Catherine is a Director of Photography who mostly works on commercials, corporates, music videos and documentary. Her feature credits as DoP include JACK TO KING – THE SWANSEA STORY, directed by Marc Evans, TREACLE JNR directed by Jamie Thraves and starring Aidan Gillen, and JUNKHEARTS directed by Tinge Krishnan which stars Eddie Marsan, Tom Sturridge and Romola Garai.
I have two kids, a daughter Ella, who is 18 and a son Leon who is 14, and they are both proud of what I do. I didn’t plan to have kids, but my boyfriend and I were happy when I unexpectedly got pregnant at 29. I was a focus puller then, and had to work up until the week before my daughter was born. I didn’t have much choice as I seem to remember that the benefit from the government was £57 per week. I had to go back to work seven weeks after I had her for the same reasons…..however for that first year I worked at about half capacity, so had lots of time with Ella.
My boyfriend and I didn’t own a house then, and lived in a one bedroom flat so our outgoings were low. We cordoned off an area of our spacious bathroom, with a false ceiling, a curtain, a cot and a chest of drawers, and stayed there for three years saving up to buy a house. Then I got pregnant with Leon, so we had to move. By then I was very busy as a focus puller and operator, but I chose to mostly stick to commercials and music videos just occasionally doing some drama. I found doing films hard, emotionally, being away from a young child. I worked up until three days before he was born, and then went back to work after eight weeks, and same as before, just worked less days that year.
I breast fed both kids up to about a year old which was tricky at work. Sometimes I was on location and we had no lunch break so there was no opportunity to use the breast pump!! Or, there would be nowhere private to do it so I would be hoping no one would find me pumping behind a bush!! Occasionally my boyfriend would bring a baby to meet me in my lunch break for a feed but that was rare. Sometimes I would use the breast pump and then forget I’d left the milk in the caterer’s fridge……I did see the funny side!!… and I would have to go running back to get it, after I’d left work.
When my son was one, I had to leave my partner and so then the fun began being alone with a one and a five year old! I had been itching to become a DoP, but had to put that on hold as I kept things together at home and work. I knew making the switch from focus and operating to working as a DoP would be tough and require some savings. I did it gradually, shooting lots of freebies, while I continued to earn good money doing focus or operating on commercials. The only way I could manage my crazy hours was to have an au pair living with us, and as I lived in a three bedroom house, the kids had to share a room until Ella was 13, which was generally fine.
Although work in the film industry is unpredictable, I think there are advantages, over a job with regular hours, too……there are days when I’m not shooting so I’m there when the kids get home from school, and I feel I get paid well, so when I’m working too much and not seeing enough of the family, I turn jobs down. Something that I think would really help as a freelancer having babies, would be a fund of some type where you could get very low interest loans so that you could take a few months off when you have a baby, and pay the loan back slowly over a few years when you can afford it (like a student loan). It was bit tough early on when I wasn’t always getting enough DoP work and I was fully supporting the kids and paying for childcare. I’m so glad I did though because now everything is easier….I do a job I love doing and I have two lovely kids, and I’m still in my 40s so feel there is a lot of interesting work life ahead!!