Case study

Second assistant camera person — Omar Soomro

Omar shares his experience of working for production companies like Netflix and Amazon and gives some tips on how to get into the competitive world of TV and film

What degree did you study?

I'm a film graduate from the University of Derby and I graduated in 2020.

I'm now a second assistant camera person working on HETV/film for companies such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Disney. I am also pursuing a career as a cinematographer, currently working on a BFI funded short film in Bristol.

How did you get your job?

I gained on-set experience through various networking events/opportunities alongside studying my course. Over the three years I better understood the industry landscape and how I fit into it and this informed my goals and objectives.

When I graduated I managed to become a camera trainee on Netflix's Sex Education, where over a seven month show I developed my skills and professional network, which has formed the bedrock of my very early career.

Fast forward to today I have stepped up to a second assistant camera person working on various TV shows and feature films across the UK.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is very relevant as it introduced me to both the practical and theoretical side of film production, which formed the foundation of knowledge and experience I lean on today.

In my specific department as a camera person, I execute mainly practical techniques such as building, running and maintaining cameras like the Sony Venice and Alexa LF. I also prepare schedules in conjunction with production to plan for unit moves, splinter units and double banking units.

What's a typical working day like?

Most film and TV shows have standard working days, which encompass ten hours of work with a one hour lunch break. I start my day by getting in an hour early, grabbing a coffee and running through the day's schedule. If I'm the first in and for example we're shooting today in a cosy cottage, I may take the lenses inside to acclimatise as they can get quite cold overnight. A cinema lens can average over £30,000 each sometimes, so we take extra special care of our equipment. Even if that just means making sure the glass is nice and toasty for when we're ready to film.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I get a huge amount of satisfaction from a job well done. I'm so grateful I've found an occupation that I can give all my effort towards and feel so fulfilled. I enjoy the great community I work with, thousands of dedicated, experienced and successful people all coming together to achieve a goal. They are all here to make a great product and it's an incredible experience to see that vision come to life.

What are the challenges?

Working in film and TV has its ups and downs like all other jobs - the working hours can be punishing and I find myself having to dig deep to get through a hard week sometimes. That's why it's so important to look after yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Make sure you have wonderful people around who are compassionate, patient and like minded and who you can always go to.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I'm so grateful to have hit my five year goal in under three years. I hope in five years I can continue to work alongside talented and passionate filmmakers. I hope I can keep learning and growing, developing my skills as a technician and a creative, gaining more opportunities as a cinematographer, and working on bigger and better jobs with teams of people I love to work with.

What advice can you give to others?

If I had to give any advice I'd give these tips:

  • Say yes. Take loads of different opportunities and just go for it, throw yourself in. You can definitely do it so just dive in and see what you like.
  • If you're interested in film and TV there are so many avenues to explore, so get out there and find out what fulfils you.
  • Really look after yourself, time management is everything. Make time for your family, friends, partners and mostly yourself. Ultimately it's up to you to be the best version of yourself.

I look forward to seeing you on set.

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