Behind the scenes: Tracking CEOs, a noisy fan and undercover voice-overs
By Cheng Lei

I had never wanted to be a bird so much. It was past 6 on Thursday evening in thick Da Nang traffic. I was late, possibly delusional after a day of crossed wires, missed windows, waiting on blocked roads, fighting the urge to punch walls, sweat and rain in my hair, grease on my face, phone dying… lugging the reporting soldier’s kit. I was a few kilometers from the Con Market – where my crew and sidekick Angela were waiting for me to join the foodie tour live-streaming. I longed for the pedicabs of Beijing. When I quit the car to walk, it started pouring.

An hour ago I had been pacing the floors of a meeting room at Ariyana Convention Center – action central for the APEC CEO Summit, trying to solve the biggest problem standing between myself and the deadline – a fan.

Being in the field requires creative solutions. Here, the voice-over is being recorded from under a bathrobe. /Photo provided by CGTN's Cheng Lei

The sloth-like hotel engineers had no interest in solving our problem. To ordinary people, the fan sound was light, but to a sensitive TV microphone, it was thunderous.

My interviewee, Airbnb Co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, the Harvard educated billionaire with a smile that's just losing its boyishness but still disarmingly wide, turned to his engineering roots. Using a camera tripod, he stood on a chair to try turn the fan off. When that didn’t reach the switch, we piled another chair on for him to stand on and joked that Airbnb better have insurance.

Airbnb Co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk tried to turn the fan off using a camera tripod. /Photo provided by CGTN's Cheng Lei

Another memorable smile was from Nicolas Aguzin, JP Morgan’s Asia Pacific CEO, it was Tom Cruise-esque and flashed extra brightly when I asked him to test audio and he counted… one two three… I joked it was reassuring that a senior executive at America’s largest bank could count to eight.

JP Morgan’s Asia Pacific CEO Nicolas Aguzin's (left) smile was somewhat Tom Cruise-esque. /Photo provided by CGTN's Cheng Lei

The CEO of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer – now known as the man who wrote the “China Won” cover story for Time magazine, emailed me minutes before we were to go live: “I’m at the convention center and can’t get to the media center.”

This led to a great deal of shuffling around – Angela went to fetch him in a car, satellite times pushed back and plan B was to have me go solo. 

The car got stuck in a road block to welcome a president, we prayed and watched the time slip by. He arrived with just thirty seconds before Beijing studio cut to me. In TV, there is no “it almost worked”, no points for hardship if you don’t get on air.

Eurasia Group CEO Ian Bremmer (right) is known as the man who wrote the “China Won” cover story for Time magazine. /Photo provided by CGTN's Cheng Lei

Being in the field requires creative solutions. Thursday morning I was doing voice-overs from under a bathrobe laden with towels, sweating as the air conditioner had to be off.

Friday morning I upgraded to crawling under a conference table on the top floor of the media center so the voice was noise-free and relatively non-echoey.

The days always start out ordinarily, the schedule clean and neat, an ideal of logistics and luck. Then like dominoes, one change precipitates another, sinking hearts and warping minds, till the plan is torn up and thrown out. But we bite back screams and all pitch in to weave together an alternative, then when it works, hearts swell, the darkness clears – and then, “When is the next broadcast?”