Working at a movie theater has a lot of fun perks… like getting to see movie posters/trailers first, quality checking movies early, and having a constant supply of movie theater popcorn and candy. I can now add meeting stars to that list. Okay, so maybe we weren’t rubbing elbows with Zac Efron (just yet… I’m still plotting a way to bring him to Athens), but we did get to see faces we know from TV and that was pretty cool. Here’s what happened when our East-West Billboards Summer Series took us to GMC Fox Edition.
I got the e-mail on a Tuesday morning while I was at WJSQ/WLAR recording a radio spot. “Are you available for a LIVE 3 minute interview on GMC Fox Edition?” The “live” wasn’t emphasized like that, but that’s how I read it. Live. In person. In real time. Sure, I had done live interviews before, but not on a morning news program promoting something of my own doing. I responded with “Definitely. We are very excited about this event.” … Fake it till you make it, right? It was exciting. I felt like we were really doing a press tour for the event. I had done a radio interview the week before and I was talking about the event with everyone I encountered.
Then I realized… I said “we” …forwarded email to Brad. “Please don’t make me do this alone, but know that we would need to be in Chattanooga at 7 am.” In hindsight, I could have sold that a little better. East-West had graciously sponsored the movie series and I had been keeping them in the loop about all of the promotions and details. I didn’t want them to feel obligated to do more than they felt comfortable with, but it was very important to me that they be involved as much as they wanted. “If I’m able to go, it will be Tuesday.” I confirmed us for Tuesday and let her know that it would be both of us if he could get it worked out. On Thursday, we met to film a promo video, and he mentioned not being good on camera, but he was good with radio. I told him he needed to get over that before Tuesday. “The interview Tuesday is tv?” … Do I lie? … “Did you not read the e-mail? Yes! It’s Live.” “I saw that… I didn’t realize it was tv…” This is not a good sign.
Luckily, I had another live interview to worry about coming up with Eric Morrow on Saturday morning, so I pushed the GMC thing out of my mind until Sunday. Then it started being unavoidable. What an exciting opportunity not only for us, but Athens in general, but how nerve-wracking. I walked into my parents’ house on Sunday afternoon carrying a dress my best friend had picked out for me to wear. I asked my mom to iron it. And when she didn’t argue, I knew this was serious. (I don’t know how to iron, so for her to agree to do it, I knew this must be a big deal.)
Later on Sunday, I was trying to pick out jewelry from local designer, Jessica Klaaren. She’s had pieces on tv shows and I thought it was neat to take some more of Athens with me.
I found out late Monday evening that Brad could attend and I stopped obsessing over most of the little details. He was clearly a lot more at ease about this than I was. We made plans to meet a little after 6 so that we could be at the studio by 7:15. It was starting to feel real. Then it happened. The worst part of all. Setting the alarm for 5:00 am. I work at a movie theater! We open late… I realize 5 am is quite normal for most of you… it is not my routine.
While I drifted off to sleep, envious of Brad’s ability to be so nonchalant about the whole experience, I had no idea he was facing his own dilemma.
It was still dark when I arrived at our meeting location, The Sock Shop. STILL DARK. For a brief moment, I wondered why we hadn’t decided to meet next door at Dunkin’ Donuts… Coffee sounded like a good idea… No, no it wasn’t. Coffee spills. Caffeine can make you jittery. I was already nervous. For some reason, the idea of spilling coffee on my light colored dress made me think that maybe I had accidentally grabbed two different shoes. I looked down. I couldn’t tell. At that point, there was nothing I could do because I had just taken the 8 random pairs of shoes out of my car. Mismatched shoes it is!
“I don’t wanna.” I said as I climbed into Brad’s car. The interior light showed me that I had in fact put on matching shoes. So far so good. “Good Morning.” He said. It wasn’t an overly cheerful “good morning.” But I had no idea how he was so calm. “I don’t wanna.” I said again.
“It’s too late now. It will be fine.” I really hoped he was right.
At some point, the sun came up on our drive. It was still incredibly foggy so that helped me stop thinking about the interview. Brad told me stories about the billboards we passed. We chatted about what questions we thought they’d ask. I repeated my “I don’t wanna” mantra so many times, I was afraid I would convince Brad to turn the car around. As we got closer, the conversation stopped. Several exits passed without a word from either of us. Then he said…
“I would have been on time, but I couldn’t decide what socks to wear.”
“It’s a big decision…I woke up at 5. I had to be out the door at 5:40, but I hit the snooze button. I didn’t have time to really think about it.” I laughed. Maybe he was a little nervous, too. Or maybe he just always struggles with what socks to wear.
When we pulled into the station, I had to call the producers and ask them to let us in. As we were getting out of the car, one of us had to check our appearance in the mirror. (It wasn’t me.)
The producer put us in a conference room and had us sign releases.
One of the anchors came through a few minutes later and welcomed us. He asked about the theater and event and told us we could come watch the show from inside the studio. He said we’d be on around 7:50. It was 7:20. 30 minutes to sit and think about it. Ahh! Nervous energy was hard to contain at that point. Brad mentioned his stomach growling. “How can you possibly be hungry right now?!” I felt like I was trapped in a room with my little brother. We were trying to play it cool, but seeing the behind the scenes stuff was so exciting.
Another anchor came in and talked with us about our story. She asked how we knew each other (high school) and if we had been high school sweethearts (would be a cute story, but Brad was much too cool to talk to me back then). She asked about the YMCA and what programs they would be using the money for (luckily, I had asked Bradi, the Executive Director, about this last week). She asked Brad about his business and what he did. It’s so neat to see how they know what questions to ask to make us feel comfortable and prepared while also getting enough information to make the story complete while not asking too much. I wonder if that’s a skill they learn or just have naturally?
We went into the studio and it wasn’t at all what I expected. The cameras were all set up at various places in the room, unmanned. It’s pretty dark generally, but the actual areas where the anchors will be is brightly lit. The anchors were the only people in the room (that I could see, someone could have been sitting quietly somewhere). We turned into total tourists. We took pictures from the back and as soon as they went to commercial, the started talking to us. This felt weird. They were literally just on LIVE TV and now they are asking us about where we are from. The co-anchor Greg told us where to go to get better pictures because of the lighting.
During the next commercial break, they gave us microphones and Greg took pictures (at his own suggestion… we weren’t that touristy!). He had us sit in his chair and pose in front of the screens.
Jessica Harthorn was going to be conducting our interview. She’s new to the area and our age. As time got closer, Brad and I went to put our phones down. By now, I was feeling calm. I had whined enough on the drive down and everything was so neat and distracting that I had stopped being nervous. Apparently, I had passed that on to Brad because as soon as his phone was out of his hand, he turned around and said “WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?!” I hadn’t given much thought to that, and I couldn’t even offer any helpful ideas because they were putting us in position. Brad had to count to five to check his microphone. Jessica told us which camera we would be on, but I didn’t want to know. When you are looking at the cameras, you see their teleprompter.
You also see a video screen playing the program. I didn’t want to get distracted by either of those things. Or the clock with the seconds counting so slowly. She said the interview would be three to three and a half minutes. That’s the length of a song. I make it through several 3 minute songs during spin at the Y. We can do this.
We were chatting normally and then instantly, Jessica started talking to the camera. You know that point on a roller coaster when you are at the top and you know it’s about to go downhill, and you can’t do anything about it? That’s what it feels like when a news anchor starts talking to the camera.
I would love to tell you my thoughts and feelings during the interview, but I literally have no memories of that time. Brad said he couldn’t figure out what to look at. I have no idea what I saw while we were on camera. By the way, that studio lighting is AMAZING.
After the interview, Jessica walked us out. I had brought her a gift from Athens as a thank you for taking an interest in our story. She opened it, gave me a hug, shook Brad’s hand and told us to let her know if we ever had anything else going on.
We got in the car and the entire drive back, we talked about how growing up, the news anchors on tv were rock stars to us. We didn’t have the same pop culture environment that exists today and the local news was a really big deal. However, back then, we also didn’t have DVR and internet. If we had messed up severely, we wouldn’t have had to worry about going viral. We wondered who had been watching and if it would help the event. We talked about how cool it was that the anchors were our age and how they made you feel like you could be friends with them. We talked about how unexpected the studio was. I know there was a time the cameras had people behind them controlling the zoom and focus. It appears to be all automated now. I shouldn’t be surprised. There was also a time when Billboards had to be changed entirely by hand and movies required projectionists to change reels.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for community. Brad and I are extremely fortunate to work for locally owned companies that give us the opportunity to work together in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t. Whatever we talk about can happen. Giving $2 to the YMCA as an individual might not go far, but if we all come together and pay $2 for the summer movies, we can make a huge impact on the Y and ultimately our community. We hope that you will take this opportunity to make memories for yourself now at the theater and help others make memories at the YMCA through your support of their programs.
You can watch the video of our interview by visiting Fox Chattanooga.