Date: Saturday February 16, 2019 at 11:21am
New Challenge New Beginnings (NCNB) is the Resettlement and Lifestyle magazine for the Armed Forces Community. Our front cover interview is with Colin Maclachlan, former SAS turned Actor, Author and Public Speaker. A special thank you to contributors in this issue; Alex Cooper, Jonathan Young, Philip Allan and Richard Harpham..
Thank you for agreeing to speak with NCNB today…
Whilst at School, was becoming a Cameraman something that you had an interest
in? If so why?
Jonathan: I have a family history
in the media going back to my dad in the early 1960’s working as a photographer
within British manufacturing industry. I was surrounded by cameras from an
early age and that’s were my interest began. When he made the move to motion
picture work and I got the chance to go with him on location the early 1980’s,
I was hooked ! It is very similar to those who have military family backgrounds
with two or even three generations serving. As you are so close to it at the
source, you will either push away from it or dive headlong into it. I choose
the latter. It really was a case of lights , camera , action !
As the general public, we are always seeing footage
taken from around the world from some of the world’s most dangerous places.
Where would you say is the most dangerous place you have filmed?
Jonathan: Frontlines and hostile locations are inherently
dangerous, there’s no debate about that. What people don’t understand from the
TV pictures is how they ebb and flow like the tides and from one minute to the
next in some cases, you could easily find yourself on the wrong side. In urban
locations, when rioting is taking place, this the worst. A mob running amok, no
one is in charge, action from all directions. In a combat situation, there may
well be support from else where and there is a focus and potential objective.
With a riot, there is none. That said, the constant threat of IED’s, the unseen
enemy in Afghanistan and else where is high in my mind. If I had rate threat level on the ground,
Afganistan,Syria and Iraq
all make the top spot.
Travelling is nothing unusual to the Armed Forces,
deploying to places that your normal person would not go to. The Armed Forces
carry weapons, but you carried your camera whilst following Ross Kemp around
Afghan. How did you find your time with
Ross and the Armed Forces whilst in Afghan?
I had shot unliterally in Afghanistan a number
of times since 2003 before I hooked up with Ross for his various series there
in 2008 onwards. I knew what I was letting myself in for when I signed up to
work with RK. The British military on the ground welcomed us almost heartedly,
one or two people were skeptical of us at first. We didn’t ask for any special
treatment and certainly didn’t get any ! We shared all the same meagre
facilities as everyone else on the FOB’s, we ate what everyone else ate and did
the same as everyone else. The British military as a whole are utterly
professional, dedicated and extremely resourceful. Alongside being pragmatic
and flexible, two very British traits. I look back on all the times I have
worked alongside British military personnel with great fondness and a misty
eye. Times I will never forget…. Even the Chuck Norris gags !
Whilst working with the Armed Forces, did you pick up anything that
would assist you in the future?
Jonathan: Working as cameraman in the fast paced world of
TV, you have to be pretty much “squared away” already with logistics and kit.
The two worlds are very similar in reality. Working with the
military just reinforced to me the need for effective communications to reach
the end target. Couple that with a be ready for anything mentality and you are
already well on your way. And a sense of humour…. Because you
will need it !
of those serving in the Armed Forces are often unsure of their next career,
what advice would you give someone who had an interest in following your
footsteps? Get out there and research where you interest my lie.
Jonathan: No point in saying “I would like to work in TV” and then not knowing
which direction to take. If you want to work behind the camera for instance, a
previous interest in photography and experience on your own time to demonstrate
a grasp and understanding of your new choosen profession is required. The media
is a difficult and frustrating industry to get access to, to get that bottom
step taken on the ladder. Most of the openings that come up are already
designed for self starters. Hee though
is the one thing that does stand military personnel in a good position to try
and enter the media world is their innate persistence. Allied with the ability
to stick at something, not given up at the first hurdle or try a different
approach and most of all, not to give up on your self and belief in your own
abilities. Going back to the communication skills that you build up in the
military, these will be the key to unlocking a future media career. There are
opportunities out there, but door knocking will be involved.
spent time with the Armed Forces, what transferable skills do you feel people
from the forces have that could assist them in seeking the same career?
Jonathan: Communications, logistics, planning and a very healthy work attitude and
the means to apply themselves to task management. All of these things are
highly transferable. And never under estimate an inquisitive / questioning
mind, you can’t over read around your chosen area. We live in the age of the
information super highway now and can study any subject we like at the touch
two buttons. That and the ability to network. I can easily spot ex military
personnel in civilian life through their interpersonal skills.
would someone start in becoming a Cameraman, can individuals volunteer to
assist on set to gain experience?
Jonathan: This is the age old question, where can I start. Well these days, there
are so many routes in. It used to be the preserve of training colleges and the
training budgets of the BBC and ITV. They are mostly long gone. Becoming a
camera person, it is something that finds you from an early age and develops.
What has seen a massive growth over time is the media colleges offering
courses. They are a good starting point but I know plenty of people who just
fell in to the industry. I know two firemen who both through injury ended up
working at the Fire Brigade video unit, loved it and then ended up be coming TV
news cameramen. There are several combat video and photography personnel who
have gone on to have careers in the civilian side of the industry. As for
volunteering, these days everyone is shooting a personal passion project and
needs willing staff, skilled or not. Just start looking at social media,
numerous groups on Facebook, full of posts looking for people to help out in
some way. This is a great starting point to see if you are keen on the
business; long hours, bad food, motorway services, poor decisions… oh did I say
long hours J ?
the years you will have filmed and seen some odd things, interesting things and
no doubt scary things, but what funny moment has stuck in your mind?
Jonathan: I say this
over and over again but I really have lived 10,000 lifetimes doing this job. It
isn’t actually a job, it’s a lifestyle choice being a freelance tv cameraman.
Don’t expect certainty, expect the opposite. It is though rewarding,
challenging, terrifying and humbling all at once to see what I have seen and
done over the years. 110 countries and counting, the farthest flung corners of
the earth, where foreigners were banned from visiting in Soviet times ….but I
have never ever been to Cornwall ! The funny moments can only be justified by
those people who were there at the time but one thing I will say, we always
have a laugh about the situations we find ourselves in once we get home. Trying
to make jump leads out of the sound guys audio cables in the middle of the
Canadian tundra, with Polar Bears prowling behind you when some has flattened
the car battery, wasn’t funny the time but boy it is funny when you think of
When the Armed Forces
deploy they will be provided with a packing list, but more often than not
something is always left at home. When
you have been away from home working, what has been the most important item of
your kit that you left behind (please say the camera)?
Jonathan: Leaving the camera behind at home or forgetting to put it in the car
when you leave to got to the next location in a hurry, I have never done it
(honestly !) but I know a couple of absent minded types (hic ! which Pub for
lunch) that have done just that and driven off and left the camera behind ! It is
the one thing that gives me sleepless nights or makes me stop the car at the
top of the road at 5am to double check it is in the boot .The one thing that
you never leave home without is your sense of humour. Leave that behind and you
are done for. The similarity between the media and the military is quite
astonishing. Sense of humour ? check ! Goodwill ? check! Gaffer Tape ? double
check ! and good coffee. I have gone out on patrol filming in Afghanistan and
elsewhere stirred on the strains of a good espresso. That’s one thing after the
camera and batteries that gets packed …. the Aeropress to run from the car.
Espresso on the go !
you so much for taking the time to talk with us, in one sentence sum up your
time as a Cameraman.
I have lived 10000 lifetimes doing this job. Cameramen don’t retire from
the industry , they just got out of focus !