Did you catch the interview? ‘Gotham’ director on the crucial art of spotlighting the wrong part of the shot

Written by by Scott Lewis, special to CNN Anyone who’s ever worked in television as a field editor knows that the hardest thing on a set is getting the pieces of the story straight….

Did you catch the interview? 'Gotham' director on the crucial art of spotlighting the wrong part of the shot

Written by by Scott Lewis, special to CNN

Anyone who’s ever worked in television as a field editor knows that the hardest thing on a set is getting the pieces of the story straight.

It’s not the sight of a ghost trampling a dead bride — some images more devastating than others, some more out-there than others — but it’s that wrong or wrong-headed final push that causes the most grief, not the usual shooting problems.

The trick is getting a single shot with no patchwork thoughts about how to compose the image. There can be fine points, like every angle having to look exactly the same, but you need to find a shot that suits the story, gives an effect that works but that’s also shot well enough not to strain the eyes.

As the station manager, I worked in radio studios where the issues would start before the mic cut off the audio — what I call mic-jumping. I’m not sure what that was but it might have involved someone jumping up to take the mic from the interviewer and jamming it in to the program producer’s ear.

I’ve seen on other productions a late-breaking story where the photographer has tried to grab the interviewer’s mic and he is totally out of luck because the engineer had chanced on the mistake, turned off the mics and locked the lights off.

CNN’s Scott Lewis on working on “Gotham” Credit: Scott Lewis

The end result — the surprising shift in tone or just the removal of a character or a plot point — can make a huge difference to the story. Maybe it’s not a big story but some elements should stay in for maximum impact. It’s of course easier to do when the story is just getting started and needs as little rewrites as possible — but there are some big, important stories like this.

With “Gotham,” the challenge was of all the characters — it was like doing a whole crime story with one story thread that couldn’t cut it.

A key task of the photographer was to get the crowd in the shot, a moment when the camera was actually focused on the person in the shot and, in this environment, it’s crucial to focus on the profile or likeness of someone doing something recognizable.

When “Gotham” is breaking the news, it means everyone needs to be in the shot from the cops to the ambulance drivers to the other actors, actors dressed in character, extras and extras dressed in police uniforms — everything in the background has to be functioning properly to give us the story.

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