
I decided not to worry about cutaways of students or other people — keep the focus entirely on Bailey.
I knew that Editing would be frenetic, but by throwing in a dissolve or a wipe, I could keep it moving and looking cool and exciting, which was what the moment was.
The Story Deepens
When I was able to talk on-camera with Baylie and her mother Season Newell, I discovered that their mother-daughter story had much, much deeper human drama—that both Baylie and her mother were battling cancer. For all appearances, they seem to be winning the battle, but that is an unbelievably hard situation that I can’t even begin to imagine.
Putting together the story
Baylie was given a ride-along in a CHP K-9 squad car, then a helicopter ride to the grounds of the Stanislaus County Sheriffs complex and did not finish until the early afternoon. This put a big time kink into my putting the story together as a reporter-photographer story for the afternoon news, due to the Olympics.
KCRA is an NBC-affiliate and we are currently in the midst of the winter Olympics in South Korea. As a result, our news broadcasts are different.
Our one-hour early newscast at 4 o’clock is now a 30-minute news cast at 3 o’clock in the afternoon—so our news gathering efforts have had to be both sped up and abridged.
All that the station had time for in the early shows was of my effort — which included quite a bit of B-roll footage and seven or eight interviews — was only be a bit of video and a couple of bites from Baylie and her mother Season for the early news casts.
The station could, however, use whatever I would like to put together for the later news at 10 o’clock and 11.
Determined to get something of my own on to KCRA’s airwaves, I promised a package for the 10 o’clock news.
This was now the early afternoon and I had to come up with a strategy…
I had to log the interviews that I had shot before I could begin to write. I could either write and put together there in Modesto, then drive back or drive back, or put everything together back in Sacramento.
I decided to do half and half.
Sitting in my News car in the Modesto sheriffs parking lot, I logged all the interviews—and wrote out about half of the script. Then I started driving back, to avoid as much of the late-afternoon traffic that I could, knowing that I would come up with the rest of the script once I hit the rode—which I did.
By the time I got back to Sacramento and the station it was approaching 6 p.m.
My work shift that day was 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
So far I had worked continuously without a break. Technically, I could have left the station half-an-hour earlier and gone home.
But I wanted to get one of my stories on the air!
I settled into my edit bay (NOTE: we are not assigned edit bays, since I work in the field. But I am a squatter and have commandeered a bay for myself!) and in a few minutes had the story written.
The 10 o’clock producer said he would take it if I wanted to put it together.
So I recorded my audio track & settled into my squatter edit bay and cut the piece.
I would pity the poor soul who would have had to edit this story, whether I put it together or just handed the footage off. I used the dissolves & wipes as transitions to go between footage that would not otherwise match smoothly in cutting from one to the next, but also to infuse a sense of energy in the editing
I did this story out of my own commitment.
In the end, I worked continually that day from 9:30 a.m.—8:30 p.m. . . . putting in three-hours extra of my own time.
I did not attempt to write in overtime on this. I wanted to do this. I wanted to put the story together myself. While shooting the story about Baylie and her mother Season & what they were living through, I felt committed to them to get their story onto the KCRA airwaves as best I could.
And to tell this story through my autonomous brand of one-person reporter-photographer-editor storytelling, which KCRA, the largest and most-watched television news organization in Northern California has permitted me and trusted me to do. This is a rare relationship, which I cherish and view as an extension & continuation of my writing and filmmaking. I view it as a privilege that KCRA broadcasts my stories, trusting me and giving me a rare amount of leeway.
Thank you to KCRA, to Baylie, to Season, and to Beyer High School in Modesto and to the Modesto & Northern California law enforcement agencies involved.