“Hey, let me give you a hand with that there,” says Germany’s Deputy Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries with a smile to a German TV camera crew struggling to get the lighting right in a tricky environment in a Berlin subway station. The veteran German politician, one of the most experienced stalwarts in the current grand coalition government, demonstrates her likable down-to-earth style in the Berlin underground by offering to help the camera crew get their settings right in the dramatically changed conditions.
It’s a tricky business for camera crews when the lighting conditions change from daylight to artificial light and the video cameras need color matching. The so-called “white balance” means the light’s temperature needs to be adjusted and TV cameras are unable to do what our brains do automatically. Despite all the bits and bytes the camera has to be “reminded” that the white in front of the lens is white and the cameraman needs to briefly refocus his camera on a piece of white paper or something white.
Brigitte Zypries watches the crew hectically scrambling to adjust their lens. She has been near and at the pinnacle of politics in Germany since 1985 for her centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) party. She held several high state offices before being “promoted” in 1998 to the federal government under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as a highly able Deputy Interior Minister. Four years later after the 2002 election she was appointed Justice Minister by Schroeder and served in that capacity for seven years until 2009. She cut an impressive figure as one of the opposition leaders in parliament for the ensuing four years, winning her constituency in the 2013 election. And when the SPD got back into power in 2013 in a grand coalition, Zypries was called back into government again and she has played a pivotal role as Deputy Economy Minister — one of the coalition’s most important ministries.
Brigitte Zypries had memorable battles with tough-minded law-and-order interior ministers such as Otto Schily from her own SPD party and conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble. Zypries always seemed to be in good standing with Schroeder. She stood up and debated with leaders from China and Russia, among others. She has always worked hard and knows hard work can help resolve or at least alleviate almost any problem that arises.
But on this morning in the subway station she realizes the camera crew is still struggling to get the camera settings right. No one, it seems, has brought a piece of white paper along to refocus the camera and the camera assistant looks anguished as she searches in vain through bags and backpacks for a piece of white paper. And there is nothing else white to focus on in this grey subway train.
Zypries is the subject of this film episode but isn’t too important to try to help find a solution to the problem. She taps her chest and looks down at her white T-shirt under her blazer and says: “Here is something that’s very lily-white. Maybe this will work?”
She opens the blazer and sure enough her top is perfectly white — just what the camera needs to adjust. So the camera crew steps closer to her and zoom their lenses in on her T-shirt from close range.
The camera crew heaves a sigh of relief and several subway passengers standing nearby look on in disbelief as the woman who is arguably the country’s most relaxed politician has just saved the day.