Cameron Craggs – a bright personality and a wonderful talent I was privileged to meet fairly recently. Over a coffee, we discussed his involvement in the Film & TV course of the Ladders Programme, and how it gave him the confidence to fully pursue his dream of becoming a freelance filmmaker.

Let’s start at the very beginning…did you always have an interest in Film & TV and how did it develop over time?

From a very young age, I was influenced by film and media – I have two older brothers, so I used to get shown films like Sin City and shows like South Park during my teens. I found it creative, expressive, quite interesting and animated so the creative discipline has always appealed to me more.

I went to Sixth Form and did incredibly bad! I went from being a Grade A student to failing most courses. I studied Photography, Psychology and Performing Arts which was the only one I ended up passing. So, I went to Newcastle College and studied Creative Media Production for Film and Television, got caught up in a weird limbo financially at the time but I ended up getting a triple distinction on the course and got accepted to Northumbria University.

I bought a camera in my first year and with the money I spent on my camera, I set the target of making back that money from using the camera and doing side projects – something I think is vital. It’s common to go to University and think you are going to get a holistic education through only the course material when really if you’re not going out there and doing stuff externally, you’re not developing.

From there, I graduated from Northumbria with additional two self-directed films, worked on three films as a cinematographer and helped on a few others. If I hadn’t had graduated without those films, which had shown a direct reflection of my own efforts, then I’d probably be empty-handed. After doing some travelling for a year, I have since become a freelancer.

Right so during this journey, you had applied for Ladders. Firstly, how did you discover Ladders and what appealed you to it?

So, when I first started Ladders, I was still in my final year of study. I found it through Generator’s social media, it came up on my news feed and I just saw it as a chance to kind of make contacts and get in touch with people because in this kind of industry, if you’re not making connections then you’ll end up stagnating. For me, it was to see what was going on locally.

What did you think you were going to get out of it in terms of Film technique too? Because of course, you were working on your own films, so did it help at all?

In terms of the Film-making aspect, I felt my level was slightly above to what the course was catered towards but elements such as after-effects were things I had absolutely no knowledge on. Even if you do know it fairly well, going over that basic knowledge just cements it in your mind. I think it was about reaffirming the stuff I already knew and then just trying to pick up extra bits of information along the way.

I also met Chloe Rodham (Film & TV mentor) who is just an absolutely lovely human and a great connection. She has sent me commission opportunities and when she sees opportunities she’ll send it over to me, so it’s been very beneficial.

Great. In terms of your Ladders experience, was there a highlight or a moment which gave you a bit of inspiration or solidified your hope to pursue a career in film?

The tours were amazing. It was a chance to see the insides of companies I didn’t even know existed in Newcastle until that point. Playing oculus rift technology at Hedgehog Lab was a really cool opportunity.

And how about working on your own projects?

For me, it was chance to get some extra development time on one of my own projects. The one I developed on the course was called ‘Wilderness’. But being able to have that creative space to sit and speak to someone like Chloe, it was very beneficial and there was a lot of things I realised I could do with after-effects and animation. It also made me realise that I’m a practical person and like doing things on camera, but there were a lot of techniques that made me realise things would be a lot easier if I used them.

Do you think the Ladders experience has influenced your careers plans?

Yup. I didn’t have a distinct plan of what I wanted to do exactly after I graduated. I just knew that I wanted to work on self-directed projects and work for myself. I take instruction well, but I don’t like having a boss. But the Ladders experience made me realise I could set up doing what I want to do, which gave me more self-confidence. I think sometimes in creative practice you can get a lot of anxieties and self-consciousness about how good the quality of your work actually is and going to these sessions made me realise that I had a lot more ability than what I gave myself credit for.

Good to hear! So, tell me more about what you’re doing now – you have mentioned you’re pursuing a freelance career?

So yes, now I am working freelance – doing camera work as well editing. Recently, this year, I made the decision to push my own self-directed work further as opposed to going in and doing shoots for others. I’ve realised that I can direct my work to others as being more artistic and specific.

This is quite a generic question but I’m curious if you’re excited about Newcastle as a platform for the Film industry? Or what are your hopes for the industry and where do you want to see yourself in that?

Long-term aim, I want to work internationally with a camera. That’s all I want to do. How I get there is to be worked out, but I know that by building my contacts and finding gigs that’s really going to tie me over. I love Newcastle. It is my home and where my heart is but, in terms of the Film & TV industry, I feel like it’s limited. There is a lot of potential for Newcastle.

Do you have any top tips for filmmakers?

One of the things I think is very important is working on a diverse range of stuff because you then realise what you want to do, what you don’t want to do, what you’re good at, what you’re not so good at and so on. Working on bad projects makes you realise what a bad project is, so just keep doing it!

Another vitally important thing – my online presence isn’t the best, but I’ve got a website and it looks very professional. You need to have evidence of your work that people can reference and look at.

Finally, would you recommend Ladders?

If you’re considering a career in Film & TV, especially based in Newcastle, you should definitely get involved. It is a perfect opportunity to advance and develop your already-existing skills, learn some new ones as well as get the vitally important network of clients and contacts.

Check out Cameron here:

Interested in taking part in Ladders Film & TV 2018/2019?

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