Monday, 31 May 2010

The Days Are Long ......

So, there is no work around for the moment, and I am filling my days with all sorts of rubbish, just to pass the hours. So I have launched a major assault on the World Wide Web, and have tried for the last few days to seriously upgrade my web presence by signing up to all sorts of social networking sites.

I've quite enjoyed the experience, so much so that I went out and bought an iPad ( I know, I am an Apple Mac fanboy and proud ) I can now blog, tweet, Facebook, and post all manner of my witterings to the outside world from practically anywhere, 3G permitting.

So here I am, scratching my head thinking about what to write about next. At the moment I am still scratching ......

Paul Martin.
Media Attention Ltd.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Peaks And Troughs.

Ask anyone who is a freelancer of any description, in any job and they will tell you the same. Work comes in fits and starts. Some days and weeks are filled with so much work you think that you can't ever possibly fit it all in. The phone never stops ringing, and you feel that if only you could split yourself in two, you could be rich.


Then, for no apparent reason that you can think of, the phone actually stops ringing, the days fade away into boredom and frustration, and you start to think that everyone on planet earth has forgotten that you exist. One minute, your family are complaining that they never see you and the kids have forgotten who you are, the next, you are under their feet and they complain that you are disrupting the finely balanced routine. Bloody hell.

There is only one thing for it. when work is on, i do the work. That stands to reason, if i don't work i don't earn. But on the days when i have no work on, here i am at the computer, building up an online presence for you all to peruse and enjoy. I squirrel myself away in the spare room, or corporate headquarters as i like to call it, and blog, twitter, audioboo and facebook, along with the website. I find that by doing this i am easily kept out of everyone's way until they call me when they need me to do something, or until the phone rings with another days work.

And when the phone does ring, as it always does, i am out the door with my camera gear to god knows where, wishing that i had a normal job, with normal hours, working with normal people. But that would be hell on earth for me.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Partners And Other Important People.

I had to think about this for a while, think of all the people that help, understand and know what it is to be part of a news cameraman's life. It isn't easy. I have lost count of the amount of times i have let people down, not turned up for something important, and generally messed people around, all because i enjoy telling other peoples stories.

That's right, my working life is spent relating tales of the lives of people i don't know, and i spend a lot of my time doing it. Working days, evenings, nights, early mornings and weekends are all part of the life of a news cameraman and it plays havoc with the home life. A phone call home from me is like telling my partner, Karen, to look into a crystal ball.

"Of course i will be home for tea ..."

"I will only be another hour or so ..."

"Fancy a BBQ this weekend my love ...?"

All total rubbish of course, and she knows it. It's not true, never is and never will be. I remember going to work one day, telling the usual lie that i will be home in time for tea, and not coming home for three or four days. Well, i didn't say which day i would be home for tea now did I?

So this post is in homage to my partner Karen, and the family and friends that I call upon to help with the kids, and generally mop up behind me, following the trail of lies, deceit and forgetfulness that make up my life as a freelance traveling lens lugger for various broadcasters who really don't care about what happens behind my front door.

And so, having written this post i am about to light the BBQ for a family dinner in the sun, that i promised the missus a few days ago ... hang on, is that my mobile ringing?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

When In Rome.

I guess that this post carries on from the last. A tale of murder, missing persons and tragedy. But this tale switches between the UK and Italy, and so it was, for the past few days, i have been filming for the Italian broadcaster RAI, filming a mini documentary about the case. Working for the Italians proved to be an experience, as i soon learned that they have a very different way of doing things.

For example, they don't seem to get the notion of private property. I had to stop my reporter on numerous occasions from just wandering into someones garden, or even into the rear of the courtroom when he found an open door. Many other Italian news crews had been dispatched from Italy for the story, and myself and the other UK crews watched in astonishment as their cameramen attempted to walk into court, with cameras rolling, arms waving and voices loud.

Police officers were placed at various points, and we gave apologetic glances towards each other as we attempted to explain to them that this was just not cricket, not the done thing old boy. The differences in media culture was quite breathtaking to me and the others, but it was fun nonetheless, as we watched them roaming around looking for a place to infiltrate.

My Italian journalist Walter, (pictured following a long lunch) however, was a long standing respected journalist of the old school, and once i had explained to him that this is how we do it, respected my limits placed upon him, and made the most of what was available. However i was alarmed when he returned from court with his mobile phone, a smile plastered all over his face and a knowing smile. I, for one, didn't ask what he had done, or what i think he had done. I didn't want to know.

There is a saying over here that when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It would appear however, that Romans do as they damn well please.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Moving On.

The past few days have reminded me about what it is we do as a job. Not just me as a cameraman, but the media in general. The news media in particular. I have recently been filming news stories about a variety of things, but a few have stuck in my mind simply because i arrived at the scene of the story to be told, filmed it, sent it back to the studios, and had the story broadcast. So what's the problem?

well, it's not a problem as such, but i get to thinking about the story that we leave behind. For example, this week i have filmed a suicide scene and a story about a serial sex attacker preying on teenage girls. Completely unrelated and in different areas of the country, but once i have filmed, the package has been edited and the story broadcast to the audience, i feel, what then?

In just these two incidents alone i wonder how many lives have been destroyed, families affected, and lives changed beyond the recognition of the person living it. I know that each story i film goes way beyond the person relating their experience to us, the news media. Family, friends and others are also touched and changed by what has happened to the subject of our story, and the aftermath of what has befallen them.

As a cameraman though, i know i must film my news story and move on. I have been doing this now since 1997, and the tragic stories i have covered mount up behind me, mostly without a further thought. But today, i will think about those i have filmed, the tragic stories i have covered in my work, and the people left behind to get on with life once the media has moved on, as it must, to other, newer stories.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Looking For The Stig.

Not so long ago i found myself at Dunsfold aerodrome, filming a short news item about aircraft fuel saving technology. Yes, i know, my life is one big glamour whirlwind. Anyway, there i was in some draughty aircraft hangar when i wandered off in search of a toilet. Pushing my way through a large, heavy black drape, i found myself in the middle of the Top Gear studio.

I can't quite remember how i got there, but there i was, with the cool wall to my left, a large picture of the Stig hanging from the ceiling and various vehicles that the Top Gear team had wrecked over the years.

I knew that the studios were in Dunsfold, but i didn't quite expect to be able to just wander in. So, i wandered in. I was sorely tempted at that point to rearrange the cool wall, just to annoy Jeremy Clarkson, or to let down the tyres on a very expensive looking sports car that was parked not ten feet away. But i didn't have the courage, so i walked around in search of someone who could get me tickets for the show. You guessed it. No chance.

So, having realised that just because i worked for the BBC, that it didn't entitle you to free tickets, i returned to my news story about very technical men, explaining very technical things about fuel consumption and efficiency savings. Where was Jeremy Clarkson when you needed him?

like Top Gear?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Learning As You Film.

Every once in a while you get to film a story about which you previously knew nothing about. Today was a good example of this when asked by the BBC to film a story about a woman from Easebourne, near Midhurst, West Sussex.

Her name was Helen Joseph, born 8 April 1905, and who died on 25 December 1992. Having  taken jobs in various parts of the world she eventually became a vociferous opponent to the Apartheid government in South Africa, where, in August 1956 she spearheaded a march of 20000 women to protest at the countries Pass Laws. This day is still celebrated today in South Africa as Women's day.

Throughout her days in South Africa, she was arrested, placed under house arrest for many years and survived at least two attempts on her life during that period. Also becoming a trusted friend of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Helen took care of their children during troubling times for the family.

A picture of me and the present owner of Helen's home in Easebourne, West Sussex.

And yet, i never knew of this woman, her exploits, courage and fortitude during extreme times in South Africa. Probably because before now, i had not looked, nor had anyone told me. So it was with pleasure today that i had the honour to film a story about Helen, visit her old house and other places of interest in Easebourne that she once knew, and learn about her life that she gave up in England to become a hero of South African history.

Anyone with an interest can buy the book here :
Side by Side: The Autobiography of Helen Joseph

Also, her obituary in the independent can be found here : Link

Saturday, 8 May 2010

UK Election, The Longest Night.

It is always one of the longest days and night for anyone who works in the TV News industry. Election night in the United Kingdom is always met with a press frenzy around the country, usually resulting in much speculation, rumour and verbal fisticuffs throughout the night until it becomes clear around 4 or 5 in the morning, who has won the election, to be installed that very day, into 10 Downing St.

Only, this time around, we have been handed a Hung Parliament, with no clear overall winner with a working majority to form a government. So yet more rumour, speculation and verbal fisticuffs are yet to come over the next few days and possibly weeks, until an agreement can be made.

My election night started and finished at the Riverside Leisure complex in Reading, Berkshire, filming ballot boxes being delivered to the venue from various locations and polling booths around the region. As the night and the counting of votes wore on, it became increasingly clear to all of the candidates, agents and supporters, as well as the press, that no clear mandate had been set for any political party to set up in Government with a clear majority.

And so by 9 o'clock in the morning of the 7 May 2010, following another live into the BBC News, we became resigned to the fact that as members of the press, we had more work to do following the fall out, political recriminations and the downfall or rise of whatever political agreement will follow. And, of course, the distinct chance that in around six months or so, should a coalition and compromise not work, we could be doing this all over again.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

I Love My Job ... No Really.

Having been a freelance cameraman now since 1997, i guess i have experienced most situations that a cameraman can find themselves in. I have had some really fun times in some very unusual places, places that the general public rarely get to see. I have also met a great many people, some of whom the general public really don't want to meet, mostly because they are the general public.

Like many other freelancers out there, i have been warmly welcomed in one place, and spat at and attacked in another. It very much depends on the story you are filming at the time, and the type of people you are dealing with. The reaction to a news camera turning up in front of you can vary wildly between differing types of people and on the subject being told.

However, this is the job i chose, and whether i get a firm handshake or a firm fist in the gob, it is what i do and i have to live with the benefits or the bruises.

Many people think that i lead such a glamourous life being in the television business and all that, but the fact is much of my working day is spent driving to or from locations and enduring a long wait when i get there. And when the camera does come out, most of what i film is mundane, run of the mill news stories that you watch on the telly. But i love it. Why? Because i am always out and about on the road, each location is different and many of the people i meet have compelling and interesting stories to tell. Great stuff if you are a nosey git like me.

I film court cases, murder scenes, politics, road accidents and the general malais of ordinary life around the UK. Well, those that make it to the attention of the local news journalists or news editors in tray. For every story i film there are literally hundreds if not thousands of similar stories around the world that don't make it to air. What i get to see and film is just a small slice of everyday life, but it is a very broad slice of life which i have been lucky enough to witness.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

People ... You Gotta Love 'em

Anyone who works in the TV News industry will know what i am on about in this post. The Vox-Pop, that part of a news report that contains the ramblings and opinions of the common man or woman in the street about the story of the day.

Now over the years i have met and spoken to the widest variety of person that society can throw at you, from the very, very wealthy, the educated and uneducated to the poorest people in the country. Each one of those people i have met have had a valid and compelling story to tell about the circumstances they find themselves in or involved with.

However, when it comes to the vox-pop, as soon as the camera and microphone appear they attract the type of person who cannot string a sentence together for love nor money, or worse, the type of person who does not have an opinion on any matter, even the most important. For Christ's sake people get an opinion about something! tell us what you think, good or bad. There is nothing more soul destroying than floating around a city centre trying to get bored shoppers to give us their opinion on a matter, and to get a reply of  " Dunno mate ... er .. um .. dunno."

But not only that, does the average news viewer really want to know the opinion or views of some passer by in the street who could speak coherently on a subject, just because they happened to catch the attentions of a passing news crew? I think not. Who really gives a toss what Mrs Smith or Mr Jones thinks about the state of the economy? that's why we have journalists, to tell us in an unbiased manner what is happening, and what those in charge are doing about it. So, in my ever so humble opinion, i ... er ... um ... oh i dunno.