Chapter 10: Block It Out (10)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
“I want you to rearrange the script here. Update the video to reflect the changes, and think about the flow. It’s unnatural like this just following the order that was recorded. Also the transition at 1:32 feels terrible. Where’s the raw footage for it? Give it to me, and I’ll look at it.”
Sakae watched the footage at 2 times, 3 times the speed. He looked at the script and decided which parts of the footage to use, and sometimes he would make adjustments to the script. He had no sense of himself pushing his brain to full throttle. When he came across a shot that ought to be used in a video, a feeling came to his fingertips that he just knew was right. He specified the shots down to the second and delegated the work to an editor since he had no time to do it himself today (and if he didn’t like the result, he would make them redo it). The afternoon was winding down when Shitara approached Sakae with a played up sense of charm in his voice.
“SoumaP, do you have a moment?”
“Of course not, I’m busy here. —Oi, the script says ‘leaning towards,’ but all the evening papers report that it’s a done deal. Did you make this wishy-washy because you didn’t look into it? Or can we write something with more bite?”
“I’ll double-check it right away, sir!”
“Don’t make the mistake of submitting a script with vague language thinking you can avoid misinformation by skirting around the story. …Are you still here?”
“I did say that I would bring in extra help. I’ve brought them with me, so I thought that I’d introduce them to you.”
Five old men stood in a line next to Shitara. Old men. No matter how he looked at them, they were geezers way past middle-aged and well into old age. One was even at advanced old age. There was only one familiar face in the lineup, and that was the camera operator Nishikido. He could be useful. He was as healthy as a horse and still went around working on shoots. But as for the others? What the hell was the selection criteria?
“Let’s see, here we have a part-time employee from the Compliance Department, an advisor from Asahi Land Development, a consultant from Asahi Travel, and um… what do you do again?”
“I’m the Honorary President of the Asahi Golf Club! Geez, Shitara, how come you can never remember that…”
“Sorry, somehow it just always gets blocked from my memory. And you’ve worked with this gentleman before, so you should be well-acquainted with him: the best cameraman in the news department, Nishikido-san.”
“I’m telling you right now, I’m terrible with the studio cameras. I’m always running into things ’cause it’s so cramped in there.”
“Oh, you’re just being modest… And so these veterans have come all this way to lend us their tremendous strength in this emergency that we’re facing—”
“Come here for a moment.”
Sakae couldn’t afford to waste time by heading out to the hallway, and instead pulled Shitara over to a corner of the staff room where they kept the lockers.
“What the hell are you doing?” Sakae grilled him. “You harassing me?”
“Of course not. That’s pretty hurtful of you.”
“Then what’s with this lineup that you put together from the senior citizen’s employment center?”
“I’d like you to call it an all-star lineup.”
“You think that they deserve that moniker? Maybe you get along with them, but from the sound of their titles, affiliate companies, and that window dressing of a minor department, they smell like losers who’ve veered off of their career tracks.”
“Watch your mouth. They’re our great seniors who carried the golden era of television on their shoulders.”
“You sure that they aren’t relics from a hiring spree that occurred during an age of excess that continues to strain the labor costs to this day? Thanks to them, they created a mess that the following generations have had to clean up. What if we work them so hard that they get heart attacks in the studio? Then what would you do?”
“Wouldn’t it be a dream for a TV man who’s faced hundreds of battles in the trenches to lay down his life during a broadcast?”
“Umm, excuse me.”
Shin’s voice broke in, and Sakae noticed the geezers glaring bitterly at them.
“W-We can hear everything that you’re sayin’…”
“Pardon us. Let’s take this conversation elsewhere.”
“Where do you think you’re going, Shitara!?”
“Yeah, I haven’t spent enough time with my grandchildren yet! I don’t want to die here!”
“First of all, he thinks that he can insult us like that!? He’s a damn brat, that’s what he is.”
“Oh, shut up!”
Sakae could only think that he was given a handicap instead of some help. But apparently they did have some TV news experience, so he figured that he could make them check through the flash news, but then they declared, “I can’t use the computer.”
“Well, I know how to use one, but I don’t have an ID for the news information system.”
“Scripts used to be written by hand, but now it’s completely different.”
“Yeah, yeah, the captions were all paper lays.”
“What’s a paper lay?”
Minagawa once again had to bite at something needless.
“Ages ago, we would have to film the text of the captions in order to put them on the screen.”
“Yeah, if we wanted colored captions, we had to color them in ourselves with markers.”
“Oh, that takes me back. I was really great at it.”
“Wow, it sure feels like another age~ Oh, what was the most shocking report that you heard when you were still active in the news?”
“Probably Miyazawa Rie’s Santa Fe.”1
“That has nothing to do with the news~”
“It sure does. Back in those days, getting a front-row seat to a press conference for an engagement announcement was like the peak of my career as a reporter. Ahh, she was as beautiful as a goddess…”
The topic of reminiscence was so stupidly worthless that Sakae burst into a fit of anger.
“If you don’t cut it out right now, I’m going to shove you out the window!”
The room fell silent for a moment, but then they huddled together in what was an obvious act and commented, “Oooh, so scary.”
“What’s with young’uns nowadays? They’re so cold and unsociable.”
“It’s all because of smartphones and social media.”
“What kind of upbringing did Shitara give him?”
They were old enough to give no fucks about Sakae’s outburst, and the staff members sitting by the old timers were looking down trying not to laugh. Sakae was about to yell at them some more, but Shitara called out to him.
“Our commentator for today is here. Please go and meet with him~ Oh, Nawada, I was trying to make cue cards of the script, but it printed on both sides of the paper. Why did that happen?”
“Ahh… I’ll take care of it myself, so please dun touch the printer if possible.”
The economist who would make his TV debut today was entirely a man of academia with an unimpressive appearance. Sakae had read up on the man beforehand, but he looked 10 years older than the early 50s that his profile had purported. He also mumbled and looked down when he spoke, and it was difficult to make out what he said. Sakae was bored within three minutes of meeting him, mystified that he was even invited on TV. The ability to give decent commentary did not necessarily translate to compatibility for TV, but it would certainly make his job easier to prioritize the latter if he had to pick between the two. Sakae had prepared himself to listen respectfully to the economist’s opinions about the tenuous future of the public pension system and the prospects of individual contribution plans such as NISA and iDeCo actively promoted by the government, but he couldn’t stand it any longer and interrupted him with a “Stop.”
“Professor, do you know how many minutes that you’ve been speaking?”
“10 minutes and 45 seconds. You think nothing of it, I suppose? But it’s too long for such a stiff talk without letting anyone get a word in edgewise. This is different from a conference or a university lecture. The viewers didn’t turn to this channel just to listen to you. If you plow on with your talk like you did just now, I guarantee you that the viewers will change the channel in 30 seconds.”
“But even if you say that…”
“You’re not going to tell me that you can’t do it. You were the one who agreed to appear on TV, so you need to understand the theory of how TV works. First, keep your sentences short and sweet. Don’t extend it into one rambling mess. Don’t save your conclusions for the end; instead, you should smack us with your hardest hitting point at the beginning. Why? Because you need to grab our attention. Also, you are not allowed to hog up all the speaking time. Kunieda will respond to you with questions and comments. That process is essentially you volleying with the viewers. And lastly, don’t use technical jargon that requires explanation. You’re not going to find anyone who wants to listen to a serious discussion of economics after a long day of work. Got it? That’s all.”
“Wait, this is all too much.”
“Do you understand what I said? If you do, next we have to do something about that appearance of yours. Hey, gramps, come with me. I don’t care which of the deadweights you are, I just need 2 or 3 of you.”
“Did you just call us deadweights!?”
“There’s no time, so quit grumbling.”
Sakae marched the economist over to the wardrobe department, and just as he expected, they had prepared a safe and utterly plain dark-colored suit for him. “I’m picking something else,” he declared and scrounged around on his own for clothes that he could use for today. The man looked drab enough as he was, and Sakae wanted to at least draw the viewers’ attention with his clothes. He picked out jeans, a jersey-knit boatneck shirt, and paired the look with a deep green corduroy jacket.
“For shoes… Let’s go with these penny loafers. Great, have the wardrobe people adjust the length and the fit for you. How’s your eyesight? 0.3? Then you can manage without your glasses. Let’s change those lame eyeglasses for this pair of acrylic frames.”
“But I need to see!”
“It’ll be fine. We’ll make your cue cards with a ridiculously huge font, and we’ll move the on-air monitor as close as we physically can. You’ll probably be less nervous if things are a little blurry.”
Sakae made over the boring middle-aged man into an intellectual who somewhat paid attention to his appearance, and next they headed to the hair and makeup department.
“Next is your hair. Have you ever combed it since you were born? It looks like Beethoven’s if he fell asleep for three days straight. Take this opportunity to learn how to style your hair.”
“I-I don’t like this at all.” The economist shot Sakae a quivering glare. It was pitiful how weak it was.
“I’m embarrassed to be seen in such flashy clothing… I don’t think doing something like this will help the public to accept me.”
“What part of this is flashy? I just changed the worst of the worst into something decidedly average.”
The economist looked clearly hurt to be called ‘the worst of the worst,’ but he still continued to argue.
“The man named Shitara who first offered me this appearance had listened to everything that I said…”
“I demoted him.”
“He’s demoted to an AD, and today I’m the producer. That’s why my word is law around here.”
“What? That’s insane… What kind of show is this place?”
I don’t disagree with you.
“What? You think that you can always depend on the generosity of others, and that’s not insanely self-absorbed? You want people to understand your opinion as an expert, but your necktie is shabby and your hair’s a mess. I’m sorry to tell you this, but that’s too much of an ask for most people. Do you think you can sway them over if you have the full hour? People’s impression of you is 90 percent what they can see. No, let me correct that, for television, it’s 120 percent. No viewer will listen to someone who thinks that they automatically deserve their attention just by appearing on TV.”
The economist stood as stiff as a board, his ill-looking lips even paler than usual. Maybe he was humiliated or maybe he was angry. However, Sakae had staked his position, and he would not back down. He didn’t care how Shitara would have handled him. SoumaP’s style was to hammer everything in from the beginning, and that was all there was to it. If the guy was angry and refused to go on, so be it. Even without an expert on the segment, Kunieda could give commentary about the topic and weather it on his own.
“I know nothing about the world of research, but tell me, are there any fields of study that don’t pursue knowledge for sake of the public or their lives? Are there any researchers who don’t wish that? I suggest that you re-examine your assertion that you don’t think that the public will accept you.”
The elevator arrived, and Sakae ordered the group of old timers, “Prep him up,” giving them the task of babysitting the guest.
“You’re passing the baton to us now? When the mood is this awkward?”
“It’s the producer’s orders.”
Nothing beat the wisdom of age when it came to support and admonishment.
“…But still, weren’t you a bit harsh on the poor fellow?” one of the old men whispered. There was a spark of excitement in those old eyes that couldn’t be concealed as he watched the economist walk into the elevator with his shoulders slumped. His face seemed to say that he understood what Sakae was saying. He probably knew the importance of looking good on TV far better than Sakae.
“It’s the job of the helpers to flatter and console the guests.”
“Well that’s boring… What the hell, Shitara told me that he might need someone to report on a story.”
“He’s always like that. He’ll be all polite when he asks for a favor and then uses people however he likes.”
So you know how he operates, heh.
And then it was already 7 pm. Sakae had to hustle even more from here on out. Did anything pop up unexpectedly? Did he have to update a finished script with new information that had just come in? What were the other news shows reporting? He had to systematically check everything and tweak the menu as was needed.
“Did strikes happen all the time back in the day?”
“I wouldn’t say all the time, but they had their moments.”
“When the strikes got to be about a week long, you could see the management looking more and more haggard, and yeah, it hurt my conscience to see it.”
“Don’t the viewers start asking questions if different people are always appearing on the shows? How’d you handle it?”
“We never mentioned it on the air. We just had to move forward.”
“We did get a lot of questions about it when viewers contacted the network, but we fed them the ‘for various reasons’ line.”
“It would happen on other networks too.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, there are a ton of rough-looking announcers today.’”
“Haha, that’s too funny.”
“…Didn’t I tell you to stop fooling around and work!?”
Sakae yelled at Minagawa and the senior citizens brigade, who would steal a coffee break whenever they got the chance. They protested, “But we did the work,” looking all proud of themselves as one of them held out a copy of the captions work list. Everything was done electronically nowadays, but this was on paper. Plus, they hadn’t passed it through him beforehand. Sakae reviewed the captions, planning to rip them up right then and there if the work was shoddy.
“So? How is it?”
“Give us your brutally honest opinion.”
“It’s been several decades since I had to make sub-captions for the studio~”
“Keep it down… I want the word ‘tomorrow’ in hiragana and change ‘roughly’ to ‘approximately.’ And it’s not the Guinness Records; it’s the Guinness World Records. No abbreviations.”
“Oh, is that right?”
To be frank, it was the most basic of the basics, and he wanted to tell them not to make such careless mistakes; however, the wording of the captions was exceptional. Each one encapsulated the substance of the news without sounding too stuffy, and they even incorporated a dash of witty humor depending on the material. Because the captions were a mere 20-some characters long, he could truly feel the flair and the command of the language that they had. It was impossible to perfectly express everything with the short length, but at the very least, Sakae had to admit that they were better than anything that he could write. So they weren’t just old for show.
When the video pieces were finished, they conducted readthroughs of the scripts. And then Sakae had one last meeting with the economist, who had finished his hair and makeup, and this time Kunieda participated too.
“…So when I introduce this topic, please expand upon it, and I will make the final closing comment. I would like to apologize beforehand, but I may need to end our discussion early due to time considerations, so I hope for your understanding and cooperation with this.”
“Oh, I understand.”
The economist seemed somewhat calmer and relaxed as he chatted with the old timers babysitting him.
“Professor, why don’t you practice your greetings one more time? Once Kunieda-kun introduces you, look at the camera with the red light, give a slight bow, and say ‘Good evening, thank you for having me.’ The top of the show will start with news about the typhoons, so I would ask that you not smile too cheerfully, but do try to project an alert and energized impression like this.”
“Alert and energized…?”
“Well, you are still young. Your clothes and hair are very smart and appropriate for you. Let’s review the recordings that we took earlier on the phone’s camera.”
“But it’s too embarrassing for me to look at a video of myself.”
“Sure, but this is your job here. Once you are used to it, you’ll be able to look at yourself objectively. Above all else, you’ll be able to review your own comments and get a feel for yourself just how much time you have to spend on them. What can you express in 30 seconds? What if you had 1 minute? 3 minutes? 5 minutes? You will develop a sense for what exactly those quantities feel like. Announcers train like this exhaustively. I guarantee that it will be helpful to you in your normal lectures and speeches.”
It seemed to be fine to leave them on their own, so Sakae went to the production control room to check the director’s desk. He hadn’t touched the controls for over 10 years now, and he had never used this particular control room either—he had to familiarize himself with all the buttons and switches here. His eyes would be glued to the monitors; he couldn’t be looking down at his hands for everything.
He really asked for something outrageous.
Sakae was learning the layout for his fingers and eyes when Shitara came into the room.
“I have the revision of the rundown~”
“Whoa, what are you doing, Shitara-san!?” The sound effects mixer was surprised to see him handing out papers.
“Hmm, you didn’t hear? I’m an AD for today.”
“Seriously!? No wonder you were paying attention to the technical meeting. I did think it was weird.”
“What? I’m always paying attention,” Shitara said as he handed Sakae a copy of the updated rundown.
“I’m happy to see that you were able to open up to the helpers that I picked out.”
“What the hell did you see to make you say that?”
“Eh~ Oh, it’s about time that I call the presenters to the studio.”
It had been a while since Sakae experienced this tension and mood before a live broadcast. Nothing about it compared to a prerecorded variety show; it was an entirely different beast. Once they started running, they couldn’t stop—they weren’t allowed to stop. The contents moved forward, and he always had to bear in mind the next second or two. Up until they went on standby, Sakae went around checking the blocking of the cameras in the studio and the priorities for all of their stories (which news needed to be aired, and which ones could be cut for time). He rushed back to the control room with 3 minutes to spare and saw the old geezers inspecting the director’s desk.
“Yeah, I haven’t been in one of these in a while, and it’s gotten all high tech. Do they really need all of these buttons?”
“Maybe they added fake buttons to make it look cool?”
Who the hell would they be showing off to?
“Oh, here’s the CUT button. There was one time when I hit the button so hard that it sprang right off.”
“It’s true! I was trying to look cool, but I was being rushed to push it. I wanted to say ‘We’re cutting to commercial~!’”
The old man reached for the button as he said, “Like this,” and Sakae shouted, “Don’t press it!” They weren’t broadcasting yet, and the live feed was showing a commercial. Nothing would happen if he pressed the button, but Sakae didn’t want him playing around with the most important button on the controls.
“W-What the!? Don’t scare me like that! I almost really pressed it.”
“He gets angry so easily.”
“Shut up. If you want to see your grandchildren again, don’t you dare touch or say anything from this point forward.”
“Whoaaa, he just threatened me…”
“That’s enough to send you to compliance.”
“Don’t you work part-time there?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right.”
“I told you guys to shut up!!”
“O-One minute until air time…”
Sakae put on the headset that was resting on the desk. The monitors showed Shin and the presenters standing by on the set. The time decreased in a flash. He felt like something was burning at his back. He couldn’t respond to something that he couldn’t see. No matter how wide he opened his eyes, no matter how many times he checked and rechecked the materials, when the show was live and someone wanted to sabotage it, there was nothing that Sakae could do to stop it.
What if something were to happen again? This show had a much higher profile and even more viewers than the evening news. What if an accident that was fatal to the show were to occur? Would Shitara take all the responsibility on himself again regardless of the repercussions, shielding Sakae from everything? Just remembering the frozen silence of that moment from 11 years ago almost made his breath turn white. He remembered Mutsuto’s eyes that had been a bottomless black. Sakae told himself to calm down. Mutsuto was no longer here. Everything was different from that day. That sort of thing would never happen again—… But who could ever know that? The evening news had ended after the incident, and Go Go Dash had ended too. Sakae had never imagined any of that happening, and there had been nothing that he could do about it either—and so it wouldn’t be strange if tonight something were to end again before his very eyes. No one could say definitively that the dozens of staff members here all shared the same goal of making the broadcast a success.
Aren’t you scared? How can you believe in everyone every day?
His fingertips tapped the edge of the desk in agitation. He knew that he was trembling, but he couldn’t stop anything.
“30 seconds until air time.”
He was about to blurt out Stop the countdown to the timekeeper next to him, but he clenched down on the back of his teeth. Sakae knew bitterly well that time would not stop or turn back for anyone, and he was angry at this weakness of his, that he wanted to escape from reality, but then he heard a voice over the headset.
“Hey, folks, I’ll be counting on everyone here tonight.”
It was Shitara from the studio. In his voice there was no doubt that this broadcast would be a success. The videos weren’t all ready yet, and how the economist would perform was still an unknown variable. There were still all these holes that they could fall into, so why wasn’t he scared? Sakae squeezed his fists up tightly and found that he was sweating. He couldn’t see Shitara, but his voice was extremely light as he continued.
“If anything happens today, it’s all SoumaP’s fault. So if anyone has any grudges against him, this is your chance~”
“What did you say, you bastard?”
The retort naturally came out of his mouth. People chuckled around the control room and joked, “I wonder what I should do~?” Sakae unclenched his fists and took a natural position at the desk. He did think it was strange how he felt more comfortable knowing that he was at fault for everything, but he felt like a snake that had shed its skin, casting off that horrible image that had clung to him. He knew with full confidence that if something really did happen, there was no way that Shitara would accept his insistence that everything today was his sole responsibility. But that lie of Shitara’s, even if it was only for show, that saved Sakae and allowed him to sit here.
“10 seconds to go, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 seconds to go, 4, 3, 2, 1—Time.”
“Title, V5, roll it.”
The opening animation had been standing by on the monitor, and Sakae gave the instructions to start the show. Now there was no turning back.
“We come out of the title on Camera 1. Bust of Kunieda for the greeting.”
“Good evening, it is time for The News. Tonight for our special guest, we have Professor of Economics from M University…”
“Camera 1, prepare to zoom out. Pan slowly camera right.”
It seemed that the lectures had paid off, and the economist gave his greetings without any problems.
“We will start with our top story for today. Last week’s Typhoon Number 20 has caused severe damage to the archipelago.”
“Camera 2, long shot. Display the chyron. Roll V1.”
The video clip aired with Kunieda’s fluent reading, and the economist looked meek again. Sakae yelled, “Shin,” into his headset.
“Tell the guy to fix his face! I’m about to put up the inset and he’s in it. Don’t let him get distracted just because it’s out of the scope of your role!”
“Yes, sir, I’m sorry.”
Shin quickly approached the table on the set and showed the economist a cue, and the guy frantically pulled his facial muscles back into place.
“Good, we’re going to add the inset. Position it below the title caption.”
A small window was added to the screen, and in it showed Minagawa’s face. In this way, the insets could show reactions in the studio without interrupting the video piece. This technique had its origins from variety shows, and now it had become a staple on news programs too. Sakae had to admit that Minagawa stood out in a good way despite the coaster-sized window. A little while ago, Minagawa’s blitheness was apparent even through the camera, but apparently he had grown in his own way since then.
“20 seconds remaining for the clip.”
“All right, copy the monitor contents to the inset. V2 on standby. When the clip ends, we open with Camera 3 on the monitor. —Oi, Camera 3, I said the monitor! Don’t stand by on a long shot! I know it’s you, Old Man Nishikido!”
“I think this looks much better.”
Sure enough, Nishikido talked back at him over the headset.
“And you should dissolve into it.”
The dissolve was a transition effect that the control room could add, and the slow shift from the video to the studio could give the cut some emotional oomph. It wasn’t bad, but Sakae held the authority here as the director, and there was no cause for the camera operator to order him around.
“I don’t need your impertinent remarks. Keep your mouth shut and do as I say.”
“Oi, you damn old fart.”
“What, you damn brat.”
“The clip is almost over!”
“Ahhh, fine, Camera 2, you do it. Monitor.”
“…I can’t, Nishikido-san is in the way. I can’t get into position. The angle isn’t great from here.”
“Fine, we open on 3.”
He also used the dissolve that was suggested, and well, yeah, it looked pretty good, but Sakae was irritated that Nishikido had ignored the command center in charge of the broadcast.
“Oi, AD for the day, the next time the old fart defies me again, you better stop him, even if you have to strangle him with a camera cable.”
“Don’t ask for something crazy.”
“Have you seen how strong cameramen are? I’d be crushed if I attempted it.”
“Argh, you’re so damn useless!”
The next item on the rundown, after a comment that summarized the extent of the typhoon damage, was an announcement for donations.
“Put the chyron with the phone number on standby. I want a 1-shot of Kunieda for it… No, that’s not the right size. Think about it, we’re putting a chyron onscreen, so pull back more… Okay, start the announcement.”
Except for the one rebellious person, it was an excellent start. Sakae’s engine had gradually warmed up, and he was regaining his live broadcast sense. It wasn’t a specific methodology; it was a sense of enjoyment for this real-time process. Anything could happen at any time, and he needed to hold that tension until the end of the broadcast.
Run. Don’t think, just run. Stopping only lets in fear, so attack. Tackle each minute and each second as it comes.
Hesitation, worries, and regrets were all acts of luxury now. There was no time for any of that.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- A nude photo book of a model/actress that stunned the country because such books were only recently allowed to be legally published at the time.