Saturday, 30 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And A Fistful Of Nothing.

The business of TV news often means covering stories involving the misery of others. There is no sugar coating it, wrapping it in cotton wool or the touch of a velvet glove.

Take a deep breath... and knock.

Often, this means as a TV news cameraman I, along with a reporter, have to approach relatives, friends or colleagues in the aftermath of something awful in their lives or drag up memories they wish they could forget, and ask them a straight question at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

"Hello. We are the press. Would you like to invite us into your life and home and tell us about your dead wife..? Just between you, me and around half a million viewers..?"

OK... So we don't exactly put it that way. Tact, discretion and understanding are warranted in a situation like this, but it sure as hell feels like it when you are stood on a man's door step unannounced, asking him in a slightly kinder manner, to do just that. That's what I did yesterday.

I was grateful to him that we were indeed invited into his home, given a hot drink and spoken to with a respect for our jobs as journalists that in this day and age can be a limited experience, given what we had just asked of him. A quick "No..!" and a slammed door in the face is as likely to happen than a warm invite with tea and biscuits.

We talked for a good few hours. He knew what we wanted as journalists, the human angle to a difficult story involving the sad death of his wife of many, many years. Space to fill on the airwaves as a slot between crime and the football. He was no fool.

In the end though, with the kindness and grace of a gentleman still in mourning and wondering where to go next in his life, he declined the offer of tea time exposure on the nightly news. He even thanked us for coming to see him and with a genuinely warm handshake, we took our leave and left him to the rest of his life. I genuinely hope that we didn't upset him too much in the pursuit of our work, but i guess we left a little upset behind as much as we try and avoid it. There is after all, only one way to ask.

Sometimes, a heartbreaking story is to be told. And sometimes, it's just between them and us over a cup of tea. We got the whole story, we just couldn't tell it properly without him. Either way, as journalists, we don't always get what we want in the rush to deadline, but i was grateful for the tea and warm welcome.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 29 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Brazilian Burn Misunderstanding.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may think that we TV news cameramen don't get to eat during the day due to constant filming deadlines, travelling between news stories with too much to do and no time to do it in... And you would be right. But on occasion, we do get to stop for a while, much to the chagrin of your average news producer who thinks that by stopping to eat, we are killing his first born and wrecking his freelance budget for the next quarter.

Bolinha's to this...

For the first time in a while though, I got to stop for lunch... At lunchtime. I did however make the monumental mistake of listening to my reporter who 'knew a little place around the corner...'

'Fancy a Brazilian..?' He said.

'A man's personal hair removal regime is a private matter... And you're not going anywhere near my nether regions with an electrical clipper and a hot wax spatula you utter lunatic...' I thought.

'Ohh... You mean food...' I said.

'What did you think I meant..?' He replied.

'Nothing... Nothing at all... Yes, let's go for a Brazilian...' I said, burying any thoughts that my reporter had taken a fancy to me and wanted to shave me bald before whisking me away for a romantic weekend in the country...

You see how easy it is to get yourself into a mess with a reporter whilst on the road..? Too easy. Misunderstandings can arise from seemingly innocent conversations about Brazilian food. It's a minefield I tell you.

Anyway, my reporter took me to a hip looking building that is quite obviously the meeting place of local hipsters, world food enthusiasts and Brazilians. I looked at the menu and was shocked... Shocked I tell you, at the lack of anything recognisable.

'How do you like your rissoles..?' Said my reporter.

Do you see..? There he goes again. One misheard mention of a rissole and this cameraman is rolling on the floor laughing. I just can't help myself.

Dip comes in two varieties... Hot and Scorchio.

 I scanned the menu for bacon, sausages, lumps of beef or chicken. Nothing. Not even a bottle of brown sauce. But being the adventurous sort, I opted for a coxinha, a sort of chicken dumpling with a spicy dip. This was not to be your average Cameraman's lunch of something bland and rubbery from a petrol station forecourt.

My reporter on the other hand, a fit, rock climbing, surfing kind of dude relished his choice of Brazilian cuisine with the gusto of someone who has been here before and knows nothing of a TV news cameraman's normal day to day diet of fatty roadside food. It is nice though on occasion, to try something a little different, even if the dip does blow your head off and leaves your tongue burning like... Well, like a Brazilian wax to the nether regions.

Next time, I'm taking charge and we're off to sample the culinary delights of Fat Mike's roadside hotdog van on the A34... And I can ask my reporter how they like their sausage.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 15 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And Catharsis In A Council Corridor.

As I sit there, outside meeting room K, in the labyrinthine corridors of a large city council building, I got to pondering. I like to ponder, I ponder a lot. As a TV news cameraman we get lots of time on occasion to sit, have a coffee and partake in a little pondering. Let's face it, there was nothing much else to do.

Council corridors and coffee...

 Waiting for a meeting room full of councillors, officials and lawyers to debate the machinations of a certain politician and his alleged sexual preferences made my brain spin. I have written about his alleged predilection for Russians before, ( yes... him again...) but it is now also alleged that it extends to other, more vulnerable members of society, so I let the very big brain of my reporter take care of the finer legalities of reporting such stories.

So I sit outside meeting room K and let the legal and moral ambiguities of such a thing wash over me. I am only allowed to film what they let me, which in this case is not very much. Meetings such as this don't like to be put under the searching gaze of a clean TV lens attached to a muttering cameraman. No matter, the truth will out.

Looking around me I see signs for Union meetings, the office of the chairman to the committee of this or that and notices for every conceivable goings on that occur in any council building the world over. I read them and wait, noticing that the toilets on level one are out of order. Money is being spent in colossal quantities just the other side of the door. QC's, Lawyers and councillors don't come cheap, and it won't get the toilets fixed.

So what was I pondering..? Well, I wondered at this point just how many other TV news cameramen around the world were doing just the very same thing. Sitting in a nondescript corridor and waiting for something to happen. Poised like a coiled sponge. Quite a few I bet. Quite a few.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And The Embarrassing Incident Of The Busted Knob And A Murderous Home Owner.

May the following story serve as a warning to all TV news cameramen and journalists...

We've all been there. You turn up at a news filming location with a bladder the size of a particularly large zeppelin, and ask the home owner if you can use the toilet facilities. You don't think about whether it is safe to do so, or if you are going to leave never to be seen again... I mean, you only want to have a pee. You shouldn't have to think about these things...

*Insert Knob jokes here...*

Well now you do. Yesterday, this very thing happened to me resulting in a very embarrassing phone call to my reporter in her car outside. Having asked permission to use the home owners toilet, i walked in, closed the door and got on with business, then washed my hands, turn the door knob to exit and 'clunk'...

The door knob remained in my hand as the spindle and outside knob slipped through the door hole in slow motion. I made a grab for the spindle... too late. There i stood, shiny knob in hand and a locked door. I looked through the hole... The spindle was gone. Not even my trusty Leatherman was going to help me now.

'This isn't happening to me,' i thought to myself. I tried my fingernails on the door for leverage, on the side and the gap underneath the door. I even tried the old burglars trick of a credit card on the metal lock mechanism. The door wasn't budging... Think man... Think.

"Hellooo..?" I cried, meekly through the spindle hole.

"Hellooo...? Are you there..? Can you hear me..?" I said, in the vain hope that the lady would hear me. There was no answer... It was then that i thought i had fallen into a hideous trap. My reporter was still outside in her car and i was trapped in a toilet inside the house. Then it struck me... Maybe the walls were filled with the rotting corpses of other BBC, ITN and Sky News cameramen who had fallen into this insane woman's diabolical cameraman toilet trap. She would send the reporter away saying that i hadn't turned up, and i would be left alone, trapped in her murderous scheme. I would be starved to death and bricked up in a wall next to Harry, a BBC news cameraman who disappeared in 2009.

Any story would do. Anything but the embarrassment of having to call my reporter for help. There was nothing for it... I got out my phone, praying for a signal to be present. There was. In my shame, i dialled my reporters number and told her the predicament i was in, fearing for my life...

I must say at this juncture, that i was not expecting the howls of laughter and derisive comment. This was serious... i could die in here.

Thirty seconds later, my grinning reporter and the thwarted home owner opened the door and released me. The shame. I could hear the news room jungle drums and rumour mill now... Burly cameraman rescued by petit lady reporter from toilet. I fear i can never show my face in the cameraman crew room again... Banished in shame and humiliation.

In my defence, i swear i caught a glimpse of menace in the home owners eye during our interview with her about subsidence in her home and surrounding areas. Subsidence my arse... I think it's the weight of all the dead cameramen corpses in the walls that caused the damage, and I do believe that i was the one that got away...

If there is a lesson here it is this... When using unknown toilet facilities, check your knob before locking the door. It may just save your life and the embarrassment of having to be rescued by a sniggering journalist.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Football, Strikes, Scotch Eggs, Cancer And Hedgehogs... Just Your Average TV News Day.

You may think that my last post sounded like I was out of a job, but as I said, the news ebbs and flows. Peaks and troughs, swings and roundabouts and from the sublime to the ridiculous, as you are about to hear...

Sickly baby hedgehog nearly gets mistaken for cameraman's scotch egg lunch...

 Last Thursday saw me drive a total of 168 news gathering miles in the pursuit of the following stories for the delight of Mrs Miggins watching the early evening news.

1. Wake up 06:00. Football press conference at 08:30. In which I drive for an hour to be told by security that I wasn't on the list, then listen to a coach who doesn't speak English, a disengaged footballer who speaks in cliches and the quick demolition by your author of two cold bacon rolls.

2. No break. Drive to university campus to film lecturers who are on strike, thereby teaching lazy students the art of playing kazoos, hanging around street corners, waving flags and shouting loudly about money and pensions whilst doing no work.

3. Deliver footage to studios, ingest, pick up next briefing sheet, burn lips on hot coffee whilst running to the truck... Spill coffee.

4. No lunch. Drive to 5 storey General Hospital, guess which level we were going to..? Interview with a cancer research doctor about how we are all going to die in a horrible manner. Coffee with time to feel depressed before receiving my next assignment.

4. Lunch of a scotch egg and packet of crisps whilst I drive for another hour to wildlife refuge. Film 1'30" package on rescued baby hedgehogs whilst gagging on the smell of 40 to 50 sickly hedgehogs in one room. Wait for satellite truck, take phone call cancelling the live spot. Drive home.

5. Arrive home after tea time following infuriatingly slow drive through rush hour traffic. Wife accuses me of smelling like sick baby hedgehogs... Shower. Burn clothes. Open bottle of a cheeky little Pinotage. Fall asleep on sofa. Dribble.

So, anybody reading this with a healthy interest in getting into TV news journalism or TV news camerawork, please do not dream of international jet setting assignments. Forget the glamour, celebs and the easy life. Think more along the lines of press conferences in a sweaty gym, scotch eggs for lunch, grumpy strikers, death and the sweet aroma of shitting sickly hedgehogs. For this will be your fate.

Next up: Filming bonfires in the rain and roadside news van tyre punctures, in which I cut myself and sob quietly into my steering wheel.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.