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.