by Jason Bellue
This entry was inspired by just 5 little words: I'm so glad it's you. It was something quietly said to me by a really great woman just minutes before I sat down across from her for an on-camera conversation.
From the outside, it may have seemed a simple nicety shared between acquaintances. But the reality was it meant something much deeper to me, and the gravity of those little words hit me like a ton of bricks.
The exciting part about this particular day on set was my team and I had met her and her husband (as well as many other amazing people) earlier in January while on a production in Houston. Her husband lives with a rare, and at times debilitating, disease: and she was his primary caregiver. My team had the good fortune to be able to spend two amazing days with each of them; learning their story and getting to know who they really were. And now, we got to see them again and pick up where we left off.
What we learned on that day back in January was, caregivers often live in the background. They aren't often asked about their experiences. The cameras are rarely pointed in their direction, leaving them out-of-focus.
The truth is, though, with a rare disease diagnosis, it doesn't just affect the "patient." It affects everyone. But, seeing as our client for this project is truly amazing, and always puts people above all else, we had the chance to get to know some of these caregivers and hear their story, and perhaps ask them "are you ok?" for a change.
Sometimes, we have to shift the light to get the full story.
So, in that moment, when she muttered those words to me, she was coming to the realization that with this shift in focus, it was bringing attention to her. She was feeling the weight of a thousand nerves suggesting to her she didn't deserve to be on camera. That she isn't special. That she's not the one going through this, her husband is. Lying to her that she isn't important enough for people to care. Gaslighting her into believing she won't sound good or look good on camera. This is what it feels like to be on camera for people that aren't used to it. It's not always fun, and the only way for us to put them at ease is to understand that... to empathize.
So, what hit me so hard about what she said... "I'm so glad it's you."... was that I actually saw and felt relief in her voice as she said those words. She later told me she felt if she had to go through this nerve-wracking and vulnerable experience, at least she was going through it with someone she could trust.
That was a very high compliment for me. As I've grown older in this industry, my priorities have shifted. My personal focus isn't as much on if someone thinks I'm a "great interviewer." But, if someone reveals I've had some small part in making them feel like it's ok to be themselves? That's the lottery right there. Mission accomplished.
But, truthfully, she wasn't talking about me and what I do. In no way could I take credit for something that big. She was talking about every person on this team. It was her second time being with us, and after her first experience with all these great people I get to work with every day, she felt like she was with people she could trust. It meant something to her that we were there, and that's just about the coolest thing I could ever experience. I was thrilled to be a part of this and have the opportunity to get to know her better. So, for that reason I told her, "I'm glad it's me too."
I wanted to write about this in hopes I could take the time to brag about my team for a moment, in case I don't do it enough. This is, in the end, our ultimate goal: to create an environment and experience that allows every single person we interact with to feel that it's ok to simply be themselves. It makes us all better at what we do. It makes us all feel ok in being vulnerable. It is a reminder to put our focus not on "what" we do, but on "why" we do it. And honestly, it starts with a simple reminder:
It's not just a chair.
That seat in the image up there at the top of this post, is the chair we put on camera that day. But it is so much more than just a chair. It's an invitation for people to reveal themselves in front of a bunch of lights, cameras and the "strangers" who operate it all. So, the best first step is to make the effort to not be strangers anymore.
My team, led by Josh and his crews, is the best in the business because they understand this better than anyone. When we look in the monitor, we see a chair. But the person who has to sit in that chair sees things very differently. That chair carries the weight of every insecurity they've ever had. It carries the memory of every pain they've ever felt. It tells them they aren't interesting, or they don't know how to tell a story. It tells them they're having a bad hair day, or holds a magnifying glass to every blemish. It is intimidating as hell, and they shouldn't' have to sit in it alone.
It can be easy to forget for us at times. When you're dealing with 12 cases worth of equipment, a long to-do list and a tight schedule, you can get so wrapped up in "what" you're doing that you forget about the "why." But, I'm so proud to work with all these guys and girls because this team is so exceptionally good at remembering the weight of the chair and putting their focus on the real person that's going to be sitting in it, on the other side of the lens.
Each person on that set knew we had to keep our focus on the right things and relieve a little bit of the weight of that chair. It's because of that care they put into it that she felt the need to share those impactful words with me.
By the end of our hour together, there had been plenty of tears and difficult moments, but I think anyone in that room can attest to the fact that it was a conversation between friends much more than an on-camera interview. And because of that, she felt comfortable to bare her soul for us and our cameras.
The beauty of that is, there's going to be someone else out there in the world who sees this video who knows exactly how she feels; only they thought they were the only one out there until they heard her story. That is the true why in sharing this story. In the process, she had a cathartic moment that maybe allowed her to pause and look back on all the things she has been through with her husband. Just maybe she came out the other side of this day realizing how tough she really is.
Either way, it's days like that which remind me how much I love what I do. We are making connections with people. And though we may not be curing cancer, it's one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things I've ever done in my life.