What are the chances of becoming a freelance combat videographer?

Say I bought a hi-def camera, like maybe whatever is better than a GL-2.
Say I got my passport.

Could I go to Afghanistan, and go to an Army base, and say, “Hey, I’m from the County News and Reporter, outta Mayberry or Petticoat Junction, and I would like to be attached to a platoon and go into the bush.”?

(I understand they may want to “censor” my videos, but that is not the point.)

Who do I sell the footage to? Is there like an AP/Knight Ridder “Buyer”, sitting around like old Jameson at the Daily, buying or negotiating for newsworthy material?

If I were to eat chow with the soldiers, could I put it on my Discover? (I’m serious, I wouldn’t want to be walking around with American dollars.)

Is there a “Press Corps” kinda thing where all ther reporters hang out and lock their scopes on some Network Babe whom was in town to film the latest-uprising, before jetting back to roddy old New York?

I read We Were Soldiers Once and Young a few times, and I think j Galloway had a pretty exciting job.

I mean. somebody is doing it. I see it on the T&V.

Ross Baughman did this with the Rhodesian Grey’s Scouts during the Bush War of 1979. They dressed him up in the Rhodie combat fatigues, gave him a horse and a rifle and let him ride with them. Of course, that situation is different from the current wars in the Middle East, in a myriad of ways.

In modern times it would be tough.

Most of the “combat” journalists nowadays are embedded, and there are a limited number of spots, so you need to be put there by a major (CTV, Global, CBC, CNN) or there are sometimes a few freelance spots, which you need to have credentials to use. Embedded means they stay with the soldiers at KAF or in the field. They are generally treated like nice luggage - with a few notable exceptions.

That said, a lot of the journalists use “fixers”. These are local reporters and freelancers that go out and get the “juicy” stuff, set up interviews with the enemy, etc.

You have to be trusted to do this (local afghan).

The other way would be to join the military and get posted to something like Combat Camera.

This is all to say, it’s a lot tougher to do it nowadays, depending on you and your contacts…

Oh, just to add - we NEVER censor the reporters - that’s a world of hurt. As far as when we have a comms lockdown for a casualty or something, they censor themselves.

To get embedded with a US military force, the Pentagon actually has a process. You would need to have some credentials to participate in the program. If you really want to just show up and start filming, you would find it easier to do that with the Afghan army or some of the irregular militias running around the country fighting the taliban. I’ve known some guys who did similar things, I’m an aid worker and when I was in Baghdad, this guy showed up at our office looking for a job. He was an American who road his motorcycle up from Kuwait just to kind of see what was going on.

There are some old Afghan hands still around who did similar things. It’s easier to do that at the beginning of a conflict before the war gets too established. If you really want to do something like that, I would suggest getting your foot in the door at a newer conflict that has the chance to get bigger. I think the Yemen conflict would do nicely, and by the time it hits the big time, you’ll already have some street cred and people will accept you hanging around because you were there when they got there.

ETA: you should read the Bang Bang Club about South African war reporters/

Any other books?


Hey, at least they’re treated like nice luggage.

One thing to keep in mind is that I’m pretty sure camera operators are among the more-likely-to-get killed when it comes to these things. They are walking around encumbered with a nice expensive thing that makes taking out a videographer a lot more attractive than taking out a guy with a notepad.

Although I have pretty much no experience with these things besides reading The World’s Most Dangerous Places, I agree that you are probably better off trying to find a place for yourself in a place where you think conflict is about to arise. You can get to plenty of sketchy places with just a tourist visa.