|THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER||by Jeremy Hoare|
Cameraman on “The Nutcracker” in Kyoto, Japan
I am fortunate to return to Kyoto each year as my partner Chizuko is from that most beautiful city and one thing I love is being one of four cameramen on a theatre performance of a ballet performed by the Mitsuko Inao Ballet School in an 800 seat theatre at the Biwako Hall arts complex by Lake Biwa.
The single performance is always on a Sunday and having done this for several years I know the routine; rig at 0900 then one straight through dress rehearsal from 1000 until 1300. The audience arrive and get seated and at 1400 the performance starts, running four hours with intervals to finish at 1800. It is a lot to remember from one rehearsal, too much in reality and I have never got it completely right yet but as long as I‘m asked back, I‘ll keep trying!
I cannot think of a more wonderful form of camerawork than shooting a ballet, it uses all the skills a cameraman processes with great emphasis on timing and anticipation. On this occasion I operated the close-up camera right of centre stage and tried to be bold with it.
The first part of the afternoon was taken up with concert pieces for the dancers then the school’s founder Mitsuko Inao did a very sensitive performance to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’. In ’The Nutcracker’ itself, her husband and my great friend Christopher Fryman performed with panache, you can read an excerpt about his camerawork on the Chapters page.
At the party afterwards, it was a pleasure to relax with all the people who have made it happen and it gives me a good feeling to chat to young people at the beginning of their careers. I try and encourage them as I was when I started as a very junior cameraman at 19 years old. It worked for me and I hope it does for them and you!
Guild of Television Cameramen TiCA Award and Bill Vinten
I have been a member of the Guild of Television Cameramen (GTC) for many years and well remember as a Tracker (Camera Assistant today) assisting it’s founder, Dick Hibberd, back in the 1960s at ATV Elstree. He was a pleasure to work with then and is the same today.
On Tuesday 28th September I was present at the GTC Annual Awards held at the prestigious BFI Southbank in London. There I was fortunate enough to talk to 90 year old Bill Vinten, youngest son of the founder of camera support manufacturers whose camera pedestals must be in virtually every TV studio in the world.
When I introduced myself, Bill straight away told me we’d met before, which we had a long time ago when Reg Clowes was the ATV Head of Cameras. This time it was with great pleasure that I was able to tell him that the combination of an EMI 2001 camera on one of his Vinten Fulmar pedestals was for me the most perfect equipment and enabled me to be truly creative in a studio, I could make it do whatever I wanted to and I really believe that it helped me become a better cameraman.
At the Awards, Bill Vinten was presented with the TiCA, the Guild's highest honour by GTC President Dick Hibberd for his lifetime contribution to "fostering and improving the art and craft of the professional television cameraman". Without doubt he certainly did that for me, very many thanks Bill!
Broadcast Video Expo at Earls Court, STLD, GTC and Altered Images
For the three days of the Broadcast Video Expo held in London’s Earls Court Two from 16 to 18th of February, I was on the STLD stand talking to people about the advantages of joining, which are many. It was directly opposite the GTC stand so I was able to catch up with many colleagues from over the years as well as talk to newcomers and students coming into the television industry.
The GTC’s Spring Issue of Zerb magazine was published at BVE which has my article about the lectures I gave in New Zealand and Australia in 2009, as well as another which is about a good friend, Carole Edrich, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and has made a great recovery. As a result, Carole wanted to make a video for her ‘No Walls’ charity that she is starting and I was able to assist through the GTC Forum to find volunteers for it, Steven Acton to shoot and Stuart McKears to edit. The GTC is an organisation that all professional TV cameramen and camerawomen worldwide should join; the ability to post on the Forum can result in remarkable responses, as mine did.
On the last day of BVE I was flattered to be able to give a short speech and present TTV books as prizes to the winners of a student Post Production competition organised by a leading editing solutions company, Altered Images Ltd, who are based in Shepperton.
But sadly, and yet again at a television industry trade show, I was throughout the event surprised to find out from media course students not what they did know but what fundamentals they had not been taught. A Second Year student had never been told to look at old master paintings by artists like Caravaggio and Rembrandt to learn about composition and lighting, another had no idea what a Redhead was, yet another had no idea about traditional three point lighting. While there must be many fine tutors, this is a dreadful condemnation of some who lack knowledge or are unable to communicate such basic and vital information to their students. But they most certainly did justify the time spent by myself and the interviewees in writing this book, it’s all here, and much more, inside the pages of TTV … read and learn!
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Cameraman on a performance of a ballet - “Coppelia”
In Kyoto on 25th October I was one of four cameramen on a theatre performance of the ballet “Coppelia” and was woken in the morning just before the alarm went off by a small earthquake which shook the house from side to side, it seemed an auspicious start to the performance day!
Shooting a theatre performance of a ballet is one of the most demanding forms of camerawork there is and I appreciated being asked to operate a side close-up camera as it was such a challenge. This production was in the 800 seat theatre at Biwako Hall with an Anglo-Japanese camera crew; myself on Camera 1, Jeff Taylor on Camera 2, Takio Shimojima on Camera 3 and Junichi Yasuda on Camera 4.
With just one straight through dress rehearsal in the morning, and to a nearly full house in the afternoon, the ballet school's founder, Mitsuko Inao, sensitively performed a showcase performance of the dying swan from "Swan Lake". Then in “Coppelia” itself Mitsuko’s husband Christopher Fryman performed the role of Doctor Coppelius with great enthusiasm, much like his camerawork of which you can read an excerpt on the Chapters page. The lead role of Swanhilde was performed with great feeling and confidence by 15 year old Akari; she has a real future in ballet if she sticks with it.
Reflecting at the party after the performance and shoot, I am convinced that operating a camera on a ballet is as good as it gets for any cameraman; a lovely atmosphere, great music, a live audience and being surrounded by pretty girls all day; roll on next year!
Book signing with the London Press Club
Two days after returning from Australia, I was fortunate to do a book signing at the regular ‘first Thursday of the month’ pub night which took place on 7th May at the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, the very heart of journalism before computers arrived and it moved to Wapping. I had been asked by LPC Honorary Life Member and press photographer Dave Rotchelle to do this before travelling and considered it an honour.
Around forty people attended, mostly long established LPC members, on a very pleasant evening in the convivial atmosphere the pub generates. But I was particularly pleased that 18 year old James Fulcher came who left school after A-Levels last year to work as a Camera Assistant rather than attend university, as he represents the future of television.
The pub was rebuilt in 1667, one year after the Great Fire of London so it was a humbling experience to be signing my book in a place which has seen through the reigns of fifteen monarchs and where writers such as Dr. Johnson, James Boswell, Voltaire, Thackeray and Charles Dickens drank.
Lecture at WAAPA in Perth Australia
I was invited to give a two hour lecture on April 14th to post-graduate students by Andrew Lewis, Programme Director of Performance, at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) based at the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.
I hate being late but got there an hour early which I put it down to jetlag having flown 3,400 miles from Christchurch New Zealand with a change of aircraft in Sydney the day before. Andrew kindly took me to the Aroma café on the campus where I was quite happy to compose my thoughts over a coffee.
Once I started the lecture I found out that the twenty students, who ranged from 18 to 42 years old, knew exactly what they wanted to do and were very focussed on where they were headed in the business. So I tailored it to being more specific as they already had knowledge of the business which seemed to work and certainly listened attentively.
Lecture at NZBS in Christchurch New Zealand
I had an invitation to lecture on 9th April at NZBS, (New Zealand Broadcasting School) at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology in Christchurch, New Zealand by Richard Bell the Second Year Course Leader there.
There were around forty students between 18-25, mostly New Zealanders with the exceptions of a Fijian, a German and a Spaniard, all female. These were people who had come to the course to find out what they want to do in television so I adjusted my two hour lecture to filling in a lot of basics about production that only come from experience.
I’d deliberately not mentioned feature film director Martin Campbell to create a surprise and there was an audible gasp when his picture came up in my PowerPoint presentation as he is one Kiwi who has made it to the very top. The students should have at least learnt that ambition is a key to success in this business.
An ATV Reunion
On Wednesday 18th of February a small reunion was held of some of the people I worked with at ATV Elstree where we all started our careers at the bottom of the ladder; myself, five other cameramen and two floor managers.
This happened because Martin Campbell was going to be in London where the music for his forthcoming film 'Edge of Darkness' starring Mel Gibson was to be recorded at Abbey Road Studios, mostly associated with The Beatles. He wanted to meet up with a few of the people from those days so I arranged it with Martin Baker.
After meeting up at BAFTA in Piccadilly for drinks we moved on to the ‘Young Cheng’ restaurant in London’s Chinatown and had a really nice and very relaxed meal where the wine and sake flowed until the staff wanted to close and go home!
Three of those present are in the book with their own chapters; Martin Baker, Martin Campbell and Jim O’Donnell and the others that evening were Mike Whitcutt, Brian Grant, Geoff Sax and Graham Williams. All have gone on from their early beginnings at ATV Elstree and done some remarkable work in television and film which has been seen around the world over many years.
The Book Launch
Thursday the 29th of January was the official launch of the ‘Through The Viewfinder’ book at the prestigious Jacobs Pro Lounge in the centre of London. It went well and became a good party with some 56 people braving the cold to attend.
Of those that attended, some 14 of them were interviewed and appear in the book; Alan Beal, Bill Brown, Dai Higgon, Dick Hibberd, Helen Kingsbury, Ian Keown, Jim O'Donnell, John Watt, Martin Baker, Paul Freeman, Paul Harrison, Ron Francis, Tony Ferris, Tony Freeman.
I made a short speech starting with a brief biography then relating how I came to write the book and followed with many thanks to all who made it happen. Then I ended with a toast to that wonderful story telling device in all its many forms which has shaped our lives from either behind, in front and because of it - The Camera!