This is where the DJ talks, don’t say anything…”

Back in 1992 I saw a film called Feed at the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival), a film that IMDB succinctly describes like this:

This is a documentary about the 1992 New Hampshire primaries. It includes much footage of candidates as they meet people, and just before they go “on-air”.

It was a well-produced look into the moments just before the lights go on and candidates turned from regular everyday people like you and me into people who talk for a living professionally.

That’s a fascinating moment, one packed with nervous anticipation. Although I’ve never been a candidate for anything (at least not since I ran for grade 7 class president under the slogan “Vote Pete: He’s Neat!”), every time I speak in public requires going through that phase shift, from private to public. It’s like going through a wormhole.

And no matter how confident and prepared you are, focusing on that moment, as Feed did, provides some insight into the differences between private people and public people.

It’s a moment perhaps best encapsulated in popular culture by Bob and Doug McKenzie in their 1981 seminal recording of Great White North, a track that begins “This is where the DJ talks, don’t say anything… Ok, eh”

This weekend’s PC Party Leadership Convention provided another glimpse behind the curtain as the CBC Television web feed went to “air” seven minutes earlier than those at the anchor desk were aware of, something preserved in the video archive of the event. Host Bruce Rainnie is joined by guests Paul MacNeill and former premier Pat Binns and over those 7 minutes they have the kind of pre-broadcast chitchat that is at once mundane and deeply compelling. Here’s a transcript:

Paul MacNeill: …Pat?

Pat Binns: Yah, if you wouldn’t mind.

Paul: Do you wanna… have you seen it, Bruce?

Bruce Rainnie: I haven’t, no.

Bruce [to control]: Yah. Yah. Um hum.

Paul: Was it Pat Binns seven?

Pat: Yep.

Control [to Paul]: [indistinct]

Paul: Oh yah, kick it anywhere you want…

Paul: I hope that’s attached.

Paul: [indistinct]

Unknown: It was a good read today. [pause] It was a good read today.

Paul: Did you get that? Is the attachment there?

Pat: Uh, I don’t see the attachment. It’s probably here.

Paul: No, sometimes I have a problem with this. Just one sec.

Paul: Come on…

Bruce: Hey guys, um, CBC, Tracy’s printing out speeches, the three speeches, she’s gonna bring them over in paper form.

Paul: Oh is she, great.

Bruce: Five minutes, guys, five minutes. When we go live to the web.

Paul: That’s more notes than he used on last election night.

Bruce: Yah, these are just… yah. I’ve had a couple of nice conversations with all three. Just some personal stuff.

Bruce: Oh, oh.

Unknown: How are yah?

Bruce: Three minutes to the web, gentlemen.

Bruce: So we got, we got… [fade to silence]

Bruce: Guys, the plan here… [indistinct]

Bruce: Compton’s first, right?

At this point the lights go up, the theme music rolls, and the three become the public versions of themselves.

We are fortunate to have a CBC that is, at least for now, well-funded enough to be able to cover two political conventions in as many weeks (the Liberal Party held its convention the previous week and it received similar coverage).

It’s like it was sung by angels…