Into the Void

After driving one and a half hours through the monotonous, mind-erasing nothingness that is the Kansas countryside, I’ve finally made it to my destination: Emporia, KS. What, you may wonder, am I doing in this flat slab of Midwestern Americana? I’ll get to that, but here’s a hint–it’s not for vacation. (I tried to work in some fun, but the basketball gods were unkind.)

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At the outset of a work trip, I’m usually overcome with anxiety–case in point, I could barely sleep last night, as my mind refused to calm down. A feature shoot has so much potential for disaster and, for some self-abusive reason, I imagine these terrible possibilities in exquisite detail in the days leading up to the shoot. On the rare occasions that my fears have been realized, I just go with the flow and work with what I have. I’m a roll-with-what-you-get kind of producer in the moment, so I don’t know why I worry so much ahead of time.

Even so, past successes do nothing for you in the present. They remain in the past. Each new shoot brings fresh opportunities–along with the risk of squandering those opportunities. I usually approach each new feature with a strong idea of what it could be. My job is to ensure that the final product is as close to that vision as possible–by gathering all the perspectives the story needs, shooting in a unique, visually arresting style, and telling the narrative in an accurate, engaging way, all without misrepresenting those who graciously choose to speak with me. That’s a lot of spinning plates (people still do that, right?) that could hit the ground at any time.

Looking beyond my stress at the moment, I’m excited for the feature I’m working on this week. It’s another installment of Home Again, a series that follows drivers back to their childhood hometown, as they revisit the places and people that shaped their path to stardom. Since this is a feature I’ve done before, I have a little less anxiety than I would for a feature that I have to create from scratch. (If you’re interested, check out the previous Home Again’s starring Danica Patrick arm candy, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Nicest Guy in the World™, Justin Allgaier. I’m very proud of them and they’re some of my favorite features.)

The driver this time is last year’s runner up to the championship, Clint Bowyer. It should be fun, as he’s one of the sports quirkiest characters; I’d imagine the family he comes from to be just as…interesting. And who knows, he may show me this part of the country is more than just a really, really, really boring drive.

Now, if only I can get some sleep tonight…

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Author: Justin Blake Burnett

I'm a mediocre to slightly above average husband, a reader of cereal boxes, and a lover of Swiss Cake rolls. I'm also a feature producer for Fox Sports. I technically do sports stories, but the subject matter is usually all over the place, like me. I do other things, but they're not as interesting.

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