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The Life of a Cameraman

“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less of an imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary. (Bailey, D.)” The life of a cameraman has many has many pros and cons. It can be argued that a career as cameraman is dangerous, it is a thankless job and you work many hours and it is seen as a dying art. I believe that the career of the cameraman is exciting and would love being a cameraman as my lifelong career.

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The career of a cameraman is an exciting career adventure, however it does have moments of danger such as being shot or yelled at for no reason. These are only a few of the dangers that come with becoming a cameraman. Working as a cameraman, you are placed extremely close to the action. As exciting as filming nature is, it does not come without risks. Blue Planet had sent their cameramen into the depths of the ocean to film a documentary on the sperm whale. Like dolphins, sperm whales love to interact and play. Here is where the problem started. The cameraman thought the sperm whale was caught up in trash and tried to help him, but the sperm whale thought he was playing and so the game began (Nakamura, R.). The sperm whale grabbed the cameraman’s leg and took off swimming. He pulled the cameraman into the depths of the abysmal ocean. The cameraman could not get loose. The cameraman thought he was going to die. Finally, the sperm whale released him and the cameraman was able to swim to safety. (Nakamura, R.)

Cameramen are hired to capture live feed to inform the world of what is happening in present day society. Bryce Dion was on location filming a shoot out when he was killed by friendly fire (Sandoval, E.). This is proof that cameramen aren’t against the dangers and pressures that come with working in extreme conditions. In fact, the fast-paced, lack of protection emphasizes the unforeseen hazards of shooting film.

A cameraman also needs to be be strong willed for those disturbing cases such as car crashes, house fires, and hostage situations. A prime example takes place during the filming of Midnight Rider (Bridges, A.). The team was filming a scene on the railroad bridge. The actors were portraying a dream sequence when all of a sudden an oncoming train at high speeds came rushing towards the set. As actors and cameramen fled, Sarah Jones was tragically struck by a fuel tank and ran over by the train. She died instantaneously (Bridges, A.).

Another instance where this happened was in Britain where a British cameraman died while shooting a night time sequence for BBC drama in Ghana when he was taken out by a stunt car (Ardehali, R.). The cameraman was near the track filming live feed when the stuntman lost control and plummeted into the cameraman. The stuntman had more protection then the cameraman. The only protection the cameraman had was his camera. Cameramen also cover terrorist attacks but these are very rare and there is no guarantee that you will be the one who gets sent to do this kind of story. For example, in Brazil a cameraman was hit by a firework that was thought to be a terrorist attack (Prada, P.). The Brazilian cameraman was pronounced brain dead (Prada, P.). The police believed that the attack was by a young anti government militant (Prada, P.).

All these stories show the epitome of danger and risks of filming in the heat of the moment. These tragic stories, should the cameraman live, could end up haunting them for the rest of their life. The life of a cameraman is not without adventure. With adventure comes the possibility of injury or death. In this dangerous world of ours, being a cameraman is risky business. It takes a person who is driven, full of passion and adventure and one who is excited to get in the trenches and lets their adrenaline take over the shoot. One thing is for sure, the cameraman will have a lifetime of stories to tell.

In argument, others feel the job of a cameraman is a mundane job and no skills are required. In today’s society many people believe that being a cameraman is an easy job where anyone can film as long as they have a camera phone or recorder. The problem lies in the reality that filming is not fantasy; they need to tell the truth and capture the realities of life. No matter how carefully a shoot is planned, one can never truly rely on the plan to go smoothly. The success of the shoot depends on the choices and compromises the cameraman has to make on that day. The improvisions, last minute changes and risks are essential when filming and in reality is how the shoot becomes its own creation. People connect with the film based on their personal connections with what they see and feel.

Cameraman work extremely long hours and are on their feet most of the day. They get very little breaks as the perfect shot may take hours to capture. Also, the window of opportunity may only be available at certain times of the day. Often times, cameramen are assigned shoots that do not interest them. This can make for a long days work and a boring assignment. Cameramen have many different responsibilities that do not include adrenaline rushes. For instance, they must set up lighting, coloring and framing shots. Angles of the camera must be set with precision. Long hours are worked in order to bring film to the viewer. There are many different responsibilities for a cameraman. The life of the cameramen is complicated by the extra duties he has to perform. The cameraman is always on call. When the opportunity for a live story arises, the cameraman must get to the scene as quickly as possibly. This rushing can lead to accidents and injury before he ever reaches the venue where the scene is taking place. The job of the cameraman is not for the weak. They are expected lift heavy cameras and equipment. Sometimes they hold the heavy camera for 12 plus hours with little breaks. Due to this, there is a chance that he could throw his back out. The physical demands are endless making the cameraman essential for this field to continue to grow.

The cameraman is the invisible man behind the scenes who does not get recognition. Most would not consider this as fun. There is nothing more demoralizing than standing behind a camera and waiting to be told what to do. The cameraman must listen carefully to the director in order to decipher what the director wants in the shot.

Next, everyone believes they are a cameraman. It is argued that cinematography is a dying art (Jeffries, S.). Everyone sees the world different and has their own personal perspective. In a sense, everyone is an artist in their own right. Perspective and personal interpretation is where the expressive value comes from. Just because someone shoots some film does not mean it will be appreciated. Also, it is a fallacy that cell phone filming will take over the cameraman’s job. However one thing is certain, photography is a tool for art with a long life ahead of it.

Personal videos of a vacation may have a deep, individual meaning for the family and no one else (Jeffries, S.). The videos relate directly to the family themselves and without a direct relationship to those viewing the video, it is meaningless and disconnected from the audience. However, comical video has the potential to impact others when taken out of context. For example, a young child freaking out over the Easter bunny by screaming, jumping up and down and running away would be extremely dramatic and would most likely go viral quickly.

Due to everyone having phones, companies are employing fewer people to capture video (Jeffries, S.). What used to take 40,000 people to accomplish is now taking twelve (Jeffries, S.). With progress one would think the art of the cameraman is dying, but in reality it is still thriving. When you look at video taken on phones, they are unable to be blown up in size. When the size is increased, the video becomes grainy and difficult to view.

Even with the use of camera phones, the industry is projected to grow 13 percent by 2026 which is more growth in a single industry than any other occupation (www.bls.gov). The number of Internet careers, such as streaming services will increase, along with the number of shows produced. This growth will lead to more work for the cameraman.

To be a cameraman, one must be tech-savvy and well-educated (Dannenfeldt, D.). The cameraman is required to attend a program where he can obtain a bachelor’s degree. On top of a degree one must obtain a internship. With the advancement in technology, the cameraman must stay up to date on programs and cameras in order to excel in their art (Dannenfeldt, D.).

To say that filming is a dying art is a fallacy. The cameraman is in high demand and not many have what it takes to do the demands of the job. If you look at the industry as a whole, the box offices are still bringing in billions. People are connecting with the new films and are still finding that film brings relaxation as well as excitement. The film industry is thriving and it remains a place for artistic expression.

There are a lot of different cameraman job opportunities depending on the field you want to work in such as television. The main opportunities are television, movies and internet media. Movies are larger scale and typically have a large team with a larger budget. The cameraman uses multiple cameras and will be seen carting around a larger camera to get the shot. Television is smaller and less people are involved. The cameraman still works with a crew, but is a smaller scale than the movies. Television usually has a smaller budget. Multiple cameras are used, but there is more use of tripods so the cameraman does not always carry around a camera (Renée, V.). Internet media uses stationary cameras unless they are on scene. Typically, the funding is low. Cameras in the studio are stationary. One such internet opportunity is filming for companies that sponsor people on Youtube to show audiences previews for up and coming games and movies. Another opportunity would be a cameraman position in a church. Here you could learn the art and perfect your skills or train young people the art.

The flip side of having different career paths within cinematography is obtaining a career as a cameraman is extremely difficult (Gonzales, R.). The industry is cutthroat as there are few jobs out there. It is extremely competitive and you need to be on top of your game (Gonzales, R.). If you are lucky enough to break into this career, it entails continual learning to keep up with current and up and coming set equipment and practices, and the working hours can be outlandish (Gonzales, R.). This career is not as grand as some might imagine. When one is not shooting, they pick up the slack and move back breaking, heavy equipment around the set and they do odd jobs to help the director and producers (Gonzales, R.). Once you are in, you will no longer be able to enjoy your weekends or holidays. Assignments are not confined to Monday through Fridays so be prepared for less family events as chances are you will working. In some instances, the crew becomes close knit and becomes your family.

In conclusion, cameramen live dangerously to bring their audience live film about what is happening worldwide. The cameraman is an artist in their own right and their craft is not a dying art. If you are interested in a career in film you should try to find a college with a good film class or try to find a news or a tv show that does internships.

Those individuals, who get a college education, have the opportunity to branch out into different career paths within media. No matter how you look at, the life of a cameraman is not stereotypical and is not for everyone. However, if we want to continue to be updated on the world around us then we must begin to respect the art of the cameraman.

Work Cited

Ardehali, Rod. “British Cameraman Dies While Shooting a Night Time Sequence for BBC Drama in Ghana ‘When Stunt Car Hit His Position’.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 20 Nov. 2017, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-510

1363/British-cameraman-dies-shooting-BBC-drama-Ghana.html. Date Accessed 10 April 2018.

Bailey, David. “David Bailey Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, 2018,

www.brainyquote.com/authors/david_bailey. Date Accessed 10 April 2018.

Bridges, Ashley, and Marc Dorian. “Parents of ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew Member Sarah Jones File Wrongful Death Suit.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 22 May 2014, abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/midnight-rider-train-accident-sarah-jones-wrongful-death/story?id=23816224. Date Accessed 28 March 2018.

Dannenfeldt, Diane. “How Cinematographers Work.” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 29 Aug. 2008, entertainment.howstuffworks.com/cinematographer.htm. Date Accessed 27 March 2018.

Gresham, Tom.”How Cinematographers Work How Stuff Works?” 5 July 2017 Accessed 26 March 2018.

Gonzales, Rochelle. “Dangers of Being a Cameraman.” The Voice, 8 Aug. 2016. Date Accessed 26 March 2018.

Jeffries, Stuart. “The Death of Photography: Are Camera Phones Destroying an Artform?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Dec. 2013, www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/dec/13/death-of-photography-camera-phones. Date Accessed 26 March 2018.

Nakamura, Reid. “That Time a ‘Playful’ Sperm Whale Nearly Killed a ‘Blue Planet II’ Cameraman.” TheWrap, 12 Jan. 2018, www.thewrap.com/that-time-a-

playful-sperm-whale-nearly-killed-a-blue-planet-ii-cameraman/. Date Accessed 25 March 2018.

Prada, Pablo. “Brazil Cameraman Pronounced Brain Dead after Protest Injury.” Tribunedigital-Chicagotribune, 10 Feb. 2014, articles.chicagotribune.com

/2014-02-10/news/sns-rt-brazil-protestsdeath-pix-20140210_1_protests-rio-president-dilma-rousseff. Date Accessed 24 March 2018.

Renée, V. “What Are the Risk Factors of Being a Professional Camera Operator?” No Film School, 28 Oct. 2016, nofilmschool.com/2016/10/what-are-risk-factors-

Being-professional-camera-operator. Date Accessed 10 April 2018.

Sandoval, Edgar. “Jason Silverstein and Larry McShane News Reporter,’ Cameraman Are Fatally Shot during Live Broadcast in Virginia;’ Suspected Shooter Posts Video of Attack, Then Kills Himself.” New York Times, 27 Aug. 2015. Date Accessed 22 March 2018.

“Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30 Jan. 2018,www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-Camera-operators.htm. Date Accessed 12 April 2018.

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