Spoiler alert: ’That’s a moment when the camera needs to be locked on me’

A glimpse into Justin Trudeau’s impressive instinct for the camera
Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wears a team Canada Olympic jacket as he arrives at the party’s biennial convention Thursday, February 20, 2014 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Ryan Remiorz/CP
Ryan Remiorz/CP

Justin Trudeau’s knack for selling his message is his undisputed strong suit as a politician, and this evening in Montréal, where Liberals are gathering for a three-day policy convention, a technical mix-up while he was practicing a big speech he’ll be delivering later this evening offered a unique, unfiltered glimpse of his expert attention to every detail of a moment in the spotlight.

Liberal operatives cleared journalists out of the main hall at the Palais des congrés convention centre here to give Trudeau and his team a chance to run through the speech he is slated to give at 7 p.m. But an audio feed, and sometimes video, of his practice session was mistakenly piped into the room set aside for media just down the hall.

So a handful of rapt reporters listened in as Trudeau not only read the main speech, but also rehearsed a planned phone call from the podium to his wife, Sophie, who isn’t attending the event because she’s expecting to give birth to their third child any day. Other than the unsurprising, but still fascinating, look at how that sort of pretend-spontaneous moment is, in fact, meticulously staged, nothing Trudeau said seems likely to be embarrassing.

Still, one telling moment as he read his text stood out. After a passage where he took aim first at Quebec’s Parti Québécois government, and then at the federal Conservatives and New Democrats—remarking that he had no interest in stirring up “anger” like Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair—Trudeau paused to give clear and precise directions to the Liberal production crew running the cameras.

Like a seasoned director, he specified that he needed a camera aimed straight at his face at that precise moment, since he planned to stare straight into the lens for full effect. Here is tape of that moment. Listen and you’ll hear as Trudeau’s familiar, rhetorical, public cadence breaks off, and the matter-of-fact, more private voice of a practiced on-camera personality clicks in, as he explains when he needs the camera “locked” on him.