Return From the Heartland

As I mentioned, no readily available ’net access in Des Moines (at least not that I could take advantage of). Other than that, though, a very productive trip, the details of which I will commence to bore you with here. Feel free to tune out as appropriate.


Because we had shipped out the equipment beforehand, we didn’t have to worry about getting it onto the plane. Perhaps largely as a result, arrival at the airport was much smoother than I’d anticipated. I needn’t have worried about the rumored nightmare of security checkpoints. Not that we didn’t have a gauntlet to run, but National Airport (I still have trouble calling it “Reagan National,” given that the man’s still alive) really seems to have gotten the procedures down pat. Efficient and polite — even friendly — all around. It didn’t take us any longer to get through the whole thing than it had in the past (taking the shoes off was a little awkward, but certainly not the unpleasant experience I’d feared).

The flight actually took off a few minutes early, and was an uneventful trip. I’d never flown Midwest Express before, but I’d been led to believe that it would be a positive experience. For one thing, they’d widened the seats from the DC-9’s original configuration to fit four seats (two seats, aisle, two seats) across rather than five (three, aisle, two); not first-class proportions, but more accommodating than traditional coach. For lunch, we had a choice between chicken salad and bratwurst. Naturally, I chose the bratwurst — how many times you gonna have that option on a plane? And yes, Kori, they did serve cookies (I figured they would, since their boarding-pass sleeve actually has a picture of the cookies in question).

Canon XL1sArrival was a little hectic; our first interview subject was only available for brief window, starting one hour after our plane’s arrival. Fortunately, luck was with us at the airport, and we got out quickly. Travel wasn’t too difficult, due less to the hotel’s location than the fact that it’s, well, Des Moines (we got a real kick out of what they referred to as “rush hour”). It got tight there for a while (particularly given a painstakingly long hotel check-in process), but after picking up the equipment, we ended up being only a few minutes late. As expected, there was a little confusion at the hospital reception desk at the sight of a camera crew, but everybody handled everything very well, and the interview went off (pretty much) without a hitch. One thing about the midwest — the stereotype of friendly, helpful people is right on the money. The PR department at the hospital was extremely accommodating, and we were given every bit of assistance we could have (reasonably) asked for.

Tuesday evening, our host (in effect the “star” of our video) took our team out to dinner at the exclusive Embassy Club, atop the tallest building in Des Moines — 41 floors up. No skyscraper, perhaps, but in comparison with the vertically stunted burg of Washington, none too shabby. The view was gorgeous (you can see for miles), and both food and service were fantastic. It’s nice to see how the other half lives every once in a while (and you know you’ve hit that point when they don’t bother to print the prices on the menu).


Wednesday morning was our officially designated “B-roll” shooting time at the hospital. Adam — my able right hand on this project — and I headed out a couple of hours before our first scheduled interview to shoot background material to intercut with the slew of talking-head footage. I was a bit concerned about being able to get enough, and with the lack of “must-have” shots. That’s a bit counterintuitive, but I’ve historically found it easier to set up a list of shots, and check them off — gives you a good sense of how you’re doing. In this case, though, the nature of the video (administrative rather than clinical) didn’t lend itself to much in the way of obvious material. Not dynamic material anyway: “Ooh, look, spreadsheets!” We’d have to wander the halls and get a lot of general footage, hoping it would fit together in the editing (“Fix it in post,” as the saying goes). Fortunately, thanks to the help of the hospital’s PR rep, we managed to hit most of the visually interesting areas of the center.

And then it was on to interviews — a full day with a (brief) break for lunch; we found it particularly amusing that the hospital walls are filled with patient education posters touting the evils of fast food, and yet there’s a McDonald’s on the premises. All of our setups went well, with enough variety in the arrangements to keep things at least nominally interesting.

Despite recommendations for another upscale restaurant, we decided to keep dinner a little more casual — I think all of us just wanted a chance to unwind a bit before Thursday’s early start...


Thursday was the granddaddy of taping days, with establishing shots of the aforementioned “star” starting at 6:15 a.m., followed by a virtually nonstop parade of interviews, along with attendance at a larger meeting, both so that our staff could present to the group and that we could get the requisite “meeting” shots. Most of the day ended up blurring together, and — twelve hours later — Adam and I begged off dinner so we could track down the local FedEx office and ship out some of the equipment we had finished with (we knew we wouldn’t be able to set up detailed lighting rigs on Friday).

After that, dinner at the hotel lounge and a few head-to-head computer games (hey, it was Des Moines, for crying out loud) wrapped up the evening.


Friday was primarily a B-roll day, with only one scheduled interview. Everything went well until we started hearing the weather reports. Given that the storm made national headlines, I’ll refrain from going into further detail, but we managed to get out of Des Moines just ahead of it all (although Adam and I did get a slew of funny looks from the security folks as we played our computer games while waiting at the gate).

Right in time to get snowed in at home for three days.

And tomorrow, it’s off to Boston — which, in this case, we know is pretty much snowed in — to try it all again. So far, the flight’s still going...

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