In addition to being the researcher across the documentary series I’m working on at Glasshead, I also get to be the assistant on any shoots that we do for the London episode (mainly because the company can afford to send me to accompany the cameraman, whereas the budget doesn’t quite stretch to that for the other international episodes). So one Saturday in early June, I got up at 5am to get the train to Leeds to film a conference. I was just supposed to look after the wide shot and take care of contributor release forms. I was in my element. I like a little camera work, but it’s not my main focus – I genuinely enjoy taking care of paperwork, carrying stuff around, coordinating contributors and interviews, anything that involves being organised and organising other people. And problem solving. Which, as you can imagine, is not what the cameraman/director wants to be thinking about, so I was able to make myself very useful indeed! I had the time of my life, and although it became a 16 hour day, I was still buzzing with adrenalin by the end of it.
I do enjoy the organisational office-based elements of producing, but when you finally get out on a shoot it all becomes worthwhile, you see what your office work has been building up to. And fortunately the story we were covering is genuinely inspiring, I feel honoured to be a part of that production.
But I wasn’t expecting the next development in my role as ‘assistant’.
The next shoot was an evening one, based in London. I arrived on location, set up the wide as before, and looked after it, tweaking the shot slightly as and when necessary (widening the iris, upping the gain, tilting and panning to follow the action). But then we had to film something more dynamic – and the director asked me to take the camera off the tripod and do handheld stuff! Bear in mind that this is a pretty hefty Sony EX3 and I’ve never done handheld for more than three minutes at a time…then imagine the pain in my arms after having held this thing at shoulder and hip level for 45 minutes straight. This stuff is really physical.
But I was so honoured to have been trusted with this responsibility. In every way, on so many levels, working in TV is a constant baptism by fire. You get given the chance to take on more responsibility almost by accident and you have to face it head on, without any training or practice. And if you’re good, if you don’t fail, if you get on with it without complaining, you’ll get to do it again. And again. And that way you get to practice. And then one day, you get really good at it, and you get paid a lot of money for doing it.
I’m just looking forward to the bit where I get paid a lot of money to do this…but in the meantime, I’ll do it because, despite the sore biceps, I love every second.