Behind The Scene: Allan Price, Cameraman/Editor/Producer

Allan at work, recording Peyton Manning
How much do we actually appreciate the work of everyone who is behind the scenes - from guys preparing the field for a game, to everyone who is making sure games are recorded/streamed? What does it actually take to be good at any given job behind the scenes of a football organization/league?

We talked to one of our favorite guys behind the camera - Allan Price. Allan is the co-founder of GridironTV (you may remember the segment on TDEU as well). Now, he is in China, making sure CAFL (China Arena Football League) visual is up and running.

First steps

My first steps into this path were working in sales for a camera company. I was fortunate enough to get a free camera as a Christmas gift one year – up until then I hadn’t really explored photography or video, so I started to practice with the camera and study more about the techniques of shooting pictures. By the time I decided to retire from playing football, I was confident enough to use cameras and had done quite a lot of photography and a small amount of video projects. From then I went on the co-run Gridiron TV, and now with my work in China (and have purchased a large amount of camera equipment along the way) – all rooted in one afternoon of standing on a wet, rocky beach in January in Scotland turning on my new camera and giving it a try.

Being great at what you do

Photography and video is a great balance between art & technology – to be successful you must be able to understand camera technologies (as well as lighting and editing), but you must also have an artistic and creative side to know where to point the camera to make something that looks amazing.

In addition, it can be a very changeable, demanding and flexible job with long days and travel, so you need to be flexible and open-minded to having so many different locations & demands. You should be someone that can quickly fit into a new team and start working, and also someone who can work well with all types (whether that’s directors, producers, interviewees, assistants or whoever).

Fundamentally, it is the kind of job that is driven by a passion – if you love telling stories, working hard and enjoy having crazy work stories to share then it makes it a lot easier to become successful. Everyone and his (go-pro wearing) dog owns at least one camera, but not everyone can do this job so make sure you focus on producing high quality and professional work.

Your work is your reputation, so it should always be good enough for the next client to want to find you. Make yourself irreplaceable through good work attitude and great quality content. Always continue to learn from others that you meet on jobs, or through your studying or through practicing to make sure you are getting better every day to stay ahead. And do what you enjoy, that is how your passion will flow into your work.

The weather

The worst weather I worked in was during an evening football game – the semi-finals of the UK University league, with the Stirling Clansmen hosting the Birmingham Lions in unexpected rolling snow storms. It was a day that we had decided to test live streaming the game over internet radio (one of our first live events for Gridiron TV). My memories of the day were trying to keep my laptop covered with my jacket (sacrificing all my body heat in the process), and following our commentator up and down the side lines as he held the microphone. I have filmed in torrential rain, as well as shooting photography for 3 hours at an event in Shanghai, China, where the surface temperature peaked at 55 degrees Celsius.

The keys are preparation and awareness – ensuring you bring the right equipment will help you get through most situations, whether it means waterproof clothing/bags, towels, extra spare parts or even extra water & snacks will help you avoid getting caught out when you need to be ready to get the shot.

Also, a small amount of toughness goes a long way – being able to stick it out in searing heat or being soaked through without losing your focus means that you will be ready to capture the moment that everyone else gave up on.

DO's and DONT's

My experience of playing football is one of my strengths when filming it. I understand the flow of the game and I can anticipate where the action will be (and put myself there with the camera). When it comes to sports, it is very important to have that kind of understanding for several reasons – it enables you to get the best looking shots, it keeps you safe (not getting knocked over by a player or a ball), and can actually help to gain better access – if referees and coaches know that I can keep out of the way and keep myself safe they are more likely to tolerate me getting up close to the game. Always respect the game on the field as the most important aspect.

For documentaries it’s similar, as well as having a lot of respect for the subjects you are shooting. I always remind myself that I am a guest when I come in with a camera, and I am not always in a position to request/demand how things are set up. Don’t try to come in and be pushy if you don’t have a good relationship established – sometimes it’s better to roll with the flow of what’s happening than to demand access to someone/somewhere and be asked to leave (indeed, sometimes the best shots happen when things go off script).

Whatever kind of work you’re doing - be prepared. Think about the shots you need to capture & how/when you are going to get them (and if it’s even possible). I often visualise the flow of a shoot from start to finish identifying and problem areas beforehand. Also, make sure you have the right equipment and it is all working – if you run out of battery or need to repair something, your subject probably isn’t going to stop and wait for you. A bit of awareness of your situation will help with that.

Favorite Moments

I love having a job that is different every day, and this kind of job always has fun or crazy moments. Live game broadcasting is great because of the buzz you get from performing live, but filming Peyton Manning chase me down the Great Wall of China on a toboggan, and then seeing my work appear on the front pages of international news agencies, filling the first two pages of Google searches (and having 500,000 views of the video in the first day on the NFL Twitter page) is pretty crazy. Some days it takes a while for me to explain to people what I do!

Allan's shot of Peyton Manning went viral

China vs Scotland

I moved to China in 2015 with my wife, and from the moment I realized it was happening I started to do some research to see if I could take my passion with me. A former team mate in Edinburgh advised me of the amateur league there (AFLC), and through my own research I also learned about the upcoming professional arena football league (CAFL). Through a combination of emailing and networking, I have been able to fit myself into the growing football community here, working for those two leagues as well as NFL China (and other non-football clients).

So far, it has been very much an experience of networking to become involved – first I learned of an AFLC game, showed up and started taking photos, identified the Head Coach and offered him my pictures, was invited to write and photograph for a company that brings US college football athletes to China, was then introduced to NFL China through a meeting, offered to photograph an NFL family event, was then invited to film several more event, including 2 of their Legends Tour series (with Troy Polamalu and Peyton Manning), and I am currently working full time for the CAFL on their 2016 season.

I am writing this from a 5-star hotel on the beach in the north east of China, reminding myself of what I did to get here, so I can keep pushing onwards to whatever else I can do here. There is so much growth happening here in the sport, but it can be demanding work that requires a lot of effort, so I am using all my niche experience to fit in as much as possible.

Mia Bajin