Not so easy. Still, it’s leagues easier to be face-to-face than it is to conduct interviews by Skype, as I had to do during the first season of AfterShark. With Skype, the person being interviewed can’t see you. They’re instructed to stare at their webcam so that they don’t end up looking shifty on camera, and that eliminates all the normal body language and visual clues that normally pass in a conversation that let a person know who’s about to speak next. After one segment published last year, a reader wrote in to bitterly complain that I interrupted my guest too much. I wanted to reply that he never heard me clearing my throat and starting to speak, so I had no choice if I wanted to be able to ask more than a single, monologue-starting question. But I didn’t reply to the reader to say that. I let them have their say. See? Not an interrupter by nature.
For season two, I thought it was crucial for me to be mindful of how these entrepreneurs were feeling. Most of them had flown in from other parts of the country to pitch the Sharks. Most of them had never been on TV before.
So I was obsessed with not being too cavalier or challenging. I never wanted to give anyone a hint about how to pitch, so to get around that, I’d ask if they had seen the show before. I was also keenly aware that my questions should not be too leading, lest I cause them to second-guess themselves and throw off their game plan at the last minute. These people were potentially at a crossroads in their lives.
The last thing I wanted to do was change the outcome by rocking their boats and being and ass. I respect the production, and these people, far too much to risk that. Consequently, there are a lot of “Which Shark are you targeting” and “How much of your own money have you put into this so far” questions.
You’d think that after all the Shark Tank interviews I’ve done that I’d be able to predict the winners. Not a chance. In some of my chats, I can read my own face: “Oh, boy. This one’s a dud. Treat him/her gently.” And many times, I was dead wrong with my faulty first impressions. It takes the dissection of the business plan and balance sheet by the Sharks to determine the success stories. I can, though, usually spot the ones who are going to cry, and I go even easier.
Now and then, as with HillBilly Brand and SweepEasy, I got to talk to them after they came out of the Tank, so I knew how they did. So there’s a mix of pre- and post-Tank interviews, which is fun.
We grabbed chats wherever we could in the alleys and streets of Sony Pictures Studios. Later, we found out that even though we had permission, apparently we weren’t really supposed to be doing it, so this is a rare thing to see. Now and then, you’ll see a golf cart zip by. It was a quiet day on the lot, with Mr. Sunshine shut down, Wheel of Fortune out of town, and Spider-Man gearing up but not yet shooting.
I actually did many more interviews than you’ll ever see — some really fun ones about great products, and one shot in the “stew room” that the entrepreneurs sit in before they head to the soundstage next door and into the Tank — but you won’t be seeing them anytime soon, if at all, because their segments haven’t run yet. They shoot many more pitches than they have time to air. There are a lot of reasons a segment could be shot but not scheduled. It may not be entertaining, or there could potentially be a legal issue, or the whole episode could get bumped. (That’s what happened with the THINgloss episode that finally ran in mid-April; it was supposed to run in the second set of shows for season one, but the Haiti telethon bumped it for more than a year.)
You’ll also notice the flag of a website I used to work for on the microphone. It’s there because when we shot these segments, they were originally going to publish there, but its recent merger changed its editorial production practices, so my creation, AfterShark, is back with me for this season. Next time, it’ll probably be in a third place. Such is the modern media. Even Friday Night Lights bounced around.
Here are a few of my favorite pre- and post-show interviews from Season Two:
This is the creator of Onesole Shoes, a clever and inexpensive way to give a single pair of shoes a wide variety of looks. She’s a pharmacist from Florida. My videographer, Ken Shadford, felt terrible about accidentally having the dumpster behind her head in the first section of this video, because she’s such a great lady, but we corrected her dumpster head by the time it was over.
This is my most popular one. [A month later: The one you just saw has surpassed this one.] Probably because the owner of SweepEasy had such a spectacular success in the Tank, his video has more than four times as many views as any of the other entrepreneurs I interviewed.
Next we have the unforgettable Aldo Orta, a Mexican-born jewelry designer. One thing you’d never know (but might guess) from this interview was his, shall we say, dramatic use of cologne. I think that’s actually a good strategy. Swaddle yourself in a smell you love and it’s like showing up in front of the Tanks in armor. Smell has a powerful effect on the emotions and on your nerves. The well-lotioned Aldo certainly had confidence in his brand.
I had fun shooting this one, for a cleaning product called PureAyre (hey — are Shark Tank entrepreneurs allergic to spaces in their product names?). The inventor kept waving an ammonia-sprayed tissue in my face during his eager product demonstration. I got some good cracks in (“a frat house” is my favorite) while still allowing him to say what he wanted to get out.
There are tons more, including my segments from season one, on YouTube under my channel, Bastablejc. Click here, on my YouTube channel home page, and scroll down the column to the right to see the full list of my videos.