Saturday, 26 April 2014

Filming the news in the Peoples Republic of Royal Berkshire.

I admit that a day ago I got a little over excited at the prospect of a news job that came my way. You see David Cameron, our esteemed Prime Minister was coming to town and I had been tasked to film him as he visited a large transport construction site in Reading.

At the crucial moment during our interview, the Prime Minister felt an embarrassing itch...

What's the big deal..? I hear you ask..

Well, as a mostly regional news cameraman with occasional forays into network news, I don't get to meet our glorious leader in the flesh all that often and when he is on our patch, it's about a 1 in 10 chance that it will be me that goes to film him. My time however, had arrived.

As it was a construction site nobody, including our dear leader, could move without being dressed up like a glow stick at Glastonbury. Also, there was a pool camera system in operation so an interview and cutaway shots were all that were required from me.

Some shots of the construction site were in order, to build up a good solid sequence of where we were, so I headed for the entrance to film signage and wide shots etc.

"You're not going to film the Prime Minister arriving are you..?" Queried a small dark haired PR wonk. "It's just that you're only here for the interview, nothing else.."

I advised PR wonk of my intentions knowing that a pool camera was covering the Prime Minister's visit itself, and went about my business. I was then watched for the next five minutes.

People with clipboards milled around. As everyone was dressed in eye burning orange outfits, nobody could tell who was who. The only people not dressed as Coco the clown were the PM's dark suited protection detail, for as we all know from the films, a reflective jacket hinders the drawing of weapons and the killing of people who look remotely 'terrorist-ish.' I digress, his security detail remained practically invisible and were of no bother to the press.

His highly trained PR wonk detail however, had other ideas.

I made my way back up to the press interview position. It was then I was approached by the small dark haired PR wonk lady...

"Can I ask you not to film the Prime Minister as he walks towards the press area..?" She said, face like concrete.

"All interviews are to be conducted facing this way..." She pointed.

There were only two cameras waiting to interview the Prime Minister. We were instructed that the PM would move from my camera to the next one in an orderly fashion. A quip was muttered about Mr Cameron only being able to move to the right, but was hushed.

My Journalist questioned him with rapier like finesse and in reply got answers that in no way reflected his questions. Standard stuff from politicians. Once finished, the PM deftly moved, or should I say in tabloid speak, 'lurched' to the right and repeated the process with the next news crew. I turned my lens for a sneaky cutaway of the PM with the camera crew.

PR wonks slowly, quietly and unobtrusively placed themselves between my camera and the PM, blocking my shot.

"Could you not film the Prime Minister, this isn't your interview.." Whispered dark haired PR wonk. This was getting sinister... and annoying.

I picked up my camera on the tripod and moved 20 yards or so away. A nice wide of proceedings would do just as well.

PR wonk followed. Standing in front of my lens, she said "You're not going to actually film the Prime Minister are you..? This isn't part of the press interview section of the visit.."

Now, those of you that know me will be right... My blood pressure was beginning to rise, and my mouth was about to open. I bit my tongue and stopped myself descending into full on gobshite.

Many of you will be wondering why I didn't say anything. You see as a freelancer, hired by a broadcaster and standing within touching distance of the Prime Minister was not the time or the place to tell a PR wonk to go and... well, you get the idea. Becoming the story is not the cameraman way.

You would think that filming, meeting and interviewing the leader of your nation would be an honourable, enjoyable and memorable thing to do, and so it should be. Something for the scrap book as they say.

It's just a real shame that the experience was ruined by overbearing, soulless, pinch faced PR goons with an over inflated sense of self importance, who have nothing better to do than get in the way of the working press.

PR platitudes aside, we all know this is in order to minimise the coverage and picture taking at all costs, just in case a mistake is made by the Prime Minister. The less filming and pictures, the less of a chance that the PM will be captured on film, looking like a fool.

Like everything in politics however... We only have to wait.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

TV Cameraman Required: Must be able to AP, DP and Series Direct A Fact Ent Ob Doc ASAP.

Before I start, I have nothing whatsoever against @mediaparents a fine organisation posting jobs and discussion for working media parents, and we all want jobs don't we..? Why yes, yes we do.

Confused as to whether he should AP, DP or Series Direct, ukcameraman went to the pub...

I am however getting more and more confused and befuddled about what it is I should call myself and if I have the requisite qualifications to apply. Having perused the interwebs and Twitter this morning, I came across the following three job postings in quick succession...

TWEET: @mediaparents: Several shooting PDs needed ASAP till september! Location shooting through summer in gardens!

Shooting PD. Hmm, I can shoot, but can i P..? Or indeed do I have the relevant experience to D..? I dunno. Do you..? What I do know is that if you are shooting and PD'ing through the Summer in a garden in the UK you are going to get piss wet through... Get some good waterproofs. Also, several PD's..? That's going to cause a lot of friction in the P'ing department and serious creative differences in the D'ing, and they want it ASAP.

Here's another...

TWEET: @mediaparents: experienced Series Directors who can shoot on 305 with fact ent experience please check this out!

Again, I can shoot, but on a 305..? There are so many camera variables out there, but I think I could work it out given an hour or two's practice and read through the 6 books of camera internal menu instructions. I don't think I would have time however, as they want me to shoot AND series direct at the same time. No PD'ing required. Also, as a news cameraman, 'fact' I can do standing on my head, but 'fact' is generally not 'Ent,' and 'Ent' is generally not 'fact.' See Channel 5.

Then came this...

TWEET: @mediaparents: Any APs possibly who can shoot able to work out of Brighton starting next week? Ob Doc experience please

Wow..! Yes, I can (possibly) shoot. But now they want me to AP all over the place as well as shoot the bloody thing. Can I not PD it..? Or series direct it..? Surely the AP'ing is similar to the PD'ing and series directing..? And who's going for the coffee and sandwiches..? I also like to Ob, but Ob'ing generally gets in the way of good Doc'ing and vice-versa. The working 'out of Brighton' bit also appeals, as everyone likes to work out of Brighton because the parking is a bitch.

If I were to ever get one of these jobs, what would happen if I lapsed into my old AP'ing habits when I should be PD'ing..? God forbid I should start to PD when I should be series directing, because as the series director, I would have to sack myself for PD'ing. Maybe the AP would get the blame when it all goes tits up... hang on, that's me too... but then who the hell would shoot..? Heaven help me if i should ever get ideas of grandeur and begin to DoP.

As a result of the above, I am now advertising myself as follows:

WORK WANTED: Shooting APPD Series Director. (Non DoP) Fact Ent Ob Doc preferred. Likes to work in Gardens out of Brighton on a 305. (Summer only) Can start next week. Waterproofs owner / Operator. Possibly.

That should get the work pouring in... Until then, i am still available as a cameraman.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Losing your soul to the news beast... Bit by tiny bit.

You may remember a while ago I wrote a post about the untimely death of two men whilst riding their bikes and the subsequent meeting with a grieving family at the roadside. Called 'Death in a valentines rainstorm' you may remember my decision not to film the family in their raw, emotional state and my reasons for not doing so. I stand by those reasons.

So... I'll just stand next to the court entrance... Feeling like an utter shit.

Yesterday, I came across an article on the AFP website entitled 'The pain of others: Photographing despair.' by Michel Sailhan, which details the filming and photographing of victims and relatives of victims, at the very moment of the worst time in their lives.

It made for powerful reading and an interesting quandary for those of us at the front line of reporting the news both internationally and more importantly locally, in our own back yard, with people we may just meet again in the course of our job as a journalist or photographer.

Should you be just starting out as a journalist, you may think that tragedy and despair is a rare, big time event in a far away land. International news for the big time bulletins. You couldn't be more wrong. There will often come a time when you will have to make this decision. Approach, ask questions and film, or leave well alone. Being a journalist or cameraman though, means that you will very rarely leave well alone. Tragedy is often the reason why you are there in the first place, and the news is an impatient mistress.

This will of course, be entirely dependent on your story. Few of us will experience serious social upheaval in the form of major natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis resulting in hundreds, if not thousands of deaths. Few of us will be at the airport when news of a missing plane is confirmed to waiting loved ones.

What the vast majority of us do experience is the day to day tragedy of life as lived in our local and national communities. The missing child, the untimely violent death or the accident on the roadside. Here is where most decisions will be made on a daily basis by reporters, photographers and news cameramen and women around the world.

I had a job today where the parents of an 11 month old boy arrived to live through the trauma of losing their child once more, at a coroners court to decide on the cause of his death. Not only had they lived through the ordeal of losing him, they must hear evidence of his death whilst sat in court.

Court stories being notoriously light on pictures, the decision was made that pictures of the parents entering and leaving court were required in order to tell the story. Luckily for me and my reporter Ben, the parents were approachable and eager to tell the story of their son's short life and the reasons for his death.

It is not always this easy. Sometimes you will be made most unwelcome. It certainly made my life a little more bearable whilst pointing my camera at them when what I really wanted to do was give them a hug and leave them to the necessity of getting this over with.

When your producer or editor decides that news is news, you have a conscious decision to make. Whether you are right or wrong, these types of jobs just tug at your humanity and impinge on the feelings of others, whilst at the same time making you feel like a heartless shit.

In this game you just have to live with it and get used to the feeling that this is what a proportion of the general public will think of you as you go about the business of news gathering, whilst losing a thin sliver of your soul, bit by tiny bit... Just hoping that your conscience lets you get away with it.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.