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Q & A With Cameraman Oli Cohen

TCC Consultant Danielle Grogan talks perks and pains of the job with TCC Cameraman Oli Cohen. From being chucked in the Thames by travellers to getting cozy in a canoe with Gerard Butler, Oli’s career so far has been anything but a dry affair.

Oli filming Gerard Butler in Liberia for Mary’s Meals

So Oli….why a Camera Operator? What would your Plan B profession be?

Well I don’t actually see myself as just a camera operator. For sure I operate cameras all the time but I’m often lighting and I’m often working as a shooting director and doing my own sound too. On some jobs I find myself editing or at least working with an editor. It’s useful to be multi skilled these days

Years ago I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I was always into photography too. Through music I got into being creative with technology. As a lover of cinema it was a natural progression into filmmaking and eventually to camera work.
I don’t really have a Plan B profession. To work as a photographer appeals but I sometimes do that anyway and it’s not that dissimilar to what I already do. Perhaps I could do something in the charity or travel sector. Maybe something to do with skiing

If you could tell all of our freelance Crew to invest in one bit of kit, what would it be

If they do similar work to me then perhaps a pair of quality headphones. Getting the sound right is so important. I’m a big fan of the Sennheiser HD25s. I’ve got two pairs and I’ve used them for years. The parts are replaceable.

Having a decent smartphone is pretty much essential these days for all freelancers I guess for many reasons. I definitely recommend having two alarm clocks too. It’s a great back up and I find I sleep much better having two alarms set.

My luxury bit of kit that I often travel with is a camping pillow by Thermarest

Who or what has been your most interesting subject to shoot? Best location? Worst location?

There have been so many interesting subjects and interesting projects I’ve worked on. I’m lucky to have filmed and travelled all around the world. Jamaica was an amazing location, as was Liberia. I love being in the tropics

Gerard Butler in Liberia for Mary’s Meals

So much of it is about the people you’re with and who you meet along the way though. Georgia was super interesting and probably the most unusual shoot I’ve ever been on. Right from the start I realised how different it was going to be when we boarded a private jet with the family of an Oligarch.

Burkina Faso, Niger and Russia were tough countries to film in but really interesting though. One of the most unusual jobs was filming an enormous seal being rescued from a nuclear power station. The worst locations have mostly been in the UK. They’ve usually involved getting very cold, dirty and wet. I was once chucked in the Thames by a bunch of Irish travellers and that was scary. All the kit was ruined!

What do you need to have on a shoot to get through the day? (food/drink/kit/slaves/nice colleagues/a foot rub)

If I’m in the UK then lots of tea really helps. When I’m in hot countries then it’s about having lots of water, preferably frozen kept in a cooler box. Energy bars like Clif bars are great too.

What is the best thing you have ever got for free?

Last week I was filming out in Uganda and the client was so pleased with what we managed to achieve that we were all treated to an incredible day out white water rafting at the source of the Nile. That was so much fun and a fab way to end the shoot. Here’s video proof:

Favourite tipple so we know for the next freelancer party?

Right now I’m loving New Zealand Chardonnay. It’s hard to find in the UK though.