Continuing our series meeting people from all around dock10, we caught up with Amy Ashley-Mather who talked us through what it's like working as an entry level camera assistant.
It varies so much. If it's a rig-day, we'll build the cameras, get them into the studio, set the cables up and have a little walk through. If we're filming, or doing a rehearsal, then we'll do the back focuses and line-ups on the cameras to make sure everything is in working order. And then we'll run through with the show.
During filming, what I do depends on the show. It is just as important for camera assistants as it is for the operators to know what's happening with each camera during a show. If there are handheld cameras involved, then there is a lot of cable bashing as the cameras move around. For static cameras I have to be on hand if anything needs to change. When we were filming Comic Relief, for example, it was very busy. The cameras were going from static to handheld.
If a show isn't filming, then I organise the kit and equipment for shows that are coming in.
After I graduated in 2020, I got a lot of running jobs through Facebook groups for researchers and crew. I met loads of people through each job and managed to work as a runner continuously.
Through those jobs I met a couple of really good camera operators and DoPs who really helped me, and I got a couple of PSC (Portable Single Camera) jobs. Then last year, I saw the ad for this role at dock10 and applied – and I got the job in January.
I studied digital film production at university. While I was there, I applied for work experience. I did two weeks work experience at Icon Films in Bristol, which was really good.
That helped me get work experience up here in Salford in BBC in their factual department. After that, I just kept emailing people I'd met while I was doing work experience. I ended up getting my first couple of runners jobs while I was at university, which I think helped me massively because a lot of people don't start their work experience until they leave. It meant that I was almost one step ahead as soon as I left uni.
I've always been into photography and have wanted to be a camera operator. I just like being part of making shows and seeing the final product. I like the fact that you don't have to be in charge of the show, but if you weren't there the show wouldn't function without you. You are making what people see - it's your shot at the end of the day.
Studios are really great environments to work in. I like the busyness of it, and how hectic it is at times. You're constantly having to adapt to things and having to think on your feet – it keeps you really engaged. You could do this for 20 years, but every day would be completely different.
Before you break in, the industry can seem totally out of reach. I'm not talking about trying to become a big-time director - just getting to be a camera assistant seems unattainable and something that will take years to achieve.
But you've just got to push for it. Applying for one job a week isn't good enough. Before working here, I probably applied for over 100 jobs. I wouldn't even know how many emails I sent in the last two years trying to get into places.
You'll get knocked back time and time again. But you need to keep at it and just get to the point where it's like water off a duck's back. Because if you push it so much, then statistically someone is going to say yes at some point.
Also, you just have to say yes to everything, even if it's not what you think you want to do - because you never know who you're going to meet on a job and where it will lead to.