Newspaper Archive of
The Issaquah Press
Issaquah, Washington
March 9, 1983     The Issaquah Press
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March 9, 1983

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Pse 8 - The Issaquah Press, Wednesday, March 9, 1983 Cameraman James Watt films the world through amused eyes by Rodi Shemeta LudIum Don&apos;t bother teasing him about his name. He's heard all the James Watt jokes and he'll tell you a few you never heard. He gets a kick out of having the same name as the outrageous U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and with a mischievous grin, he'll insist he's successfully made collect phone calls in the secretary's name. lssaquah's James Watt is a cheerful, enthusiastic person who seems to get a kick out of everything. He's well- suited to his job as a cinematographer, which has taken him around the world with Henry Kissinger and to the bottom of the world with Hugh Downs. He's flown in presidential jets and wartime helicopters, caroused in bars in China and kiddie pizza joints in Colorado. And it's always fun, he says. If it's not, he'll make it fun  for himself as well as the au- dience who will look at the scenes he has recorded. "I think people want to be entertained,"he says. "1 like to be entertained. There's a lot of good, happy, in- teresting features out there, and some of the most spec- tacular sights you can im- agine." Consider the South Poke, for example. Watt spent two weeks there last December with ABC's Hugh Downs. His filming of scientist's research in one of the world's coldest and lonliest places will air Thursday, March l0 on the TV magazine "20/20". The 15 hours of tape he recorded will be edited into a 19-minute show. Watt was awed by Antarc- tica's towering mountains, glacier-carved valleys 200 miles wide and a massive ice fall a mile wide and several times higher than Niagara Falls. Standing at the pole, he said, you can actually see the curve of the earth's sur- face. In his filming, he tries to record the same kind of ex- citement he feels when he looks around at the scene of a story. "When we're in the field observing a piece of life, l want to record it in such a way that the people will feel they have been there -- or at least are looking at it through a window. "You're the eyes and ears of the TV viewer, but you have to be more than that too. They can't smell the odors, feel the rain, the cold, the sun's heat or the bugs. They can't feel the snow crunching under your feet. You have to witness what's going on and transmit the feeling that you have so peo- ple can understand it. And then you have to operate within the ethics of the news business -- you can't set anything up." He uses his intuition as his guide when he chooses the particular scenes to illustrate a story. Every story is dif- ferent, he says, and there's no way to plan ahead of time how you'll be filming. "I've never had a plan in my life," he admits with a laugh. Watt, 39, grew up in Kan- sas City, Missouri (four blocks away from Walter Cronkite's house, he later found out) and studied . economics in college until he grew bored with it. He took a job in the mailroom at a Kan- sas City TV station, WDEF, an NBC affiliate. He made friends in the news depart- ment and soon was helping develop film in the basement. Later, he was sent out to film stories for the news depart- ment, doing a little bit of everything around Kansas City. When NBC was look- ing for "young, stupid kids" to cover the war in Vietnam, Watt stepped forward and spent eight months riding a helicopter from fire flight to firefight "looking for the best action." "Covering the war was fun because there was a lot of ex- citement, but I wouldn't do it for a living. Now I value my skin too much," he said. He began working for NBC news out of Burbank, California and began a blitz of world travel. He went to China with President Nixon and later visited the country or. a round the world tour with Henry Kissinger. He went back to China several more times to film competi- tions in gymnastics, track and weight lifting. He even- tually learned enough Man- darin to get by, a skill that would prove useful during his forays off the beaten track. "One time we deemed we had to check out the night life in China," he recalls. "We hopped into a cab and told the driver to take us to the nearest bar and be quick about it. The bar owner was really excited to see a bunch of 'round eyes.' We were looking for beers, but all they had was an awfal Chinese li- queur that tasted like Keel Aid with a bite." Though they made an ex- haustive search of other bars in the area, by 5 a.m. they realized there was no beer to be found. It was just as well, because they had to start filming again at 7 a.m. It probably had nothing to do with his late hours, but James Watt in Issaquah, posing with his Labrador retriever Misty, "the world's smartest dog." while he was filming one se- Watt was filming at a quence of Chou En-lai, he diplomatic reception when slipped on the ice and fell Chou walked straight up to down. One year later, when him, grabbed his hand and Kissinger was visiting China, said, "Jim, it's so nice to see i Watt, left, and his sound man bundled up for filming at the South Pole. The master of historical t' "Did you know," he sa conspiratal tones, "tM! shootout at the OK taped will be featured March 10 on ABC's "20/20." you've come back to China ducks practically every day in and I hope you won't slip November," he sighs. But in and fall on the ice this year." the next breath he'll rattle off Watt also delights in the a mile-long list of memory of Kissinger's in- assignments he's finished didn't really happen at}fi formal chats with the press recently: the cyanide poison- OK Corral? No! It wasn, t" [ in front of C.S. Fly's ll\\; "= corps as they flew from court- ing case in Portland for the try to country in Lyndon "Today Show"; out to shop -- and C.S.  Johnson's old Air Force Jackson Hole, Wyoming for there! He was out sh0|ll One. During one of Kiss- a feature on author Marry IndiansV' I.,_ inger's chats, Watt asked him Murray; to Yellowstone for a Askecl what his next =ll to sign his passport on the pictoral on the park in ject would be, Watt's'.l page where the secretary of winter; to Colorado for a talkie telephone sud0] state affirms the person is a story on the man who buzzed from inside his k U.S. citizen in good stan- brought the Canada geese sack. "I don't knoW, i ding. back to Fort Collins and to said, "maybe I'll find[ Kissinger was delighted to Denver for a feature on rightnow." | sign it and rebuked the rest of pizza-and-video family the press corps: "See you restaurants. Most recently he Whatever it is, it'll be] bozos, this young guy knows did three days of filming for His only-go-around'Lo oft" how to treatme!" the Chinatown massacre philosophy makes jr   Watt's travels also. took story for NBCNews. plunge into his surround] him up and down the west with delight. Recalling Si coast and when he became a He also produces a series ride he took ar0 %0 [ freelancer, he decided to of short features for the Shanghai that ended uPp,, move to one of his favorite Public Broadcasting System his return in a hay'fil ] Thanks to you, Washington's There's also a areas -- the northwest, He's called "The American Fron- three-wheel truck, Wait I  first Instant Lottery Game (meable contribu-  x'.'".  [ lived in the Pine Lake tier," .narrated by Merlin "You have to try and glll Plateau area on S.E. 28th for Olson. The show takes him much as you can o6(],i t T', T was " .m. "bly suc-- tion  it h re,- 7 I the past five years, playing wherever his hcart'desires, place. Who knoWS?r--" I) ,, tennis and kicking around in and he tries to put at least might get hit by a fr' , '' , . ,SO__help ". " .,/ ] the woods when business is three ,l-dldn t-know-that, train the next day. YoU' 1 I 1 L bnngmg more than ' " ' ," ' J $20, i(,O00 Into our   I" slow. into each piece. The research really steamed if you dJ '(=a="'=l I0011 IM00II AndState Snow,Gener.alw]thFUnd.an  "./ple like .., played tennis and shot has turned him into a grand take that bus ride." I I0000111 I equaUy s00ccess00 -,er- and second game, we /x.o "" . -'/theblind.Beuse  " i _=-,.1 expect to double ,, .--v. what comes into the I nlY('Ilt]_ those funds, a General Fund goes right hN( ] .." .. - ." What   ...a,. 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I wentThatto waSDiet Center.'befre' I _..,,,,,, fun..dir, for our state .treat goes z m = :::i :i I i '1 went every day to see my Diet Center I #, librari, into a  ..zeX_. : :' ' : doing and gave me encouragement every step I The General Fund deaner, m i:; <' . Counselor. She really knew what she was :41 of the way. And the weekly seminars taught I ,1 also contributes strorg.er, kV - l-- m " me how to cope with my changing I \\;),= .--('" to our hMthi   oiom,ot .,,. **e_.__er = w,=,oo0,,o = __  ." natxtral Washington. Ferourves, our  grocery store and how to prepare them. You  nutrition.., using natural foods. Tlaere are no resources-- cl00dren and their.children. == .. t.,s p,o00,a00 .. 00a.d o..o00.0 .x-x,, (/i -  urP. ington." Sokeep followlng the fun, Wash- when you """ == shtsrdrugsttake'lwasreallyrelievedabut that. if" - \\;\== ,1 EIX,,=h-. r ..tion; everyone wins. m  ooo,. and ,hey s,o,eO me ,ow ,o eep, , k 'L .  Off too. That was two years ago. 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