One-man-band video journo

LOCAL Gumbaynggirr man Kris Flanders is one of a new breed of TV professionals; a VJ.

That's a “video journalist”, the one-man-band brand of reporter who chases stories for SBS TV's indigenous current affairs program Living Black.

Kris goes armed with a tripod, video camera, microphone and loads of questions.

With a Coffs Harbour-born mother and father from Bellingen, Kris recalls many happy school holidays staying at 'Nan's place' on Coffs Creek and this week was home for a brief visit while working on a story in Nambucca.

At 19, Kris dreamed of being in the media but without any qualifications he felt sure it was beyond him.

But an advertisement in the Koori Mail changed all that.

“It was 1997 and SBS was just starting their indigenous unit - there were heaps of jobs going so I put in an application as a production assistant.

“The timing was perfect.

“They gave me a two-year cadetship and I learnt everything on the job.

“The camera and sound guys were fantastic, helping, guiding me.

“I learnt heaps from them - but also heaps about their lives.

“There were guys from all parts of the world - Polish, Chinese. Working at SBS you learn so much about other cultures.”

In 2004 a restructure saw what had been three jobs rolled into one and the advent of the VJ.

Suddenly Kris was on his own.

“It was a big shock. I had to think about sound, light, camera angles plus ask questions.

“Audio was the toughest at the start but the challenge was good for me.”

Kris said the hardest story he ever did was on petrol sniffing in Cherbourg, Queensland.

“I told myself to brace myself … but when I actually saw two young girls, clearly affected, one still holding a bottle, I felt sick,” he said. “I just wanted to grab the bottle off them. Instead I filmed them in the hope the powerful image would send the message that our kids are dying.”

It's not all bad though and Kris says there are a lot of uplifting stories to tell.

“Thanks to SBS and the ABC we get to tell plenty of positive stories.

“The mainstream media barely picks up any indigenous stuff unless it's really terrible.”

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