My Journey To Sky Production Services – #19: Ben Halnan (Camera Operator)

Monday 11 October 2021

How It Started

What was your first ever job?

My first ever job was working as a sales assistant in a camera shop in Stevenage. I started when I was 16 years old, and besides being a good way to learn about all different types of cameras and lenses, it forced me to get better at talking to people - something I wasn’t very good at before.

What brought you to Sky and how long have you worked here?

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to earn a place on the Broadcast Production course at the National Film and Television School. It was an amazing year which I will always look back on fondly. As part of the course, we were invited to spend six weeks at Sky, getting experience first-hand in our chosen department. At the end of the course, I was offered a fixed-term contract as a junior camera operator, which eventually turned into a permanent staff job. Now, I’ve just passed my 5-year anniversary at Sky and have enjoyed it immensely.

Is your role the same now as the day you joined?

Largely speaking, my role is similar to when I started, although it has expanded somewhat. Since joining, I have learned to operate the jib, and have worked on many different shows over the last few years. I have also been given more and more opportunities to operate on bigger shows as I have gained experience, namely ‘The Russell Howard Hour’ and ‘Redknapp’s Big Night Out’.

What was your biggest professional challenge and what was your greatest achievement?

Prior to attending the NFTS and working at Sky, I worked as an Animator and Graphic Designer. Teaching myself the skills I needed for that on the fly was very challenging and to be honest when I started, I didn’t feel confident that I was anywhere near qualified. However, after some time I felt I had successfully learned the skills needed and I think I was quite good by the time I left.

How It’s Going

What does your day to day work life look like?

My work life rarely looks the same day to day, and I find that this is one of the most enjoyable things about my job. Although hours can sometimes be challenging, it means that I’m always doing something new and interesting

What’s been your SPS career highlight and why?

My career highlight so far has been very recently working on ‘The Russell Howard Hour’ at the Television Centre. I felt quite proud to be asked to work on this show, being that it is so high profile. Also, it was a bonus to work in TC1, an amazing studio rich in television history.

What can you see yourself doing next?

In the future, I would like to expand the programmes I operate the jib onto more high profile shows. I operated the jib on the Oscars show for Sky Cinema, which was a great step in this direction.

How It Can Be Done

What are your top 3 tips for becoming a Camera Operator?

  • Photography - Framing is one of the most important aspects of being a camera operator, and photography is probably the best way to learn.
  • Learn to listen - As a camera operator, you are often listening to a director on talkback, a floor manager in the studio, as well as any number of other people. Learning to listen to the most vital information is key.
  • Consider applying for the ‘Cameras, Sound and Vision Mixing’ course at the NFTS - Honestly, without that course I would not be a television cameraman. The skills you learn are invaluable, as are the contacts you make.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

Don’t worry - work hard and it will pay off.