Occasionally, as a blogger, you find yourself strangely driven to post a piece on a particular subject, and no matter what you do to talk yourself out of it, it keeps coming back – so, I’m sorry, but I must do this.
I can’t remember when I first saw one of these, but I do remember thinking, “Oh wow, I love this!” I’m talking about the little video clips in the series, “Interviews 50 Cents” with NPR’s Alex Chadwick – immediately you think of Lucy van Pelt’s, “Psychiatric Help 5c”, and Chadwick readily admits that the inspiration for the card table, two chairs, and simple signage comes directly from Lucy’s famous stand.
Since 2002, Chadwick, and producers, Ray Farkas (until his recent death), and now Ethan Boehme, have been appearing at places where people gather, setting up their table and chairs, and the long view camera … and waiting. Currently, the project is still ongoing, with support from Slate V.
As you began watching, it only takes one or two before you realize the charm and magic these vignettes play – I love the ambiance that the simple ’30s tune sets at the onset – it’s perfect. And while everyone understands that it is they who are being interviewed, the classic question is, “Who pays 50 cents?” Chadwick’s answer is always the same; “That depends on how good your story is!”
It took me a little longer to catch why Chadwick allows such pregnant pauses to develop – at first, my response was to think, “OK, Alex, let’s keep this rolling here” – but then I remembered that every interviewer is taught that most normal folk can’t stand the silence which occurs when neither of two talkers is filling the air with noise – if you simply refuse to speak, very soon, the other person will speak – Chadwick is simply applying the skill of interviewing. And it works!
But one of the reasons why Interviews 50 Cents works is that this is America! Amazingly, crowds do not stop in wonder to view this strange happening – they simply walk on by as if they don’t even see the table and camera nearby. And that same “acceptance of whatever” is responsible, I’m sure, for the willingness of the interviewees to say almost anything – I’m quite sure that some of these little clips get cut for unacceptable content – but then, my opinion is only based on the risque quality of some clips that don’t get cut. But, through it all, Chadwick’s response and attitude never change – and again, the skill and practice of the professional shine.
One of my almost immediate impressions was just how concise and compact these clips are – given that not everyone will be willing to seat down and tell their story, it must be true that most who are willing also want a bit more than two minutes in which to do it! They’re not all two minutes, true, but I’m betting there’s a good deal of editing that goes into these.
If I came across Chadwick and Interviews 50 Cents, would I tell my story? You bet! I’d love the opportunity – but when it came time, and they told me I had to keep it to two or three minutes, then I may just change my mind – I’m just not a two minute kind of guy – Ha! One reason I blog, and I make no apologies, is because no one is here to tell me I have to keep this to 200 words, or one page, or whatever! How the hell am I going to get my dose of therapy if I have such constraints? I do this for me first, and then if anybody else wants to share, that’s fine with me.
Yes, I know all about the six word story, and all that goes with it. I can even intellectually agree that the finest story telling is done hand-in-hand with a minimalist approach – I’ve had those classes – I’ve labored on that front – and frankly, that’s primarily why I no longer wish to be constrained.
But none of that has a thing to do with these Stories From the Everyperson – I encourage you to check them out – the excellence of these bits of Americana makes them worthy to be seen and enjoyed.