Archive for June, 2010

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King Kaput

June 29, 2010

I’ve been a fan of Larry King Live forever. What I like most about his interviews is that Larry  asks short questions…no tiresome walk-ups and explanations, but one sentence, clear questions. “What’s it like to overdose on heroin?” “What did you make of yourself gaining 80 pounds?”

Ok. Not all of his questions will go in the Smithsonian, but he got the person talking and that’s the interviewer’s job. And he was able to get guests on his show you don’t see on many other interview shows.

CNN just announced he’ll be leaving his chair this fall after an avalanche of criticism King has recieved lately. And I really do believe the tipping point was the Lady Gaga interview a couple weeks ago. Did you see it? Nobody has landed an hour-long interview with her that I know of. She’s the hottest artist out there, culturally significant and proved in the King interview she is an artist of  substance, thought, and on track to be bigger than Madonna at the height of her fame. 

And Larry blew that interview. I was shocked at how open Gaga was, how much she was revealing about herself on live television and Larry didn’t seem to get how big this was for his show. He didn’t ask follow-ups, just went through the check list of questions. As an interviewer, it killed me to watch, because I know what I would have asked. When you have a star who’s ready to engage and not just try to throw a bunch of p r crap your way, roll with it and create the most memorable tv possible. Take the viewers on a journey and let’s all learn something.

Look, Larry had a tremendous run as a nightly host and the world won’t forget him and you can’t ask for much more than that.

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“Wishful Drinking”

June 29, 2010

No one monetizes their misery more skillfully than Carrie Fisher. Or more entertainingly.

For more than two decades she’s churned out best sellers with revelations about her life as a bi-polar, alcoholic, drug addicted, twice divorced, ex-mental patient, electric shock therapy treated daughter of celebrities. Oh, and about her starring in a little film called “Star Wars.”

Saturday night she performed “Wishful Drinking,” her one woman show that ran earlier this year on Broadway, at the South Orange Performing Arts Center where it was taped for an  HBO special.

It was my first time seeing the show. And yes, we were seated second row, so you might catch me in a cutaway for half a second here or there when it airs.

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The Interview Addiction

June 25, 2010

I participated in a seminar at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) New York a couple weeks ago.  A career-enhancing type workshop about goal setting and identifying strengths.  We went around the room introducing ourselves and I said, “my name is John. I’m addicted to interviewing people.”

Most people in the room chuckled. A couple others looked as if they’d mistakenly stumbled into a 12 step meeting.

It was an ice-breaker, but may be the clearest description of me I can offer. When I look at my calendar and there’s too much time between ON THE SCENE shoots, I get crazy. I need to know there’s something…someone…interesting on the near horizon, always..an artist, an actor, filmmaker, musician, or singer to be interviewed for ON THE SCENE.

Because ON THE SCENE is a recurring special presentation airing once a month or so, we don’t shoot interviews every day. And because all of the content is shot on location in the artist’s environment, setting-up the shoots takes extra time.

And it’s that in-between time when the interviews are being lined-up that is a challenging period for me. I do want to being doing these kinds of in-depth interviews everyday. The preparing, the studying-up, is fascinating to me, healthy for me and more importantly essential for a great interview.  And then the interview itself, spontaneous, one thought leading to the next, revealing.

But this is not just about me and what makes me feel engaged. The greatest thing…and this is the addictive quality…is knowing that people are participating in the experience with me, the viewers who are watching and learning, and yes sometimes objecting, to the conversation.  (At least their watching and not indifferent.)

At the end of the evening we were asked to go around the room once more. I smiled and said, “my name is John. And I’m still addicted to interviewing people.”

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Judge, Juror and Film…My Whirlwhind Beach Weekend

June 9, 2010

Offer me the chance to spend a Saturday night in June on the ocean and what am I going to say? “No?”

And so it was this past Saturday when I was honored to be asked to be a juror for the Lighthouse International Film Festival, in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.  But with the enchanting lull of waves outside my window on a warm summer night, came a serious responsibility. As a juror you decide which film wins a category of  competition.

All these filmmakers invested their heart and soul into making their movies, I’m sure, and I gave each film I judged a thorough screening without the slightest distraction. I really had a strong feeling about doing this, I think because I would want the same treatment of my own work when it’s being judged.

The festival set-up computers and dvd players right in my hotel room and hand delivered the movies to me. The decision took a lot of thought because a number of the movies were so well done.   Some films and short films you may want to check out if you get the chance…”The Apostles” a short form  comedy, and “Bowling Blind,” a documentary about a league of blind bowlers in New York who make the seemingly impossible, possible.

A lotta movies, almost no sleep, a little beach time, and I loved it!

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Time To Exhale (Sort Of)

June 4, 2010

We did it! It’s done. A marathon-non-stop-no-time-to-blink day long edit session is over and the next ON THE SCENE installment is ready to premiere Saturday morning. My editor, Shannon Gillece, is astounding, we both focused like lasers, as I often say, and got this job done!

Hard work and a job well done is the best feeling.

And exhausting.

The reason today was so much work is a new graphic design look was created to update the show’s appearance (something I had wanted to do for a while) and it involved much more effort in editing, but was so well worth it.

So I spent the day with Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and these two incredible Iraq War veterans who’ve discovered creativity can help overcome a difficult transition back to civilian life. (Well, at least watching them on video as we put the show together.)

Now, I’m calling it a day…but the weekend is barely going to give me a free minute it’s looking like…I’m off to a film festival tomorrow and Sunday and will tell you more about that later..

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Seriously Under The ON THE SCENE Gun

June 3, 2010

Ok, the new ON THE SCENE episode debuts 7 AM Saturday and replays five more times this weekend. It’s good. Very good. Take my word.

But if I wasn’t steady as a table about things I would be freaking out bigtime right now. One piece is not completely edited, “Art Of A Soldier,” and it’s a complicated, emotional story. Then all of the  ON THE SCENE elements need to be edited into show form. The new graphic design is being completed as we speak, and just today I taped my host segments on location bridging everything together.

Fortunately, I have an exceptional video editor and we work like laser beams in the edit suite so this show will make air and you’ll all learn more about Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and the Combat Paper Project, the program “Art Of A  Soldier” is about. 

But this is television. We work down to the wire so often and that’s part of the thrill. Like an actor right before opening night, when the lines aren’t flowing naturally yet, the paint on the set is still wet, and three props are missing. And yet somehow it all comes together, always. 

And this will too!

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Choreography By John Bathke

June 1, 2010

I am not a choreographer. I am a television interviewer, correspondent, host, producer and writer depending upon which hat I’m wearing at the moment.

But when it comes to putting together ON THE SCENE, I think like a choreographer. My sense of rhythm kicks in…pacing, action, stillness, nuance, balance, spectacle, point of view…everything that makes for a compelling dance concert is what I draw upon when working with a video editor to pull together each episode.

I’m thinking about this because this weekend another new ON THE SCENE airs and we are busy…very busy…editing against the clock. (The show airs at 7 AM, Noon and 4:30PM each day if you’re local). As with each show, this one is incredibly diverse. It includes my interviews with Joy Behar, singer (and Tony and Grammy winner) Duncan Sheik, and a piece we’re calling “Art Of A Soldier” about Iraq War veterans who are creating art from their old military uniforms as a means to work through conflicted feelings about the war.  So you can see with such varied content, it takes a little finesse to make it all flow.

We’ve had some esteemed choreographers interviewed ON THE SCENE including the fascinating Bill T. Jones, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, both of whom I liked very much when I met them, and Heidi Latsky. (Our segment on Heidi’s show “GIMP” recieved an Emmy Award nomination this year and she attended the awards ceremony with me, actually, she is a talented risk-taker).  What I like best about doing these interviews is the watching…seeing how the choreographers interact and  how all the elements come together to tell a story and keep people interested. And over the years I’ve seen how it has influenced my approach in the edit suite.

And that’s the coolest thing about this job…being exposed to such a variety of artists and the opportunity to absorb even a little of what they do.