FIRST: I’ll leave out my political commentary since this is simply a story about the time I met the next President of the United States.
Phone rings at 8:30 Tuesday morning.
If you can get to Colorado Springs within the next two hours,
you can have an interview with Donald J. Trump.
I had just walked into work and was sitting at my desk clicking through the emails that had trickled in since 5 o’clock the night before. I heard my boss take the call and was already packing the gear by the time he hung up. We work in the suburbs, two hours north of the rally happening that day in Colorado Springs. We had been in communication with both campaign communicaiton offices for the past year trying to work out a time to do an interview.
In the 350+ interviews with heads of state, Presidents of foreign countries and celebrities I’ve produced in the last 4 years, this one was a shock to even me. Meeting a presidential candidate is really exciting. The pomp and circumstance, the anticpation, the posse of support staff is a spectacle in and of itself.
Whenever you have interactions with someone of notoriety I find that they’ll either be very warm and convesational, or very distracted and anxious to get to their next appointment. Famous people tend to be very busy people whose schedules barely allow time to eat and sleep. I always view guests’ time allottment to be on show as a generous donation of their most precious resource.
I assumed that Mr. Trump would be in the latter, more distracted, category. He’s about to give a speech at the first of three rallys of the day, after he finishes our interview and the two interviews after us.
Leading up to the interview I arrived at the venue, kind of a horse arena in Colorado Springs with my 4 bags of camera gear. Secret service went through all the bags and then released me to the media stands in the mid-back of the arena. The ground had been packed down and covered in faux grass for the event, but was still a little uneven from being trod upon daily by horses. I found the Trump campaign Colorado communications contact and asked to see the interview area. I was led with my crew to the area behind the black stage curtain. Instead of a well lit, quiet room I found that the interview area was merely a black curtained off 20’x20′ cube on the same unever dirt directly behind the stage. My disappointment at this was great. Keeping audio clean would be virtually impossible and adequately lighting the interview almost impossible. We spent the next hour working with the Trump communications team at the arena about the cameras we’d be allowed to use, the time we’d have to set up, and the status of Mr. Trump’s flight. We were to be granted the first interview, meaning we could set up our cameras a few minutes before he arrived. This welcome news to me. I prefer to have hours of time to set up the chairs, adjust the lighting and fine tune the background. Here, for our most important interview of the year, I would have a few minutes to get everything perfect. We were shown the tape line where Mr. Trump would stand and where Aaron would stand. Set our cameras up, focused the shot, got the mics ready and then were given the 15 minute warning.
“Where is your mic?” – staffer
“Here.” I replied and showed my wireless lav.
“No. You have to use a stick.” – staffer
I had less than 15 minutes to run out of the secured area (that hopefully I could re-enter) through the parking lot, rumage though the gear I left in the trunk to find the stick mic and run back in.
I tapped the shoulder of the cop at the back-stage entrance, “Hey, I have to go get some gear. Will you let me back through in a minute?”
“Sure thing! I’ll remember you.” He tapped my back and smiled.
Needless to say, I made it back with the correct mic with a minute to spare.
“Okay, he’s here.” someone said.
All heads turned to the door (gap in the curtains) in anticipation. I made one last double check-glance around the room at the gear making sure everything was ready to go.
He was wearing a bright red and white stripped tie. He looked different in person than I expected. Much more normal skin tone, very normal hair and an absolutely KILLER smile. He was ushered in by his staff to his spot in front of our cameras as he warmly greeted all of our crew members.
I’ll let you judge for yourself how well the interview went…
Once we wrapped I started picking up the cameras. We had to clear the area quickly so that the next crew could get in and set up their shot. One of our crew members asked to get a photo and before I could get out of the room Mr. Trump looked to me and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to have a picture?” He additionally offered a photo to our intern and then we were out.
I was so surprised! No one else on that level that we’ve interviewed has offered photos to anyone. Usually you have to ask, and then you’re given a sigh, “Okay.” Or told that they have to get to their next appointment and don’t have time. So, as you can see up top, I met the next president (which we didn’t know at the time) and got a picture with him (to prove it!)
I actually found out that he won at 4 am the day after the election by seeing multiple texts on my phone from late the night before saying, “You have a picture with the President!”