Cameraman tales: Breakdown in Bahrain
In 1978, I went with a crew to Bahrain to make a documentary film about the island state.
The cameraman was John Barnard. John was an Australian resident in London. He was one of the best.
John hired his equipment from Samuelson’s, the main item being an Arriflex camera.
We had been filming in various parts of Bahrain for several days. We had filmed the Dilman ruins, the site of the very first oil well in Bahrain and two schools in the centre of Manama.
After about five days, we went off to the financial district where all the new big banks were located.
John set the camera up on a tripod to shoot a scene of a whole row of financial buildings.
He pressed the button and nothing happened. He opened up the camera to see if some film had got jammed up. There appeared to be no reason for the failure of the camera to start, however, no amount of loading and reloading or checking all that we could see would make it work.
Here we were far from home, far from any centre that could repair the camera and quite unable to work. I made enquiries about borrowing a local camera, but there was none to be had.
I could have gone to the Ministry of Information to send a telex to our office in London, but they, the Ministry, would have found out that we had troubles. I did not want that. I returned to the hotel and sent a telex from there. I asked the office in London if they would inform Samuelson’s and ask them what we should do.
Samuelson’s said that, knowing that the cameraman was John Barnard, they accepted that the camera was at fault. They asked us to ship the faulty camera back to London. We did this immediately and got it on to an afternoon flight. At the same time, Samuelson’s rushed a replacement camera to Heathrow. It caught an early flight.
The following morning, we went to Bahrain airport and were able to collect the replacement camera.
We had lost only one day’s shooting thanks to Sammy’s. That’s what they were like.
We spent the whole afternoon by the pool on top of the La Vendome Hotel.
Further reading: A film about the Emirate of Bahrain 1978