By John Montone, 1010 WINS
NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Eyes on the camera, Johnny. That’s it.
My first TV segment called, “Mouth-Off to Montone,” consisted of some street interviews during which the camera was trained on the person I was interviewing. But most of it was me sitting in a radio studio reading the emailed or tweeted gripes and groans of our listeners.
I would occasionally look up and smile or stare with a quizzical expression at the camera, but chances were that when I spoke, the viewer would be seeing the email, the tweet or what in TV news is known as B-roll or extra footage related to the topic being covered.
My major concern when taping Mouth was how the bags under my eyes and my swarthy complexion would appear on HDTV. My producer took care of my dermal imperfections with a touch of rouge and some powder. She did such a splendid job that when my mother saw the segment she asked me, “Johnny, are you wearing make-up?”
“I am, mom.”
“You should always wear it. You look much better.”
My current segment for CBS 2 News is called, “Montone on the Move.” And for this one I am on camera constantly. I ask someone a question, then I react to their answer by probing and prodding. Sometimes I express surprise or even incredulity or I laugh or smirk.
And there in lies the big difference between radio and television. When I’m interviewing a person for 1010 WINS, I try to keep eye contact with him. By doing this, I help him forget about the microphone I have up to his face and allow him to talk to me like he would to his buddy at a bar — before the third drink kicks in. But I can’t do the “look in the eyes” technique on TV, because as my brilliant young producer Rebecca Granet keeps reminding me, I have to look at the camera.
My expressions of amusement or revulsion must be made so that the viewer can witness them. This is a new trick for an old dog.
The macro issue here is that I’ve been doing things my own way for so long, I’ve become a total control freak. For my 1010 WINS reports, I conduct the interviews, edit the tape, add background or natural sound, and write my script with spaces and underlined words so I know when to pause and when to emphasize a thought. And if I don’t like what I see in my notebook I tear it out and rip it up and start all over.
Even when I call the station to have them record me, I’ll stop midway through a story because I don’t like the way it sounds. And I’ll have them do it again. I am certain many a News Production Assistant on the other side of the line has fantasized about doing me serious physical harm. But it’s my name going out on the air.
In television after I tape my lockout, “For CBS 2 News, John Montone 1010 WINS,” I’m done. Rebecca takes the video back to the Channel 2 studio where she and an engineer work their magic. They don’t need me. And I’m starting to accept that … grudgingly.
Finally, there’s one other TV issue I obsess over. One day after doing an interview with Governor Cuomo during a ride up an escalator, I saw myself on TV and noticed a patch of bare skin on the top of my head. That would be …Mario Cuomo. Since then, the top of my head has behaved like an eroding beach with my hair playing the sand. The trick I’m trying to learn is to look at the camera while not turning toward it in a way that exposes that widening island of flesh. I don’t always get it just right.
Tune in Wednesday and Friday mornings for “Montone on the Move,” on Channel 2 and let me know how I’m doing.