Wednesday, 15 January 2014

TV News Cameraman And A Tale Of Woe.

Being a freelance TV cameraman in the news industry can be a precarious affair at the best of times. Long days without a phone call, a nibble of a news story or the promise of jam tomorrow, but I have got used to that, it's normal.

Having met the cameraman, the interviewee did the only rational thing...

Having decided to take a long break over Christmas and new year, I threw myself back into to swing of things with four straight days of news gathering. On the fifth day, I could feel that something was not quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it, and anyway experience, (and my wife,) tells me that putting your finger on things can get you into an awful lot of trouble so I ignored the warning signs.

The tiredness, that little niggling ache at the base of your skull that doesn't go away... I put it down to having worked long hours and driving a stupid amount of mileage in the pursuit of newsy knowledge and the public sharing thereof...

Pop a headache pill and drive on. Stand in the Winters cold and rain... Everything's gonna be ok. Nothing to see here, stop being such a wuss.

A break after day five reassured me that all was fine, I'll just blow my nose a little and accept the job that my producer has allocated me for tomorrow. A quick interview with a sportsman at a location not too far from the top of the M3 and then tootle along to the next job. A full day beckoned and things were looking rosy.

The morning started with traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. In fact it was safe to say that the whole of the South of England was on the road between home and the M3, which was itself going at the speed of an asthmatic snail that was carrying a particularly heavy load.

My indicator in the van was giving me an ice warning, the temperature was 1 Degree Celcius... But...  is it me or is it hot in here..? I opened the window and turned down the heating. My face got wet but, no, it wasn't raining. I wiped my brow with a leftover Starbucks paper towel and closed the window. My temperature indicator was right about the 1 Degree Celcius because I was now shivering. I shivered so much that my teeth started to chatter and I began to sweat like a cornered bodybuilder holding a bag of steroids.

This, I decided, was not good.

From a reasonably ok man an hour ago I had descended into a shivering sweaty wreck... In a traffic jam. I adjusted my van seat to get a little more comfortable. The back and neck ache presented themselves with the subtlety of a large elephant dressed in a tutu and the dull ache at the base of my skull decided to have a party. Pow..! Instant viral shittyness.

I made the call to my producer. It's a call that any freelancer in this industry hates to make. Derailing his carefully laid plans, i knew he would have some reshuffling to do and calls to make. I was about to disrupt his schedule for the day... And news producers don't like that. Not at all... Oh no, especially from expendable freelancers...

I actually thought of Skyping him so he could witness the melting face, the shakes and the dribble, but decided not to inflict that upon him as he sipped his cappuccino and nibbled his hobnob. I made my excuses and cancelled the rest of the day. I would film the interview of course, or the job would be lost because international sports stars don't give a flying poke at a rolling doughnut about my predicament, and we were booked in for half an hours time with no other cameraman available... I couldn't let them down, but I knew I couldn't keep it up.

I spent the rest of the morning being asked by people if I was ok. According to my sports reporter, I did not look a well man. To top it all, and as is typical, the sportsman was an hour late for the interview by which time he was genuinely worried about coming anywhere near me. I looked and felt like a mess.

I wrapped the job up in double quick time and steered clear of actually holding the camera or the tripod for fear of making the interview look like it was filmed during an earth quake. The sweaty shakes were out of my control. I threw the kit into the van and made for home.

"What are you doing home.." Asked my Missus. "Ooh... You look like shit."

It's good to be home in the loving embrace of my family.

"Don't you come anywhere near me." She added, as I sank into the couch whilst taking medication with an industrial ladle, and popping pills until things went fuzzy... If I don't pull through troops, please tell others of me... Tell them I was a good man.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter. And Woe... Woe is me.