In this series which appears in In Focus Magazine from The Guild of Television Camera Professionals, Jo Hodges and Liz Bell, camera operators and co-founders of Fusion Film and TV answer questions from readers and fellow camera operators on industry issues and give advice where needed.

In addition to camera operating/supervising and running their production company, Jo and Liz are both qualified transformative life coaches who work specifically with those in the media. You can read more about them and their work here.

Q1. How can I balance my own personal creative vision with the needs of the production I’m working on without it feeling like a compromise every time?

I hear ya!  There’s nothing worse than being asked to frame a bad shot or make a bad edit! This is such a tricky one as most of the time we are simply a cog in the wheel of a much bigger machine accountable to those above us making the ultimate decisions.

Firstly, remember that unless you are Greta Gerwig you will probably have to compromise on your vision because at the end of the day it’s not your project and you aren’t paying for it. But if you want ultimate authority then you could make your own stuff and enjoy that autonomy!

For the purpose of enjoying your work with your current clients perhaps try to understand the production’s goals from the beginning and take the time to thoroughly understand the objectives and constraints of the production. This will give you a clearer picture of what needs to be achieved and the limitations you may encounter within your own vision.

If it’s appropriate, try to communicate your creative vision (after all, they have hired you for a reason) at the beginning of a project. If you can get a sense that you are on the same wavelength as the client it will help you see where the job may be heading. Remember, it’s unlikely you will always agree but it’s a collaborative process and the end product is for them, not you.

During the job if you feel you are really unhappy with what you are being asked to do then clearly and calmly articulate your creative vision to the production team, explaining the reasoning behind your ideas and how they align with the overall goals. Effective communication can foster understanding and collaboration, reducing the need for constant compromise. Ultimately, its their decision though and this is something it’s better to be at one with than fight all the time.

You can also try seeing it in a different way and instead of viewing it as compromising, think of it as finding creative solutions that can satisfy both your vision and the production’s needs. Look for innovative approaches or suggest alternative ideas that can achieve the desired outcome while maintaining the essence of how you feel it should be done.

While it’s tempting to work only with clients who ‘get’ you, diversity has its own rewards. The key is to balance your portfolio: some clients help you pay the bills, while others let you fully realise your creative vision.

Remember, finding the right balance is an ongoing process, and it’s natural to encounter some compromises along the way. By approaching the situation with an open mind, effective communication, and a willingness to collaborate, you can navigate the challenges and create work that satisfies both your creative vision and the production’s requirements. Liz

Q2. I feel like I work full-time and then sleep the rest of the time.  I know that I need to network more, or at least I THINK I do.  Can you recommend some practical ways to network and make connections in the media but without exhausting myself? 

Networking in the TV industry can be challenging. We all struggle to keep up to date, especially with limited down time. 

Start by asking yourself WHAT you think will gain from networking as you don’t seem convinced! Perhaps start with a clean sheet of paper and a list (yes, I love a list!) of your reasons for networking to get a clearer picture of how you think it will help your career or personal development.

Once you have that clearer picture then there are several strategies and techniques you can use to make the most of your time. Here are some suggestions:

1. Define your goals: Before diving into networking, be clear about your objectives. What is it you want to achieve and how much time do you have available to devote to your plan?

2. Identify the specific individuals, job roles, or companies you want to connect with. This will help you prioritise your efforts and make the most of your limited time.

3. Use your existing network. Where do they go, who do they follow and what groups do they belong to? Talk to friends and colleagues. Ask for introductions or recommendations, as personal referrals can often be more effective in establishing valuable connections. Podcasts, workshops, in-person events and online groups all offer something different and of value.

4. Create a strong online presence: Develop a professional online presence by building a comprehensive and well-targeted LinkedIn profile. Highlight your industry experience, skills, and interests, upload your credits and showreel. Regularly share content related to the TV industry, including articles, news, or opinions, to showcase your knowledge and establish yourself as someone in the know.

5. Stay informed on industry news: Keep yourself updated on the latest news, trends, and developments in the TV industry. This will not only help you build conversational topics but also demonstrate your genuine interest and passion to industry professionals.

6. Be strategic with your time: Make the most of your limited free time by setting networking goals and allocating specific time slots for networking activities. Whether it’s dedicating a specific hour each day or a few hours each week, create a routine that allows you to consistently engage with industry professionals.

7. Offer value to others: Networking is a two-way street. Look for opportunities to provide value to industry professionals by sharing insights, jobs, offering assistance, or providing relevant resources. By building mutually beneficial relationships, you increase your chances of establishing better connections.

Remember, networking takes time and effort, but it can be highly rewarding especially in the TV industry where connections and ‘who you know’ are really important. Be patient, persistent, and open-minded as you connect with professionals who can provide guidance, mentorship, or potential job opportunities. -Jo

Q3. When I’m away on OB’s I always feel like I don’t fit in because I don’t drink and as everyone’s always going for a drink after work I feel awkward. I do like to socialise but now I’m finding myself going back to my room rather than facing the questions and judgment. What can I do to fit in better?

This is more common than you think and I know plenty of non-drinkers in the industry these days as times are a changing. With the explosion of the non-alcoholic drinks market over the last few years, non-drinkers are no longer relegated to nursing a pint of lime and soda for the entire evening, there’s now plenty of choice including some pretty good “mocktails”. 

There are two things to address here:  Your own perception of not fitting in amid a culture that is changing but not fast enough to make you feel less nervous about being the odd one out, and perhaps feeling you need alcohol to be deemed “interesting”?

Firstly, you don’t need to feel like you should be making any more effort than anyone else on any job, but I know that’s sometimes easier said than done. 

Maybe see it this way; when you go out, you go out to spend time with people you enjoy being with. When you are working, it’s nice to wind down after work all together to gossip (in TV, surely not!) or catch up on work goings on. You can still do that with a soft drink and perhaps you need to get used to being out and owning your choices.  If anyone makes you feel the odd one out in this scenario then I suspect they aren’t worth spending time with anyway. I’m sure there will be plenty in the group who don’t behave like that and if you just socialise as you would normally do then hopefully they will get bored of asking.  I do find having a practised answer to the inevitable questions is useful. No one should be made to feel out of place because they choose not to drink though and you have as much right and social need to be there as anyone else without making any extra effort! You be you! Hopefully most of your colleagues will support and surprise you. Show them it’s possible to have fun without a drink and be a small part of changing their perceptions too.

Overall, I think this is actually a cultural problem not just a working away one as we are still very skewed to catering for heavy drinking cultures in the UK, but I do feel things are changing with plenty of information about moderation or abstinence being better health choices. So who knows, in a few years time they may feel like they are the odd ones out, instead! – Liz