Why Technical Difficulties are Secretly Awesome.

I’ll just come out and say it: I have a not-so-secret love affair with technical difficulties.

Actually, I have a not-so-secret love affair with just about anything that messes with the usual formula.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally buy into fabricated media events.  If the TeeVee claims something is a “big deal,” that’s usually good enough for me. I’ll bring the dip. We can yell at the screen.  Time to compare beer commercials, friends!

Yes, I love the Super Bowl. I woke up at 4 am to watch Canada face Russia in the World Juniors.  A girlfriend and I were glued to mesmerizing colour-changing maps on election night.  And, of course, I’m down for half-watching big debates (I mean…if you’re watching them, too).

I even watch awards shows. I am forever cynical about entertainment industry elites hanging out and patting themselves on the back, but: ohmygawd Tina Fey and Amy Pohler are hosting?!  Also: my favourite show really needs to win. And: dat dress (!!).

You see what I’m saying. Sometimes, I even tweet about these things. Yeah, I’m one of those people. Shameless.

My main attraction to these media events (besides the fact that they’re, you know, fun) is my  big ol’ soft spot for live television.  After all, I have been there–and I miss it.  I have hung out in the control room. I once tried (awkward teenager style) to keep everything together backstage.  I have whispered into more than one headset to fix more than one glitch just in the nick of time.  Boredom, stress, breathe, we got this.  

I have seen the red light.

When I watch live television, I always have this mini-awareness of what is going on behind the scenes.  It takes the form of an inner narrative, full of quirky crew members and missed cues and shouts of “The show must go on!” (okay, that last one doesn’t actually happen in real life). Obviously, this narrative gets super interesting when connections fuzz, microphones fail…or, say, when there is a twenty minute blackout right in the middle of the Super Bowl.

Cough, cough.

I like the glitches. They make us all just a little bit more aware of what is going on behind the scenes.  It’s a subplot.  We can watch problem solvers covertly move to fix whatever went wrong.  Glitches make us realize just how many people and extensive technicalities are involved in making a media event.  When the “stakes” are so “high,” just one small error can change the whole situation. Maybe it’s a human error, maybe a technical error.  We shouldn’t know, really, because their job is to keep us from knowing.

I like to know.

Now, I don’t need to know what is going wrong, exactly. It’s always best to avoid the blame game.  But don’t you think it’s healthy to be aware of just how much is going on, period?  Glitches are our friendly reminder that a lot of people are involved, that they are talented, and that they are unbelievably valuable to things running smoothly (or, at least recuperating smoothly).

When the big inauguration screens at the Washington Monument started cutting out, it was ironic and disappointing…but it was also kind of enlightening. I looked at the faces around me, trying to figure out how to react to this. We were suddenly aware of our dependence on the people who set up the screens, streams, and footage.  We may not have been overly impressed at that moment, but it sure added to the subplot. Somewhere, someone was kicking themselves and wondering what to do.  A few dozen other someones were probably scrambling to fix the glitch.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to think about during the President’s first speech, but it was worth thinking about.  And in the end, I was able to just watch the speech later.  No harm, no foul.

So, yes, the lights went out during the Super Bowl. I laughed at the commentators as they awkwardly tried to fill 20 unexpected minutes, and I chatted with the friends around me: “What just happened? Do they have a back up generator? Can you imagine being the people on staff right now?”

Maybe I’m being nostalgic about my control room days.  Or maybe, I’m a shit disturber who just likes when stuff breaks.  But overall: keeping it interesting, keeping things imperfect, and keeping us aware of one another’s efforts?

That’s pretty awesome.

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5 thoughts on “Why Technical Difficulties are Secretly Awesome.

  1. Hey friend I am not familiar with film but being married to a technical director in a live theater and having two sons in the business makes me say “thank you for noticing” For Christmas a few years back I bought my kids theater saying T shirts. My personal favorite was “If you can see me, something is terribly wrong” So again thank you for noticing or should I say not noticing folks who are good at their jobs.

    1. Hah! That’s amazing–I would love to get a shirt like that for my wonderful behind-the-scenes friends. Where did you find it?

      And do tell your family members in the biz a big “Thank you!” from me 🙂

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