James Poole talks working as Camera and Steadicam operator on his childhood favorite ‘Dr. Who’

James Poole remembers the first time he stood behind a camera. He was twenty years of age, filming a video for a friend. He realized in that moment that he had a passion for camera work, and having always been interested in film since he was a child, it felt like fate. Those early experiments allowed him to learn different camera angles and tones, slowly and carefully mastering how to capture a motion picture, making his own dolly with a scaffold pole trying to match the way a camera moved in the movies. Now, as he works on some of the most prestigious film and television sets in the world, he looks back at those days fondly, knowing he is doing just what he was meant to.

Poole has had a formidable career as a Camera and Steadicam operator. Whether working on the Emmy award series The Great or the new hit Mammals (both Amazon originals available to the over 200 million people worldwide who subscribe to Prime Video), star-studded flicks like Twist starring Oscar winner and icon Sir Michael Caine or Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Lena Headey of Game of Thrones fame, Poole knows how to captivate an audience with his work. 

“I have had the privilege to work on some brilliant projects with some amazingly talented people both in front and behind the camera. I do not take this for granted and am thankful for the opportunities I was given along the way,” he said.

One of Poole’s most iconic projects was working on Dr. Who, a show he enjoyed as a child and is shown in 65 countries with a worldwide audience of 110 million people. To be a part of such a staple was an honor for this Brit. He was brought in to operate the Arri Trinity, a piece of equipment he owns, which enables certain camera moves and angles that otherwise wouldn’t be possible in some sets. In one episode in particular, they filmed the cast onboard a plane that was losing altitude and about to crash. As well as shooting in a confined space there would also be wind machines and debris cannons to simulate parts of the plane breaking up so maintaining camera stability was also a factor. After being sent the plans for the set, it was evident that Poole’s talent with the Arri Trinity would be invaluable for production as he is one of the handful of camera operators in all of Britain that know how to use this complicated piece of equipment. 

“James is collaborative. He takes direction well and is a hard worker. He is dedicated and will do his upmost to get the right shot,” said Catherine Goldschmidt, Director of Photography on this Dr. Who episode.

Having the use of Poole’s Trinity made this scene possible in more ways than one. They were able to move about the plane with ease and track the camera in ways to add to the growing tension as the villain reveals himself to the Doctor. As the plane was descending and breaking up, the Doctor fell to the floor. Thanks to the Trinity, Poole was able cover this height range and stay with the Doctor to ensure all of the action was captured. Director Jamie Stone wanted the camera in the actors’ faces to amplify the sense of panic, this involved great trust between the cast and Poole as he had to fight the wind machine, which was trying to knock the camera towards the actors. The result was stunning, capturing the distress of the situation but not straying away from the feeling the show has retained for so long.

“Being able to work on such a significant part of British pop culture with a worldwide cult following was an honor. Dr Who is the longest running science fiction series in the world so I believe as long as the stories are kept current it’s an important show to keep running. The season I was a part of was also the first ever female Doctor, which was a big moment in the show’s history,” said Poole.

Fans will have a chance to see more of Poole’s stunning work in the upcoming series Rise of the Witches, a 10 part TV series based on a best-selling Saudi Arabian book, and ITV’s Archie, a four-part Cary Grant biography starring Golden Globe nominee Jason Isaacs.

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