Saturday, 25 February 2012

When opening a modern facility, we British wear Tricorn hats.

A long awaited, modern, state of the art bridge is just about to be opened in Poole, Dorset. A testament to modern planning, design and forward thinking into the 21st Century. So this is just the time to put on your highwayman's outfit, topped off with a Tricorn hat.

Bright, modern... Opened by 18th Century highwaymen.

You see, us British are funny like that. If we could we would go the full monty and have horses, swords and flintlock pistols. We like the past, the history and the nostalgia of better days when your local Mayor and Councillors actually did dress like this 24/7, and the locals weren't invited.

Yuor Council Tax or your life...

It was my duty today, for the local news, to film such a spectacle for the consumption of the masses, or in olden times, the masses that had consumption. The ribbon got cut, the crowds cheered, and the Mayor overdid the thankyou's in a looong speech that nobody could hear. A typical opening ceremony you may say, and I would agree except for the strange feeling I had whilst rolling tape, that I may be robbed of my money by a Tricorn hatted councillor, extolling the virtues of handing over my money or paying with my life.

I should not have worried, for they already do that very thing in the form of my council tax... And I blindly pay it by direct debit, no questions asked.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Sunday Showdown.

Getting up early on a Sunday morning is always going to be a bitch. But when it's around -5 or 6 outside, you've scraped the ice from the car, crunched through the leftover snow with your camera and nearly slipped arse over tit, giving a good go at making yourself look like a windmill on acid, makes for a Sunday morning you would rather forget.

But having left the Missus to deal with the kid when it's your turn to cook breakfast, is a sin of the highest order. And i was looking forward to Bacon, Eggs and other assorted breakfast things served up to my families culinary delight. But i had to cancel my family Sunday morning, having been booked the previous evening to film a national Politics live into a major news programme, so i found myself outside getting ready as described above. The satellite truck was booked and on it's way, containing an engineer who had probably had the same morning as me. All systems go...

Now we all know that this is nothing new in the news business, things change, people move about, the story changes or moves on to a different level. But this was a simple live on a Sunday morning with a very influential person who had agreed to do the interview into the show. All they had to do was wake up and get dressed. Oh... and do what you agreed to do.

The story is a long running one here in the UK, about newspapers, phone hacking, the passing of illegal monies to underhand people and the arrest of many journalists on charges yet to be proved. A scandal of the highest order in my own business. Oh the shame...

Anyway, to cut a short story even shorter, the principal guest cancelled and pulled out of the interview. I guess they got out of bed and stubbed their toe or something. But for reasons unknown to me anyway, my job was cancelled by a very apologetic producer in London.

"Sorry dear chap... job's gone away, guest pulled out."

"No problem," Says i... "Call me back any time..."

"Cancelled you say...? Oh well, never mind eh...?"

What i actually said having ended the call cannot be repeated here, except it contained the words, F*ck, Boll*cks and what a Wan*ker.

So to all of the influential prime time news guests and talking heads out there, listen up... We put a lot of effort and work into coming around to your house, trailing in mud and slush through your living room, draining your electric sockets and knocking valuables off shelves, just so you can give up your Sunday morning and spout forth on the telly. Do you honestly think that i want to be in your nice house, drinking your tea, mentally undressing your Missus, and teaching your sleepy eyed kids to say rude words...?

Do you think i enjoy being paid to give up my family Sunday mornings, just so that i and a few other dodgy looking geezers can invade yours..? Hmmm...? I should think not. And seeing as my now ex guest is in the print news business, i would have thought that having a journalist and cameraman rooting around in your unmentionables drawer was second nature to you.

So come on guys, when everyone's Sunday morning has been ruined, yours and ours, the least we can do is go through with it and get it over and done with. We come round, ask rude questions and generally turn your life upside down for a few hours, in exchange for you to get your ugly mug all over the airwaves and generally ruin the viewers Sunday mornings. It's a win win situation and we should all play the game.

But to pull out at the last minute means that you have sent some lowly news producer into a head spin, put the shows director into a really shitty mood, and generally upset the smooth flow of a news day, never mind the smooth flow of this particular cameraman.

So come on, play the game....

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Countdown for a Countess.

So it's the middle of winter, and i find myself in a cold car park, gently shivering, waiting for a minor member of the British Royal Family to open a new medical center on the outskirts of Bracknell, Berkshire. Now i'm not moaning, this is quite a normal part of the working news cameraman's day. The waiting in the cold part, that is, without any lunch. We wait in the cold a lot.

But i wasn't alone, the great and the good of the local parish had arrived in force and patiently shivered alongside me. Local Mayors, distinguished guests, Senior Medical staff and associated bean counters were all given the once over by the Royal protection officers of Her Majesties Constabulary, who glanced a beady eye over the serfs as frost gathered on our eyebrows. I thought about taking a picture of them but thought better of it, preferring not to have a 9mm automatic pistol inserted up my left nostril.

The Bracknell Entry for Britain's Got Talent.
The meet and greet was inside though, and having gratefully moved into the warm, i started to drip nose fluid as the others practiced how to bow, tug forelocks, and smile like a loon. I knew Royalty was close when the sturdy men with armpit bulges started talking into their sleeves and double checking the dripping, sniffing cameraman with suspicion. I knew that they would rather the press were not there. Dodgy looking blokes with shifty eyes and a knack for getting in the way are not a close protection officers favourite, so i flashed a winning smile, and hefted my camera onto my shoulder, ignoring the rumble from my stomach as hunger kicked in.

Now, whatever your view of the Royal Family, there is no doubt in my mind about the work that they do. Yes, they are privileged, rich and feted the world over, but on a day like today i saw Sophie, The Countess Of Wessex, arrive at her third local visit of the day. She must have shook hands with hundreds of people, made small talk, smiled constantly and pulled the cord on a great many opening curtains. Oh... and been followed, filmed and snapped at all of them by guys like me. Living life in a fish bowl doesn't come close to describing it.

Sophie, The Countess Of Wessex, with patriotic clutch bag containing hairbrush, lippy, picture of the hubby and possibly a Walther PPK.
So, as she lives her life in a fish bowl, i trained my lens on the Countess and followed her around, just to make her feel at home you understand. I filmed the shaking of hands, the small talk and the pulling of the cord on the opening curtain. Sophie... for we were on first name terms by now, wafted serenely around the new facility like she had done it a hundred times before. Which she has. And when it was time for her to leave, the great and the good waved and cheered her goodbye as i, ever the professional, piled into the sandwiches, sausage rolls, cake and cups of tea, before the plague of locusts descended, leaving bugger all for the working man.

So i tip my hat to you, your Royalness, for another job well done and for providing a very hungry cameraman with a free lunch.  

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.