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Flapping Skulls and Severed Limbs

Not long ago I woke up in the middle of the night, television on, sound muted.  A film was on HBO,  “House of 1000 Corpses”, from 2003.   The plot, as laid out on IMDb: “Two teenage couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of serial killers end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.”

What ensued was an uninterrupted barrage of violence, sadism, torture, agony, blood and twisted limbs.  It was so off the chart there could be no chart.  Did I turn the channel?  No.  I waited to see how each scene would outdo the last in psychosis.  Which is what director Rob Zombie intended, no doubt.  Zombie was an awful musician who transitioned seamlessly to tasteless film director.

The point is that graphic content is magnetic, like it or not.  You don’t have to be Rob Zombie to go for it.  News media face the same temptation, and risk, with graphic content.  It can grab viewers, or repulse them, or both.  It might be necessary to tell a story in accurate context. Or it might drag the story out of context.

E:60 Production Notes explores the two-edged sword of graphic content in Part One and Part Two.

 

In the Moment

To tell a story that happened in the past it’s important to get the interview subjects “in the moment” – re-living the action without referencing subsequent events.  It’s particularly important if one of those subsequent events is the dramatic “reveal” for the story.

E:60 producer Dave Salerno pulled it off in a story about Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, as detailed here.

Cockfighting Cojones

Sports journalism isn’t always a perch in a comfy pressbox. Here’s a story about a producer for E:60 who went undercover to an illegal cockfight in Texas, with a buttonhole camera.

Rough crowd. Had he been unmasked no telling what would have happened. Fortunately he survived with health intact, stark footage, and a powerful story.

A 3D Future

I tend to be slow on the technology uptake. But recently, at the ESPN Cafe, I put on a pair of Elton John glasses and watched college hoops in 3D. It took me about 10 seconds to understand that 3D is the future of live action. The viewing is dramatically superior. When a point guard “penetrates” in 3D, you see virtually what he or she sees on the way to the basket.

As for feature programming, the imperative is less obvious. E:60 will debut ESPN’s first 3D feature on April 12, a 4-5 minute piece about a professional knife thrower called “The Great Throwdini”.