Josh Elliott: Pulling Off the Impossible From a Roman Countryside

Oct 5, 2011 9:39pm

“I just don’t see how this is going to work.”

Those, not the most encouraging words to hear from the man tasked with making certain you appear on live television in moments. Which was precisely what my intrepid producer Rich McHugh had to do Tuesday, when the news broke that Amanda Knox and her family were leaving Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport, bound for home after her nearly four-year stay in prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher — a conviction overturned on appeal by a Perugia jury late Monday night, in a dramatic end to the high-profile case.

Knox’s whereabouts were unknown, though it was believed she’d be leaving for London and then Seattle. When word came her departure was imminent, my GMA czars scrambled us to join the show live. The only problem: no satellite truck, a necessity for such a shot.

Or … maybe not. Turned out the technology existed to beam a live image from a Roman countryside to a New York control room, consisting of a backpack power source, a small battery and a handheld camera. The problem? Rich had never seen, let alone used, the combination. (Never mind Elizabeth and myself, TV Luddites to the last.)

So … Rich began tinkering, not unlike a Cub Scout might build a Soapbox Derby entry, mumbling to no one in particular about what a longshot it was. In retrospect, he’d been downplaying his abilities to make it all work.

And, however shockingly, my colleague’s unknown abilities as a field producer. Elizabeth jumped into the fray, acting as the conduit between myself and the control room. And despite some difficulties counting backwards from 6 and a cueing motion better suited to symphony orchestras … despite Rich’s tenuous perch on a folding chair dangerously buckling under him … despite me playing the part of correspondent (“‘Wrap?’ What’s this ‘wrap’ I hear so much about…?”) … somehow it all worked.

I’m just not sure exactly how.

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