Monday, December 3, 2018

'Vic Video' is Student's Alter Ego

That was the headline of the Michigan State University newspaper (The State News) article on me printed April 25, 1985. I recently found a copy of the paper stuck inside a box of Christmas decorations. It must have been kept by my mother, who passed away in 2008. Also in the box: a giant-size print of my high school graduation photo. Just look at that red hair (picture below).

A lot of red and a lot of hair. Circa 1981.
This was the first article written about me specifically, and it made me a bit leery of journalists and accuracy in reporting. They had gotten wind of my interest in producing music videos. This was in the heyday of MTV, when students watched Madonna, Prince, and Sting videos 'round-the-clock.

I was about to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering when the year before I got hit with the videomaking bug. I asked my dorm mates to be in a music video to Alan Parson's "Games People Play" in 1984, and in 1985 we followed up with Earth, Wind & Fire's "Fantasy." In between all that was a lot of on-camera lip-syncing fun.

I remember being asked if I regretted not studying filmmaking and telecommunications, and I told the reporter that I did not. I knew Mechanical Engineering was a wise choice if I wanted to get a job. But in the article she wrote the exact opposite: "With just a few weeks left until graduation, Rook said he regrets that he didn't major in telecommunication, but said that it wouldn't stop him from making videos." When I called the editor after the article came out to kindly point out the mistake, he responded, "Look, we are not your PR firm." Imagine that? From a student editor. Such a bad way to start off a journalism career.

Since that moment I always get both excited and apprehensive when an article is written about my work. I'm thankful that they care enough, yet wondering what way they will twist my words to fit their view of how my story should be. And it's happened again and again. Which is why I mostly only answer questions by email, so at least I'll have written proof of what I said.

You hear about this all the time: how words are often taken out of context. Sometimes downright untruths are printed. I'm not talking about Fake News, just news that isn't completely accurate. As a documentary filmmaker, I take that to heart. Whenever I trim an on-camera interview, I make sure I'm careful with the subject's words. Outside of knocking out ums and stammers (cut to B-roll), you always keep whole sentences or statements intact. My goal is to allow the person to project their best responses.

What I would tell anyone reading any article today is, realize that you are not getting the full picture. That there are probably inaccuracies. In this Washington Post article on my Beyond the Garden Gate film, the reporter wrote: "'Birds were extremely difficult,' forcing him to crouch still for long periods of time, then sending him dashing through shrubs with camera held high."

Not once did I ever dash through shrubs to chase birds for the video. More like stood still for a long time, and focused. Just as I've done for countless hours for this film. But I guess that doesn't sound quite as exciting.

If I can find them, I will post some of the video clips we shot in college over 30 years ago. We had a blast.

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  1. I'm betting my VHS copy of "Games People Play" was lost in the great basement flood of 2005.

  2. Somewhere I have it backed up on mini-dv tape.