Thursday, 12 February 2015

TV News cameraman, pulp fiction and dark crevices.

I guess many of my loyal and regular readers thought i had given up the blog. Not a bit of it. I'm still living the fast, furious and fun filled life of a TV news cameraman with all that the job entails... rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, warm far flung locations, good food and an amiable relationship with my desk bound producers.

The truth is, things took a turn in my personal life with regards to my Son, who as many of you know, is disabled. Don't worry, the turn our lives took was a good one, as my Son is now receiving the care he deserves. As a carer for him for over 15 years, it came as a welcome diversion from trying to work full time as well as being full time carers. I reassure you... All is well. It did however, mean i had to take my eye off the ball writing wise for a few months as things moved at quite a pace, meaning i had to concentrate on a few other, essential parts of life.

So today, i bring you all back down to earth with a bump. As is usual for a TV news cameraman, much of the past few months have been taken up with the usual court cases, health, business and crime stories and one transporter ship which decided it had had enough and took a lie down for a few weeks in a main shipping lane in the Solent.

"Well.." Said the proctologist. "That was certainly inserted with a great vengeance and furious anger..."
 The rain has softened my skin, the harsh winter wind roughed it up again, a hole appeared in my boot and my back reminded me that i'm not as young as i used to be. So all is normal. So normal in fact that this morning, during a filming job outside an inner city school i was reminded of the breadth of human kindness.

Filming school kids as you know can be a tricky situation to find yourself in and most parents don't mind you being there once they know whats going on. Once everyone was happy, children were filmed, vox-pops were recorded and general views lovingly sequenced. I did however, say most parents, and not everyone it seemed, was happy...

Some, thankfully a small minority of one mother in this case, deem themselves as saviours of all children and experts in the law of filming in public places. Apparently, i have no right to film children. I need express permission from parents, even in a public place. I was told that if i pointed my camera anywhere near her children, there would be a distinct possibility i would be going home with an urgent need to visit a proctologist, the need of a newer, cleaner lens wipe and a lie down in a darkened room. Her actual words were...

"If you'se point that fuckin' fing at my kids, i'm gonna shove that camera up yer arse..."

I think you will agree that her grammar, diction and use of the first person pronoun was outstanding. The kids around her were certainly impressed, i was sure. With her skin tight leggings, baggy top, tattoos and scraped back hair she came across as a bastion of the legal profession, as M'Learned new acquaintance followed up her rapier like examination of my legal shortcomings...

"Youse need fuckin' permission to film 'ere..."

It was only a matter of time before i was called a nasty little pervert who liked filming children for sexual gratification, so i told her that all she had to do was to ask me not to film her kids and i would happily oblige, and there was no need to be so testy about it. However, there is just no pleasing some people, as our heroic, newly qualified street lawyer walked away, muttering something about human rights, kiddie fiddlers and something related to my camera and arse... again.

Sometimes... just sometimes, it would be nice if a random aggressive gobshite would learn a more sleek, powerful and impressive way to verbally assault a TV news cameraman... Something like this would be good: Ezekiel 25:17 ( Cameraman Edition. )

"The path of the righteous cameraman is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil producers. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good white balance, shepherds the journo through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his tripod's keeper and the finder of lost B-Roll. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I shove that camera up your arse."

Now that i could listen and adhere to... Alas, i think it is never to be. But it's nice to know isn't it dear reader, that whilst you may have missed my wise words and cunning prose, my sublime, erudite and crisp grasp of the English language, things have largely remained the same in the TV news cameraman world.

So I bid you farewell for now, as i'm off to buy an industrial sized bucket of lube... just in case i have to film there again next week. I can't be doing with all that chafing and anyway, my camera is a bit on the large side.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

TV news cameraman and an offer to be refused.

It only seemed like five minutes ago that i was stood outside Parliament as our leaders voted for the last war in our continuing 'War on terror.' (Syria Edition.) Yet here i am again... only this time it's for 'The war on terror... The revenge, Part 3. The Jihadists strike back.' (Iraq Edition.)

This time, we send everything we have... They don't like it up 'em...

 Yesterday, i spent my considerable TV news cameraman talents on wandering the streets asking various people's opinion on the chances of the UK re-engaging in the Middle East. By re-engaging, i mean in the form of dropping a metric shit load of bombs onto Jihadists of various hues, captured American hardware from the previous visit that were left lying around the desert and wedding parties.

It would seem that we are to spend lavishly on sending some highly expensive flying machinery to drop some eye-wateringly expensive bombs on a rag tag bunch of Jihadis driving left behind moderately expensive U.S. Humvees and artillery pieces that we left behind for them to use against us. What are we like eh..?

Anyway, i digress... Our esteemed leaders were recalled from their holiday board meetings at 'BombsULike Ltd' and 'ThinkOfTheChildren Inc,' to vote in Parliament on whether to send our entire Royal Air Force of 6 fighter jets and a mechanic back to Iraq, and to light up our entire stockpile of Tomahawk cruise missiles which are kept in a shed somewhere in Milton Keynes.

The Royal Navy declined the offer, citing a lack of aircraft carriers for their aircraft.

Somewhere in the Ministry of Defence, the stockroom boy had found the 'Fire Before' date stamped on the missiles, causing panic amongst the General Staff who ordered some extra large tupperware and informed the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street, who wanted to avoid a repeat of the 'soggy bottomed' Trident missile mishap of some years previous, when they were left unused during the Summer months, costing an overspend on the yearly household nuclear budget.

So here we are again... Voting for war.

Many Voxes were popped. A brand new, not yet in place Bishop was questioned on the moral validity of our intent, and yet more popping of voxes in a different town. Impromptu, well meaning peace rallies sprung up around the area like Autumn mushroom clouds.

"We should have done it properly in the first place.." Said an ex soldier from our previous two excursions to the region.

"Leave 'em to it... Let their God sort 'em out" Said Mrs Housewife.

"Haven't we finished Afghanistan yet..?" Said Mr well intentioned.

News was happening fast. Top of the bulletin lives were planned. We planned ours outside two pubs on a Friday evening in the town centre with some hippies, and hoped for the best. As my Journo and i practiced our moves before going live, a quick witted jester of the local Al-Fresco drinking community breezed past, and loudly intoned some insightful reasoning for our country going to war...

"F**k her in the p**sy..!"

Oh dear... my first one, but at least we were not live, he missed out by a mere three minutes, the twat.

I fear this new jolly jape may become a 'thing' for us TV newsies, following widespread videos of similar happenings from the USA which have pervaded the internet in recent months. Not content with gurning in general at the back of a live shot, these talented, funny and socially aware fuckwits have taken to shouting this... I fear for the future of live TV news links.

Such as everything in life, whatever happens in the States will eventually happen here. You only have to look to the past... Chewing gum, pop socks, Rock 'n' Roll and the sport of precision bombing unlikeable people who are far, far away, whilst our own population still struggle as local facilities are closed down for the lack of cash and investment.

I heft my TV camera back onto my aching shoulder... Bombs away..!

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The freelance TV news cameraman guide to taking surveys.

Now many of you out there with 'normal' jobs, like digging road ditches, manual labouring in the steel factories of the grim North and social media PR in the sweatshops of London will no doubt be delighted at your days off from the daily grind of water pipes, steel RSJ's and a finely crafted marketing tweets for a new chocolate hob-nob derivative.

Polynesian cash money... Fishy.

Not us freelance TV news cameraman and women. We hate days off. For a start, it means we are not getting paid to craft telly pictures for the uninformed public, give voice to the bellicose politician or labour at the coal face of showing a footballers metatarsal calamity.

A day off means that we sit at home, twiddling our thumbs and wishing for unfortunate situations to arise. It also makes us deal with freelance business chores like invoicing, taxes, VAT, and other assorted freelancing business matters. Take just now for example. There i was, reading VAT notes whilst wondering exactly what it takes to make a nearby petrol refining station to explode, when i was called by the Federation of Wasting Peoples Time, who wondered whether i had the time to take a survey on the merits of small business banking.

Have i got time..? HAVE I GOT TIME..? As it happens, yes i do, i'm sick to the back teeth of trying to drum up some actual cash money. They came straight to the point...

"Who do you bank with?" Asked the charming foreign voiced lady from a pop up call centre in downtown Lagos, Nigeria, home of the venerable FoWPT (Inc)

"I'm actually offshore, with the Royal Bank of Tuvalu, ForEx transactions are via the Co-Op in Basingstoke."

"Tuva... Oh... Where is that please?"

"Too-Vah-Loo... Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, it's a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Basingstoke on the other hand is in Hampshire, but i get paid in Tuvaluan Dollars, did you know that Tuvaluan Dollars are accepted at Lidl discount stores here..?"

"I did not know that Sir... No. You don't have a bank in the UK then?"

"Yes, the Co-Op, but they only pay me in stamps."


"Yes, savings stamps. I save them up for Christmas, it's a lot less bother and saves quite a bit of money on the joint of meat and tinned foodstuffs, artichokes and the like."

"I see Sir, so... i... err... no transactions of cash in the UK then..?"

"No, just stamps."


You see? This is where having a day off gets you. Us TV camera people need hard news to keep us out of trouble with the good folks of telephone scammery. It's not too much to ask is it? No, it isn't. Back to the VAT notes then.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The daily grind of a TV news cameraman.

It's been a while since i last posted i know. We TV news camera operators can't spend all day tapping away on computer keyboards to bring you the delightful stories and behind the scenes insights into our world of very important news gathering operations, tight deadlines and the wearing of short trousers in inclement British weather.

Someone call Dr Greystubble-Dimplechin... We need the crashcart... STAT..!

No. You see, we have the day to day filming to do, lights to put up and take down, microphones to clip on, cables to coil and journalists to wrangle. We have miles and miles of driving to do, parking places to find without being fined and street corners to hang around on.

We have impenetrable, long winded and vague briefing sheets to read and decipher, phone calls to take from producers, lost guests to find, deadlines to beat, footage to file and WiFi coverage to swear at. We have tripods to carry, sound bags to hump and sore backs to nurse.

We've been given the wrong post code, address and name. Someone will be late whilst we turned up on time, It's our third filming job of the day but the first for our refreshed reporter, we haven't had any lunch and nobody has offered us a drink.

We got called out on a day off, our weekend ruined and dinners have been missed. We get fluff stories about deckchairs to film. We get stuck in traffic gridlock. We get another deadline and another producer on the phone, we get more footage to cut and file from the road side. Our WiFi is weak and our uploads look bleak. We do it with minutes to spare.

Our phones are constantly going beep... We rub a tired eye and read the text:

"Hi Paul, sorry for the late text. Just wanted to say that your deckchairs stuff was amazing, everybody said so. Sorry to hear how bad the traffic was and therefore how tight the turnaround was! Thanks, K."

We smile at little kind gestures and drive home. You see... It's been a busy time.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 21 July 2014

24 Hour News: "So, what's the latest..?"

Catching up with the internet today, many of you will be aware of the incident involving Sky News reporter, Colin Brazier, going through the personal belongings and luggage of a passenger who died on flight MH17 in Ukraine.

A mistake made under pressure..?

 My first reaction on watching it was, "What the hell was he thinking?" Many of you made your feelings known on social media channels. Outrage, disgust and questioning why the reporter made that decision to do what he did, live on air. It was most certainly a mistake in my view, speaking as a tv news cameraman.

I then got to thinking about why. Why did an award winning, respected and talented reporter think that this was an ok thing to do? I then remembered all the times i have stood at a major incident, linked up to a satellite feed point, partnered with a reporter and trying to keep up with the demands of the 24 hour news channels.

Watch any 24 hour news operation and the same news will be told every 15 minutes, with the major stories at the top of the hour and at 15 minute intervals which normally include a weather update and some sport. Unless anything happens, that news cycle will go on all day, every day with the occasional break for scheduled programmes run by the channel.

The biggest and most incessant question the reporter will be asked is: "What's the latest..?"

Every 15 minutes. "What's the latest..?"

9 times out of 10 throughout the day there will be no latest information. None. Nothing will change, but the 24 hour news channel will insist on asking: "What's the latest..?"

Remember that the really big stories, like the tragedy of flight MH17 will be broadcast for days or even weeks. Reporters, producers and camera operators will be dispatched to the scene to compete, compare and be different from one another in telling the story of what happened. Travelling, producing, filming and gathering of facts are of course the main job, but the 24 hour news will want a report, an update... The very latest news, of which there may be none or very little after the first few hours on the first day.

And they will want it every 15 minutes... Live.

Those of us who work this madness we call news know that finding those small snippets of information at a major scene is hard. More so i believe at the scene of an air crash in an uncontrolled war zone. You do your best, you report on what you see, you speak to those who will talk, you show and you tell.

And then after a while you start to run out of news and out of ideas for the next report in 15 minutes. You try to be creative, you try to be different, to put things into context for the news viewers.

Let me be straight with you. This show of internet outrage shouldn't be about Murdochs' Men rifling through innocent victims belongings. Its about a reporter who i think made an error of judgement in what is a tough, live and dangerous environment with the pressure to keep telling the news, to update, to "Give us the latest."

He has a job to do in telling us the news the best he can. He even realised his mistake live on air. I would be inclined to give him a break, because 15 minutes isn't long to come up with something new, refreshing, different, engaging and newsworthy.

Maybe it's time we took a look at the 15 minute cycle in 24 hour news, and the pressure we put the news crews through in order to 'Feed the news beast... Live.' That would be a good start.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.