Embargo – an order to temporarily stop something, especially trading or giving information:
Having images embargoed is quite common in our line of work. From not letting on a couple has eloped to not sharing photographs of a product till it’s ready for launch by way of keeping pictures under wraps until the designer has finished tinkering with the website. These embargos usually only last for days, maybe weeks and in a few occasions months
However, if you are photographing a film or TV production it can be years. And if you really like the pictures you have taken that can be a tad frustrating…
For example I photographed the exciting denouement of series 7 of Bannan. It was very dramat… Sorry, what? What’s Bannan? Och! You know, the thrilling continuing drama that is a highlight of BBC Alba. The story of Màiri MacDonald’s return from Glasgow to her home island which had created almost constant stushie, stramash and scunner keeping Gaels on the edge of their seats since 2014. It’s produced by Young Films who are based in the Gaelic Mothership – Sabhal Mòr Ostaig – in Sleat on the Isle of Skye. It’s also filmed there. Since that is just round the corner/along the road in Skye terms there is the added interest of recognising the location and spotting the extras you know. Actually I was one in a previous series. I played a photographer… I know, typecasting; but logical, I could bring a camera…
Anyway, since the images are embargoed until transmission it can be a little frustrating not sharing them. Actually I still can’t share some even after transmission. In the modern way of things many people don’t watch at the time it’s shown on TV they wait until it’s convenient and binge watch on iPlayer so even though the series finished 2 weeks ago I still daren’t share some pictures that give the game away and would spoil some peoples viewing pleasure with the resultant recriminations if they come across me in the Broadford Co-Op.
On the day in question I was tasked with capturing the final scenes of the final episode of series 7. This was confusing for me. Not only was there four and a three quarter episodes of drama that I was unfamiliar with there was also my total and utter lack of Gaelic… To all intents and purpose this was all Greek to me. Not a clue what was happening. Still, it was fun. There was shouting, there were dramatic pauses, there were tears, there was even a bit of fisty-cuffs. All good exciting stuff to photograph. There was also a lot of standing, sitting and even lying down as there always is on film sets. An awful lot of waiting for something to happen. An awful lot of something technical happening which involves most folk waiting while one or two people do something vital. Then suddenly shouts go up, silence falls and something happens in front of the camera for a few moments. Then back to waiting around. I loved it. I roamed around happily snapping stuff and chatting to neighbours who were extras, people who I vaguely knew who were extras and people who I had never met before who were extras.
The highlight for me was when the atmosphere arrived. Atmosphere is fab. Atmosphere is when huge smoke machines turn the set hazy, softening the background and making you focus on the foreground. Atmosphere helps light stream in windows, bokeh becomes better and generally its a bit trendy at the moment – The Crown positively bathes in it… Anyway I’m a fan and love photographing with it. So when the village hall that was that days set disappeared into an impenetrable fog I was very happy.
I do like the dichotomy of a set; the slightly tense buzz created by the crew going about their business countered by the verging on entropy of the front of camera people waiting to do their thing. Then everything swaps around, the crew freeze while the cast leap into action. The whole process of filming a short scene can take up a very long day and I was glad that I had something to do.
When transmission day finally arrived (over a year after shooting!) I was keen to see how many seconds of the episode the hours of filming I witnessed would fill. Not many was the answer, but they were seconds filled with thrills, tension and drama!