It’s Never Too Late to Pick up a Camera

Posted January 08, 2024
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Today in The Guardian there was a very interesting story by Ammar Kalia about Frances Harper. You’d be forgiven if you don’t know who she is, but her story is quite inspiring. Harper is a 76-year-old documentary filmmaker working and living in The UK. This in itself is not the inspiring part — there are many senior filmmakers out there. What is inspiring is that she only started working in video 16 years ago at the age of 60.   

As the story recounts, Harper was at home listening to the radio when she heard an interview with a sex worker. Harper did not believe the segment on BBC Radio went far enough in telling the young woman’s story. Determined to do something more she bought a basic camera tracked down the woman from the radio segment and started to make a documentary about her life — learning to do so on the fly while making the film. She sold the film to The BBC and a new career was born. Sixteen years later she’s still at it — making and producing documentaries on a range of topics. 

Before picking up her new camera for the first time at the age of 60. Harper’s career had nothing to do with film and video. She had worked various secretarial jobs before the first film. Once she made the first one though, she never looked back, saying, “It really feels like I’ve found my calling.”

Many people believe that the idea of a career in video is something that if you don’t start early then you’ll never do it. They believe that if they weren’t like Stephen Speilberg making movies since they were a child as portrayed in his latest film The Fabelmans then it just wasn’t meant to be. As Frances Harper shows, that is most definitely not the case. The idea that one needs to go to film school or work in the industry for years before picking a camera up is a fallacy — and an outdated one. 

The most important thing when it comes to video is storytelling. If you have a great story to tell that is more than half the battle. Everything else can be easily learned. When Harper was starting she had to go buy a basic camera, but now a more than basic camera sits in your pocket all day every day. A smartphone is an amazing tool that has taken the barrier to entry away from producing video. Learning how to use it professionally is easy enough — something that we can teach you to do pretty simply. Then all you need is some basic editing skills and you’ll have your film. We all consume a huge amount of film and video and we know what it is supposed to look like. The idea that you have to spend a lot of money on gear or get a degree in filmmaking is absurd. 

The lesson of Frances Harper is that it’s never too late to pick up the camera and change your life. If what you want to do is make videos then all you have to do is start making videos. Find a story, take the phone our of your pocket, and start. No one is ever going to tell you when to do it, so you have to just do it now.


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