CNN International shoots story featuring the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign
ABC staff members and cycling instructors spent 2 hours with CNN International reporter, Ralitsa Vassileva - pictured right speaking with our Executive Director, Rebecca Serna - shooting video and taping interviews for a story about how the American public is responding to rising gas prices, in part, by turning to bicycling as an alternate form of transportation and how ABC is helping people who want to do so overcome their doubts and learn to cycle confidently on city streets.
Update: It looks like the story will air Tuesday, May 6 with a re-broadcast over the weeked of May 10-11. The show, iReport for CNN, is carried on CNN International and is seen all over the world. In the U.S. go to Comcast channel #206.
The back story of how this all came together is interesting in and of itself.
It all started with an email that arrived via the website Bike Classes contact form 8 pm Tuesday night from Jessica Ellis.
I'm a producer with CNN International we are doing a story on high gas prices and how people are giving up their vehicles and opting to pedal around. I'd like to see if I can set up an interview, perhaps with an instructor, informing us the smart way to bike around a city.
I'd like to schedule something this week - preferably Thursday.
I re-read the email to make sure that I wasn't confused. After all, how often does a major news organization come knocking - unsolicited - on our electronic door? Then I got on the horn to Rebecca and board member and certified cycling instructor, Byron Rushing, to let them know about the emerging opportunity and to stake out their availability. The way I saw it, arrangements had to be nailed down by Wednesday afternoon or the possibility of being included would slip through our fingers.
[As I found out later, we weren't the first call Jessica had made in her efforts to put the pieces of the story together and my guess is, with a Thursday deadline looming, we would not necessarily have been the last.]
By late afternoon Wednesday the logistics of the shoot had been finalized and, thanks to Jessica, the scope of the story had expanded to include not only an interview with one of our instructors, but also a full-fledged group ride in the area around CNN Center during which our designated reporter, Ralitsa, would be shown the ropes by her posse of ABC cyclists. Très cool!
The shoot on Thursday turned out to be a lot of fun. The weather was beautiful, in fact unusually warm for mid-April, and the companionship was thoroughly enjoyable. It did not surprise me in the least that the CNN International crew was professional, but I was pleased at how excited they were to be involved in this production. I learned that filming outdoors from a golf cart weaving up and down Marietta Street was not part of their usual routine.
What particularly impressed me was how Ralitsa, designated to take on the part of hesitant commuter cyclist want-to-be, really inhabited her role. Her trepidation about biking in traffic was genuine which made her resulting enthusiasm about the prospect of becoming a regular cyclist that much more convincing. When Ralitsa interviewed us - Rebecca, Byron, Derek Roqumore (a WAWA leader and also an cycling instructor) and me (Marc Merlin) - she found a way of connecting personally with each of us, not only with regard to our opinions about bicycle commuting and safety concerns, but also about those personal experiences that brought us into cycling in the first place. I was amazed at how quickly she put each of us at ease and made our interviews feel much more like chats with a new found friend.
Although we'll have to wait and see what makes it on air and what is left in the cutting room floor, I believe that all the participants - both from CNN International and ABC - found the shoot itself to be a positive and rewarding experience.
Thank you Kim, Tim, Jessica and Ralitsa of CNN International!
(Take a look at some still shots from the shoot in this gallery.)