Monday, 22 October 2012

Thanks Krishnan, you were of no help whatsoever...

I had occasion yesterday to be invited to a free curry lunch by the owner of my local house of Indian subcontinental cuisine. It was a thank you to locals for spending many hundreds, if not thousands of pounds over the past ten years for his most loyal curry eating patrons and lager drinkers. Attended by local businessmen and councillors, even the Mayor, I felt privileged to have been invited.

Drinking beer and telling tales...

However, word got out that i was a TV News Cameraman, so i spent much of my afternoon fending off local news story pitches by local businessmen, people with political axes to grind and those just wanting to get on the telly.

"Is the Prime Minister really a total arse..?" People would ask. "Would you like to come and film my  collection of early 1950's war comics..?" and "You should do a story on fiscal spending at the local council... Shocking." Suddenly, between bites of Tandoori chicken and onion bhaji, this local TV cameraman has morphed into the BBC Ten O'Clock News and must display my fount of all knowledge about the state of the nation, foreign policy, political responsibility and celebrity goings on.

Salesman: "I sell this particular type of widget... You should do a story on widgets."

Salesman's wife: "My Sisters friend's boyfriend's Uncle used to play football for Ipswich..."

Left wing agitator: "Those Tories... Total lunatics when it comes to standing up for the working man. I blame Thatcher. What do you think should be done..?"

I was as polite as I could be, trying to blend in. Eventually, people began ignoring me again. As the Kingfisher beer flowed, I found myself sitting away from the others, with a group of normal working blokes from around the local area. Builders, decorators, office wonks and the like. Anything to get away from the local politicos and business types.

It wasn't long before the inevitable question that stalks anyone working in TV reared its head. "Who's the most famous person you have met..?" I tried to impress by mentioning heavyweight TV News personalities and in a panic, a journalist of high quality sprang to mind.

"Krishnan Guru-Murthy once tweeted me a thank you for some pictures i sent in for Channel 4 News." Blank faces stared back at me. I changed tack. "Err.. i had my hand up the jumper of Debbie Harry once. I've met Barry from Eastenders... and..." The eyebrows of around ten middle aged blokes rose in unison... "WHOA THERE... Back up a little... You've grabbed Blondies tits..?" That wasn't what i said no. Too late. "Hey fellas, this guy's fondled Blondie... felt her tits and everything..!" The pride i felt as a news cameraman when Krishnan tweeted thanks to me obviously meant nothing to these guys. I tried to explain. "No No No... i was fixing a mic and..."

The next half an hour saw my curry go cold as i tried to explain to those around me that i had not in any way shape or form fondled Blondies tits with a follow on to a full blown sexual relationship. I met her for half an hour or so whilst i did an interview with her backstage before a gig for the local news, that was all. Disappointed, they gradually drifted away and the normality of being ignored resumed.

A small chap, who was a little the worse for wear alcohol wise, sidled up to me and said, "So... this Krishnan Guru chap..." At last, someone who wanted to talk to me about what i do for a living. "Ain't he the one with the loud ties and funny socks... Channel 5..?"


The bloke walked away. From now on, I am telling everyone that i am a long distance van driver. Which isn't very far from the real truth. I sat back down and drank my beer in silence.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.



Friday, 19 October 2012

Awkward situations for a news cameraman: Part 1.

I placed my camera on it's tripod at a respectful distance. I wanted to film the group of people in front of me, but didn't want them to know i was specifically filming them. Or for what purpose. As they sat and unpacked their takeaway burgers and fries, cokes and side orders, i rolled.

As the Death Star approached, i switched to using 'The Force'.

Trying to film them anonymously was hard. As they faced each other across a large wooden outside table, faces managed to pop into my viewfinder. Big, large, round faces. The faces kept pushing more fries into the holes at the front, along with about a third of a burger in one bite, washed down with sugary goodness. I concentrated at their midriffs. cracks of arses revealed themselves in large quantity. Bellies protruded from underneath too tight T-Shirts. Bingo wings flapped.

Are we getting bigger..? Are we killing ourselves with fatty foods and sugary beverages..? This is why i was filming. The news has taken upon itself to see, to find the truth, however much it wobbles. My task was to find the overweight amongst us, and film them eating their dinner without revealing their true identity for fear of national embarrassment on the nightly bulletin.

As i focussed in on another gargantuan burger mastication scene i looked up, they were looking at me as i was filming them. One, then two, until finally, the whole family were staring in my direction. I could see them talking about me with general nods in my direction, between mouthfuls of prime beef and potato. I was going to have to explain myself.

As they finished their meal the larger of the two men aimed his not inconsiderable frame in my direction. His bulk getting larger as he filled my vision with girth not seen since the Death Star made its first appearance.

Death Star: "Wotcha filmin' mate..?"

His wide neck glistened with a film of sweat, brightening the colours of the union jack tattoo just below his collar. I wasn't going to lie to the gentleman, as he blocked out the sun, ready to destroy the feeble planet with his overwhelming might.

Feeble Planet: "Oh, nothin' much, just a film for the news about fast food and the dietary need of the British nation as a whole, with an emphasis on glandular over expansion within the general patronage of said establishments."

Death Star: "Oh, right. You weren't filmin' us woz ya..?"

Feeble Planet: "No.. no.. no.. just, y'know, general burger joint scenes..."

Death Star: "Nice camera..."

Feeble Planet: "Thanks."

With that, he turned as nimble as an oil tanker, and rejoined his family, who by now had eaten his fries and finished his coke. My luck was seemingly coming to an end and not wishing to push it further i packed up and left the scene in search of another. My encounter with the Death Star a mere fleeting threat of annihilation.

The news watching public would not be aware of the bravery of this particular rebel of the news alliance, and the dark protruding secrets of the Death Stars exterior would be broadcast for this sector of the galaxy to watch.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sharp Focus Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be...

I suppose that it was bound to happen sooner or later. I was hoping for later. After years of squinting through a viewfinder, and committing to broadcast the good, bad and the ugly of general life, my eyes have said enough. In fact, i think they may be on the verge of retiring and turning into a couch potato slob, who drinks beer, eats pizza and watches daytime telly.

Sometimes, sharp focus isn't all it's cracked up to be...

They have seen a lot these eyes. It's just that now i have to hold life a little further away in order to be able to focus, and my arms are no longer long enough. I think that most news cameramen would like to be able to hold life a little more at arms length. Further away. It's a wonder that eyes don't have a tilt switch that shuts them down every time you have to film something unsavoury.

Take yesterday for example. Standing on the very spot where a Father has killed his two children and then himself is not a pleasant story to film. The flowers surrounding the scene, the grass scraped back to bare earth to remove the last trace of evidence and the life blood of three people who have not had the chance to live their full lives. The tearful writing on memorial cards i read were heartbreaking, life unexpectedly ripped away leaving those left behind to write a goodbye note.

I put my newly minted glasses on. The words leapt into sharp focus. My camera filmed the scene in colourful, crisp and sharp high definition, coverted to a stream of 1's and 0's for later broadcast. Lifting my eyes from the viewfinder i saw that the cards were no longer a hazy fuzzy jumble of words. They remained in sharp focus through my brand new set of lenses resting on the end of my nose...

I took my glasses off. Sometimes, fuzzy is good.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

To Boldly Go Where No Cameraman Has Gone Before...

"Are you sure..?" I asked my News Producer as he told me the location for this evenings live into our local news programme.

"Yep... I'm sure." came the reply.

Ende of the Worlde... I am about to drop off the local maps...

So i find myself cruising down the M4 towards the outer reaches of my broadcasting remit. To an area of banditry and pestilence, otherwise known as Swindon. My Sat-Nav asked on more than one occasion to 'Please perform a u-turn now...' I could almost hear the pleading tone of her electronic fear of where she was directing me.

I ignored it and pressed down the accelerator and further into the nearly unknown.

As the M4 turned into the A419, which in turn turned into a single lane and then a dirt track, my Sat-Nav proudly announced that 'Here be Dragons,' and 'Go no further... Ende of the Worlde...' I really was on the outer reaches of BBC South Today.

You see, we spend a lot of time where most of the news action happens. Cities, large towns and conurbations close to home, where the news is easy to reach and easier to get back to the ranch. We forget sometimes that the outer reaches exist and that things do, in fact, go on there. Swindon has electricity you know. And people. Apparently, they don't even live under a feudal hierarchy. Who knew..?

As i pulled my news wagon into the car park and unpacked my camera gear, i felt as if the local populace may surround me with pitchforks and flaming torches for such a display of witchcraft. But no... It turned out that they were travelling salesmen, just as bemused as i at finding themselves near Swindon. It's that kind of town.

Ah... dear, dear Swindon. A town largely ignored and villified by a mocking few. But not i... no longer. For i see a comely buxom wench milking the local cows by hand. She turns to me and in a slight, almost West Country accent with a Bristol twang, she says... "Alright my luvverrr..?"

I am smitten. In Swindon.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.