I shoot something pretty much every day…
Aged six years my first experience behind a video camera was at my father’s wedding. At fourteen I bought my first video camera and began documenting everyday life as well as producing short narrative films.
At 19 I had shot footage for BBC News as well as having a documentary broadcast on BBC2 as part of the BBC Blast series. Aged 21 my graduation short was A Royal Television Society nominated film and I won the ITN award for the best News Camera Operator at the TVYP Edinburgh International Television Festival.
I spent the next two years working as the Student’s Union President & General (Commercial) Manager at the University of Lincoln. Alongside this I worked freelance as a Video Journalist, Camera Operator & Producer for Sparkhouse Studios based digital agency Hotwire media, before embarking upon a relocation to London.
From 2005 until the present I freelanced as a Camera Operator on Sky 1’s Dream Team, BBC News 24 (well for a day in which I shot a live link but was unable to undertake any further work due to HMRC tax status complications), Channel 4 & More 4’s Time Team, Juniper, Wedding TV and Endemol. I currently work as an in house Producer for Broadcast Communications & PR Agency Markettiers4dc.
In my current full time contract I have produced news packages/B-roll and brand funded content on behalf of clients including BT, Virgin, Dolmio, Kelloggs, Vodafone, Orange, Universal, government departments, NGOs & third sector organisations. With natural journalistic instincts I am used to extracting great reactions from the non-media trained as well as professional talent; over the last 2.5 years I have produced content with talent including: Lewis Hamilton, Dom Joly, Olly Smith, Girls Aloud, Lesley Waters & Oz Clarke. My work has been broadcast on BBC/ITN news, The Sun online, Telegraph TV, The Times Online, MSN Video etc.
On starting out I had about a months worth of money and moved to London to seek out an opening. I didn’t know anyone and hadn’t done a very good job at keeping in touch with anyone I’d met along the way (and I’d done running/work experience at BBC TV centre) but I knew I could (just about) operate a DSR camera so I decided that it was time to learn the craft of a Lighting Camera Operator and for this I expected that working in a drama environment was the best place. I’d done a news production workshop with the fantastic TVYP scheme at the Edinburgh Television Festival in which on way to the Mactaggart Lecture I found myself sitting on a coach to a man whom was at least twenty years older than me. No idea who he was so we just got chatting. Turned out he ran a TV Facilities Company whom supplied production kit and crews across the drama and broadcast sector.
Two years on and I had arrived in London but I could remember the man’s name and with the help of Google I soon tracked him down. I put a call in and explained that I was fresh to the industry but willing to start at the bottom and work hard. He invited me in to meet his Facilities Manager, so I rocked up, we had a coffee and I explained that I wanted to learn and work with cameras. We hit it off, he explained there could be an opportunity as a Camera Trainee working on the prime time SKY1 football drama ‘Dream Team’. It was 11.5k pa for a 7:30 til 7:30 5 day p/week job working mainly at the East London Three Mills Film studios. I took the kind offer and six months later the series ended and I, being on a full time contract with the facilities company returned back to the kit room to clean lenses and assemble kit to go out on other shoots. I got to go on a few but it wasn’t enough and I began to get itchy feet and I’d bumped into a camera man who said he was going to be working on the Time Team Live show at Buckingham Palace – now Time Team was, and probably remains, the best show there is so I enquired as to if they were looking for any more camera assistants/operators. It turned out they were so I had to strike a deal with my employer, they released me to go off and work on Time Team and in return I promised to return on the next series of Dream Team as a Camera Assistant (a jump up on the camera department ladder from the previous series).
Within a few months of working on Dream Team I would be able to step forward and occasionally operate the camera myself, a highlight being shooting shots on the final episode of the series. Once the series ended I got a call from the man I’d met on that bus back in Edinburgh, he had the sad news that his facilities company was going to cease trading and as of that moment I was effectively made redundant and became a freelancer…. I spent the next 5 months working two or three days a day as a self-shooting producer operating mainly z1 cameras, a far cry from the digibetas and massive machine that was working on a drama set. But oddly I got liked the randomness of working on different content with different people, then whilst scrawling through production base and broadcast freelancer I came across an advert seeking a multi skilled producer working for a London PR agency.
It didn’t really make sense to me at first – why would I be able to work in PR? But I went for it and was offered the full time salaried position. Akin to working freelance every day would be, and remains, different – with difference people and different formats. Some days I write, some I shoot, some I direct, now and again even edit.
The broadcast media landscape is changing so quickly that I think it would be foolish to be so focused as to miss out on opportunities which may not fit in as part of ‘a plan’. Ten years ago I wanted to be the next Ridley Scott but now I fancy a good work life balance, a comfortable living from a stimulating and honest career. I imagine I will return to working freelance project-by-project in the future, spreading the risk and having a mixed income; possibly even doing some lecturing, as well as pursuing some other passions such as local politics.”
Advice to Media Production students/graduates:
Take advantage of the spare time you have, get out there, get shooting, get editing, and get writing. Learn as much as you can, meet as many people as you can in the industry and crucially get work experience. Get involved with Siren FM, volunteer for your local commerical/BBC stations – spend time working for a broadcast production company. If you are starting out or on work experience then make yourself noticed by offering help to everyone around you. If the cup of coffee is empty go fill it, don’t wait to be asked to help, think ahead and spot what might need doing, maybe the camera batteries aren’t all on charge, maybe the tape stock for the shoot is still in the cupboard – get it out and label it! Above all else be realistic you may have a degree and some production experience but you will need to start at the bottom of a very wonky ladder. Don’t run before you can walk. Have an idea of where you might want to go but don’t turn down exciting sideward opportunities which may present themselves. Work hard and play hard.”
Some other fun things I’ve done along the way:
Got to be an extra many times on Dream Team, usually as a journalist but once as some kinda camp fashionista at a wedding.
I got paid as an extra to be a news camera man as part of the japanese news crew on big ‘twins’ story line in Holby City.
Whilst at uni I was on Bargain Hunt – good fun experience in which I got to learn….
A piece to camera on Time Team.
’10 minutes’ in a hotel room with Girls Aloud.
Visit my photo album.
Another recent clip:
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