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.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Search for a Curvy Supermodel

Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th

The Lorne Hotel on Glasgow’s famous Sauchiehall Street was the venue for the first of the heats in The Lorraine Programme and Look Magazine’s search for a Curvy Supermodel.

I was meeting Colin and Robert, the two sound recordists and Stan the cameraman there at 8 am to get rigged for the day long two camera shoot.

Before the judges, Mark Heyes form the Lorraine programme, Ali Hall, the editor of Look magazine, Sarah Watkinson of 12+ UK Model Management or any of the wannabe models arrived we started to set up the lights.

There were thirty auditions to shoot in the function room along with various interviews with the judges and auditionees.

As well as our little TV set up there were a few people from the Mission events company who were setting up the whole thing and Myra, a tall New Yorker who used to be a model and was there to give the girls a bit of coaching and help before they came in for the audition.

She was lively, full of life and energy. She did a great job of getting the girls ready for the short but nervous time ahead.

The room we were working in was not the best from a lighting point of view.

The walls were very dark and there were some very shiny lights that dangled down from the ceiling, which was thankfully not too low.

Stan and I fiddled around with the big lamps that he had in his kit and the little ones that I had in mine.

Robert and Colin set up Colin’s little sound mixing desk and prepared the radio mics for the judges to wear.

Robert and Colin setting up.

The girls were beginning to arrive. I was surprised to see that although the search was for a “curvy” model I did not see many girls that looked was you might call Rubinesque.

Some of the girls waiting.

There were of course a few that may not have been in the rolly polly category but, there was not a chance that they would get anywhere near being any type of model.

Judge Ali gets her make up touched up...... Christina the producer chats to them.

When everything was ready Christina got things going and the auditions began.

I was doing the camera on the girls as they came in, had a word with the judges and did a little walk to show how they moved.

Stan’s camera focused on the judges, their questions and reactions to the girls’ answers.

Stan ready to roll.

They like what they see and hear.

It was clear that the majority of the girls were very understandably nervous dealing with this little drama in their lives.

One of the girls in the room and in my viewfinder.

Outside the hotel we heard what sounded like a large delivery of coal.

We peeped out to see another little drama unfold as a couple of cars had crashed in to each other.

No one appeared to be injured. We were all rather intrigued as to how the pair of cars had ended up where they were.

The little drama outside.

After a bit of a Greek lunch in a restaurant across the road for us, and a working lunch of deliberations for the judges in the hotel we got down to the call backs.

In the end the decision was to take three girls through to the next stage of the process.

Bit of a break for press photographs.

It was interesting to listen to the discussions about which if the girls would possibly make it as models.

One or two of the girls that we thought were pretty good were discounted straight away for not having the correct walk and there not being a chance of changing it, or their hips were not in a pleasing enough proportion to the rest of their figures.

So the final bit of shooting for the day was three groups of four girls coming into the room and one being told that they had made it to the next round.

On the announcement my job was to do a crash zoom in to the face of the winner and get their reaction.

One of the final groups.

The first group came in.

I knew which one of them would be the winner.

When the announcement came after a suitable pause to provide a bit of dramatic tension I flicked to zoom bar and moved the camera to her face.

It was a bit too messy a move for my liking but, there would be no take two.

At least the next two worked a little bit better and were not so bad but, I was still a bit annoyed with myself as we started to pack things away.

It was around 5 pm.

Colin and I had to drive down to Gateshead for tomorrow’s event once we had derigged.

Two of the judges and the Mission crew were getting the train to Newcastle at 5:30, so they had to get a move on.

It was going to be Marks birthday tomorrow. His family were from near Glasgow. So, his folks were taking the opportunity to come and see him for dinner.

Christina was also staying in Glasgow. It was going to be an early start for their drive tomorrow morning.

Rather surprisingly, even with a detour do drop of Colin’s car and pick up kit we arrived at the hotel in Gateshead ahead of the ones that travelled by train.

It was after 9 pm, just time to have a bite to eat in the hotel restaurant and get to bed.

None of us were tempted to join in with the fun and freezing frolics going on over the river in Newcastle.

On the drive through the city to the hotel we saw the Geordie guys and girls doing what they are renowned for, being out on a cold night with very little clothes on.

The thermometer in the car was reading between minus one and minus a half of a degree.

The first sight we was one girl with a thin dress on that finished off just about at her hips. There was no need for any imagination.

The next bunch of happy girls skipping along the road were all dressed as Princess Jasmine from the Aladdin movies, complete with bare midriffs.

Next morning I was pleased to be meet couple of ex-colleagues from my days at Tyne Tees Television.

Dave Dixon and Nick Grant were making up our little two camera shoot team for today.

Whilst we rigged the lighting and sound we talked about how our various other old mates were getting on.

The lighting was much easier than yesterday and would probably look nicer for two reasons.

The main one was that the room was much more TV friendly. The other was that Dave had a few more lights to play with than we had yesterday.

Once we had set that up the same routine as yesterday kicked off.

Colin at his desk and Dave on camera.

The girls came in and did their thing once they had been coached my the larger than life Myra and had their photographs taken by gentle Giorgio the photographer.

Dave and I had done a few shots of the preliminary stuff before the actual auditions began.

We saw many more girls than we had in Glasgow.

The ones that had come to these auditions were, in the opinions of us all of a much higher calibre overall. They were prettier and sexier than the Glasgow lot.

However, as far as the judges were concerned there was only one girl that had a realistic chance of becoming a model.

So they only wanted to take her through.

In these days of compliance and making sure that everything was OK legally Christina had to run this by the lawyers because three had been selected from Glasgow.

She was busy on the phone to various big wigs and legal types at ITV.

She needed to get a few interviews with some of the girls.

So whilst she was dealing with the important stuff I went with Dave and Nick to do the interviews.

It is a strange experience being beside the camera asking the questions and not behind it looking and listening.

Nick strikes a pose as Dave sets up his camera.

Christina talks to Abbey the winner of this stage.

Abbey in the spotlight.

Nick and the undoubtably beautiful Abbey.

Since it was Mark’s birthday Christina had organised a couple of cakes as a bit of a surprise.

We set up outside the function room and waited for Mark to come out.

He was pretty surprised when we burst into Happy Birthday and loved the cake.

Happy Birthday Mark!

Mark with his cake.

It had been a good day’s filming and a good day seeing and catching up with old friends.

It was just a pity that Colin and I had the two hour drive back up the road when we packed up and said good bye.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Heart problems and Zebra fish.

Friday 28th

I had arrived at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute on the site of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary expecting to have to wait for a while for Chantal the producer and Dr Hilary Jones to turn up because I was very early.

Chantal was equally early having flown up on the red eye from Heathrow, she came into the reception at the same time as me.

With Tara the press officer and Nick Mill the Cardiologist we went for a look around at the locations we would be shooting at later when Dr Hilary arrived.

We were there to so a story about some research by the British Heart foundation into heart disease and how the regenerative abilities of zebra fish to repair their hearts could lead to a better treatment for human heart problems.

Dr Hilary came from the airport and we were now a full team of three.

The first of our locations to film at was the Cath Lab in the main hospital, where various procedures to help heart attack victims are done.

The procedure we were going to film was Angioplasty.

This is where a little balloon is inserted into an artery that is not open wide enough to expand it enough to allow an increase in the blood flow.

To film in a sterile environment meant that I needed to get changed into surgical scrubs and because of the X-rays flying around wear a lead apron and neck guard to protect my thyroid.

Shooting in the scrubs and lead apron.

Unfortunately for us but, fortunately for the patient I was going to shoot, her condition was not bad enough to require the procedure. She would be treated simply by drugs.

Then the next patient was not happy being filmed.

So instead of shooting in the room we did an interview with Nick outside.

Nick, Dr Hilary and Chantal discuss the questions for the interview.

By the time this was done there were no patients left to film.

There was a chance that in a little while after a short lunch and filming in the ECG area we could see the procedure being done in another part of the hospital.

So I kept the scrubs on and blended in with the other medical staff wandering around the hospital.

When I went into do the filming in the x-ray cath lab what should have been a straight forward operation began to get a little more complex.

I could tell from Nick’s demeanour as he spoke to his colleagues that things were getting a tiny bit tense.

As I filmed I could see that the two people carrying out the procedure had expressions of serious concentration.

We were there to shoot, if possible a regular Angioplasty with no complications.

I could tell mainly because Nick told me that things were far from straight forward.

I had done a few shots that would be enough to cover the script. It would have been nice to stay and get more and better shots for our piece and for the library but felt it was time to leave and let the guys do their job.

Nick agreed and said that if we had time when we had finished the rest of what we had to shoot there would be things going on later for me to film.

For the rest of the afternoon I filmed in a few labs where various experiments and tests were being done on stem cells and the eggs of the zebra fish.

In a room there were lots and lots of little tanks full of the nippy little black and white fish that looked like skinny mint humbugs with fins.

The zebra fish.

When we got to that room time was rather against us and I did not get as much time as I would have liked to get lots of nice shots of the cute little creatures.

In the last lab I filmed in I did not need to wear scrubs but a white coat. The camera had to be rubbed down with ethanol and the fluffy wind cover for the mic had to be removed.

The final things that we needed to do, a piece to camera from Dr Hilary and the voice over were done a lot more hurriedly than we would have liked because he and Chantal had a flight to London to catch.

We found out that the patient we left earlier in the day when things were not going according to plan had a stroke not long after we left. He was recovering well later on in the afternoon. Dealing with that puts any stress that we find ourselves under inconsequential. Making telly programs is not a life or death activity. It just feels like that sometimes.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hollywood comes to Glasgow! Well Ross King at least.

Wednesday 26th

I met a very happy and excited producer at Capital radio in Glasgow.

Ian was in very high spirits and was looking forward to the shoot that we were about to do with Daybreak’s LA Showbiz Correspondent, Ross King.

There were two little scenarios to shoot today. One would be Ross getting his outfit organised for the live broadcasts he would be doing for Daybreak at the Oscars in LA next month. The other would be to go in a series about the first jobs that the Daybreak Presenters had.

We were at this new radio station to do an interview with Ross’s old boss at Radio Clyde, Paul Cooney. He had given Ross his first break in radio a few years ago when he was just fifteen years of age.

The entrance to the new radio station.

We did a quick set up of Ross meeting his old boss in the office and then an interview in one of Capital’s new state of the art studios.

I was a fairly easy shoot technically, sound was not a problem and with a nice easy to rig soft bounced light we were ready to go reasonably quickly.

Ross and Paul chat about the old days.

Once the reminiscences were done and Ross chatted about the old times with another man in high spirits, Paul had just that very morning been confirmed as the Managing Director of Capital Radio in Scotland, we went into the city centre.

Ever smiling Ross and the new big boss of Capital Radio in Scotland.

At Slanj the kilt shop we met up with an old friend of Ross’s who was going to help him choose his oscar outfit. Janis Sue Smith is also the Scottish Sun’s fashion expert and stylist to the stars.

The Sun had also sent their photographer, Andy out to shoot what Ross and Janis were up to.

Ian was not involved in this shoot so he went off to do some work at an internet cafe.

I shot a couple of set ups with Ross chatting to Ross from Slanj and Janis about what would be good for him to wear.

Both in kilts Ross sorts Ross and Janis supervises.

This little shoot was slightly more difficult for me to cover on sound. I had all the equipment I needed but what I did not have was a sound recordist to swing the mic into the best position when each of the people were speaking.

I did my best with a mixture of my radio mic and the gun mic, which I tried to wave about in roughly the right places whilst operating the camera.

A bit of tweaking required in the edit on the sound levels I would think but on the whole it was usable I hope.

The final bit was easy. A locked off shot with Ross appearing out of a changing room in various Scottish outfits.

Andy gets his still shots for the Sun.

The actual kit he will wear at the Elton John party will be revealed on the day of the event when the winners and losers in varying states of sobriety pitch up to be seen and party.

It was a bit past lunch time when we finished that part. The three of us were pretty hungry so after saying goodbye to Andy and Ross, and kissing Janis good bye we headed off to eat.

In Rogano’s an old Glasgow institution we had a very nice bit of seafood.

One of Glasgow's glamorous grannies who lunches was in the restaurant celebrating her ? birthday, not her 21st.

She came over to our table and very politely asked if she could have Ross’s autograph and get a photograph taken with him.

How the other half live, the little pad of paper that she produced for Ross to sign was a little note book from the Ritz Carlton Jakarta.

At another table next to us was face a recognised and when Ian whispered to me asking if it was who he thought it was I said yes.

He had seen Ross and all my kit so when he was getting up to leave Dr John Ried, the ex-Secretary of State for Defence and now Chairman of Celtic football club came over to say a brief hello.

The last time I had been in his company was on one of the Queen’s flight aircraft flying with him on a ministerial visit to the troops in Basra Iraq a few years ago.

On the way into land he was up front on the flight deck leaving the principal seat, usually occupied by the Queen free for me to sit in and get some shots as we flew in.

After the meal which we did finish off as quickly as we could and the schmoozing we headed off to Clydebank for the final bit of filming at the home of Radio Clyde.

I was like a homecoming event for Ross because the majority of the folk at Clyde know him and were pleased to see him and he was equally pleased to see them.

We did a bit of shooting in and around the offices getting Ross to do some of the things he used to do as a Saturday boy.

The most complicated thing was getting the stuff to make cups of tea.

In these days of machines and closed canteens it took a we while to come up with a kettle and the other exotic ingredients for tea, like tea bags.

We got there in the end and had fun with Ross and his ability to make tea.

The sun was well on its way to make morning on the other side of the world when we finished.

Ian got a taxi to the airport and I gave Ross a lift to his sister’s place in the west end of Glasgow.

It had been a longish and busy day but, working with a good natured pro like Ross it had been a pleasure.