This can be a complex problem, that everyone involved needs to help fix. Truthfully, the bulk of the repair is often placed on the shoulders of the producer. When you watch a newscast and the anchors just don’t seem to relate to each other, there are ways around to ease the tension.
- One anchor begins, where the other leaves off
- Talk through chat opportunities
- Play on anchor’s interests
Again, this article is from a producing perspective. Anchors, we will talk about how you can build camaraderie later. Let’s begin by helping anchors play off of each other, through scripting. These are tried and true techniques to showcase the anchors together in a way that you can control. The techniques incorporate two shots. Traditionally producers are taught to use two shots at the beginning of blocks, to start off teases, and to pitch to weather and sports. The use of a two shot is so much more important though. It provides a conversational bridge when subjects are related. To really boil it down, you can use a two shot to build your team when switching from the tag of one story, to the intro of the next. It shows the anchors working together. This requires conversational writing. (read “So Cliché” and “Rule the Word” to make sure you are doing all you can to write like people talk) Here’s a scenario with anchors “JOHN” and “BETTY” to make it clear:
YOU HAVE UNTIL DECEMBER 2013 TO APPLY FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT REFINANCE PROGRAM.
(JOHN/TURN TO TWO SHOT)
WE ASKED AROUND TODAY AND A LOT OF HOMEOWNERS ARE REALLY CONF– USED ABOUT HOW TO APPLY.
(BETTY/STILL ON TWO SHOT)
AND WHO TO APPLY WITH.
AFTER ALL… THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T HAVE A SET OFFICE FOR REFINANCING YOUR HO– USE.
(BETTY/TURN TO DOUBLE BOX)
SO TODAY JOE SCHMO CHECKED… TO MAKE SURE YOU WOULD KNOW WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO BRING.
JOE IS IT A CONFUSING PROCESS?
This copy provides a mini, controlled conversation between the anchors. The anchors quickly transition to the next part of the story, there is an opportunity for limited ad lib (when the anchor says government doesn’t have a set office for refinancing your house, the other anchor’s mic can be up so he/she could say, on the fly, something like ”it sure doesn’t”) and the anchors are working together to get the answers viewers want. I often used two shot transitions like this to build team. Then, I single anchor pitched to weather or sports more often. Those two anchor pitches to weather and sports almost always appear forced. You have to do one token 3 shot pitch to build team somewhere. But that doesn’t mean do it every time you take weather, especially in an hour long newscast.
When you do have opportunities to chat to build team (like the pitch to weather) ask the anchors to plan it out for you. Have whomever actually pitches to weather go to the meteorologist to ask about what’s first in the forecast. Yes, it is easier for you to just throw a line in, since you talk with the weather person anyway. But the point is to help the anchors build relationships. The hope is that going in to ask that question before the newscast will lead to a conversation so the anchors continue to find ways to relate to each other.
Here’s another technique to help with chat: I used to write only the words “ad lib” in at least one tag per newscast (usually on a lighter story) to force the anchors to talk to each other and come up with a plan for chat somewhere in the show, other than weather and sports. I made sure the anchors looked at that script well before the show. The rest was up to the anchors to hash out. If I had awesome video, I would take a two shot coming out, with at most a factoid in there, so the two anchors would have to talk to each other. This often helped break the ice a bit.
It can be also very effective to have one anchor read a story about a subject the other anchor really likes. Then you go to a two shot at the very end of the tag. It can make for a great ad lib opportunity. I had an anchor that loved Halle Berry. (Anytime he said her name he would actually blush!) So sometimes I had the other anchor read the story about Halle Berry, then say the last line of the tag on a two shot. I did that just so we could catch the other anchor blushing a bit. Even if they didn’t ad lib, the look between them was priceless! His co-anchor would smile and roll her eyes as he blushed. It was a very human, relatable moment. This is another reason why it is important to learn about your anchors and their personal interests (see “How to get inside your anchors heads and write in their voices”).
The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to create chemistry, is keeping the moments of interaction brief. Again, that doesn’t mean avoiding two shots. It means using two shots more as a transition in the middle of news blocks, and less as a way to chat and possibly fill time in places like weather and sports. As the anchors get used to playing off each other, the chemistry often starts to jell. You just have to give it time and some gentle nudges.