Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Where are Cameron's shots as CHOGM starts?

Friday 28th

I dragged myself out of bed after too little sleep again.

Today was the start of the big Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. All the big wigs from around the world were due to gather at the Convention Centre in Perth.

My first job of the day was to get the arrival shots of the leaders.

The early start was because I had to be in position a bit before the first of the leaders arrived in their little three car convoy.

The nice aspect of what I would be doing today was that there would be no need to don my shirt, tie and jacket. I could be more practically dressed and anyway I would have to wear one of the ridiculous bibs that signifies that I am part of the pool for that event over whatever I wore.

Getting the bibs and being told the pool rules...

...which would be strictly enforced.

Outside the Convention Centre there was a little platform for us cameramen and an area infront of that for the stills photographers.

There were four cameramen, one doing the live feed for the host broadcaster, one for the Australian networks, Christophe, Reuter’s French cameraman based in Singapore, and me, doing it for all of the UK broadcasters.

The main entrance to CHOGM.

My position was in the corner in the shade.

The view from the platform.

Everyone would get access to the host broadcaster’s feed.

That shot would be a fairly wide shot as the cars pulled up and the leaders got out to be greeted and walk past a little welcoming ceremony consisting of an Aboriginal guy wafting smoke from burning eucalyptus leaves over them and a couple of people wearing kangaroo skins draped over their normal clothes saying hello.

Making smoke from eucalyptus leaves.

My plan was to do a closer shot of the leaders that would allow an edit from the host broadcaster's shot making, I hoped for a more interesting sequence.

There are 53 leaders of the Commonwealth countries. It would be fair to say that not many of them are well known faces outside their own country. I was confident that I would be able to recognise two of them.

It was lucky then that apart from the Sri Lankan leader who’s shot was needed for an ITV documentary about that country's killing fields the only ones that I really needed for today's pieces would be David Cameron and probably the Queen.

The others would be wanted for archive.

One of the media organisers had an earpiece that informed him of who was in what car as it came in.

He told me and I put a sound ident on one of the audio tracks.

The 53 Leaders.

The steady progression of cars came in and i duly taped the VIP passenger’s walk into the building and said which country they were from.

The more important the leader the later down the list they were arriving.

So, towards the end of this seemingly never ending stream of white cars came Mr Cameron.

As with the rest I started on a big close up through the cars rear passenger window and eased the shot out as he exited, shook hands with his greeter and walked into the building.

The last to arrive were the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

The shots were not to the liking of we cameramen for two reasons. Firstly we were shooting against the very bright sunlight and added to that was that we and part of the short walk was in deep shadow.

A big light behind our platform would have made a huge difference but, on the whole we coped.

During the two hour arrival process David from the Palace came out to speak to me.

David, the Queen's Senior Press Secretary.

The way he said what he said made me sound very important indeed and amused me greatly.

“Once you have done this would you like to come up to Government House with me and we will do lunch with the Queen?”

What he meant of course was that there would be some shooting for me to do before lunch. When any member of the royal family is eating there is a strictly enforced no filming and no photograph rule.

The only thing was that I would need to dash back to the hotel and get suited up again.

What I would be shooting would be a few moments with the Queen meeting the newest of the leaders in a small reception before they went in to lunch.

David had extended the same invitation to two Australian photographers and understandably they had accepted.

David took us to Government House a little while before the event so that we could have a quick look at the room we would be working in.

Waiting for security clearance at the backdoor of Government House.

Immediately before our bit the Queen would be having audiences with various people. David, the official photographer for the Australians would be doing that.

The room where the Queen would hold her audiences.

The other side of the room where the reception would be held.

The two Davids talk about shooting the audiences.

It may be a very grand and special place but, it is still a family home.

Children's toys outside one of the windows.

The two Australian photographers has one small joint problem, neither of them had jackets and given the small room that we would be in, the close proximity we would be to her and that we were there by special invitation a jacket was a must.

The hunt was on for two dark jackets that the guys could borrow.

It was two unknown members of the Canadian Delegation that made the sacrifice of temporarily donating their jackets to the pair of snappers.

Bibs off. Jackets on. That is if you've got one.

There was a bit of time before our event. There was time for me to nip out and grab a very quick coffee.

Crowds were lining the road waiting to get a fleeting view of the Queen as went past in her black Range Rover with the crown on the front and back.

There was a restrained relaxed excitement in the centre of he city.

I was enjoying my brief outing in the warm sun and reflecting that things had turned out fine. We had managed to get on air with the royal story much more than we thought and that even given the various problems both logistical and technical we had not missed anything.

I felt that I could join with the people of Perth and relax myself for the first time in quite a few days.

The authorities in Perth had done a bit of a switcheroo with a public holiday, taking a day that would normally have been around the first weekend in October to mark the Queen’s birthday and making it today.

Consequently there were very few places open. I was in the process of searching for a coffee shop when my phone vibrated in my pocket.

The text from Sam said, “Having trouble finding Cameron on your card.”

It is a cameraman’s nightmare not to have recorded something for whatever reason.

The worst is what we call double buttoning. That is shorthand for not pressing the record button.

Had I double buttoned on Cameron? The only really vital shot and it looked like I did not have it.

I quickly sent Phil a text.

His reply was equally negative.

My subsequent reply short and to the point, “Shit”.

I was desperate to get back to my camera at Government House to check if the shot was on tape.

Things then started to sound much worse.

I sent a test back to Phil to ask if he could see the Queen on the material.

His answer came back pretty quickly. It was not what I wanted to hear.

“no nope”

Great, out of all the 53 plus shots that I had done of he Heads of Government and other VIPs arriving the two that were vital to us, the BBC and Sky were missing.

My brief moment of relaxation vanished as the cold leaden block formed in the pit of my stomach and I felt sick.

Once again I had visions of a P45 along with a boarding card being handed to me when I got back to the media centre.

I wanted to get to my camera and have a look at what was on tape.

The frustration at not being by the camera grew and I got very antsy.

It was now impossible to cross the road because the Queen was due any time.

I hopped from one foot to he other as the slow moving convoy approached. How I wished it would speed up.

The Queen's convoy passes by all too slowly for me.

At last it was past me. It was a few distressing minutes before the crossing was open and I got back through the security at Government House.

It was with a sense of trepidation that I rewound the tape that I had shot.

When I saw both the Queen and Mr Cameron my relief was immeasurable.

There had obviously been some problem with the card that I had also recorded on to.

So, when I went in to see the Queen I was not as uptight as I had been a few moments previously.

We were only in the room for a very short time.

The new leaders trooped in and got drinks form the waitresses carrying crystal glasses on silver trays.

Once they had settled an official lined them up in some sort of preordained order. A few moments later the Queen came into the room.

She did her usual thing shaking hands with each of them saying a few words as she did so.

Apart from a very short time when I got a great close up profile shot of the Queen smiling she had her back to us most of the time which was not ideal but getting this access was really good so any shot counted.

The Media Centre filling up.

Phil editing in the Media Centre...

...and doing live broadcasts with Sky News Political Correspondent Joey Jones.

Nick Witchell doing his for the BBC.

On returning to the Media Centre I switched into CHOGM political mode.

I met up with Chris, Sam and Tom at the space that I had organised yesterday.

They already looked shattered.

They had travelled on the same flight as the Prime Minister and his party.

This trip to Perth would see them spend one hour more in the air to get here and back than they would actually spend on the ground in Australia.

Sam, Chris and Tom get to work.

I had a little bit of down time before my first CHOGM job which would be a joint press conference with the two Prime Ministers from the UK and Australia.

I was able to get a leisurely bite to eat from the Media Centre’s in-house cafe before having to set up for the presser.

I had already put my tripod in position next to the host broadcasters camera to reserve my place on the long raised camera platform.

The camera platform with cameras and a couple of tripods.

It was not looking very busy as the time for the presser to start got closer.

There was only one other cameraman beside me on the platform, Christophe from Reuters had joined me and we both got our sound feeds sorted and chatted about the lighting, cameras and tripods in true camera geek fashion.

The presser was going to be about the rules of succession to the throne. It became clear that there was big news coming.

The guys that set the rooms up and deal with the technical things suddenly came rushing in and changed the long table and chairs for two presidential type lecterns.

This was shaping up to be more of an announcement than a press briefing.

The way the room started.

Then it started to change..

..the guys were working really quickly.

The room was starting to fill up with journalists and a few cameramen were setting up down the sides to get cutaway shots and the entrance of the Prime Ministers.

The platform was still fairly empty however, a little Indian cameraman from New Delhi decided that he wanted to squeeze between my camera and the host broadcaster’s large lensed camera.

When I pointed out that there was not quite enough room he started to unscrew my pan bar to alter its position.

I was having none of that.

He stopped when I removed his hand from my tripod but, stayed in position.

When Mr Cameron and Mrs Gillard came in and stepped up to the podium we concentrated on them.

My pan bar fiddling friend on my right was no problem during the proceedings the heralded two major changes to the rules of succession to the British crown.

No longer would the first born have to be a male to become monarch and it would now be permissible for the sovereign to marry a Catholic.

The way the room ended up with the two Prime Ministers at the lecterns.

Mr Cameron and Mrs Gillard making the succession announcement.

Mr Cameron in my viewfinder...

...Mrs Gillard is in there too.

Straight after the presser Mr Cameron went outside to where Sky and the BBC had set up a two camera interview position where in the true spirit of pooling ITN’s Tom Bradby would conduct a very short interview with him.

Once that was done Chris and I did a bit of work.

He got down to editing a report with Tom and I got the interview material and dent it to London along with some other bits and pieces.

Chris editing.

When that was done Tom, Sam and I went out to the front of the building to do a long piece to camera.

Chris then sent that to London.

The evening was drawing on when we packed up to leave.

I got to my hotel at around 9 pm with the prospect of having to be up again at before 4 am.

This was very weird to me. I was having to get up as if I was working on Daybreak yet it would be News at Ten that I would be doing my stuff for.

At least I would be able to get back to bed after that for another few hours kip.

I had just thrown my accreditation on the bed when my phone rang with a number that I did not recognise.

It was Matthew from Number ten. He was calling with a polite request to see if I could help out.

There was an early morning meeting, called a bilateral between David Cameron and Julia Gillard and it had to be covered.

Tony, the BBC cameraman who had travelled as part of the PM’s group was due to do the shoot.

He was going to be working right through and was not going to get any sleep at all. Would I mind getting up and meeting Kate from Number Ten at 6:30 am to go and do the shoot.

It was with reluctance that I said yes.

That meant my opportunity to get back to bed had gone.

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