Assessment – Filming the Television Package


They say never work with kids and animals…they’re wrong

What a delight little Polly is. After a pretty horrific ordeal travelling in (the undercarriage of) one of First Great Western’s trains and losing a leg, Polly remains an extraordinarily trusting and affectionate cat.

Even an experienced camera-person would probably have to admit that telling a cat how to position itself for the camera would be a first, but Polly seemed happy to be mauled about for the purposes of good TV. She’s a natural. But I suppose she’s had plenty of experience (see previous blog post).



After seven calls and three emails to First Great Western’s press office they finally agreed to let me speak to Emily Mahoney-Smith, who found Polly under the train. So off I went back to Penzance to meet her. I must say, staff at the station were incredibly helpful and Emily was a fantastic interviewee (she even agreed to kneel on the train platform and pretend to look for an imaginary cat in the train’s undercarriage!)

Overall, the filming went well and I got all the shots I wanted.

Filming – the problems

  • First off, after several attempts to meet Polly’s owners and film the reunion, I eventually had to accept it was a no-go. They were only willing to talk to ITV, which was disappointing…perhaps it’s their favourite channel? The couple are very elderly and said: “we just want our cat back,” so I had to respect that.
  • Two perennial bug-bears of mine: fluorescent lighting and echoey rooms. Now there’s obviously no getting away from either of them, you have to just work with them, much like having an incredibly annoying colleague who does everything in their way to scupper your attempts to get the perfect shot.

I haven’t yet looked back at my footage in the edit suite, but I have a nasty feeling the echoing will be an issue.

  • Once again, I’ve had to self-operate a camera at the same time as conducting interviews. I must say, I’m pretty comfortable doing this, and don’t feel worse off for the lack of another person there to hold my hand. My only gripe is where carrying stuff is concerned. Getting about on public transport with two bags large enough to cart bodies around in is no joke. And while filming and interviewing I ended up having to contort myself into the shape of a trumpeting elephant. I had to be extremely careful to frame the interviews properly and desperately tried to keep the boom mic out of vision.
  • OK, OK, so something else did go wrong… because of ‘elf-and-safety’ regulations, filming on a moving train is not permitted, so as I hurried to pack away my camera kit after filming on the train, I managed to trap my finger in the tripod. I’m really not good with blood, so just the sight of my (very) wounded finger almost made me pass out. I managed to haul myself back over to Emily who kindly gave me a plaster.
  • Note to self: when filming, always carry a first aid kit, or avoid trapping digits in tripod.

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