An interview with…Paul ‘Mungo’ Mungeam

Working primarily as a documentary cameraman, Paul ‘Mungo’ Mungeam has travelled to and from every corner of the earth and met and filmed a whole host of people, ranging from the poorest of the poor to the most elite of the rich and famous.

Originally from Kent, England, Paul started out by studying fine art in Sydney, Australia. He had always been creative and sought adventure, and leapt at the chance to study down under. After finishing the course he accepted a job as a ‘second’ cameraman from his friend Simon Niblett.

Since then he has never looked back and has filmed for various companies including National Geographic and the BBC. He has travelled to many places around the world and filmed in some of the most unique and dangerous places the planet has to offer.

As well as filming in all of these fantastic locations, Paul was more than happy to work alongside Simon Cowell on popular Britain talent shows the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

Due to people showing a massive amount of interest at hearing his stories, Paul wrote his first book, Mungo – The Cameraman. The book tells of his many adventures and experiences on each and every one of his jobs, and gives an intriguing insight into what goes on behind the camera.

I spoke to Paul and he was happy to answer some questions:

How did you end up being a cameraman?

I became a cameraman when I met a friend of a friend, Simon Niblett, a well renowned documentary cameraman. On meeting him I quickly realised that he was living my dreams! To my delight he offered me a job as his camera assistant. I started within 3 days and worked for him for 2 years. And the rest is history! 

What does your job actually involve?

As a cameraman, I have a close working relationship with the director. Together we decide how best to tell the story and/or communicate the message of what we are going to say through the images that we film. Once that is decided, I put it into action, by using the appropriate technical equipment (cameras, lenses, grips etc). I also work in conjunction with the sound recordist/department to make sure that the sound requirements are being met. As a cameraman I am one of the senior members of a crew/production team, so will have responsibility for pretty much all the technical facets on location.

What are the perks of your job?

LOTS of travel (sometimes too much – over 70 countries in the last 10yrs!) and constantly meeting new people. We get access to places, people and events that would not normally be available to the general public. I meet people from ALL strains of life: literally from the poorest of the poor to Royalty! Our work is well paid, but it’s also physically hard work. Yet in between jobs, as we are our own bosses, we get time off – should we want it. That’s the benefit of Freelance work!

What parts of your job do you hate?

There are very few parts of my job that I hate. The worst thing is living out of a bag and constantly staying in hotels.

You have filmed some amazing things in some amazing places, but what has been your favourite and why?

That’s almost too hard to answer! I’ve been to so many places and been in so many situations that are too different to compare. I love tough environments: jungle, desert, mountains and arctic. Filming and living in these extreme locations is challenging, exciting and often fun! It takes extra effort, requires grace under pressure and is the ultimate challenge, yet it’s often the most fun! If I had to pick one thing, filming in the arctic with Bear Grylls and Will Ferrell was a definite highlight!

Many celebrities (including Simon Cowell) have raved about you, but why do you think you’ve become so successful as a cameraman?

Success comes by working VERY hard. To get to the top of my game, I’ve worked very hard for over 12 years – often forfeiting holidays! Also, hopefully I am a nice bloke. Everyone wants to work with capable professionals, and if they’re your friends too – well that’s a huge bonus!

What have been the highlights of your career?

Filming wildlife for National Geographic, which is surely any photographers dream!  Being director of Photography on By Any Means. Travelling from Ireland to Sydney, Australia, and passing through 25 countries over 4 months – that was the trip of a lifetime!  Also, camera supervising the X Factor – the biggest show ever on UK television. But, ultimately, never being short of work!

Have there been any parts of your career that you regret?

No regrets.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into your line of business?

Work HARD, and treat others as you would want to be treated! It’s simple, but takes dedication.

What has the future got in store for you?

Bizarrely, I crave living a more ‘normal’ life! I’ve spent the last 15 years pretty much on the road and even though I accept that I’ll still need my ‘Fix’ of adventure, I also look forward to settling down more. I hope to one day have a family and keep working on various projects (in and out of TV) and hopefully enjoy a long, happy life. I would also love to write a second book too, if I ever get the chance!

Thanks very much.

You’re welcome.

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