Braden Haggerty, 46, specialized in underwater cinematography as one of three specialists in Metro Vancouver. The married mother of two teenage sons lives in Vancouver’s Dunbar area. She invested years in training to become a respected underwater cinematographer, a position not obvious for women, she says.
Haggerty is passionate about her job. “Suspension of disbelief is pretty strong in the water,” she says, for example when you see film characters fall into seemingly arctic water and still perform their tasks. In real life, they would have been in cold shock immediately, whereas on set, they can swim in a water tank heated up to 32 C.
Most directly affected by the decline in the B.C. film industry are those people with professions tightly knit to the big-budget U.S. feature film productions.
Even though the total amount of 2012-shot foreign feature films, 58, stayed on par with 2011 according to the BC Film Commission, the figure includes 31 visual-effects-only projects, which don’t employ an on-set film crew.
Haggerty’s career depends on big-budget American movies with underwater scenes. In addition to cinematography, Haggerty has turned to underwater safety assistance. This means she has to help actors, who are often apprehensive about underwater scenes. Haggerty is on stand by during the shoot and is in the water tank right next to the talent, just out of the camera frame. When the actor gives her a sign, Haggerty will help him or her breathe from a regulator.
Haggerty, whose husband works in the oil and gas industry, has turned to creating artful underwater stills of exotic fishes and corals. Her bedrooms walls are decorated with photos of creatures called Hooded Nudibranchs and decorated warbonnets on canvasses of metallic paper, which are covered with a 4-mm sheet of clear Plexiglas, giving the image an almost 3D-look. She hopes to eventually sell the artwork.
As an active member of the International Cinematographers Guild IATSE Local 669, Haggerty has a word of advice to people entering the industry. “You want to start planning early. When you’re in your mid-40s, you’ll need to find out what to eat…don’t spend it. Save it, invest it. Make the most of your money.”
Reported by Katja De Bock
***This six-part series was originally created as a feature length article at Langara College’s journalism department. The series shows the faces of some of B.C.’s film industry workers who are affected by the recent decline in jobs. Some of them are involved in the #SaveBCFilm movement, others are relocating or reinventing themselves professionally. But all are passionate film lovers, and great people.***