A broadcaster’s first instinct is to get people to open up. But what happens when you get on a good story, and you just can’t crack the egg- your guest doesn’t want to open up.
That’s what happened to CBC reporter Chris Kayaniotes when he went to shoot a profile on Irene Bryson for CBC’s Tim Horton’s Hockey Day in Canada.
In this GUEST POST, Chris writes about his day filming with the octogenarian hockey marvel. His story is proof that you don’t always have to crack the egg to to tell the story of what’s inside.
by Chris Kayaniotes
It’s not often you come across an 80 year-old woman who plays hockey. And even less common when that someone breeds fear when battling for a puck in the corner.
But that’s exactly Irene Bryson, a grandmother who started skating long before they invented the Zamboni. Irene’s eyes burn with a competitive intensity that was sparked in her childhood. She was barely eight years-old when she learned to hold her own playing against her older brothers – all six of them.
Irene’s love of the game struck me as soon as I met her, while shooting a profile for CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada.
Her home is adorned with keepsakes and mementos of the sport, and I barely had a chance to take a seat before she thrust into my hands her bibles: two weighty photo albums, jam-packed with sacred yellow-tinged newspaper clippings, and faded black-and-white images detailing her journey through the game. These tomes are her life’s work. And they speak volumes about the passion she has for the sport.
That’s a good thing because she herself does not speak volumes. She is remarkably thrifty with her words when I ask her to talk about her many accomplishments in hockey, and what she loves best about the sport. As one of her teammates says in the piece: “She’s fierce, but she’s quiet.”
But quiet isn’t such a great thing when you’re trying to tell a story for television broadcast.
When I work on a story, I like to get to know and spend as much time with a person before I start rolling the camera. I encourage a fun and an interactive process. And my approach was no different with Irene. However it was completely unsuccessful, and it was clear that I wasn’t going to be doing this my normal way.
Irene is even-keeled and matter-of-fact about her abilities and accomplishments. It’s also old news for her family, so my multiple interviews produced few tantalizing sound bites. I struggled to get a comment on camera that reflected that deep rooted passion I saw in her eyes. She might have wondered whether I had a form of dementia, as I repeated the same questions over and over again hoping a rewording would tap into a passionate, greater than one-word answer. Alas you can’t teach an 80 year-old hockey player a new trick. And you know what, why should I?
I stopped fighting and decided to let the story unfold. What I saw, spending time with Irene and her family, was a love story. I was touched by her husband’s quiet level of commitment – driving her over an hour, in all kinds of weather, watching her games and then taking her home. I was touched by how Irene’s teammates felt about her and ultimately I was inspired by Irene’s quiet intensity on the ice. (I, in fact, had a microphone on her while she was playing the game and, not surprisingly, she made barely a peep).
I wondered what Irene’s life would be like without the game of hockey. I am convinced there would be less joy, passion and love. Perhaps a love story is a bit counterintuitive for a sports program, but when you watch it you’ll see –. I told you it’s a love story.
I hope you enjoy and are inspired by it.