So you want to be a television camera person. So did Jeremy Hoare who now has very many years’ experience of operating a camera behind him, but he’d like us to know that if you want to be good there’s more to it that simply ‘operating’ a camera. Do you have vision, an eye for a great shot, a keenness to understand the whole process of making television so that you can contribute?
Jeremy Hoare has worked on some of our most popular and successful television shows over the years, from the best entertainment shows of all time (personal opinion!) The Golden Shot, through Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Emergency Ward 10, The Price is Right and The Upper Hand – to name but a few.
First – a few questions for the great man:
How did you get into the business?
I was born into showbiz as my father was a Theatre Manager. With no qualifications I started aged 15 in the ATV Post Room. Eventually, at 19, I became a Camera Assistant, graduating to Cameraperson and eventually Lighting Director. I also have experience as a Theatre Lighting Designer and am now a Travel and Portrait Photographer.
What sort of personal and practical skills do you think a successful camera person needs?
Aptitude, physical co-ordination, social confidence, ability to blag, interest in art, cinema and photography and be a nice person people want to be with.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to become a camera operator in TV today?
Buy a video camera and shoot a lot so you can so you learn from mistakes before getting a job. Then hassle every camera contact you can think of offering yourself for free for a while so at so learn. Then it’s up to you to get a real job.
How should a director work with a camera person to get the best of them?
Ask, listen and learn.
Jeremy has written a book all about working in television behind the cameras and the following is an excerpt:
What is a Cameraperson?
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 and have got to that point in life where I can accept the past, albeit with a Dunkirk grin.
Being a cameraperson 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 into 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 cameraperson 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 cameraperson 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 results 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 cameraperson 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.
I the end there are only three words to the secret of good camerawork and television production: TELL THE STORY.
This article is from the opening chapter of my book ‘Through the Viewfinder’: ISBN 13 :9781904031574 which is available online from:
1 The Book Depository, free postage worldwide – http://tinyurl.com/67n7z6e
2 Amazon, small discount – http://tinyurl.com/3coqg8w
3 ET Books, publisher – http://www.etbooks.co.uk/
The book website is – www.throughtheviewfinder.tv
I have been and still am many things connected with image creation and it is easy to find out much more about me, just put my name in Google and click the No 1 link.
Jeremy Hoare 26 July 2011
Thank you, Jeremy. Next post will come from Elizabeth Lanceman a camera operator at ITV who tells us how she got camera work after leaving college. You can subscribe the blog by email if you want to be sure of getting all new posts direct into your inbox.