Wednesday, February 24, 2010


After I sent Sagre's school board story to the control room, I sat in the edit bay moping. No one would touch my car hop story. But I knew better than any of them. News? That might be a stretch, but it was a good human interest story that people would talk about around the water cooler, if they ever saw it.

I popped the tape into the playback machine, and slapped the shuttle wheel on the edit control console. Zig-zaggy images rolled backward across the monitor at eight times normal speed. Sam spoke in high-pitched Russian until the tape reached the beginning. "My name is Sam, and I'm a car hop."

That was it! It was that simple. If no one else would tell Sam’s story, I would let her tell it herself! I shuttled through the tape for an opening shot.

A large finger entered from the top of the screen and pushed a small red button on a silver speaker box. “Welcome to Sonic, can I take your order?”

Cut to another close-up, burgers sizzling on the griddle. Grease droplets leap from red meat. The mic was so close I could hear the meat squish as a long, spatula pressed pink juice from the burger.

"Order up!" Another tight shot of an overweight cook in a paper hat hollering.

Fingers with red-painted nails dropped paper-wrapped burgers onto a red dinner tray.

Another hand set a chocolate shake on the tray.

Sam's roller skate wheel entered the frame, and rumbled quietly down the pavement. The camera moved down the sidewalk with it. "My name is Sam, and I'm a carhop."

I rewound the tape, leaned back in my chair and watched it.

Damn. It was a rough edit, but it was good. I closed the edit bay door and buried myself in the edit, trimming shots here, extending shots there, smoothing out audio transitions, weaving a seamless open for Sam's story.

The whole sequence took less than six seconds. It took me nearly 20 minutes to get it right. Then I pressed on with the rest of it.

Just like in the parking lot, I let the story speak. It told me where it wanted to speed up, where it wanted to breathe. My fingers flew across the edit console, splicing sound and pictures into the graceful dance I saw in my head.

I choreographed Sam's moves to a soundtrack of sizzle, glurb, tink, schwick and rumble. Sam's own words were the lyrics I hoped would pull viewers along until Sam would deliver the knock-out punch of this little feature film.

"Everybody should care.” Trays and shakes floated in and out of frame. Sam’s skates twirled on the oil-stained concrete. “I'm not just schlepping burgers from the griddle to your car. I'm providing a service.” Customers unwrapped burgers and chompped fries.

A quick tight shot of the customer’s smile, then it was back to Sam on the hood of my car to finish out her passionate soliloquy.

Cut to a shot of Sam pushing her way backwards from the kitchen into the parking lot and out of frame. "This is my job, and I'm gonna do it right."

Close-up. Sam’s skates pirouetted in front of another car. The window eased its way down. "Besides, the tips are better when I spin."

Close-up. Sam's face lit up the screen. "Hi my name is Sam. Thank you for choosing Sonic!"

I rubbed my face. I hadn't realized I was sweating. I eased back in my chair and shuttled back to the beginning of the story. I opened the edit bay door to cool off and punched play. I smiled, satisfied as Sam spoke her last line and exited the screen to reveal a soft-focus shot of the Sonic sign. I mentally amended my new mantra. “Shoot with your ears; listen to the story.”

"Cute story." Lou James’ voice-of-god delivery startled me. "Who shot it?"


"It's a cute story." The weekend anchor explained. "Well shot, very well edited. Where did you find it?"

“Lou, what are you doing here at night?”

“Grip’s off. I’m filling in. It’s my chance shine. Work my way off the weekend shift and into the money!” His eyes sparkled. “So, where’d you find the story? I didn’t see it on the network feed.”

"I shot it this afternoon." I blinked, a little surprised at the compliment. "I just finished editing it."

"Doesn't look like your work. It's not blue."

"I don't know what happened. It just sort of all came together."

"I especially like the way you slipped in that little bit about an honest day's work. And letting her tell the whole thing is a brilliant idea."

"It's not my story. It's Sam's. I just helped her tell it. Too bad no one will see it." I slouched in my seat. "None of the producers want it."

"Those show-stackers don't know anything,” he answered with a dismissive wave. “Tonight, it’s my show. I want it in. It's late, but I'll make sure it gets in the ten o'clock."

"Late? What time is it?"


"Shit! I was supposed to take Susan to eat for her birthday." I ran past the anchor toward the back door. "Can you take the tape to the control room for me? Shit!"

"I'll handle it. Better not show up without flowers."

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