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Keeping Your Cool is the Name of the Game

by Tom Liebmann, CLVS

As a Certified Legal Video Specialist, we have all encountered at least one unfriendly person in attendance at a deposition. In some cases the unfriendliness turns to hostility directed to you simply because you were hired by an opposing side. The hostile party might resort to sabotage or bullying to express displeasure over the presence of a camera, and relying on our professionalism to remain cool and objective is necessary in order to guide the deposition to completion.

Having one party unhappy with your presence makes for tricky taping, but imagine if you showed up for a job and 100 people were unhappy to see you and a camera. Such was the case for me a few years back when I accepted work from an attorney to videotape a township meeting.

I was professional from the start. I alerted the township that I would be arriving before the start of the meeting to choose the best spot, set up and lay cables before the public arrived. My client represented a developer who had filed a lawsuit challenging the township's zoning codes. He wanted me there in addition to a court reporter because the videotape would accurately record the tone of the discussions.

The room was filled and the meeting started. Soon, my client and a township supervisor began arguing. I was recording and tucked out of the way, but it became harder to blend into the woodwork when I realized the harsh words were concerning the camera and me. The supervisor said my presence was an attempt to intimidate and harass the crowd, and he insisted that I unplug the camera because I was stealing electricity from the township. My client insisted that unplugging the camera would violate state "sunshine" laws. The crowd, which had packed the room to object to a proposed shopping center, started to rumble as the bickering continued. "Unplug it!" a majority yelled. I tried to look to my client for direction, but he was involved with arguing his case.

I remained cool and continued taping. At one point the supervisor asked someone to call the fire marshal to see if the camera could be removed as a fire hazard. I remained calm, with the camera rolling, and when my client's offer to pay for the electricity was refused, he directed me to unplug, which I did, but then I made him very happy when I pulled from my video kit a night's worth of battery power.

The meeting continued, the township had no argument, and my client got an accurate recording of the proceedings. My professionalism paid off, and I was eventually hired to videotape the rest of the meetings which lasted one year.