This last year has been extremely busy, I'm happy to say. I hadn't really done much in the way of TV as nearly all had been features, so it was a new experience. It started for me at the beginning of March 2015, when I joined Downton Abbey for their final series. I'd gone in at the end of 2014 (and managed to get a nomination for the TV Drama Operator's Award with my colleagues by the Association of Camera Operators - massive thanks to Phil Sindall for putting me in there) so when I got the call to come back permanently for the final series, I was more than happy to do so.
It's quite an experience being on the set of one of the world's most popular TV shows with the likes of Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith, and given that there are only two cameras, being asked to do B camera and steadicam with the ever-lovely Mark Milsome on A camera, I consider myself extremely privileged to have been given that opportunity. It's one for the history books.
Months later, after many hours up at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios and one hell of a wrap party, courtesy of BAFTA, I parted ways to go immediately on to a low budget comedy feature film called 'The Comedian's Guide to Survival'. What a great experience that was! We had a lovely director (Mark Murphy) and DoP (Joan Bordera) and a great cast headed up by James Buckley, of The In Betweeners fame and Paul Kaye (who'd I worked with many years before on Blackball). There were appearances from Omad Djalili and Jimmy Carr, too. It was a lot of fun to work on and being behind the eyepiece with those kind of comedians inches from your face can really test your resolve when it comes to not losing it in the middle of a take. Happy days!
Immediately after filming finished on The Comedians Guide, I jumped on to the first series of the new BBC PrimeTime drama, New Blood. This has been written by the highly acclaimed Anthony Horowitz, who has also just written the new Bond book, Trigger Mortis. Anthony was very involved and was regularly on set. The series was produced by Eleventh Hour Films and starred Ben Tavassoli, Mark Strepan, Mark Addy (from The Full Monty and A Knight's Tale) and Anna Chancellor (known for Four Weddings and a Funeral and many others).
We shot a total of 7 episodes with Block 1 (the first 5 episodes) being directed by Anthony Philipson with Director of Photography Rasmus Arrildt and Block 2 (the last 2 episodes) being directed by Bill Eagles with Director of Photography Mike Spragg BSC. Both teams were absolutely lovely people both professionally and personally, and I can honestly say we had a lot of fun, especially under a tight schedule. I had a great combo of focus pullers with Justin Hawkins and George Grieve, with their awesome team of loaders, Alex van Heerden and Dan Evans, trainees Lisa Wiik, Bii Chau and Nick Poole and DIT's Núria Pérez and Charlie Noble (plus dailies and short timers, so apologies for names I haven't added). Justin and Alex are a fantastic pair to work with, both hailing from South Africa, and we've become firm friends since! I knew the others from Downton, so they need no further praise! It's so good when a production is made up of fantastic people all the way through. It makes the crazy hours we do worth it.
We finally wrapped on January 22nd 2016 and spent the rest of the time wrapping down gear and kit-checking back at Take 2 Films. It feels like the end of a marathon - both welcome at the time, and a little confusing afterwards, but with memories that get fonder as the days or weeks pass. As for now, I'm taking a well-earned breather until the next thing starts. For now, this is very welcome!
Big love to all who've made the last year such a special one and knitted together when times got hard - and on quite a few 6 day weeks, with 12 hours as standard, not including travel, for nearly 11 months, they do get hard... really hard - I can't say thanks enough. Have a brilliant break and then let's go and do it all again!