This month I am writing about something that I never thought I would when I set off on my Carping journey. The dreaded camera. Yes, in a digital age where no one now wants to just look at pictures, never mind read, anymore; the internet blog, video snippet, DVD length movies are well and truly part of corporate Carping.
My first experience of filming was in 2006 when I made a TV length DVD, ‘The Obsession Of Carp’. At the time I was Editor of Advanced Carp Fishing magazine and the idea was a collaboration between another tackle manufacturer and the publishers of ACF.
A great bonus was having the most gifted cameraman I could imagine filming, namely Nick Read of Carp TV fame. The feature was to be filmed in June and released in the October of that year at a trade show. I won’t go into all the politics involved as it got a little silly but basically the distribution, release and rights got messy and it was never marketed properly. A great shame as all that have seen it have marvelled at the wonderful camera work and filmography that took place. Throw into the mix the largest Carp caught live on film and it is something that as much as someone tries and belittle, I am justifiably proud of. What I learned was being a good Carp angler is actually secondary to being good in front of a camera.
So what makes someone good in front of the camera? For me it is all about being natural. Irrespective of appearance, accent, style or substance if you aren’t natural then you look wooden. Even worse, the whole event can look staged. Don’t get me wrong most of the time it is staged but there is a lot of differences between something that is scripted and something that isn’t. If too much is not scripted it can appear amateurish. Too little and it looks wooden.
However, perhaps the most surprising aspect of filming is that those who can appear natural and at ease can often be the ones you least expect. From my experience you have to try and have a clear understanding of what you are trying to show, say and portray. Add the assumption that you are having a one-on-one with someone and you are more than halfway there.
The ‘video blog own camera’ work is also with us today. It may interest some of you to know that I first started one of these over 20 years ago whilst chasing some very large Pike at Lindholme Lakes Pike syndicate. With a lot of big fish caught you would think it looks great. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It comes across as boring, self indulgent and amateurish. (Who says Holmesy can’t be self-critical) But why? Simple. It is like most personal blogs interesting to only those who either know the angler or water being fished.
Maybe harsh words but the key to successful filming is to entertain first rather than educate first. I am old enough to remember the Open University programmes on the TV and although no one could deny they were very educational, I couldn’t bare to watch for more than a couple of minutes. As boring as watching paint dry…very much like many of today’s Carp blogs.
Filming to a prearranged script can lead to may funny stories that do actually make entertaining stories themselves. I think it would be a great idea to do blogs about the funny things that happen in the media world too. A little like the outtakes sections that now seem so popular.
One of my favourite stories is from the filming of The Obsession of Carp DVD. Basically the plot was two anglers would catch one fish each and the majority of the DVD would concentrate on why the attraction of Carp. Not a rig fest or instructional manual but something your Granny could watch with a wildlife slant. It was to be filmed over a couple of days.
Anyway, the week was organised for June, always an ‘iffy’ fishing month with spawning on the agenda. So I started fishing on the Tuesday night. The venue was in the darkest parts of Essex and we were very lucky that the lake we fished held some very large Carp. I will not go into the argument about the stock as that is another story but we were fishing for big, old English Carp. As time wore on, Nick our cameraman was shooting Squirrels, Coots, Swans – everything that moved on the bank, including the anglers but still no fish. As Wednesday and Thursday came and went I was anxious. It was alright having the best script, camera team and audio people but if there were no Carp caught it wasn’t going to work. However Nick, who wasn’t an angler, wasn’t too worried as he had until Friday pm.
As Friday morning dawned and still no Carp I was beside myself. I had work to do on Monday and couldn’t spend any more time on this project so I asked Nick if he could stop. About 5pm he said he had run out of battery power and so had to go home. What were we to do? Simple… we would have to look at our diaries and come back. Nightmare.
As I sat there I looked at my watch. It was 5.20pm and I didn’t fancy battling Friday afternoon traffic on the M25. I’d give it a little longer. No sooner had the thought left my mind when bang. Up went the indicator, the buzzer screamed and I was scrambling to my feet. As I leant into the fish I realised immediately this was a big Carp – probably the biggest I had ever hooked. After a couple of minutes of margin hugging the big beast set off on a run. As it gained momentum I let it take line. We have all done it. As it got further away from me, it got faster and faster. It went passed an island and all it had to do was try to go around the island and I was doomed. Incredibly, it stopped and swam back towards me. As it swam to me I reeled as fast as I could to gain the slack line caused by this sudden reverse. Just then my good friend, Dave Levy fishing in the neighbouring lake came running along the high bank. “Holmesy, Holmesy!” He shouted. “You don’t want to lose this mate, I’ve just seen it and it’s a fish called Scar.” “How big is it Dave?” I enquired. “Last out at 56 mate,” he said.
As he told me the old knees started knocking. Then, as the Carp was in close I saw it. It was enormous and I was overwhelmed by its size. However, Dave was in true hero-mode and actually jumped into the lake with the landing net and in one instant scooped the leviathan into the net. By now there were four anglers by my side and we were all dancing around. On the scales the Carp weighed 52lb 6oz. What a great DVD this was going to be! I glanced at the clock and it was 6.15pm. Plenty of light left and Nick only lived 15 minutes away. Quick as a flash I rang him.
“Nick, great news! I’ve just landed a 52. Get yourself round here to do the filming,” I said. His answer will stay with me forever. As I put the phone in my pocket Dave said to me, “Holmesy what did he say?” I said, “He is having his tea and not to worry. I will catch another next week. See you soon. And then he hung up.”
Looking back I think he knew something special would happen and destiny had tried to play a part in a far bigger script!
Fishing is like life as sometime there is no reason as to why things happen. However, if Nick had come out that night I would never have gone back to catch a Carp that to this day remains the biggest Carp ever caught on a floater and the biggest Carp ever caught live in front of the cameras. At 61lb 4oz it was a day I will never forget and one day I will tell the TRUE story of how that day changed my Carp fishing life forever and made me realise that camera can indeed be dreaded.
See you on the bank.