Production Apprentice: Robert Taylor's adventures and experiences working with BBC News

Production Apprentice

Thrilling. One word to describe the whirlwind that has been my first two months into placement on my production apprenticeship as a cameraman (or as it’s more officially titled, a broadcast camera journalist) in BBC News.

I’ve been up and down the country with my mentor covering a whole plethora of stories, whether it be doing lives onto the One O’Clock News amid the 100mph wrath of Storm Angus on Brighton Beach, filming GVs (general views) at a restaurant in Soho due to its norovirus outbreak or Prince Philip and Prince Harry opening the Field of Remembrance, it’s been a fantastic start to my placement.

Way back when - or so it seems - in October, we had a whole variety of training at BBC Park Western to get us ready to hit the ground running on our first day in the job, this ranging from news camera training and specialist iPhone training, to a News Assignment Location Safety course, amongst others.

Following that informative and useful week, I was thrown right into the deep end going on deployment for a week to cover our Southampton network bureau with a News cameraman, covering stories such as the opening of The Etches Collection in Kimmeridge. For the remaining weeks of the month, I worked with a UK specialist cameraman and correspondent on a special piece titled How Babies Brains Work. I was given the chance to shoot some GVs on location at a nursery in North London, some of which were actually in the final edit and aired on the 6 O’Clock News the following month! My final job was assisting a cameraman in filming the Opening of the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.

In November, I worked with a camerawoman and correspondent on the Wahaca norovirus outbreak, where GVs I shot were used network wide for the whole day during the headlines and the actual package (my debut as it were). Shortly after I finally had the chance to meet my mentor Tony, and from then on our schedules were married up in order for me to make the most of his knowledge and 33 years of experience as a BBC cameraman; switching from the typical office hours of a Monday-Friday to a varying 4 on/2 off shift a week.

Straight off the bat, he gave me an in-depth 2-hour three point lighting course, where I learnt the fundamentals of lighting for a sit down interview and the usefulness of a key light, back light and fill light - which have been incredibly useful for me on daily basis when assisting setting up lighting scenes on shoots.

Fast forward to December, I was back on deployment in Southampton, with Tony this time and for two weeks, covering stories such as the conversion of a double-decker bus into a homeless shelter on the Isle of Wight and doing production lives from Horsham amidst the Southern Rail Strike.

The highlight of this trip was filming F1 star Mark Webber at Silverstone Race Track. With Tony at the helm of his crew car, we shot a piece to camera and some GVs alongside Mark's Porsche 911 Turbo S on the full 3 miles of the Silverstone race circuit with correspondent Duncan Kennedy in the passenger seat interviewing as they went!

Using no less than 3 GoPros, a PMW-500, a JVC camera and my iPhone for behind the scenes, plus a DJI Osmo for those Top Gear-style, super stabilised angles of the sports car. While it was all hands on deck for the rest of the team, being relegated to the back seat of Tony’s car didn’t faze me, as it gave me the chance to produce a Behind the Scenes film of the day, which was featured in the departmental newsletter and received rave reviews from management and my colleagues in the department, to my amazement.

The rest of the time mainly consisted of edit days, where I came handy to Tony and the Southampton network team with my tracking/blobbing skills in blurring sensitive data using BBC News’ edit software. I was also able to see how packages were put together and then spent the last two days of deployment learning sequence shooting, which involved a LOT of trial and error and patience, however with Tony’s invaluable guidance I managed to crack it after those two days. I’ll be putting that all into practice when I come back onto placement in January.

And that has not been all... In order to keep making contacts and to fulfil my aim to keep furthering my experience, I’ve been dipping my toe in other genres across the business; over the past two months I’ve been a shadowing camera assistant on Later... with Jools Holland, a production runner on Gospel Christmas and a camera assistant on an arts shoot for The One Show (with the Canon C300 I was using pictured).

I hope to continue this where work schedules allow in order to expand my credits further, such that I can have the best chance possible when competing for jobs come September next year.