It was a long week, after I had gotten home from a school camp and straight in to an early morning shoot that Friday, the 15th of March 2019. Returning home I was only looking to get some rest and prep for a live cross on Saturday morning. And that afternoon, everything changed and I mean everything, with my schedule being the least of it. The lives of many families were suddenly overturned as 51 people were brutally murdered in an unprecedented act of violence. An act that was particularly shocking for a small, peaceful country like New Zealand.
And as the shock was settling in, the international news frenzy was picking up and in a matter of hours every news agency was looking for people on the ground to send pictures and news from the area of the atrocious act. At the time I was not involved much in news coverage, so didn’t think much of it apart from being glued on the local news and learning all the latest developments. That’s until the phone rung from the UK asking if I am able to pack and head to Christchurch in a few hours, for an unknown amount of days… And when the BBC calls, it’s not a call you turn down, so despite my fatigue from a full on week and shock from the heinous event, I packed and got ready for a 6:30am flight and further deployment to Christchurch for the BBC.
Having not worked with a major international broadcaster in the past I was not sure what to expect, but was prepared to pull out all the stops and do what it takes to just deliver my best work under some surely challenging situations, both technically, but most importantly, psychologically.
A numb city
The moment I arrived in Christchurch I felt the eeriness of a shocked city, possibly caused by the quiet streets on a Saturday morning, the sad people’s faces, the lost innocence of not only a city, but a whole nation. Feelings I did carry too, but had to suppress in order to be able to do my job unaffected and in the most professional way possible, despite that meaning a very hard night at the hotel room… But looking back a few months later from a professional aspect, it was all worth it.
As big as it gets
Working for the BBC is actually… as big as it gets… We started by doing some stories around survivors of the attacks and relatives. We did various pieces for BBC News and a few live crosses to BBC World. The highlight of my deployment though was no other than a live cross to the Sunday evening news bulletin. (7:00am Monday morning Christchurch time). I was expecting a LiveU setup with my camera and lighting. But arrived on location to find a fully deployed crew of engineers and satellite gear.
Full portable broadcast studio
Add to that, a fully rigged camera with autocue… A direct connection to UK and Sydney with video return… And generally a fully functional broadcast studio that was totally independent of any kind of local facility. The least I could say is that I was intimidated. But having deep technical knowledge and great experience in broadcast situations, I managed to light and shoot what turned out to be the whole 7pm news bulletin coming live from Christchurch. And everything went very smoothly to air, despite the chaos behind the camera.
Fun story… After we wet off air I repo’ed the camera for an interview, without knowing that we hadn’t finished the bulletin. And I had 30 seconds to re-set everything before we go to air again… Funny now, not then!
Looking back , I see that those days were of very high demand. So every camera operator with some basic industry relations would definitely be working. I do however consider myself lucky to get to work in such a professional environment such as the BBC. But what I found more satisfying is the fact that after my four day deployment, the relationship didn’t end with it. I got called back to do the memorial and then a few more things for the BBC including this story. Something that shows that my hard work and professionalism paid off, as I am currently the first NZ point of call for any BBC vision needs.
And that is a career highlight right there…