Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a camera operator for “Deadliest Catch”?
Film school teaches you how to work a camera. But it certainly doesn’t teach you how to prepare for life-threatening conditions on the Bering sea, while working a camera. Nevertheless, for the past 17 seasons, camera operators have been getting their sea legs on the set of “Deadliest Catch.” Tim Dowling was one of those camera operators and he shared the inside scoop about what it’s like working on the show during an interview in 2018.
“You have a satellite phone…there are like six to eight boats within the show,” said Dowling. “You have a designated time every day to call in and talk about what’s going on. And then those people, who are geniuses at their job, will say, ‘Okay, go this way.'”
Dowling added that the show is totally unscripted. However, the crew does need to come back with stories for the show. So, the producers help guide the camera operators on what to record.
“They’ll help guide it because when you’re out there, it’s totally documentary style,” said Dowling. “But you need to come back with stories.”
‘Deadliest Catch’ Organizes All the Show’s Storylines Into These Three Categories
Interestingly, Dowling revealed that there are three main categories that all the stories from “Deadliest Catch” funnel through.
“If you watch that show, the main stories revolve around whether or not they’re catching their crab, if there’s any technical issues on the boat, or what the weather’s like,” said Dowling. “Every story on the show will funnel under one of those three headers.”
For example, if the weather is great, the producers will recommend that the camera operators focus on the other two categories.
“So you’ll say, ‘Well, the weather’s been great,” and they’ll be like ‘Okay, don’t go that direction,'” explained Dowling.
Here’s The Insane Method the Show Uses for Getting Footage From Camera Operators at Sea
The “Deadliest Catch” cameraman added that communicating the boat’s happenings is a process in itself. He said that because service is so spotty on the boat, it can take up to three hours to talk to producers about what happened on set that day.
“And then you get, ‘Hi,’ click disconnect because the service is so bad. So, it probably takes like three hours to communicate what happened in the last 24,” said Dowling. “And then you do it again the next day and the next day and the next day. And that’s how they build the stories on the show.”
The most interesting thing about the whole filming process is how the camera operators share the footage with the editors and producers. The crew stays with the cast for the duration of the season. So that’s about two months’ worth of footage. So, “Deadliest Catch” editors can’t wait that long to start cutting episodes of the show. So, Dowling said that the show gives camera operators bright orange, waterproof Pelican cases. And every week, the camera operators place all of their footage tapes into the Pelican cases and throw them into the water. A designated “chase boat” then retrieves the footage from the water.