In this series which appears in In Focus Magazine from The Guild of Television Camera Professionals, Jo Hodges and Liz Bell, 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 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 their work here.

Q: “A new director has been brought on to a show I’ve worked on for many years and wants another camera crew to film it, how do I cope with the rejection and feelings of insecurity?”

This is such a common issue in our business and one that never feels ok really. First, it’s important to acknowledge it’s ok to be upset about this. You liked doing the job and have feelings of loss at not doing it anymore. You probably feel all the work you have put in over the years is not being acknowledged and valued. This of course isn’t true as productions don’t tend to think like that as it’s all very transient but it is how being replaced can feel. 

So how do we deal with this? It’s kinder on ourselves to accept that it probably will happen again and that it happens to all of us at some point in our careers. I’m sure you know this already but let me say it again, it’s hardly ever personal as most directors have their favoured crew and will want them on their projects. It generally works the other way round too as you may have been brought on to a job without even realising there was a crew before you. 

Most important to these situations is how you handle them and take ownership of them. They want to go a different way, have a fresh perspective and so should you.  See it as a chance to learn and move on to pastures new. In this situation it’s best to wish the new director and crew well and suggest if they need any information to let you know. This way it feels like you are meeting the situation on your own terms, and you won’t let it affect your future confidence as much. See it for what it is – a chance to expand your own working world and change things up a bit. Don’t see it as an insult but a choice of yours and theirs. You are good at what you do so now someone else can experience that and you can grow new connections. If you have the right attitude then this can be a positive thing for you, not negative.
– Liz

Q: “Should I leave my staff job and go freelance as I crave a bit more variety, but I’m wary that this might not be the best time to do that?”

In short, our answer at the moment would be NO!  In this current COVID crisis there are so many people struggling for work both within the television industry and outside of it. You are one of the lucky ones that has a solid job and you should stick with that for the time being until things have settled down. Once normality has returned then that’s when you can begin to look at the possibilities of going freelance. Of course it’s understandable with free time to ponder your options but timing is everything. That’s not to say that in the meantime you can’t broaden your horizons and possibilities in other ways without leaving your job. Side business, CPD, hobbies or volunteering perhaps.  Many of us have a bit more free time on our hands at the moment as we can’t do all the things we usually like to do, so it might be good to use that extra time to get involved with projects or people you are interested in, start making contacts by doing some shadowing (where possible) or research who you need to be in touch with from a freelancing point of view at various companies. Maybe enquire with a crewing company or relevant areas you are interested in. This would also be the perfect time to build that new website and create that showreel, things that take more time than you think. That way you are really ready to hit the ground running when the time is right.

From a mindset point of view it’s good to want to do more but the balance is in finding the right time to spread your wings.
– Jo

Q: “As a female operator who mostly works with men I have at times felt like I want to correct sexist behaviour but am always scared about the response as it’s such a small industry. I also feel that if I don’t then I’m not helping other women in the job. How can I be the type of person who helps change behaviours for the better.”

This is a great question and a really important one. Both myself and Jo are keenly aware of the fine line of being a killjoy, and of making a valid point when jokes or discussions take a turn that feels uncomfortable. In a part of the industry that is still quite male (although this is changing) it’s tough to be ‘one of the boys’ and hold true to your female values. In my experience, although difficult, I would trust your gut, if you are uncomfortable then that suggests it’s the time to say something. I think most of my male colleagues would be horrified if they felt you were uncomfortable and often what we are afraid of is in our own heads. Be brave and talk to your colleagues who you feel would understand, as the more you explain, the more they can see it from your perspective. I have found most of my colleagues are very aware these days and want an inclusive environment too, some even have expressed their own uncomfortableness if they hear something they feel is derogatory to women. You sound like a very sensible person in that you want to help change attitudes, so be confident and I think your peers will surprise you. There are always of course the odd rotten apples in any environment and I would steer clear of them as some people’s attitudes you will never change. Stay away from toxic people and give the rest of your peers a chance to listen to your points of view as a valued, strong and equal member of the team.
– Liz