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Timeless art of storytelling

"It may be good TV, but think about what kind of person you are. Be kind, be compassionate, and respect individuals."

How much has filmmaking changed? Few know better than Bill Merickel.

He also knows what hasn’t changed when it comes to the medium of video: if you want to captivate an audience, you’ve got to tell a good story.

Merickel was invited to speak to Broadcast and Video Production students at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. He shared stories from his 30-plus years working for local TV news stations and showed clips of his work from an earlier age of television.

“Train yourself to absorb everything as if you were scanning a shot for filming,” Merickel said.

Merickel told students about how film scenes were shot when he first started in Hollywood in the 1970s. One camera would be used from multiple angles, with lots of pauses and waiting as the scene developed.

Now, that’s all changed. Multiple cameras are used to capture a scene as it plays out, with a director using their knowledge to find the best shot. Instead of having to, as Merickel puts it, “paint with the light colors” available on a set, filters control how the picture turns out.

But even with all of this technological innovation, the art of telling a story is still the same. You have to find something that’s going to pull at someone’s heartstrings.

The same story-telling tactics from Hollywood worked in the stories Merickel crafted as a chief photographer in TV news. From a story about police action on crack houses during the height of the cocaine epidemic in the 80s, to a fast-moving fire that spread through multiple homes in an OKC neighborhood in the 90s.

Most importantly, when it comes to news, Merickel reminded students that those pictures are of real people and kindness doesn’t have to get in the way of a good story.

“If may be good TV, but think about what kind of person you are,” he said. “Be kind, be compassionate, and respect individuals.”

And during the high time for Career Tech Student Organizations, Merickel encouraged students to enter their work in competitions. That is how you land a job in this industry.

“Compete every chance you get, because those are awards for your future,” Merickel said. “You want to shoot to win what you can.”

by Adam Troxtell - February 21, 2022