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.