Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Gaia Needs Good Media Relations

Here's what looks like a pretty neat film.

I'd like to use it to make another in my regular series of points about dealing with the media. Observe the difference in how Francesca De Grandis and Joan Marler come across. Both women make incredibly valid points, but Marler looks directly into the camera while De Grandis is often looking off to the side or at the person holding the camera, rather than into the camera.

It's a fairly common trait to look off to the side when you're thinking of what you want to say, but people who do research on jury reactions will tell you that most people subconsciously think that you're looking away because you're prevaricating, that there's a reason why you won't "look them in the eye." My bet is that, in person, De Grandis doesn't come off this way, as she fairly often does look up and into the eyes of the person to whom she's speaking. The problem in this case is that "that person" is the one holding the camera, not the camera. And her real "audience" is inside the camera.

This isn't something that you're likely to "get" without someone showing it to you, but it is an easily mastered skill once you're aware of the issue and spend a bit of time practicing, even with a friend who has an iPhone that takes video. If you're planning to be taped, or if you're making your own videos for youtube, it's really worth spending some time practicing, critiquing yourself, and then practicing again.

Gaia can use all the help she can get.


Teacats said...

Excellent points and posting -- and certainly ones that I have to work on -- I do tend to "look away" as I am talking to someone -- let alone a camera! I also tend to fidget -- and must breathe deeply to relax around cameras.

Really interesting film!

Unknown said...

wadr, and you can even call me a radical for bucking CW, while it is good advice to encourage eye contact, for every shy truthful person who does not maintain eye contact, our society has significant and undetected numbers of con artists who will look you in the eye and tell you a bold faced lie.

The responsible caveat to make, then, is that eye contact is, at best, a very poor litmus test for truthtelling. Pathological liars know this and exploit it all the time.

There are a million and one reasons why a more sensitive person, or even a person from a less aggressive culture, might not maintain eye contact: politeness is one. Sometimes it is about encouraging a level of intimacy, because the ABSENCE of a maintained, aggressive staredown - as if scanning to detect mistrust - is more of an authentic invitation for the other person to enter into the space and be "seen" without being scanned. Another is that sensitives can detect pain in others. Intermittent eye contact is just plain good boundary management. Same for conversations that inappropriately take on interrogatory tones.

I could go on. But honestly, there are 12 million subtle cues and bits of information to process in conversations. None of which have anything to do with eye contact.

One of these days, we'll discover how our culture has been just plain ignorant (not to mention downright ab-usive) about what sensitives have to offer. Completely. Underutilized. Maligned. Natural. Human. Potential.

Back to world dominance!

Makarios said...

Very good points, as always. If I may venture a few additional observations, taken from the embedded clip:

Fred Adams (0:56) was clearly talking to an off-camera interviewer, so looking off-camera was OK (although ideally I would have preferred an establishing shot to indicate to the viewer that he was indeed being interviewed).

The same applies when you're part of a panel discussion: look at the people with whom you're interacting rather than at the camera. If there's a live studio audience and you're talking to them, look at them--but make sure that the TV viewers know that there is a studio audience.

A brief note on accessories, which I hope will not be taken the wrong way: dangly earrings are probably a poor choice for video appearances, and particularly for interview situations that will predictably focus the camera on the head and shoulders.

About gestures: avoid rapid, sweeping ones. They're hard for the camera operator to follow. Particularly in a head-and-shoulders situation (such as an interview), try to keep gestures close to your body. Cerridwen starts off well enough at 1:30, but after a few seconds her gestures start flying offscreen, which defeats their illustrative purpose and distracts the viewer. Also, avoid gesturing directly at the camera.

Overall, I liked the clip. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Just found your blog this afternoon, been slowly working my way back. Very Interesting, thank you for sharing/talking/exploring!

gidget commando said...

Markarios makes great points, too, about the interviewees looking at interviewers off-camera. The viewer tends to feel more secure when the person on screen is looking AT "someone," whether it's the interviewer, audience members, the panel member who's speaking at the moment, or--if the person on screen has the skill--to the camera directly. (An unskilled person looking directly into the camera? DO. NOT. RECOMMEND.)

ZenMouser is correct about the myriad legitimate reasons someone might not maintain eye contact, but what is true in real life doesn't always translate on camera. The camera has its own weird logic.

And another note about moving: move at half speed. News anchors turn to face each other and it looks smooth; that's because they're turning at about half the speed you would normally use to turn to someone next to you. On camera, that looks like whiplash :-)

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