|Written by Paul Mahoney|
|Tuesday, 03 November 2009 10:44|
Where are you based?
What kind of films do you make? How would you describe what you do?
I’m a freelance lighting cameraman working on wildlife/conservation films, plus human/social interest programmes. I also supply photos to a stock agency.
Who or what inspired you to work with film and why cover nature and conservation issues?
Like many others I grew up watching landmark David Attenborough series’ such as Life on Earth. I’d always been interested in photography and nature and decided to combine the two. It’s an important medium for conveying conservation messages.
What is the favourite film you’ve worked on?
So far, tricky to say. A toss up between two, both filmed for the RSPB Film Unit. ‘The Eagle Odyssey’ about the re-introduction of white-tailed sea eagles to Scotland. And ‘The Undiscovered Country’, about the wildlife of the Flow Country in the remote far north of Scotland. They both feel very personal as I spent so long in the field on each and I have fond memories of them. Most importantly, they have good, strong stories.
What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?
There have been many. It wouldn’t be a film shoot without a challenge! Filming the first images of a greenshank changeover at the nest, in appalling conditions. I’d been lying in mud for hours and was suffering bad kidney pains. Then, when it finally happened, the camera’s viewfinder was so misted up I couldn’t see a thing. I got the sequence though. Also, filming white-tailed sea eagles at the nest in Norway and Scotland. Hard to access locations on very steep ground, in remote areas. Very long days, but worth it to see such a fantastic bird! Even after months of filming them in various locations, it was still a thrill to see them every time.
How has technology changed your job? Has it hindered or enhanced telling the conservation story?
It’s made assessing what footage you’ve got in the field much easier. I’ve shot on everything from film to tape and now solid state. You have to adapt to a change in workflow. You need a lot of discipline to shoot on film as the stock is so expensive. You still need discipline, as its counter-productive to overshoot, but now you can review footage or even delete unusable clips in the field. Having a picture cache memory on some cameras means essentially you don’t miss a shot, as it pre-records before you hit the button. Ultimately, the technology is largely irrelevant if you haven’t got good field-craft or a good story.
What is your favourite place in nature?
Any mountain, lake or desert. The rolling downland of Wiltshire. A windswept beach in winter. Somewhere where human voices fade and the voice of nature takes over.
From your field experience, what is your biggest concern when it comes to the environment?
The human race and the overpopulation of it. We’ve become obsessed by consumerism and greed, and the media must take some of the blame. We need to be less ‘disposable’ as a society, as inevitably, it’s the natural world and vulnerable eco-systems and societies that suffer.
How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues?
Its vital to make people aware of environmental concerns and highlight crises. However, it’s also important to focus on the positives and report on success stories. Despite all the gloom, there are conservation successes out there. The media can all too easily focus on the negative. It’s about balance and not alienating the audience.
If you could give one message to G8 leaders on climate change, what would it be?
Be active and proactive and listen. Making platitudes and promises in front of the press is very easy. Doing something about it and delivering those promises once the cameras have gone and the handshakes have ended is entirely different.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished working on a documentary about childhood poverty, and am currently working on a photographic project. Plus, whatever else happens to come up.
Where are you going next?
Somewhere in the UK! I’ve another human interest documentary coming up about child carers. But it never takes long to pack for a trip!
What would you like to remembered for?
I made a pretty good vodka and tonic… Really, it’s more important to remember our responsibility to our planet, the people and wildlife that inhabit it. It’s the only one we’ve got!