Thursday, 16 December 2010

Happy Christmas.... Now Pay Up.

You know it's coming. The dates are correct and the Government doesn't like to be kept waiting. Only this year the dates have been changed to make you pay the Corporation Tax by the 1 January. That's right, the miserable shithouses at the Inland Revenue make us poor schlubs pay large bills just when Christmas time has ended, and at a time of year that is traditionally quiet for us freelancers in the already crumbling industry of freelance news camera operators.

Christ on a bike.......!!

Don't worry though, i'm a sensible sort who squirrels away his hard earned money for such days as these. I resisted blowing it all on a new flat screen HD, 1080i super duper tellybox, so i could watch the news now filmed by wobbly VJ's. No. I diligently put some aside to pay the pinstriped suits of Her Majesties Inland Revenue, (God bless 'em) for i would not like the banks to go under, MP's to be deprived of a good Port at Westminster, or the public sector to go without.

I know that my Taxes need to be paid, it's just a shame that some of the larger corporations that trade on these shores are not so forthcoming. I'm sure that my couple of grand will find it's way to fixing a pothole in the road, renovating the school bike shed or paying for the biscuits and coffee at the next state visit of some overbearing autocrat from a country i wouldn't want to visit, unless there was a coup.

My piss poor contribution to the wellness of this great nation may not amount to a large hill of beans, but i pay my way and i do my bit. Should the man from the revenue be reading, or even the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, Mr George Osborne, (Hey, you never know) please get to grips with the Billionaires and large corporations who actively avoid paying their dues by having an office or a wife in Monaco, thereby missing out on a chance for their money to be used in the filling of a rather large national pothole.

I thank you.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Rule Britannia... No money returned.

It's not every day that you get to witness another small part of your country's military decline. But that is what i did yesterday as i filmed the homecoming of HMS Ark Royal, the only ship capable of carrying and launching fixed wing aircraft from the UK's once mighty fleet. In a short sighted and swift decision the UK Government decided to scrap our only aircraft carrier due to our nations straightened circumstances. Basically we can no longer afford it.

As the ship slipped quietly into Portsmouth Naval Base for the last time, it seemed fitting that she was shrouded in fog and sea mist, lest the rest of the world see what, in my opinion, is a very short sighted error, which in today's world of small wars, localised conflict and occasional disasters, may come to haunt our current governments decision.

As i filmed for Channel 4 News and the ITV Networks, i couldn't help feel a sense of sorrow for those aboard such a great warship that could have served for many more years to come. I myself served aboard HMS Ark Royal during my time in the Army and have great memories and photo's of my time serving alongside the Royal Navy. So the day had a double meaning for me personally.

Me aboard HMS Ark Royal. 1991. (Rear row, centre)

I know, good looking, rugged chap wasn't i ...? Those were the days though, single and travelling the world, meeting interesting new people and places... and nicking their country. Ah, back when the British had an empire and Britannia ruled the waves.

But those days are long gone, along with my hairline, and sleek muscled, toned body. Still, at least our government hasn't decommissioned me.... Yet.

So here is the film that Channel 4 fashioned from my days labour. A fine effort, even if i do say so myself, but i can't help thinking that i may have been a witness to just a little less of Great Britain than when i woke up that morning.

Rule Britannia... and God save the Queen in full chorus.

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Sunny Autumn Day.... Brings Tears To The Eyes.

Standing at the Thames riverside with the Autumn sun shining is a great way to start the working day. The ripples of the Thames reflect the dappled light to the Autumn leaves and moored pleasure boats along the pathway. Together with the sound of rushing water over the nearby lock, it evokes a pleasant and idyllic scene.

I soon spot the men in a boat, drifting lazily across the river, staring intently over the gentle scene. Walkers who have stopped to take in the sights and stand in the warm sun. I can see a man and a woman sitting on the grass next to the river, arm in arm, giving each other a gentle hug as they watch the passing boat in the water....

So you think i am trying my hand at writing a romantic novel? Describing the scene as two lovers sit in an idyllic landscape, as i write the words to a resounding romantic crescendo? Maybe i am here to film the beautiful surroundings for a soft news item about the pleasures of living by the river in outer London...?

Well, No. As the scene unfolded in front of me, i can see that the men in the boat are wearing Police and rescue services uniforms, and that the boat has a blue flashing light. They are staring into the water, not across it. The walkers taking in the sun are concerned passers by, the usual crowd who stop to see what is going on. The rushing waters of the lock contain Police divers on a search for the body of a man whose Mother and Father sit on the riverbank, arm in arm, giving each other gentle hugs, as tears stream from their faces as they wait for the inevitable, tragic outcome of the searching that is taking place directly in front of them.... Listening for the shout out that the Police finally have their man.

So i stand there, with my camera on my tripod as i roll on yet another story that on the face of it, looks like a normal Autumn day by the river Thames. But as is all too often in the news cameraman's life, i roll tape on another family's tragedy, on the working lives of those who look for the dead and take notes for the coroner. I roll tape on a Mother and Fathers worst day which is taking shape not 20 yards away in front of me, and i roll tape on the grim faces of the men and women who stand and stare....

This, by the way, is the end of the story which started the day before. Two men, walking their dog beside the river, stopped as the dog jumped in and couldn't get out. One man went in after the dog, but he himself soon became trapped by the swirling river currents. His friend went in after him and he too, soon got into difficulties. The bodies of both men have now been recovered, into the care of the families who now have funerals to plan.

The dog got out on it's own.

Friday, 15 October 2010

How A Freelancer Really Gets The Work.

The picture below is of my business card drawer. I guess all freelancers have one, a place to put all the little fernickity pieces of contact information that people thrust at you from time to time. My drawer is now pretty much full and anyway, really important contacts are in my big book of contacts and on my computer. Triple logged and stored in case something nasty happens.

Contacts... never discarded.

So why do i tell you this? Well lately, things have been a little slow on the freelance news cameraman work front. Broadcasters are hoarding their money for the tough times yet to come and us freelancers are the first to get it in the neck.

So it was a ray of sunshine when a cameraman friend of mine called to see if i could cover a documentary shoot for a crewing company working for a major production company. He couldn't do it and they were pretty desperate to get a man on the ground as time was critical.

You see, this is what the freelance camera world is all about. one bloke who knows another, who passes on the details to someone else, in order that they can work for another company. Three, sometimes four levels of contact hot swapping saw the job come my way, resulting in three or more gladly received days of work for a major outfit, on a filming job that turned out to be a pleasure to work on. So not only do i now have four more work contacts in my book, i am known to two more people in a position to hire cameramen for their services. All thanks to a mate of mine who i am normally competing with on the ground to get the best pictures for our respective news outlets.

So next time i'm on the road and we meet, i shall be a little gentler with my sharpened elbows in the press pack, and try to avoid setting up shop in front of his tripod, just for the hell of it. Hell, i might even buy him a coffee.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

That Reminds Me...

Having just pixelated my brain on the interweb looking at all sorts of rubbish like short films that quality passed by, regurgitated articles with piss poor photography and so called news items that just had to include a celebrity, i was really thankful to Christian Parkinson for tweeting a link to the blog pages of someone i knew of, but have never met.

Greg Marinovich is a photographer that some of you will know, and some of you will not. If you don't know him, you are maybe a little too young to know of his exploits in Africa and other parts of the world, resulting in a book called The Bang Bang Club, co written with fellow photographer Joao Silva. So exited was i at seeing the link, i dug out my 9 year old copy of the book and reminded myself of the journey that Greg and his fellow photographers took through the Township wars of South Africa in the early 1990's.

Found it.....
I remembered reading the book the first time around, so hooked into the story that i read the book in a day. Yes, it's an old book now, read by anyone who was around at the time who had an interest in photography, news, and what it took to get the stories and the pictures out to a wider world. But that was not the story that gripped me. Anyone who has even an inkling that they would like to get into this line of work should read this book, not just for the stories of how they went about their work, but for the human misery, death and innocence lost, not only of the people of the townships of South Africa, but also the photographers themselves.

An old book, but still very relevant to the world today.

This post isn't meant to be a book review. I am many years too late. And i will not go into what happens to the members of the bang bang club, for it is a story best told by the authors, and the conclusions best left to your imaginations. But i tell you this... you will read a book that is both thoughtful and yet savage. It will churn you up inside and give your brain and your conscience something to think about weeks after you have read it, even now, so many years after the events themselves.

So for now, i am going to turn off my computer and my mobile phone, and get to grips again with a real piece of substance that is still relevant in todays world.  I urge you to do the same.

Paul Martin

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Celebrity Journalists. The Future Of Journalism ....?

It has been reported today in the Daily Mirror Online HERE that Lord John Prescott, formerly the Labour Party Deputy Prime Minister, English language specialist and secretarial swordsman, has been hired as a "Journalist" on the ITV Morning show, Daybreak.

Having read the quotes in the Mirror online, he says it will be the first time at a Labour Party conference as a journalist. First and foremost John Prescott is not a journalist, and nowhere near ever being one. I am appalled at the way the term journalist is bandied about as if anyone can be one all of a sudden. Especially a Political journalist, where tact, patience, in depth knowledge of the subject ( from a journalism point of view ) and hard work are the prerequisites of the trade.

Secondly, should he be attending the conference with journalist credentials, i hope that he is treated in the same manner as the TV, Press and Radio journalists and technicians at the conference, and wait in line for the interviews, deal with the PR lackeys and generally get pissed around like the rest of them. I would imagine that he will be taking off his press pass and reverting to Lord Prescott at the drop of a nobleman's hat, and his pathway to important people paved with sycophants and arse lickers the like of which the rest of us deal with on a day to day basis, with no interview at the end of it.

Interesting point here ... Will he have spent the previous evening researching his subject or interviewee? Will he be taking his camera crew cups of tea with sticky buns, writing down his journalistic machinations for future reference, taking notes and worrying about the edit and timings for his live slot? Dealing with his Producer and live Director? Or will he turn up with 10 minutes to go, grin for the camera, do the unbiased, probing interview with rapier like journalistic integrity, and then piss off, having reverted to his nobleness and hobnob with the very people he was just interviewing for the morning news? 

I think i know which...

So don't worry all of you journalists out there who have worked hard and learned your trade from the bottom up. His Lordship has it covered. The unbiased gossip and stories from a potential future Labour Government at the Labour Party conference, are being covered by Labour Party Peer Lord John Prescott.

Here's a thought. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone is out of work at the moment. Can he have a go on the camera? Tony Blair as the soundman...?

May the Lord have mercy on our jobs.

Paul Martin.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The News Monkey Strikes.

There is evil lurking in my house. A killer so dastardly i don't want to think about it. In the wee small hours, chaos can reign. when i sleep the sleep of a news cameraman, dribbling, farting and snoring, things tend to go awry. As i sleep, and dream cute cuddly furry animal stories, the news monkey, dressed as the grim reaper, goes on his mission.

I should explain. The news monkey is, you see, my sons stuffed monkey, who sits on the couch in his bedroom, day after day, doing not a lot but watching the daily goings on in our family home. But i think differently. At night he comes to life. For I can see a glint in his eye, and a look that says ...

"I'm gonna make you work. I'm gonna make you get up so early you will think that you never got to sleep ... Ha Ha Ha......" 

News monkey ... evil personified.

I have a theory about this. I believe he is a news monkey, a rare sort of Jekyll and Hyde character, who stalks the land at night, in search of drunks, bad drivers, gang members and idiots. He will wait, biding his time until the drunk gets home, and decides on a bit of toast. The news monkey sings a gentle lullaby to the drunk and as a result of falling asleep, burns his house down... with him in it, while the news monkey slips quietly out the back door, sniggering to himself at a job well done... or medium to well done in this case.

He is truly a bastard. The news monkey makes seemingly ordinary folk do stupid things in return for a breakfast news item. He makes tired travelling salesmen fall asleep at the wheel, whispering to them "Don't stop at this rest area, there's a better one with a Starbucks 30 miles on..." causing chaos to morning rush hour traffic following the resulting pile up.

The news monkey has reportedly been seen by crazed killers creeping away from murder scenes in the dead of night, having supplied the weapon to do the dirty deed of murder, all the while whispering into the suspects ear... "Go on ... Do it! Tell 'em i gave it to you.... you will only get manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility... honest"

Or... take the time he appeared on a street corner, in a hooded top, selling rat poison contaminated heroin to smack heads, who are found next morning in the local park, drowned in their own vomit, still clutching a can of super strength lager and a rolled up cigarette, and a vacant look that says ... "I trusted that f**king monkey"

Beware, for the news monkey can turn up at any time of night, anywhere that he pleases, with a vile intent on making the morning news bulletin from your stupidity or damn bad luck. Don't walk home drunk, for the news monkey will be driving the snow plough as you stagger across the road. He is the burglar who enters the empty school at night and lights a match, and he is the lone gunman on the grassy knoll that nobody ever saw. Evil indeed.

Look closer ... You can see the evil in his eyes.

Trust me. I've lived with this monkey for 11 years, and he still sits there with the same look on his face. But inside i know beats the heart of a news maniac. A sadistic little monkey with evil thoughts. If you see him, lurking in the night, next to your bins in the wee small hours, there may be a chance that i will be next, lugging my camera to film your sad demise at the hands of the dreaded news monkey.

You have been warned.

You can find more on what the evil news monkey is involved in HERE

Friday, 10 September 2010

Silk Purses From Pigs Ears.

Sometimes in the working day of a news cameraman, you are asked to film a story that is, well... Picture challenged. There is a story that needs to be told, but locations are, shall we say, dull.

Power stations .... Dull.

Today I filmed a story about power stations. Specifically, one that hasn't been built yet. There was one next door though so I asked, can we go inside? ... No. Can I get closer to get a better angle? ... Er ... No. Where is the new one being built? ... Next door. Can we go there? ... Oh yes, no problem. Great! What's going on there? ... Er ... Nothing, it's a car park right now.

So you see my point and the frustration of my inner Spielberg, desperate for nice, clean, story telling images for which telly awards will be won, and the warm admiration of my fellow lens luggers. Sometimes it just ain't gonna be....

The buildings were grey, as were the skies, and to cap it all off, an interview with a suit.... In the wind, with a helicopter going round and round overhead. This was followed by a presentation for local people to attend, telling them about the future development on their doorstep. At least we could get some seething masses of indignant locals, rising up against the corporate beast....

No one was there.

The caretaker was though, so we grabbed him, thrusted the mic towards his face, pointed my lens at the bemused man and we demanded answers.

He didn't mind really... But would we like a cup of Tea?

Paul Martin

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Thin Blue Lie...?

I have posted many times on this blog about my encounters with the Police, Police officers from various counties and of varied rank. I have met them in all kinds of situations from calm press conferences, crime scenes, through to public order situations and riots.

As a member of the media i am met with various degrees of welcome, tea and biscuits with a chief inspector to outright hostility from other ranks. It doesn't matter to me, for i have the sword of truth from my camera and the shield of my ACPO recognised Press Card. Or do I....?

I recently read an article by the Photojournalist Marc Vallee, who attended a demonstration in Brighton, West Sussex. In it, he describes how a member of the public had a video tape seized by a Police officer under section 19 of the Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984, (PACE) and the comments section show a lively debate on that seizure, including comments from the owner of the tape and the Sussex Police Media team response.

Unfortunately, this is the latest, but not an isolated incident. The merits of the above described incident i leave to your own conclusions after reading it, but it would seem that on more and more occasions, the Police seem to make the law up as they go in order to achieve their aims at a specific moment. Evidence of this is spread far and wide on the web. I forget the amount of times i have been told to stop filming or move away by Police officers for various reasons, including, but not limited to....

"Don't film me mate ... i sometimes work undercover." This is the favourite one at the moment, Police officer in uniform, wearing day-glo jacket with Police written on the back, tells journalist that he works undercover.... Nice move.

Legislation and law can be viewed from many differing angles, from the copper on the street making a split second decision, to the working journo, to the activist filming at a demo. Each one will have a slightly differing view on the law as it stands. But my gripe is this... if you are a Police officer, i TRUST you to know what you are talking about. Here is a point... i remember asking a Police Constable if he could tell me section 1 of the Theft Act 1968. Basic bread and butter Policing. He couldn't. The difference between a 9(1)(a) and a 9(1)(b) Burglary?.... Nope, not that either.

My Point? well, before a Constable throws his or her weight around demanding this or that from the press or members of the public taking pictures in a public place, quoting sections under anti terror laws, or PACE etc, the very least they could do is get it right. First time ... Every time. Or don't do it at all until you know what you are doing, because from where i stand, the basics are not even being covered in the knowledge base of your average Police constable. And this needs to change.


Because when I, a freelance TV Cameraman goes to work, I know what i can and can't do under the law. Where i can go, who i can and cannot film under certain circumstances. I know my job. Inside out. And if i don't know, i find out and learn it. Failing that, ten years service in the Royal Military Police gave me a very good grounding in Policing, and the law on what coppers can and cannot do, including the very basics. I have since kept that knowledge and furthered it in my present line of work. Basic coppering skills never leave you if you learn them correctly. Yes, after nearly fifteen years out of service i can still quote section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 because i learned that by knowing it, really knowing it, i would never be caught out.

So if you see me out and about, please remember this...I know my job, but i also, to a large extent, know yours.... So please get it right.

Paul Martin.

An African Adventure.

My ugly mug was recently plastered across, and in return i posted a glowing account of his work on TV News in the USA here on this very blog. I suppose however, that we cannot venture down the road of mutual back slapping without a mention of Christian Parkinson. A fellow news cameraman who lives and works in South Africa for the BBC.

Christian Parkinson ... Lens lugging in Harare.
Reading his blog is a tour de force of newsgathering in Africa, the joys, the people and of course the tragic consequences of a continent sometimes mired in war, disease and famine. Christian has covered these events from the perspective of the man behind the lens. Capturing the very essence of Africa in good times, such as the recent football world cup, to the bad times where countries are falling apart and very nasty men with very nasty weaponry want to kill you.

His travels through the sometimes dark heart of Africa are regaled on his blog with the ease of a cameraman who knows how to write and tell a story, both visually and with the knowledge of what Africa is really all about.

So much so, that Christian has met and is about to marry a local South African Woman, who i hope understands the vagiaries of life as an international news cameraman and the dangers that they bring. Now that's what i call being embedded.....

Paul Martin.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

There's Always One... Sometimes Two.

It's not very often that i get written about. I get shouted at a lot, talked about behind my back sure ... but written about? No. Until now. It would seem that in the good ol' US of A, there is a cameraman with every bit the same thoughts and feelings as me. Namely frustration, anger, the need of a stiff drink once in a while, and a niggly feeling that things should be just that little bit easier in our chosen job.

steely eyed and lantern jawed .... the rugged cameraman look admired worldwide.
Stewart Pittman is his name, and he travels his home range like a prowling cougar, coiled like a spring and ready to document the days news in his part of the TV world. And boy does he let us know what he thinks. As do i ... but Stewart relates his tales with a dry wit and savage verbiage that puts into sharp focus the job of us lens luggers.

He also drives the highways ready at a moments notice to flick the wheel and burn rubber to his next assignment with the skill of Bo and Luke Duke, at the request of his very own editorial Boss Hogg. And let me tell you, if he has a sister like Daisy Duke then i'm going to America for a cultural exchange visit.

It has been said that we look similar, separated at birth maybe, i can understand this. Sauve, sophisticated, Robert Redford good looks ... and a squinty left eye. Yep, that's us, even down to the unwillingness to get up close and personal with a razor blade. It is apparent that both of us have a very similar outlook on life, with it's deadlines, huffy reporters, and the sad inevitability of meeting PR people with zero journalistic ability or know how..... Such is life, wherever you may be rolling.

So, from here in the United Kingdom, it's toodlepip, tallyho, and mind the dog turd on the road in front of you. 

Paul Martin.

The classic cameraman pose... what a show off.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

TV News Cameraman ... My First Day.

Being a Freelance TV News Cameraman is second nature to me now. The long unsocial hours, weekends are a time i used to have off, and regular working hours seem such a long time ago. As does a regular pay packet. Having been a regular freelancer for nearly fourteen years though i have got used to it.

I do remember my first day as a news cameraman. Having been hired for just one day by the regional BBC News i felt that this was my one and only chance to see if i had what it takes to do the job. To me at the time it was a big deal. A very big deal. If i messed up on the first day i knew that they wouldn't ask me back again, so i had to get it right. That day i was paired with another, long serving, experienced cameraman. We were to follow a Tory politician as he canvassed the Hampshire town of Eastleigh during the 1997 general election.

General election 1997 ... my first job.
I didn't know it then, but i do now, that it doesn't take two cameramen to film this type of local job. One cameraman would have sufficed. I suspect now that i had been given the job as a test by the producer that hired me. It was a busy period news wise, and another freelancer on the books would have been helpful. Don't forget that at that time, the little Z1 style of cameras didn't exist for broadcast news, so another freelance cameraman with his own kit was a welcome addition to the newsroom call out list.

The real camera work was being done by the other cameraman, and what i filmed didn't really matter. I was tasked with filming cutaways and little sequences to fill gaps, and generally keep me out of the way. So i filmed what i thought were good sequences and cutaway shots that i thought would blend in nicely with the other cameraman's work. I made some stupid errors that day. I was so nervous that on one occasion i forgot to press the VTR button, so some shots i thought i was getting, were not being recorded to tape.

Press the record button stupid.....
When the day was done and the rushes had been returned to the studio, i waited anxiously for the finished piece. They ended up using two cutaway shots that i had filmed, the rest was of course, the good work of the real cameraman, who eyed me suspiciously throughout the course of the day. But i had done my best. I had filmed what i thought was right, and at long last,  a piece of my camerawork, however small, had been broadcast on the BBC News that very day. I was a happy man. I was even happier when, a short time later that day, the producer came over to me to ask if i was available for another days work.

From a previous article by Paul Martin.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I Spy With My Little Eye...

I spend a great deal of my time sat on my arse, waiting for something to happen. That's just the way it is as a TV News Cameraman. My working life is one long view of various locations around the south of England.

You are feeling very sleepy......

Take today for example, I arrived to cover a court case at 0900 and I am still waiting for something to happen at 1400. Whilst my journo is in court, warm, with company, and no doubt swimming in coffee, I sit outside in the rain and wind. Waiting like a coiled spring, ready to pounce upon the subject like a ravenous mountain lion.

I also have a fertile imagination. I like to watch people walk by and guess what they do, or what I think they are up to. Lawyer, shopworker, secretary, builder, or even people scuttling to their cars for an illicit encounter with their PA.

But most of all I like to spot the slack jawed halfwits, walking to court for their date with the judge. You can spot them far off, badly fitting suit and trainers, baseball cap, and accompanied by a posse of sportswear clad dimwits with mungbeans for brains. I just wish that my camera eyepiece could be replaced with a 50 calibre scope with the hardware to match.

Paul Martin

TV News Cameraman ... Starting Out.

I am always being asked this one particular question. Every TV News cameraman i know gets asked the same question. "How did you start in the industry?" The start of any news cameraman's career is as varied as a start in any media career, but times are changing rapidly in the news industry and ways in are becoming clogged with more and more people just starting out in their chosen line of work.

News cameras ... rapidly changing.
There are of course a great many ways to become a news cameraman. The obvious choice is to study film making or photography at university or college, Media studies and TV production courses are now widely available around the country. Is that the best way to start? ... Maybe, maybe not. Taking three years out to study your chosen career seems a good idea, and it is. But these days there are no guarantees that a job will be waiting for you when you graduate, far from it.

I have lost count of the times i have been approached by young people for jobs. People who have graduated and find themselves without work in a media industry awash with graduates. Sorry guys, but that is just the reality of the situation right now.

There is of course another way. Getting a jump of three years on your university peers and going out there job hunting for work at the bottom of the industry pile. Runners, Cable basher, Courier. Get the foot in the door and work your way to the top. Good idea, commendable and shows good work ethic. But again, think about all those graduates you will be competing against for that job. It's never going to be easy.

Cameramen ... kept behind bars.
There are a few trainee jobs out there, the BBC, SKY, ITN and others do occasionally advertise paid internships and full time camera position jobs, but they are few and far between, and when advertised, are hopelessly over subscribed. That's not to put you off, you may just be the lucky one.

So which route did i take? None of the above. I knew i wanted to be a news cameraman since leaving the army at the age of 28. I had no real qualifications to do the job, and had never used a broadcast video camera before. To cut a long story short, i had enough money to buy a new camera, lens, and microphone, and that was all. Over the next six months i taught myself through trial and error how to use the camera. I read and re read the instruction manuals and every how to book i could find.

More importantly though, i watched the news. All of it. Every channel and every bulletin. I watched every report and asked myself why certain pictures made it into the report, what sequences worked, the pieces to camera by the journalists, The length of the sequences and what words were being put with the video. I took apart each piece and asked myself why that report made it onto TV. I also practiced filming shots and sequences, framing and composition of the shots, and what every little button on the camera did and what happens when you press it.

After six months or so, i decided to look for freelance work. Every broadcaster i approached turned me away citing lack of knowledge, lack of a CV, and lack of experience. That was if they replied to me in the first place.

Persistence is the key here. I very nearly stopped looking, thinking that my rise to the top of broadcasting was a non starter. However, following one interview with a man at the BBC regional news in Southampton, i walked away with a days freelance work. 1 days work. That was in 1997, and i still work there today.

Based on original article by Paul Martin.

Paul Martin

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Video: Citizen Journalism.

I recently wrote an article about the rise of citizen journalists and the like. Whilst doing a little further research i came across this video which takes a look at starting up on your own. So if you have an active interest in this area of journalism take a look ...

With the huge uptake in cheap, affordable good quality cameras, and the fact that nearly everyone now owns a mobile phone with video and photo capabilities, nearly anyone who has a mind to can become a citizen journalist.

Thinking about it, maybe this is the future of ultra local news gathering. Small, niche independent organisations going about their business supplying news, information, and gathering content where the big news broadcasters don't touch. Local newspapers love this sort of content, and can easily outstrip the local broadcasters with a pool of citizens willing to take the risk and go it alone. Whether there is a living wage to made from this though is another matter.....

You can see their website HERE. Very US orientated, but you will get the idea nonetheless.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Please Don't Make Me Go Out There.....

Life's a bitch. I have come to this conclusion having just got around to cleaning up the shithole that passes for my office here at chez ukcameraman. Not only did i find old bits of kit that wouldn't surprise and astound the Lumierre brothers, in amongst the fluff, wires and something that had come to life in a dark recess under the desk, i found a large pile of work diaries from the past 14 years.

Old diaries ... memories of past glories and cock ups.
Wow!! I can hear the cries of astonishment from historians, tv producers and hollywood film makers rushing to my door demanding the film rights to this pot of fluff covered and slightly soiled tv gold. Well, no. It garnered nothing more than a raised eyebrow from me and a slight eagerness to relive days gone by.

So, after finishing the office clean for this decade, i made a coffee and sat down to read about my adventurous life over the last 14 years. And that is why i came to the conclusion that life is a bitch. You see, being a TV News cameraman, and a freelance one at that, i tend to be sent to various places around the South of England where something news worthy has occurred. By news worthy, i mean death, destruction, hard luck stories, violence of one form or another .... and politics.

As i read on, i plunged into a world that i can't believe i live in, let alone gone out with my camera and filmed. Take for example 20th February 2004. I filmed a story about the homeless, quick shots of a war memorial that had been vandalised and a story about a secondary school teacher being assaulted by a student. That was just one day out of the whole pile of 14 years worth of memories. It's a wonder that i didn't go home that night and cry myself to sleep.

Here's one: Thurs 18 May 1998. It simply reads 1430 - 1845 hrs, BBC, Interview. Family of girl killed by drugs and misdiagnosis.

Have i really been able to do this job for the past 14 years and come out the other side having met these people on what seems like a weekly, if not daily basis? It certainly looks like it, for i have forgotten them. I cannot recall their names or see their faces or recount the story to you.

Here's another: Fri 4 Feb 1998. 1300 - 1730 hrs, Fatal road crash M27.

That's it. that's all it said. No name, no how, why or sentiment. I got in the truck, drove to the scene and filmed a piece for the news that night without another thought. It's what i always do and is what i probably always will should i be doing this for another 14 years. But having read through the diaries, I gave a passing thought to the poor souls who's life has took a turn into the path of the blazing lights of the news truck, and consoled myself that the next job could be this......

Tues 10 Oct 2000. 0900 - 1700 hrs, UK Conker championships. Whitchurch.

My life is blessed. Bye.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

I Am A Bloodsucking Leech ... Apparently.

Another quick one from the old memory banks here. I have lost count of the amount of times that i have been called a bloodsucking leech, a scumbag and various other expletives that get hurled in my general direction. At the moment, the press seem to have a social status around that of estate agents, politicians and criminals.

But i do remember back in 1997, when apparently, i was in a Paris underpass, where, according to members of the public at the time, i hunted down Princess Diana, and murdered her. Seriously, according to many people that day who approached me and my reporters believed that we, as scumbag members of the paparazzi, had chased her down the underpass and killed her.

Do i look like a Pap? ... Don't answer that.
Listen up people. I was at home in bed with the missus that night in Hampshire. And she can vouch for me. Although as she is fond of reminding me, nothing earth shattering happened that night that she can remember.

Although i have learned to live with what some members of the public think of us, it still rankles with me that while hurling abuse in my general direction, they are often carrying a newspaper, or following said abuse, will walk home, switch on the telly and watch the news.

There are times of course when i will point my camera at someone who did not ask for it. But most of the time they will have been someone who deserved to be exposed for their involvement in some crime or corporate goings on that need to be brought to a wider audience. Generally though, i am filming someone because we have been invited to do so, or asked to film. I don't go chasing celebrities into underpasses looking for the up skirt shot so favoured by celebrity mags these days. No, i'm a news cameraman.

So if you see me out on the road filming, please remember this. I am not out to hunt for innocent people to feed on their life force and suck them dry of their celebrity juices. My life is not that exciting.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A Small Part In History.

I had quite forgotten about this. Sometimes in a cameraman's career you get to train your lens on a special occasion. Not a worldwide story, but a small local gathering to commemorate the life of a person who at one point in their life, was a part of one of the biggest news stories of all time.

Everyone reading this will have heard of the Titanic, and it's fateful voyage across the Atlantic. It never arrived at it's destination of course, and a great many people died as it hit an iceberg and sank. You are right in thinking that i was not around at that time, but i found myself at a small church in Hampshire to remember the life of someone who was.

Her name was Millvena Dean, who died on 31 May 2009, and she was the last living link to the Titanic. The final living link to an awful tragedy that was reported around the world, and still makes news even today. Films, Documentaries and more have been made, remade, and talked about ever since the sinking took place and is now a pivotal moment in our modern history.

Filming the scattering of the ashes ... Southampton.
Millvena was a small child at the time and freely admitted that she remembered little of what happened on that night. The fate that was to befall her and her family. But over the years, as other survivors passed away, she became the last living link to the Titanic and the celebrity of sorts that went with it.

But on the day that i got to hear her story was when we were to scatter her ashes in the sea at berths 43 and 44 at Southampton docks, from where she sailed aboard the Titanic. A fitting end i think. Now i have seen the films and watched many documentaries about the Titanic, but on that day, i filmed a small part of history as we said our goodbyes to the last link to a worldwide story that will, without doubt, outlive the rest of us.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Broadcasting The News. What We Want.

We used to be focussed on hard news. However, stories have now become much softer, focussed on human interest stories. Much less stuffy and much more informal. More jacket and open neck shirt than business suit and tie. ITV News has taken this much further, especially local and regional news, to the point where quite often, but not always, only human interest tabloid style stories are shown. Business stories for example are hardly ever shown.

Reporting a business story with the BBC.
Both the BBC and ITV regions have gone down this route in an attempt to hold on to their audiences. The BBC have done a little better than ITV in market share, but overall the audiences for news programming is falling. As the number of multi channel homes sky rockets, more and more people are turning off the news because they view it as boring and not in tune with their lives of celebrity based programmes, lifestyle programmes or quick fix youtube style broadcasting.

Speaking to many of the reporters i work with, you have no idea how many people out there have no idea how to pitch a story to their local press. It's astonishing how many times we get offered a man in a suit style interview for the news. The marketing director, head of this that or the other, as if to suggest that we have a large coup in speaking to someone so important.

Not everyone wants a man in a suit....
For a mass audience sitting down to baked beans on toast, or fighting to get the kids ready for school, a man in a suit is not what they want to see. They don't care about managing directors or project managers anymore. And they certainly don't care for local authority cabinet members with an inflated sense of their own importance.

For example, lets say a large road building scheme is underway. The audience will want to see and hear from a man in dirty overalls and a hard hat. The people actually doing the work, the ones who know what is going on and what he is talking about. The last thing they want is a man in a chain store suit with a condescending smile trotting out the official line.

The people at the coal face are sometimes the most knowledgeable and eloquent speakers and the audience will want to believe them and trust them. We know that performing in front of a camera is a peculiar and sometimes nerve wracking challenge, but just because the man who digs the holes hasn't been on a media relations course should not preclude him from taking part. Quite the opposite in my opinion.

So, given the choice between an interview in a corporate office with a suit, or a sit down with the workforce in a greasy spoon cafe, i know which i would choose every time. At least i would get a bacon sandwich.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Getting Media Attention. Citizen Journalists.

Take a quick look at the photo below. It's an IPhone 3GS. So what i hear you ask. Well, if I wasn't a professional cameraman, working for the broadcasters, This piece of kit is all i would need to get multimedia stories out to the world. Video, Audio, Photo and text.

Modern communications .... Simple.
And a great many people are doing just that. Citizen Journalists. They are becoming more and more prevalent with the rise of online blogs, websites dedicated to niche subjects that the author cares deeply about. With the ease of modern tech advances, very little know how is needed to make your own journalistic efforts available to the whole world. With the rise of cheap, good quality cameras and mobile devices like the one above, anyone with a little journalistic ability and online know how can become a citizen journalist.

Major news broadcasters have not been slow in taking advantage of this. You only have to look at any major incident to know that ordinary people can and will film and record what is going on in front of them. Nearly everyone now owns a mobile phone with video or photo capabilities, and when a major incident occurs, the floodgates to the local, national and international news rooms open. But the rise of citizen journalism doesn't restrict itself to major incidents.

You may not agree with what is being done to save the planet, or you disagree strongly with your governments political standpoint. So you blog, film and record your personal point of view and post it to the online world. Freedom of speech and democracy in action. We in the west, including us in the UK, take these freedoms for granted, but there are many people out there with no such freedoms. The only way to tell their story is to be a citizen journalist and to do it themselves. Mainly because their government has shut down, or is intimidating the local and national press.

In Iran a few years back, the national elections proved to be a story of international significance, thanks in no small part to citizen journalism. Once Iranian public anger began to rise, the international press were, in effect, banned from the streets. The only real coverage of what was happening on the streets of Iran came from mobile phone footage which was broadcast around the world, much to the annoyance of the Iranian government who tried, in vain, to cut off broadband links to the outside world.

Terrorist atrocities, natural disasters and underhand governments or corporate bodies can now all be relatively easily exposed by citizen journalists if they choose to do so. With the help of a small handheld device and a broadband link, stories can now be transmitted around the world with the push of a small button ... SEND.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

PR And Media Attention. How To Deal With A Journalist.

When a Government Department or business large or small come under the media spotlight, the PR Department of said organisation becomes the focal point of the journalist or media team covering the story. You would expect the PR team to be on the ball with what it is we do and how we go about producing our story, but this is not always the case.

Let me explain by saying a bit about the pressures journalists are under. From the first alarm call on a big story, it's a straight forward race. It's a race to be first with the news, and it's a race to get reporters and camera crews on site while the incident is still going on, whilst there are witnesses to interview. The BBC, ITN and SKY, PA News and all the radio stations compete head on. On top of that, on a really big important story, you may have the UK bureaux of the entire international press corps to deal with.

BBC and Sky News compete head on...... Literally.
Working with the BBC, there are so many outlets on TV and radio, that you can be broadcasting incessantly. If you are first on the scene of a major story, everybody wants you ... now. Five Live, 24 Hour News channel, Local radio, and the pre planned news bulletins. Schedules will have been dropped, and a reporter will be broadcasting pretty much continuously. Like the PR team, news outlets have well rehearsed plans which swing quickly into place on big news events.

The reporter by this stage will be in concentration and on edge. He or She may be standing there with not a lot of information trying to describe the story, with people barking instructions through the earpiece. Maybe they are relaying information, giving a count to the second he has to stop talking. The pressure on the TV journalist to deliver the goods will be immense, and he is going to turn to the PR Team of the subject in hand for information that sometimes even they, are unable to give.

BBC News team at work.
This is where an expeienced PR Officer is worth his or her weight in gold. If they can help out with the facts, interviewees and pictures, the journalist is going to remember, and look favourably towards them in the future. The journalist wants to hear from people at the coal face, the acknowledged experts. Because that is what the audience research indicates the people who watch the news want to hear from. Not the managing director or the marketing guru.

People like to see themselves responsively portrayed on television. They like to see something that enhances their self esteem and their public image. Although they might not get things right all of the time, and may not trot out the official line in quite the way the story is to be told, journalist like to hear from them, and people like them. The people involved at the grass roots level of a story are the people that the journalists, and the viewing public, want to hear from. And that is a very valuable impression to give, if you find yourself at the centre of the next media storm.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Broadcasting Live With BGAN Unit.

Broadcasting kit is changing and getting more usable by the year. Although the BGAN units have been around for a while, it was the first time that i have used one. BBC Reporter, VJ and all round gadget hack Tim Nicholson shows us around his kit.

Paul Martin

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Sometimes It Just Isn't Worth It.

I knew the moment I got out of bed that today was going to be one of those days. It just didn't feel right. For a start, one of my camera batteries hadn't charged. The irony of this didn't hit me until I got to my first filming job of the day in Brighton, to film a piece about pre season football training and an interview with the manager. Having got myself a cup of tea, I returned to the car to find that the car battery was dead. Stone cold dead.

Open heart car surgery....

So I called the RAC who swiftly came out and after checking the car decided that I needed a new battery. No surprise there then, but they were quick and efficient and I was on the road again in no time.

Getting it fixed.....

Vehicle heart transplant....

Having broken down on location I was however, able to do my thing and film the news item I was booked to do. Or so you would have thought. Turns out that the 0930 start on Thursday morning was in fact last Thursday, and the job had been done a week ago. Booking bod had read last weeks diary page instead of this weeks page. Easy enough mistake to make I suppose, unless he thought I was a time traveller?

Anyway, all was now rectified and all I have to do now is drive home and enjoy the rest of my day..... Bugger, just spilt tea down my trousers. Yep. It's gonna be one of those days.

Paul Martin

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Getting A Sweat On.

Sometimes in this job, they ask you to do the almost impossible. And sometimes the really impossible. A couple of days ago i was asked to do two jobs in the morning, 1 at 8am and the second at 10am. The first was an easy job, film a rather large model of a dinosaur on Southsea common......

You don't see many of these any more ...

The second job was to film at the Navy Days exhibition in Portsmouth. However, the gates didn't open untill 10am, there was no parking onsite for the press, i had to park about 1/2 a mile away and carry the camera and tripod etc in. Now i don't know if you have ever been into the naval dockyard in Portsmouth, but it isn't exactly small, so another mile or so of walking was involved to get the pictures required. Oh, and then i had to lug all the kit all the way back to the car, and get the all important tape back to the studios in Southampton for broadcast on the lunchtime bulletin at 12.05.

Filming the Royal Navy's new warships.

Yes, it was a bit of a panic and a rush down the M27 was made with about 3 or 4 minutes to spare for the editor to ingest the footage and edit a piece for the bulletin.

A quick cup of coffee and i was on the road to get some pictures of the general hospital for inclusion on tomorrows news bulletin, then off to St Mary's stadium, the home of Southampton FC to film a preview piece for the upcoming season, which meant interviews, match coverage, vox pops and general arty type shots to make the piece more exiting than a normal news item.

St Mary's stadium, Southampton.

So, there you have my day on a Saturday, all tied up neatly into a small bite size bundle for you. But on the day, it was a bit of a scramble around the south coast in order to get the news on time. It's not always this way, but today, i got a bit of a sweat on ....

Paul Martin

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Meeting A Solo Yachtsman.

At the moment, his racing yacht is suspended about 30 feet or so off the ground in a car park in Lymington, Hampshire. But soon for Steve White, that is about to change.

Steve is a solo round the world yachtsman, who spends much of his time alone at sea for months on end, battling storm force seas, and surviving with very little sleep and food. Speaking to him today whilst filming a news package about his attempt, I got the impression that he was a very driven man with a passion for his sport. He is about to sail around the world against the prevailing winds and tides in a record attempt. On his own.

It was a bit strange filming on an ocean going racing yacht in the middle of a car park, but hey, us cameramen get used to this sort of thing.

Sometimes in this job you do get to meet some very interesting people who are about to embark on extraordinary journeys. I wish Steve well, and good luck. I feel he is going to need it.

Paul Martin

Posted via email from Media Attention Ltd

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Usual View.

Anyone who thinks that the life of a TV News Cameraman is one long job of filming exciting and interesting things should watch this short video. The above is sometimes true, but this is what you will be doing for most of your day..... Still want the job?

Download now or watch on posterous
IMG_0069.MOV (2019 KB)

see this blog also at this address:

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A Cameraman's Lunch.

The subject of food is high on the list of many a cameraman's agenda. Oh, and a good stiff drink also. So when we find a place that makes good solid cameraman food, we tend to remember where it is. It is with pride that I announce to the world outside of Reading, Berkshire, the Pie Shop to beat all Pie shops. Sweeney & Todd.

Situated at 10 Castle Street, Reading, it makes and bakes the best quality pies known to any cameraman. And trust me, I've eaten a few pies.

A Steak and Ale Pie is the food of the cameraman gods. Like this one which lasted all of three minutes.

Hmmm ... Pies.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Police v Press. Well I Never ....

Today was a good day. It started out as any other filming job, at Portslade near Brighton, where the Police were searching and digging up some poor persons garden looking for evidence of possible bodies having been buried there.

Then something quite unexpected happened, the Police invited us into the dig site to film them going about their work. That's right, you did just read that correctly. I should point out that it was not a crime scene as such, more a speculative dig to see if more investigation was required. However the press officers from West Sussex Police engaged with the press, listened to what we wanted and the results for us were great pictures and information to tell our viewers what was happening.

The scene .....

It was a bit of a shocker I can tell you, but a bit of common sense and a desire to engage with the press, resulted in an important, sensitive story being told accurately and with the minimum off fuss from both press and Police.

No speculation, no searching for pictures or getting in peoples way. The information was swift, and interviews were arranged with a senior officer who was also in attendance throughout the day. I know that it can't be this way all of the time, time and resources just sometimes don't allow it, but today was a day that common sense and good press relations came together, everyone did their jobs, and an accurate story was told.

The press officer ....

So for once, I doff my cap to the Police and the West Sussex press team, who made the day just that much more pleasant in the face of what could turn out to be a very unpleasant story.

Paul Martin.

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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

PR Spanners.

This is a rant really, nothing informative or behind the scenes other than to tell you what we, as journalists and cameramen sometimes have to put up with. Today I was filming the new Health Minister, the day after an emergency budget from our new coalition government.

First of all, we were given the wrong times to be there. The real timings were buried deep in the print of the press release given to our producers. Secondly, and this is the bit that irks me, is that when trying to make up for a lack of shots, the PR people who populated the general area decided that I didn't need the particular shots I was taking and stood in front of my camera asking me if these particular shots of the minister were relevant.

Listen to me good PR People, we work in pictures, not paperwork. We need sequences to make a story work, in order to tell our viewers what is going on. One shot doesn't cut it. If I am filming something it is generally because I have been asked to do so by my reporter or I believe that the shot will work in a sequence. Please don't tell me what I need. I already know ... You don't. You never do. And if I say so myself, you never will, unless you have worked in TV or broadcasting, which most of you haven't.

So please PR People, go away and get some training about what it is we do and what it is we need. And don't stand in front of my camera telling me what you want me to film or it will result in the kind of words I gave to the PR person this morning that I won't repeat here.

Thank you in anticipation of meeting a PR Person who knows what they are doing.

Paul Martin.
Media Attention Ltd.

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Solar Power, The Monkey's Nuts.

I have been looking for quite while now for a solution to my power requirements when out and about on the road. Most of us now carry some form of mobile communications device such as mobile phones, laptops, PDA's and suchlike. Using these constantly takes it's toll on the old battery life and occasionally I find myself with no power and no means to get it via plugs.

So today, I have invested in a solar monkey and power monkey combo, which as you can see from the pictures are capable of powering and recharging my iPad and mobile phone via the solar panel charging unit and power monkey battery unit, which is small and lightweight enough to carry in your pocket or briefcase without too much annoyance. The battery unit is capable of a full charge of a mobile device and will sit quite happily for up to a year waiting for that emergency power charge.

The power monkey battery unit is pre charged either at home via plug or can be linked to the solar panel power monkey unit to charge from the sun. Free power is always a good way to start. So whilst testing the units this afternoon, I sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a cold beer while the solar panel did it's job suppling me with free power to use and charge my tech.

All in all, I think the above units are a good and safe power solution to most mobile devices and are cheap enough and small enough to carry around with you on a day to day basis. Especially if you know you have a busy day ahead on the phone or laptop in the middle of nowhere.

And finally, if that is not enough to tempt you tech and gadget freaks out there then think about this. There is no better feeling than sitting in the sun drinking cold beer and cheating the electricity company out of a few pennies with free power from the sun.
Paul Martin.
Media Attention Ltd.

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Friday, 18 June 2010

Steady As She Goes.

I have had a few enquiries over the past few days about how TV Cameras film the horse racing from the track when following the horses. Not so long ago it was a cameraman sat on top of a Land Rover, hanging on for dear life while trying to keep the camera as steady as possible. Health and Safety would have a heart attack these days, so with the ever increasing speed of technical wizardry, cameras are now controlled by a camera operator sitting inside the 4x4 controlling a camera head on top of the vehicle which in turn is built into a gimbal, keeping the camera rock steady, even at high speeds on lumpy ground.

Here you can see the camera head and gimbal pod built and fixed to the roof of the Land Rover. The pictures and camera head are controlled by the operator inside the vehicle and are sent by digital wireless link to a fixed point within the racing circuit or stadium.

This picture shows the entire set up and vehicle in situ at the media centre behind Ascot race course, just before going out onto the race course to film an afternoons racing. The pictures are used by broadcasters from all over the world covering Royal Ascot. The camera operator and driver told me that the whole set up costs in excess of £300.000. Which is a large amount in anyones book.

So, in a nutshell, that is how it is done, for those of you that didn't know. I hope you liked this sneaky look behind the scenes of another aspect of TV Broadcasting.

Paul Martin.
Media Attention Ltd.

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On The Road 3. Royal Ascot.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Behind The Scenes At Royal Ascot.

This week I am filming for five days at Royal Ascot, possibly one of the biggest horse racing meetings in the UK, not counting the Grand National. This is the fifth time I have filmed here and it is always a good event to be asked to work at, especially when the weather is at it's best and the sun is shining.

Here you can see John McCrirrick, of Sky At The Races talking with a colleague live into the racing programme, and the Soundman trying in vain to turn him down a bit. A very difficult job in any circumstances. Having said that, John is one of the nicest people to work with in live broadcasting because he certainly knows his horse racing, and his unpredictability in front of camera makes for an entertaining days work.

Ascot itself, since the big rebuild years ago, is a pleasure to work at. The grounds and the main stand are a stunning sight to see, and when the sun is out on Ladies day, the champers is flowing the fun starts and a good day is generally had by all. I like working here for obvious reasons and the fact that we, as the press, are very well catered for and well looked after.

Below is a picture of the Media village secreted away from the main stand where all the technical bods, satellite trucks and direction for the whole five days take place. My live camera is attached by digital wireless link to a SISLink truck, where my pictures are relayed via satellite to Melbourne in Australia, as I am working all week for Sky TV Australia.

I hope you liked a brief insight behind the scenes at Royal Ascot. I have taken plenty of pictures which I hope to post at another time, but for now, I have to be back at work in half an hour for day three. Take care, and bye for now.

Paul Martin.
Media Attention Ltd.

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