Want to be on telly? How to react if you see a camera.

Having recently been out filming on the Millennium bridge in London, I wanted to blog about the added difficulty of filming in front of the general public. It’s never easy; planes flying overhead and loud buses and lorries already mean filming often stops due to the distraction of the noise. Yet in public spaces there’s always a mix of annoying teenagers grabbing and jostling the camera or sticking V signs up, people shouting “hello mum”, and others trying to be helpful by stopping dead and walking a wide berth.

So I thought I’d do all the camera crews out there a favour, by writing a quick guide about how to react….

Know if it’s live or recorded.

If there’s a big satellite truck nearby it’s likely to be a live broadcast; yet this is very rare. If it is a live broadcast and you stand in the back of shot when the reporter/presenter is talking you will probably get on the telly – though it may really annoy them (remember they may be talking about the death of a child outside the high court; shouting “hello mum” is not the best, or particularly nice).

Yet most of the time it will simply be a camera crew filming a recorded piece. If it’s a reporter and camera operator it’s likely to be a piece for the news. If there’s also a sound operator and/or producer it’s probably for a programme (e.g. when I film for Tonight with Trevor). If there’s a much larger crew and it’s closed off, it’s probably for a TV drama. The most important thing to remember is they are not going to go live; if you stand in the way they’ll simply stop filming and wait, and you’ll also really annoy them. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of some camera operators, (ah, if only I could tell you the stories) so if it’s a recorded piece don’t yell/shout/wave/ as you’ll simply disrupt them and NEVER appear on the TV.

How to get on camera if it’s a recorded film

The golden rule is if you want to get on the camera, pretend it isn’t there. Walk normally, and don’t look into the lens (this is known as the ‘reporters prerogative’- in other words only the reporter/presenter is ever allowed to talk or look direct at the camera – and converse with the viewer). If you look directly at the camera or react to it in any way, it’ll ruin the shot and won’t be useable.

This is because the report is meant to be commenting on the action, not causing it, so having the cameras there shouldn’t impact what you’re seeing in any way – if it does it won’t be used. If you’re really keen to get on (or more likely your children are), then a polite request when they’re not filming, asking “can we walk in the back of the shot” will often work, but again you’ll need to walk naturally with no reaction. Those on the filming side have to learn too. We don’t own the street, nor have any more right to be there than anyone else, so if you ask nicely where possible it should work. The one other note is giving us a wide berth, stopping dead, or asking what to do if you’re in the shot, whilst very considerate, also tends to stop the filming.

So overall – if you spot a camera, just ignore it and carry on.

Discuss this blog