Did I film that?

This must happen a lot to all wildlife cameraman who have been in the business for a while.  You’re sat down of an evening watching a wildlife programme, criticising everything about it as per usual.  Suddenly a shot of an animal comes on the screen that transports you back in time to the moment that you were looking down the viewfinder actually filming it – or were you.

This happened to me recently when a BBC  wildlife programme, obviously compiled from library footage, featured a few shots of a prairie dog.  I was almost certain that I had filmed them, but many mammals have been filmed so many times that they could easily have been very similar shots.

Everything we film as wildlife cameramen goes into one library or another, and with digital distribution shots are more easily marketed than ever.  Unless you own the copyright for the shots, as a cameraman, you won’t be paid any more.  I can see both sides of the argument.  This debate has been going on for years and I don’t see it changing.  Furthermore, you probably won’t get a credit either, but to be fair, the credit list for a programme compiled from library footage would roll on forever.  There is no hard and fast rule, but unless you have more than a couple of minutes of footage in the programme you won’t have a credit, and sometimes no cameramen at all receive credits which overall is probably fairer.

Some cameramen film and market their own material.  This usually necessitates huge input of time and money, but the investment can pay off.  More about that later.