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Firefighters

Filming means going that extra mile – high!

This week we’ve been filming with Wiltshire Fire Brigade looking at the valuable, but often unseen work, done by the fire safety specialists.

A team within the fire brigade works day in day out, trying to prevent fires and accidents. They go into schools, into colleges, into homes and can  go into businesses, organisations to talk about safety on the road, in the home, on boats…the list goes on. The skills and the practical hints and tips they can give are worth listening to…How many of us think about what these officers, both male and female, can offer in terms of training? Debbie, who goes into primary schools, to speak to children about fire safety was awesome. Anyone who can not only hold, but fascinate,  a class of seven-year-olds for more than an hour deserves huge respect.

Today I learned what to do if my clothes caught on fire, what to do to check if a fire is behind a door, how to get out of a house safely in a fire. I’d already had a fire officer look around a house and offer advice about smoke alarms, safe practice in the kitchen, planning escape routes, where keys should be left….I could go on. But now I know what to do with my body if that very rare house fire occurs.

As part of my research, I’ve also found out that Wiltshire Fire Brigade works closely with the British Red Cross which provides 24-hour support for people caught up in the trauma of a house fire or flood. The fire officers will call out the BRC team and they will attend night or day – and all of them are volunteers. I’m going to blog more on this later so watch this space.

Our grand vision for the fire safety fiming, was to do a shot of the team and all of the vehicles at their disposal. This meant that we had five fire engines, a four-wheel drive car, a little white van, a British Cross support vehicle, a BMW complete with blue lights and a boat. We allowed two hours to get this one shot right and to arrange the vehicles in an arc. It was great fun.

 

Vehicles getting into position with my thumb at top of frame!...

But here are a few tips I’d like to share with you when doing a ‘key shot’ for any filming:

Whatever time you’ve planned to arrange the shot – double it.

A good cameraman will look for the most inaccessible shot and go for it – be prepared to follow.

Don’t go to the top of a very high tower on a cold, foggy March morning without gloves or without having visited the loo.

Take into account the last time you climbed a very high tower – in your 20s it’s easy, in your 40s, it’s a lot scarier.

Taking lots of heavy kit up a very high tower is not easy – bring along an extra pair of hands.

Swindon's magic roundabout from top of high tower!

Coming down wobbly ladders is a lot more terrifying than going up – especially when your hands are so cold, you are not sure if you’ve got fingers any more.

From these few tips, you can probably guess that we got some of these things completely right and others, while not quite so right. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the shots we captured are wonderful. However, my own personal shots from the iPhone were a bit ropey – probably due to numb fingers, or that’s my excuse.

All in all, today showed the joy of a portfolio career, you just never know what you are going to do, who you are going to meet or what the camera is going to show you…

 

9/11 the firemen’s story – what it meant to me

I have this need to watch programmes about 9/11 – it was event which left an indelible mark on my psyche and last night was no exception.

On watching the programme, The Firemen’s Story (Channel 4 or 5) and those remarkable pictures I remember where I was when it happened so clearly. Do you? What’s your story? 

 

What were you doing when those pictures went across the world and we knew without doubt that we were watching thousands perish before our eyes?

 

I was filming a light entertainment show in a beautiful house in Somerset owned by a couple who’d decorated it with stuff they’d rescued and recycled.

 

I was heavily pregnant and wearing a long, huge, black dress. It was very hot and I was having a drink downstairs and the tv was on. Just a few months earlier I’d been in the twin towers having a meal with my husband – a lovely weekend away in New York.

 

I called him on the telephone telling him there’d been an accident and to turn on the tv. As we were talking I watched the second plane go into the south tower and I knew then it was no accident.

 

I knew I was looking on helplessly as people died needlessly. It was among the most humbling experiences of my life.

I’ve asked my children to watch some of the programmes as I want them to know what fanaticism can lead to – great pain, great horror, great devastation, and for what? What good came of that act? There were heroes created, but no one wants to be hero because of that act. And there’ve been so many since.

 

What moved me last night was an interview with a widow, ten years on, who described telling her daughter that her daddy wouldn’t be coming home – ever. Her daughter crumpled on to the floor, ‘she looked like I slapped her’ the mum said. She said she’d never forget it.

 

All parents can imagine such a dreadful moment – but recently I had to live through it, even if it was as a close bystander. Believe me, I pray it’s never me in that position.

 

I sat with my beautiful sister as she told her six year old daughter that her daddy, who’d gone to the gym as usual the night before, would never be coming home again. He’d felt ill and had to go to hospital but he was so ill that he’d had to go to heaven. He didn’t want to go but he had no choice.

 

In adult language – he’d collapsed and died at the age of 49. Gone from our lives, just like that.

It’s like hitting a brick wall that’s so big

What would you tell your child?

and so tall that you just have to hit it. It cannot be avoided.

My sister dealt with it with so much love and dignity that I could hardly bear it – she told my lovely niece that we would feel sad for a while but we would all be happy and have lovely times because that’s what Daddy would want.

 

All of this when I knew the dark chasm that life had put before this mum of three. A widow at 40 with three small children.

 

Though the circumstances were vastly different, the effect was the same. A family in total devastation but trying to survive even in the following hours. Trying to ensure that bereaved children still felt there was hope and magic in the world.

To all who lost in 9/11, 7/7 or in any other personal tragedy – I salute you.

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