Just to preface: I am sorry for this rather rambling post. Hopefully it doesn’t come across as too preachy. It’s meant to be taken, like the rest of my site, in the most positive way possible! It’s very open, very honest and pretty personal. Hence the title.
This is not a plea asking for support. This is not me asking for kind messages, although the ones I’ve gotten are lovely. In fact, I should have closed comments on this, as this is a statement, but I did say I didn’t want to do that again.
Some people say that talking about this stuff is not needed nor should be done, as it encourages. If that is case, then that is a shame. All I want to do is just get something off my chest that has been getting to me for far too long. The stuff on other sites I can just ignore. The emails and comments on my site, I cannot. I deal with this throughout the day every day. What I would like is of course impossible, it’s the internet after all… I know that, but I can at least try. After all, if we don’t try then how can we expect to achieve anything in our life?
Here is a little bit of background info for you about me…
I love filming. I love filmmaking. I love coming up with ideas. I love shooting. I love lighting. I love meeting people. I love sound. I love actors. I love real people. I love interviewing people. I love documentaries. I love just about everything that goes with what I do. I am a lucky man to have found my place in this world. I have found what I always wanted to do, even though I didn’t know what that was until I was about 22!!
So yes, I am enormously lucky in my life. Not in every way, far from it in many ways which I have no desire to go into, things that I am sure some who read this may know due to my openness here, and things that nobody but the closest people in my life know. We can look at things relative to others around us, or we can look at the bigger global picture. When you have seen what I have seen in my 17 years working in news, you know that I and 99.99999% of you reading this are bloody lucky not to be living the life that some of these people live. So it’s all relative, and going by that I am VERY LUCKY! I am doing something I love and getting paid to do it.
When I was growing up, my lovely dad came home miserable and hating his work as a pharmacist. I thought that was my lot in life. You work to live. You pay the bills, support your family and gradually become more and more miserable the older you get. So when I was looking for a career, I looked at professional vocations. Lawyer, Doctor, Train Driver, astronaut, Jedi…these all looked fine on paper…well most of them. But the serious ones (anything in space would be cool!) had no real interest to me. I wanted to do something that didn’t require me to do a lot of work…or a lot of studying. I was sick to death of school. I wanted to earn some money!
At this time, I was actually working in Tesco (a supermarket) part-time as a checkout supervisor. Bossing middle-aged women around. Lots of fun They offered me a management training opportunity. I almost took it (cue the troll commentators saying I should have taken it! Yes, the 10% discount on shopping would have saved me a fortune, you are right!), the money was OK. It was solid. No need to do further education, no Uni. I came close to saying yes. So what happened?
You see, I was never one of those film prodigies. I wasn’t like the kid in Super 8, even though that was my generation. I had no desire to make films. I loved watching them but never thought about making them. I did buy and mess around with a Video 8 camera when I was 18, but mostly I enjoyed taking the odd photo with my Pentax SLR, although I wasn’t exactly prolific! It never went everywhere with me like my cameras do now, it was just something I liked to do when I went somewhere cool. I also liked painting, although I was a bit shit at it! BUT, there was something that interested me. I liked the news, newspapers and TV News. I was fascinated by it, so I thought about becoming a news photographer.
Part of this stemmed from a short documentary series on BBC back in 1987 called “In at the deep end” which featured Paul Heiney trying to become a chef, photographer or whatever in 3 months and documenting his attempts at it. I found this fascinating, and it clearly stuck with me. So when I was thinking in the last few months of my A Levels at school about my future, the idea of doing that came to me. I went and talked to a friend of my dad, a professional “news snapper”. He said bluntly to me. “DON’T. The writing is on the wall. Digital cameras are just around the corner and with them will come a massive change in the business. Personally, I am thinking of getting out in the next few years, before it goes to shit! Ever thought about TV News?” Ironically, we have had a similar change in the video industry in the past few years. Although I don’t think it’s gone to shit. I think it’s brought so many new opportunities and given us so much new talent!
So that’s how I got into filming properly. I applied to every single TV company under the sun, and one of the 16 wrote back to me and gave me an interview. I was offered a terrible job for terrible money. I took it…told Tesco “thanks but no thanks” and started on the ladder at Sky News. This was in 1989.
It was only when I was around 21/22 that I really got a chance to shoot properly and I found I had a knack for it. “A natural talent” I was told. I had found what I was good at …well more like my career, and what I was good at found me by a series of occurrences which you could actually say started with my dad giving me a Pentax and that BBC documentary.
So, I was lucky. Most people in life never find what they are TRULY good at. Some may debate whether I am actually good at what I do anyway! That’s fine with me! It’s impossible to appeal to all and impossible for everyone to like what you do. It would be a bloody boring world if this was the case! I actually would love to upload some of my early work from Sky. I have the Betacam edits. I just need to find a deck to capture them! Anyone?! Mostly on Beta SP and Beta SX.
This is actually one of my old docs. About 8 years old or so, from Sky. Terrible quality as it’s from a DVD…once I get the deck, I can capture my edit master…in the meantime here is something from the old days. Not the hard news, but the longer form featurey stuff.
So there was no romantic, perfect, destiny type story as to how I ended up where I am today. In was a combination of laziness and pure luck…then talent and most importantly an enormous amount of hard work got me to where I am now.
It’s my 25th year of working in the business, now that’s a scary number. A quarter of a century! So when people say my success is down to “being in the right place at the right time,” I need to point out that I actually have got to where I am today due to my passion and love of my job PLUS the immense amount of effort and work I have put into it over almost 25 years!! Luck plays a part in all our lives, but we make a lot of our own luck. Without hard work, you won’t get those lucky breaks. If you decide to sit at home on your arse in your mother’s basement for the rest of your life hoping to get that big break without ever getting off your arse, then I am sorry, it won’t come to you…I promise! You will most likely get morbidly obese by eating cheesy puffs all day and you will also become a bitter and twisted individual commenting anonymously on forums/ comment sections all the while knowing that, when your time comes, the whole house will need to be demolished to remove you. NOBODY will email you offering you an amazing opportunity sitting on your arse whilst using the internet 24/7! Apart from maybe featuring on one of those “freak show” things on US TV! OK…maybe that was a bit too dark, bleak and extreme but I think you get the point! After all, my big Ebay clear-out of stuff is to avoid being on hoarders myself!
I learnt so much at Sky. What a story was, how to tell a story, how to work with a team, how to deal with people, how to work fast, how to shoot, how to light, how to record sound, how to edit, how to avoid getting killed in riots, how to dodge bullets, walk through landmines, avoid being bombed by US planes accidentally dropping bombs on us when we were with allied troops…I had so many life lessons that have molded me into who I am, for better of worse. The man I am today from my childhood and upbringing, to my time at sky and of course today as a freelancer can be summed up in a number of words: Kind, honest, empathic, cynical, insecure, traumatized, overly sensitive, proud, confident, scared, ambitious, mostly happy and very much, grateful.
So this brings me, FINALLY, to the point of this “Personal Statement”. Would I rather not write it? Of course I would prefer not to need to do it, but of course I don’t actually HAVE to write it but I feel I should.
I was lucky enough when I was learning to shoot at Sky to have a mentor, the head cameraman Gerry Williams. Someone I admired, respected and listened to. I showed him my work. He gave me constructive feedback. It was brilliant! Gerry, for me, was the most important person to my career. I had someone to turn to for advice and guidance. To show me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. To show me support in my mistakes and help me learn from them.
After leaving Sky, I felt I needed to give back the same way Gerry shared with me his wisdom. I wanted to help people in some way, and that is more or less how the blog came about. Initially, the website back in 2006 was just a place for my reel, but in late 2007 it became a blog where I shared my experiences on shoots and other nonsense with anyone who was bored enough to read them! With the way things are now, many of you don’t have the opportunity to have a mentor, to have someone to turn to for advice. I am not saying I am that, but I wanted to somehow help people and share my, at the time, 18 years of experience.
That is my site. It has improved immensely since then. Both in design and especially content. My posts are not as frequent, as I like finding new things to talk about and finding the time is hard, but when I do post, they vary between analysing shoots, occasionally reviewing cameras (surprisingly not as many as you think), looking at the odd bit of gear very occasionally, the odd “news” post (although I am not a news site, there are many of those who do it very well and post frequently), “bigger picture” advice posts, and all sorts of other bits and pieces. I try to make it unique and I hope I have made it that.
Now of course, because it’s my site it is full of my opinions. Come on! It’s my blog…what do you expect? These are to be taken with a pinch of salt. I frequently try to remind people to never listen to just one voice but to listen to many. No one person is ever “right”. We all have advice to give, and often it’s not appropriate for you. I am not here to hold your hand and tell you what to do. I give you options, ideas, opinions…these are for you to take and then guide you in whatever the thing was that you were looking for help with in the first place!
I have put myself out there, so naturally I expect to get grief, and anyone with an opinion will irritate a certain percentage of people, it’s the internet after all! The thing is I don’t force my opinion on anyone or attack someone if they disagree with me. ALTHOUGH I do get sometimes unfortunately get rather short, irritable, snappy and very defensive (in fact this post feels like a whole defence of who I am, which is a shame) so I apologise for that when it happens. I am far from perfect, quite flawed in fact, like everyone…there are frequent times in my life that are full of stress and a bad time to reply to anything, this is no excuse though. There are also times when things are super great. A perfect time to reply to things!
So when I put myself out there, these “trolls” as they are called are par for the course, and I know that I should never let them bother me. The thing is, as mentioned in my personality traits above, I am rather sensitive. This is me, and I have no real desire to change. I want to be sensitive. My sensitive nature is a huge part of what defines me as a human being and also in fact, to a degree, helps me in my documentary filming, but more importantly it molds me into the compassionate human being I am today. This means I don’t have very thick skin. I have tried to grow it. Doesn’t work. I looked so leathery that I did some serious exfoliation
I remember being in Istanbul in 1999 for the massive earthquake. I was filming a rescue attempt where a family and friends were desperately trying to rescue a child trapped in the rubble. The young boy was alive but they couldn’t reach him. I felt so uncomfortable filming this, so much so that I put my camera down and went to help. They turned to me and said “NO…we need you to film this, we need the world to see why we need help!” So I picked up the camera and carried on filming. The child was pulled out lifeless an hour later wrapped in a Lion King bedspread. I couldn’t hold back my tears. My reporter Ross turned to me and said “Phil, you need to learn to disconnect, otherwise this job will kill you”. He was right. I had to look through the viewfinder and have that as my barrier. News is a hard thing to cover, and the things I have seen will haunt me forever, but they have also made me who I am and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Even though the trauma lives with me to this day.
I would love to find a way to have thick skin AND maintain who I am, as in my sensitivity. I cannot see how that is possible, but I do try every day. It’s like a pint glass. It starts empty and then it starts to fill with crap, I ignore it, then it fills and fills and when it reaches the top that’s when it gets to me. Then I get over it and the pint glass empties ready for another filling! My wonderful, patient, supremely talented filmmaker partner Sarah knows when I have read something nasty, as I go very quiet and I shut down. It kills a good mood. It kills whatever good time I was having. Clearly it gets to me too much and something has to be done.
So I have, for the most part, stopped reading posts about me from others and especially forums…although I did come across a bizarre thread yesterday on macrumors that I felt compelled to reply to, as it was so bewildering. Silly really. It’s easy to say “don’t feed the trolls,” not that post in particular as it was harmless, but when what is said affects you so much (generally the personal stuff) it’s hard not to! Remember…no thick skin! Also it upsets me to see anyone go hungry…even trolls…so I feed them The key thing is…don’t google yourself!
Recently there has been a barrage of crap thrown at me, and it has been bewildering…why do people get so angry ? It’s ludicrous. Get angry if you have to, but about something important please….what I talk about is far from important! I haven’t run off with your girlfriend or stolen your first-born or beaten you on X-BOX Live Left 4 Dead 2!! What I talk about is really inoffensive stuff! If you just take the time to read my posts, I never get personal, I never attack people, I never dismiss something as rubbish. I am not a negative person. I look at the the pros and cons of everything and share my opinion. That’s all, just my opinion that should be taken as only that. Now, just because I didn’t jump on the 5D3 raw bandwagon by instantly proclaiming “Hallelujah,” I became a target for people saying all sorts of nonsense. In fact I was so busy that I missed the first couple of days of the continuous recording announcement, and when I checked it out I was impressed and simply said “VERY clever and impressive, let’s see where this goes.”
Yet people I had previously respected let rip at me…crazy! One was so vocal and out-of-order I was utterly gobsmacked. Ironically, that person now has sold their Mk3 just 2 weeks after telling everyone to embrace raw Canon fully and without hesitation! It then transpires this person pushed it so hard because it got his company YouTube subscribers, and that equaled money. This is something that they wrote publicly! So, was this driven by a deserve to help for the community or to make money? At least they were honest about it, whether they meant to be or not! Thankfully, the thing being pushed, the magic lantern raw, is pretty bloody good AND coming along in leaps and bounds! It’s just not for everyone as my blog post tried to explain, again just my opinion. This is the easily the most critical I have been of someone on my blog and hopefully for the last time. I do not do personal, this just surprised me enormously and went against everything I believed in.
A thread on another site’s forum seemed to have the sole purpose of attacking me, not exactly constructive to the filmmaking community. It was full of pure hate and incredible vitriol, goaded by the site’s owner too. Rather shameful really, I am not one to tell someone how to run their blog, but this really should not have been allowed to happen. Just because I personally was cautious and not saying that everyone should do it? It was full of personal attacks and technically libel. It has since been pulled down. Nothing to do with me, I only found out about it after the fact…it just puzzles me though why this happens, and it happens to others too. Why is this necessary when we have such a small community which, for the most part, is supporting and helpful to each other? There is just this small minority who occasionally lose all rational thought!
Portrait of a boxer 2013: FilmConvert B&W version from Philip Bloom on Vimeo. Made for Sony to promote the FS100. This is a new B&W version I did using FilmConvert.
What I do is share unbiased opinon…yes unbiased. Here I go again…so once again for the record I am not “in the pocket” of any camera manufacturers, as so often is stated incorrectly online. I would love to receive free cameras with no strings attached, who wouldn’t?… but I don’t. I have never received a free camera from these guys. All these cameras are bought by myself! I am 100% camera manufacturer independent. Do you think I could talk about issues of these cameras if I was? Read my posts. Watch my reviews. Yes, I have done paid work for Canon a few times, talking about my work with…yes Canon cameras…and if you came to my talk at BVE for them, even then I talked about the pros and cons of the 1DC, the camera I was there to talk about. I have also done paid work for Sony with my “extraordinary” series of 3 films done to show off the FS100. I also did the launch film of the GH3 for Panasonic and also the launch video for the GH1!! These were not paid opinions for the cameras. Just shooting gigs. In fact in a fortnight, I have a gig for Nikon too! That means I have worked for all the big camera companies (apart from the high-end cinema ones!) which should mean by certain people’s logic that I am in all their pockets…!? Surely there is some conflict of interest there?
I have VERY STRONG ETHICS and my site is based upon these core principles. I do have strong relationships with certain companies, Kessler, Zacuto, Vimeo, V-BAG, The Music Bed and Red Giant Software. Not many. These are companies whose products I use on an almost daily basis and have taken affiliate relationships with…these help with subsidising the costs of running this site. Not just the high hosting costs but the time I take to run it. Which is substantial. After all, it is just me who runs this site. It’s 10:30pm and what am I doing? Writing a post!! I have help on the forum, but the site is all me with the occasional guest post.
The strongest relationship is of course with Kessler, as they make my pocket dolly and now also with V-Bag who make my…well my V-Bag. Check it out, it’s an amazing thing once you get what it does, just please do not drop the B from the word!
I often get asked to put my name on a product…a “Philip Bloom” edition…I find it rather embarrassing, as after all I am just a filmmaker who shares his work and experience on his blog. That’s all. It’s flattering of course, and for me to finally agree to it, the product needs to be utterly exceptional. Both of these are…but do I force you to buy them? No. Two products in 4 years. That’s it. Also, both Steve Weiss and Eric Kessler have become dear friends of mine and there is of course much loyalty there. That is down to good honest friendship, and I have never hidden that from anyone, as it is clearly spelt out in the above linked ethics statement and the far too friendly photo below!
Some people criticise my site for the banners and have said other sites which are popular have no advertising. I am sorry to break this to you, but many of these don’t have ads but are sponsored by companies. It’s the way they work. It’s just not the way mine works. Banners need to be there, otherwise the affiliates simply won’t work. These are simple click-throughs where, if you buy something, I get a small percentage at no cost to you. I have been offered ridiculously lucrative advertising opportunities which would bring in enough money for me to never have to do a job I didn’t want to again. This would be littering my site with a hell of lot more than what you see, and all for products I don’t like, use or know. That would make me a hypocrite and break my ethics. The affiliates are not there to make me rich. They are there to make my site financially viable as mentioned earlier. OH…I am going to start a new one with FilmConvert soon. I bought the product and fell in love with it. They then contacted me with an affiliate offer combined with a discount code for readers. So yes, another banner, sorry! WICKED product though:)
If the site was not financially viable, it would simply close. There is no question. We don’t live in a money free Utopia, yet. Until then, I live in a reality that everyone lives in.
As much as I love my site, it’s not my job. It’s something I do on the side. My job is to make films. Sometimes I do the whole thing, sometimes I just direct, DP or even just am a cameraman for hire…I also, as I am sure many know, teach. I do workshops around the world. I never organise then. I am hired in by local people and paid my day rate. It’s as simple as that. Teaching for me is enormous fun, and I adore it, I love to help people improve. I do still prefer to shoot though, as I am a creative. Doing both is ideal. In fact, in South Africa last year I did 3 weeks out there in 3 cities. Whilst doing that, I shot four mini docs. Why? Because I love to tell stories. I didn’t have a single day off. I don’t care. I loved it. So purely for gratuitously showing work I am proud of, below are those four pieces. Shot on different cameras. Blackmagic, FS700, 1DX. The camera doesn’t matter. I don’t care what you use. That is up to you. Me? I use whatever tool I feel is right for the job. Often that is my C300, sometimes it’s just a 5Dmk3. The camera is not important to me. The story is and the content is.
Actually, as we are talking about workshops, here is the only real plug on this post…I am doing a 2 day shooting workshop in Bern Switzerland next week and later in June I am doing a 1 day intense workshop which will be an absolute blast as it’s on the set of the defunct TV show “The Bill” The two day is long sold out and has a waiting list, but the one day is available and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! I am looking for interns for both workshops so drop me an email telling me about yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org
So where do I go from here? I don’t know. As long as I am able to carry on filming and creating as my job, I will be happy. I have no ambition to become a fiction feature film DP or Director. It’s not my thing for now, but who knows…for now I will continue to push myself and get out of my comfort zone. Where that takes me I have no idea. I also need to make sure my goal of creating a better work/ life balance is achieved this year. I am getting there. I am healthy, fitter and getting happier…I still don’t have anywhere near enough free time. In the meantime, I hope to be able to keep running the site. It is important to me, as it does help so many. Am I utterly fed up with the hate? Yes…does it make me question whether it’s worth continuing to keep the site going? Yes of course it does, because as I said, it’s not my job, so I don’t have to put up with it, BUT I want to continue to give back and as long as I am able to keep it going, I will. The moment I have had enough and can’t keep it up then I will stop, that will most likely be more to do with time, work/ life balance and so much more. I will never close my site due to hate, and for now I have absolutely ZERO desire to stop. I love doing this and as long as I can find the time and the things to talk about I will.
This rather rambling post was done to simply lay things out honestly as I have always done, and to remind people that there is no reason to hate anyone with an opinion that differs to your own, no reason to hate someone because you don’t like their work. There is no reason to hate someone because they hate you either!! “Haters are gonna hate!” a common statement. It doesn’t have to be. Hate is a nasty emotion and of course this post won’t stop that! I would be living in cloud cuckoo land if I thought it would! I just want to remind people that until a few years ago, we were living in an industry that was a “dark art” and very “closed”. The amount this has changed is wonderful, and that is mostly down to the internet. Embrace that. Be thankful for all the amazing resources out there…covering so many difference facets that can be so helpful at times…news sites , eduction resources, creativity…. all the way to technical analysis for the people who love to pixel peep (we all secretly like to peep!)… NoFilmSchool, Roger Deakins, Vincent LaForet, Shane Hurlbut, Cinema 5D, Planet 5d, DSLR News Shooter, EosHD to name just a few…there are WAY too many to list! Disagreeing is fine, just do it with politeness and respect…also remember that tone is hard to read online so an overuse of smileys is unfortunately needed, hence this post being utterly littered with them!
So many people are sharing their wisdom, experiences and of course opinions. If you don’t like their opinions/ work or whatever, then find other places to go if it bothers you so much, but please why hate? Respect should always be shown, as should politeness. It doesn’t cost you anything to do this and you know what? It will help you be a happier person! Trust me, I am as guilty of negative emotions and occasional anger as the rest of you. Am I proud of it? Not at all, and I do my best to be a better person. Always.
As we are wrapping up (you still here?), let me ask you…have any of you been out driving and you let someone in at a junction and they thank you by a wave? How does that make you feel? Compare that to how you feel when the person who doesn’t thank you? The simple thank you makes you feel happier and is great…but if they don’t, then just shrug it off…there is no need to get irate and scream at them “YOU ARE WELCOME!!!” They may simply have forgotten! Don’t go zooming after them shaking your fists like a caveman, frothing at the mouth as if you have rabies!! That negative emotion will eat you up! Me? I am trying to not let negativity thrown at me eat me alive, and I am certain the negative people out there would feel so much better if they just stopped, breathed and thought it over for a minute over a nice cup of tea with a rich tea biscuit and realised that actually it’s not worth being all negative about something so trivial. Personally, I can’t eat the rich tea as part of my lifestyle change is to be gluten-free and I am 15 months in. So I will just stick to the tea…and maybe a corn type thing that DOES NOT DUNK WELL INTO TEA LET ME TELL YOU!
I didn’t get into this game to be well-known. I got into it because I am passionate about filmmaking, because I love to create, to tell stories…I enjoy all aspects of filmmaking, even at times being in front of the camera, especially now I am no longer a fat bastard Perhaps I am a frustrated actor? Maybe if someone wants to hire me….?? Get me in Game of Thrones please!
It is said that if you have had success and are well-known, you should accept what comes with it. After all what I get is nothing compared to famous people who get attacked from all corners non stop. Surely they cannot read this stuff. Interestingly, I saw the Graham Norton Show last night and Bradley Cooper says he does the read the internet as it keeps him grounded. That is a man with very thick skin and good on him!
Honestly, if it wasn’t for my decision to read and engage in twitter, Facebook and the comments, I would be oblivious to the nonsense…but the community IS important to me, so that is why I am part of it. Not someone standing on a soapbox ignoring all around me.
I have no desire to remove the below-the-line part of the site due to small minority. There is a growing movement of bloggers doing this. Comments are important to the community, it’s a shame that I have to moderate everyone, but that is simply because people cannot be trusted to behave! Stop being children now (unless you are an actual child then you have an excuse!) I am sorry if your comment takes a while to appear. It is just me…actually if anyone wants to help out and occasionally help moderate my site, do let me know!
I love the VAST majority of the people I talk to here, Facebook and twitter. The good you have all done with the various fundraisers over the years and especially the 3 successive Movember campaigns has been immense! Just what that has achieved makes me so proud! Also the help you have shown each other through comments and my forum (do check it out…it’s SUPER friendly!)
Oh and for some silly fun check out Maarten Toner’s fun video of my utter failure to find a story in Brussels when we were out there for a workshop earlier this year.
We are privileged to be working (or some, just having fun) doing something so creative and fulfilling! Get out there and create. Put that energy into something more positive. I just celebrated my birthday in Crete with Sarah (her birthday too, but mine was way more important! Our first holiday together and my first in god knows how long. It was wonderful. Yes it got soured a bit with all that nonsense I talked about above, and I never should have been online in the first place! Yet, I rose above it and concentrated on what was important. I also spent almost every evening capturing sunsets with my 1DC, as they were so beautiful (frame grabs below!) and also taking photos with my new obsession…35mm film photography! I have a Nikon F3 and an F4 now and I am also looking at an old Leica Rangefinder. Why? Discipline. Taking 36 exposures makes you think before you take a photo. We have lost that discipline in photography and also in video. This is something I will talk about in a future post when my 5 rolls come back! Nail-biting!
So that’s it. No more preaching…I am going to watch a movie now…which one? I am not sure…something dumb and fun I think! I should be editing…but you know what, it’s good to have time for yourself too and put the computer away!
Let me leave you with what it’s all about…a film…a mini doc about a man who does what he loves and how he lives his life. He has the right attitude. Show mostly with my 5DmkIII…pre raw