Friday, 18 October 2013

An Exhausting Day And A Lesson In Freelance TV News Cameraman Money Management.

Being a freelance TV news cameraman means that I am responsible for the fiscal matters of working for myself. Kit, cameras, vehicles, wages, VAT and dealing with the Inland Revenue. Amongst the day to day paperwork and balancing of books, there will come a time when something unexpected happens to mess up the tight, well oiled machine that is 'The Books.'

Ahh... Sir, i think i've found your missing kitten...

Take yesterday for example, there I was driving along at 50mph when my exhaust system decides to part company with my edit van with a loud bang and a trail of hot sparks and smoke. After changing my underwear, and driving home very, very slowly with all the audible grace of a Challenger Tank, the damage was inspected. It didn't look good.

The front end of the exhaust system was to blame, which held the very expensive catalytic converter. A broken pipe meaning the front end needed replacing... Or did it..?

The big flashy exhaust centre told me it couldn't be repaired, that the whole front end needed replacing, which unfortunately included the catalytic converter. "How much..?" I asked... Apparently the thick end of hundreds of pounds... Plus VAT. "It's the Cat mate, it's a Merc... Nuthin' I can do fella... And we can't fit you in until Monday"

I picked myself up from the floor and decided to look elsewhere. I ended up in a small shabby looking industrial estate in a small, shabby looking mechanics shed. He took a look at it... He sucked at his teeth. "Come back in an hour, I'll have it done for ya..."

I girded my loins for a kicking in the wallet and came back an hour later. "All done mate. I've joined the pipe with a little arc weld and replaced the section of pipe, but that's gonna cost ya..." Said the oily looking mechanic. I sighed... "How much..?" I said. "I've rounded it up to thirty quid... Including VAT."

Yet again, I picked myself up from the floor. "But the guys at big flashy exhaust centre said..." He cut me off. "Don't listen to them tossers, they only want to sell you an expensive exhaust, it was easily fixed... No bother."

I paid the £30 through the books, and gave the mechanic a tenner for a pint in the pub for himself. The next time something falls off the van, I know where I'm going. I also got to wondering if he could fix a motherboard in a TV camera with a little arc weld, a length of pipe and a hammer... I dismissed my last thought.

My point here is this... When the freelance life kicks you in the teeth, look for the oily man in a shed at the back end of town. He's going to save you a lot of bother... And money.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.