THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER by Jeremy Hoare
           
 
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What Is A Cameraman?

Egotistical, opinionated, arrogant, conceited …, that’ll do, enough words to describe my own television camera career. I think I may have upset more programme directors than anyone else where I worked but sincerely hope not. I take no pride or pleasure in writing this but will be severely rebuked if I do not by those that remember, and they will. I have got to that point in life where I can accept the past, albeit with a Dunkirk grin.

Being a cameraman is many things but there is a key to unlocking the greatest mysteries of why one is better than another. The good ones know how to tell a story with a boxful of metal filled with plastic and glass called a camera. Why…. because they put their heart, passion and emotion in it. In some ways cameramen are dreamers, always looking over the horizon to better things, but they are also very pragmatic so have their feet firmly on the ground.

I went through an entire camera career never really knowing how the things worked, they did and I was grateful as they enabled me to tell stories with them. But that was in yesterday’s world of union protected jobs (no card, no job) when you could say and do whatever you wanted to, being fired was only possible if you actually broke the law, otherwise the unions would uphold the right of anyone to maintain their employment, and that’s what killed them off.

 
     


How times change as today that attitude is out of the question, a freelance world where you are only as good as your last job, and the inevitable gossip that goes with it in what is still a virtual cottage industry worldwide. The gossip bit at least has not changed though!

So, act as I did in the past and you will not exactly find the phone ringing itself off the hook, it will be time to investigate supermarket shelf stacking work instead of having a career in one of the best jobs in the world’s best businesses, being a cameraman in television production.

There in a nutshell is a paradox; unless you stand your ground sometimes and do what you know to be right (and which gets noticed), nobody will ever get to know what magic employing you brings to a production. In short, you have the greatest of dilemmas, how to be just enough of an opinionated cameraman but without overstepping the mark so that’s all you are. Back your character traits with good camerawork and be part of the production team, then through your strength of personality deliver far in excess of what is expected and you should never be out of work.

For someone like myself with minimal education (no ‘diplomas’, not a single qualification) to do what I have done as a television cameraman has been a fluke of luck and ambition combined. Luck is being in the right place at the right time and having the ability to seize the moment; ambition is what has driven me forward together with the vital passion and emotion. Though failure is ever present, and it is tempting to stay in your comfort zone, never let that demon win the day, you will be doomed to creative oblivion if you do.

These are my own personal opinions but also here are those from many colleagues I have been privileged to have worked with through my career; read and learn, then put them into practice and always remember, in the end there are only three words to the secret of good camerawork and television production;
Tell the story
.