Thursday, June 29, 2017

Put A Horse In It

Every so often you learn something new about yourself. I have known for a long time now that I am not particularly good in front of a video camera. I'm very comfortable in front of a live audience--I don't mind giving speeches, and I adore classroom visits--but when I'm faced with some sort of machinery I struggle. Some schools have morning news programs, student-run, and I'll be the visiting author who keeps staring at the monitor, not the camera or the kid who's interviewing me, with the result that the camera films me seemingly looking at the ceiling. Last year Dial sent a professional video crew to my house to film a promotional clip. They were lovely guys, and I even knew one of them slightly--he grew up in my hometown, and his brother is a cantor at our church. And he was kind and non-threatening, and he'd ask a question, and I'd answer, and he'd smile and say, "Okay, can you repeat that without the umms?"

Umm, no.

Then last year I had to do a brief video clip to be shown at the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. My daughter's very good with cameras, so she filmed it. It took forever. My face froze the moment she said, "go." My upper lip did this thing where it acts paralyzed, and I look frightened, and I stumble over my words, which I rarely do in real life. We tried over and over to make the stupid video and in the end sent something in where I still looked like a mannequin version of myself. Of course all the other awardees were stylish and polished, and some of them had clearly cleaned their offices. And my clip was played over and over on a screen ten feet high.

Now suddenly I'm doing a spate of small home-grown clips, mostly for things like state book award lists. We had one regrettable video shot by my husband, in my front yard, and it was clear that practice was not improving my performance. Then I had an idea.

My daughter had just gotten home from college, and I was just allowed back on my horse, post-concussion. Her idiot horse had thrown a shoe and couldn't be ridden, but as we were only planning to amble around the fields anyhow she decided to saddle up Pal, our 30-year-old trusty Quarterhorse who is in fact the emotional model for Butter, the pony in TWTSML. I'd saddled Sarah, my mare, and my daughter had Pal, and suddenly I had a great idea--I'd shoot the video with the horses, and our gorgeous mountains in the background.

Sarah is normally somewhat pig-headed and inclined to want attention, but she was so pleased that I was riding again that she posed in particularly mannerly fashion, like a little girl who wants her mother to notice she's being good. Pal, our farm's candidate for canonization, felt itchy--he nearly always feels itchy--and kept trying to step in front of my so I could scratch his withers for him. So, while talking, I had to keep moving Pal back.

And it went great. I said everything I wanted to say in a natural voice with a non-paralyzed upper lip. It was far and away the best and easiest video I've ever done.

My daughter said, "Clearly, the secret is to put a horse in it."

Clearly, that's true. I have no idea why. But last night we shot a video for the schoolchildren of Oklahoma. We stuck me in between Sarah and Pal, with the mountains in the background, and all went very well.

It's too bad I can't take horses with me on school visits. Imagine how awesome that would be.