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Behind the Lens: An Interview with a Football Filmmaker & Football Filming Expert

Updated: Apr 19

Founded in 2017, Up North Productions have quickly risen to prominence, specialising in the art of filming football matches and bringing the thrill of the pitch to screens worldwide.

From humble beginnings filming local games to becoming a leading authority in the industry, Up North Productions have carved a niche for themselves, fueled by innovation, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. With a successful YouTube channel boasting almost 7k subscribers, the company has captured the hearts of fans around the globe, offering a unique perspective on the game they love.

Join us as we embark on an exclusive journey "Behind the Lens" with Stuart Bannerman, the visionary founder of Up North Productions. Prepare to be inspired as we uncover the secrets behind their success, explore their unwavering commitment to the craft, and delve into the stories that have shaped their remarkable journey in the world of soccer filmmaking.

1 Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into football filming and filmmaking?

I'm Stuart Bannerman and I own Up North Productions. I specialise in filming football matches, but I am also a filmmaker, producing documentaries, short features, and anything else video production-related! As long as it involves sport! I'd always had an interest in video production, ever since high school when I did A-level Media Studies! About 10 years later, I kind of just fell into it again through my job when filming and video editing became my responsibility. I'd film press conferences, interviews, weekly entertainment shows, even some video adverts for businesses! After a while I decided to set up my own business, but it never really took off because I didn't specialise in anything in particular, I was too busy trying to do a bit of everything, and to be honest, it wasn't really for me, I found creating things like marketing adverts and promotional videos a bit boring. I needed something that motivated me, something I loved doing. Then, one day in 2017, I decided to go and film a local Saturday League football match, and the rest is history!

2 What inspired you to start filming football matches?

My love of football! Simple as that! I used to play in local leagues but there was barely any media coverage of it, so I wanted to change that. I started filming football matches because I wanted to create a YouTube channel that was like Match of the Day for grassroots and non league football! Not that my first ever video was Match of the Day standard! It was awful!

3 What was the first game you covered?

It was a North Lancashire League game between Caton United and Boys' Club. The game itself was good, but my filming and production was just horrendous! I used a really old Sony Handycam to record the match, and the quality was so poor. It took me a while to get used to keeping up with play, I struggled to keep everything in focus, and I got a headache trying to watch the match on the tiny screen on my camcorder! For a couple of goals, I was actually zoomed so far out that it was hard to even see the ball go in the net! Terrible camerawork! And don't get me started on the overlays I used, they were as bad, if not worse! Funnily enough though, the teams still seemed to love it, and I never took the video down because it serves as a reminder of how far I've come! It's on the YouTube channel to this day, if you would like a good laugh!

4 Can you share some of your favorite football-related projects you've worked on?

There have been quite a few! One of them was a documentary that I produced on Morecambe Football Club, called Defying The Odds. It was about The Shrimps winning promotion to EFL League 2 for the first time in their history, despite being tipped by the bookies for relegation at the start of the season. I loved making this documentary, I knew most of the people that I interviewed beforehand, and it was great listening to their memories of being involved with, or supporting the club. It was their football club and their love for Morecambe was obvious during their interviews. That's what it's all about!

In terms of filming football matches, there are so many that stand out! But, if I had to choose one, it has to be the game that really kickstarted Up North Productions. It happened just before lockdown, I worked at a local newspaper and was put on furlough just days before, so I needed something to do! So, I put out a Tweet on X (Twitter) asking for teams to request their games. I'd filmed plenty of games prior to this, but they had always just been local matches, usually just 10 minutes away from home! And, they usually involved people I actually know who had asked me to film their match for them. Anyway, I had one request to begin with but I decided to go for a walk and see what the situation was when I got back! I could not believe the response! Somehow, my tweet had gone viral! I had teams from all over the North West asking me to cover their games, even fixtures from further afield like London and Scotland! I had no idea which match to choose, so I carried out a series of polls, and I did it Champions League style. There were 4 fixtures in each group, the games which got the most votes in each group moved into the next round, and so forth. In the end, there were over 100k votes in the polls, and the match that eventually won was Stoneclough v Croston Sports FC! It ended up being a decent game, and I even had a player score a goal, then run to the camera and do a Peter Crouch-style robot dance! It was a cracking day, and it was where it all really began for me.

5 What are some of the unique challenges you face when filming soccer games?

The weather is the obvious one! When I first started filming games, I didn't have a waterproof cover for my camcorder, which left it open to the elements and it stopped working mid-match on a few occasions! I had to pack up and go home early! Dealing with teams and players who decide post match that they don't want certain incidents to be included in the match highlights video can also be a challenge! It's usually when someone has made a howler or has been caught on camera doing something that they could get in trouble for! Oh, and dealing with drunk spectators is a pain too!

6 How did you learn how to film football matches and produce match highlights videos?

By myself! I had no mentor, attended no courses. I literally sat down, watched Match of the Day and Sky Sports and made detailed notes! I wanted to see what transitions they used, how they displayed the score in the corner, I even timed how long goal replays lasted! Anything I didn't understand, I just searched for on YouTube! There are tutorials for anything on there! I just dedicated myself to learning everything I possibly could about filming and editing, and even now I still try to improve with every match I film.

7 What equipment do you typically use when filming football games?

I use a Sony camcorder, an extendable tripod that allows me to film 15 feet above pitch level, and I have a standard tripod that I use if the venue has a gantry. I also have an external battery that I connect to my camera so it never dies mid-game! Oh, and a waterproof cover as well!

8 How do you prepare for filming a soccer match? Do you have any rituals or routines?

I start off by looking in the mirror and doing the Haka. Then I do a bit of shadow boxing and head off to the match! In all seriousness, no, I don't have any routines. It generally takes me five minutes or so to pack the car up with all of my equipment, so it's just a case of throwing it all in the back and setting off! I do always double check that I have everything though because I have 2 bags with me - 1 for the camera, 1 for all the tripod attachments (LCD screen to watch it on, camera remote, cables, etc). I always make sure that my camcorder, the LCD battery and the external battery for the camera are all fully charged the night before! I've started to bring some WD40 with me these days as well because the tripod would sometimes be a bit squeaky!

9 Could you share a particularly memorable moment you've captured on film during a match?

There have been a lot, but recently I filmed a non league match, it was a night game between Ashton Town and Atherton LR. Atherton LR were 3-0 up in the first half but Ashton Town had a chance to pull a goal back and get themselves back into the game. They were in on goal, their striker took the ball around the keeper and as he went to tap the ball into an empty net, the lights went out and the whole stadium was in complete darkness! The power cut lasted about 10 minutes, but they eventually managed to get the lights back on and the game resumed! It finished 3-0!

10 What does your editing process look like?

The first thing I do is download the footage, then drop it onto a timeline in my editing software. After that, I add my timer to the footage and create individual score titles for every scoreline in the game. For example, if it was 1-1 and the home team scored first, I create a title for 0-0, 1-0 and 1-1. Then, typically, I'd create the intro screen that I use for all of my videos, which shows the two teams who are playing, the date, and the league or cup name. Then, I create the half time and full time overlays. Once all of that is done, I go back into my editing software, create a new sequence for the match highlights, drop the intro title on and go through the full game footage, dropping individual clips into the highlights sequence. I add slow motion replays for goals and key moments, and change the score in the top corner every time a goal goes in! Then, I add the full time score overlay at the end, and I usually add a match stats overlay too! I record the stats myself!

11 What else do you do, other than football filming?

I film other sports - rugby league, rugby union, boxing and MMA. I am also a filmmaker, I've produced a number of documentaries - all sport-related! They are all available to watch over on YouTube! I like to tell stories through video! It's something I've just always enjoyed doing!

I offer a few other services too, like editing other people's footage for the, creating individual player reels, and basically anything else sport-related when it comes to sports video production!

12 What do you hope viewers take away from your videos?

When I set my YouTube channel up, the aim was to make it Match of the Day for grassroots football. I wanted to give players a chance to watch their games back and be able to share their performances with their friends and families. When I used to play Saturday and Sunday League football, there was a mention of our games in the local newspaper every now and then, but it would be a line or two at the most. I wanted to put the spotlight on grassroots football because I knew that there were a lot of good amateur players who rarely got any recognition. I love top level football, but I wanted to help give some limelight to players who had never even played in front of a camera before. I like to give players and teams their moment of fame!

13 Do you have any favorite teams to film? If so, what makes them stand out to you?

That's a tough one! I think the team I've filmed the most is Euxton Villa. I also did a documentary on them when they made the switch from the West Lancs League to the North West Counties, meaning they were stepping up from grassroots football to non league! So I know a few people down there and I always get a nice welcome when I'm there. I sometimes get a free pie too! What more do you want?

In terms of grounds that I like to film at, I'd say AFC Blackpool because they have a decent gantry! I also like the fact that they are in the bottom tier of non league, yet they have stands on all 4 sides of the ground! I've been there quite a few times and I really like it every time I go, although it is always freezing when I do! And it's close to the airport, so there is usually a bit of interference with the audio when recording! But it's still a great place to film football matches.

There are more clubs that I love visiting and filming, but I can't list them all, I'd be here all night!

14. Are there any filmmakers or films that influence your approach to soccer filmmaking?

Not really. Like I said before, I am self taught, I didn't really have anyone to take inspiration from, I just watched football matches on TV and tried to recreate what I saw. Then, as I became more skilled and experienced I put my on stamp on things and created my own style. There aren't many people who do what I do, so it was always difficult trying to learn how to do certain things because I had nobody to ask! I just learn from YouTube videos and a lot of trial and error!

15 How has technology changed the way you approach filming soccer games?

Technology is changing everything! So many teams now have their own Veo cameras these days because they don't need a cameraman, and it does all the hard work for them. Personally, I don't use any auto-follow cameras, I use my own and control it manually. In my opinion, my footage is better because I am an experienced camera operator, I know when to zoom in, when to zoom how, how to keep up with play. But, I can see why people would want to use a Veo, or a Pixellot camera as many teams don't have anyone to film games themselves! It's helped grassroots teams to be able to analyse their footage post match and even produce their own match highlights videos.

16. What advice would you give to aspiring soccer filmmakers?

Just do it! Get started! Whether you want to film games or produce documentaries, there is nothing stopping you. Create a YouTube channel. Set up your own website. Make it a business, not just a hobby, if that's something you want to do! It's what I did! I had nobody to help me, I learnt from my own mistakes. You can too! Just be prepared for criticism, it's inevitable! If a player misses an open goal, it will be your fault. If a player is sent off and headbutts someone, it will be your fault. If the goalkeeper throws the ball into his own net, it will be your fault! Or at least that's what some will try and make out! Just ignore the noise, carry on, and most importantly, enjoy it! Otherwise, what is the point of doing it in the first place?

17 How do you think football filming has evolved over the years?

It's changed massively, thanks to technology. When I played, you'd be lucky to see a photographer at the side of the pitch, let alone a videographer. Now though, more and more people are filming their games. Some use state of the art, auto follow cameras like Veo. Some clubs find someone who is willing to film using a standard camcorder and tripod. Either way, filming is increasingly becoming an essential part of grassroots and non league football. It's no longer just for the professionals! You can even get cheap cameras for under £100 that do the job just fine! Every year, technology improves, so the art of football filming is going to continue to grow!

18 Have you had the opportunity to film soccer games in different countries? If so, how does the experience differ?

Not yet, but it is something I am very keen today! I've been doing some research into it, I'd love to film games in Germany, Italy or Spain, it's just a case of finding the right team to film! How I'd get there would also be something I'd need to work out because if I wanted to use my extendable tripod, I'd need to hit the road and drive as the equipment is not suitable for flying at all! But I will worry about that when the time comes! But yes, filming abroad is definitely something I want to do!

19 How do you engage with football fans through your videos?

Usually just on social media. For example, when I have filmed a match I upload the match highlights video to YouTube, and share the link on Facebook and X (Twitter). I'll also upload short clips and reels to every social media platform, usually showing goals and key moments from the game that I know people will react to. This is great for engagement because not only do I get to show people specific moments from the match, I get to respond to people's comments and questions. I'll also often receive private messages from people asking me about filming their team's match, or just wanting to generally chat about my videos, which I am more than happy to do.

20. Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects you're working on?

Without giving too much away, I am planning to produce a new documentary very soon about a football league that is ceasing to exist at the end of the season. It's a big deal as it has been going since World War 2 (I think!), so for it to fold is very sad and disappointing. I've filmed a lot of games in this league over the years, in fact most of my earlier days were spent filming matches from the various divisions. So, I plan on telling that story! I always like to work on documentaries during the summer when there are no games to film for the YouTube channel.

21. Finally, what does football mean to you, and how does it influence your filmmaking?

Football really is my life! That's the reason I started the business and YouTube channel. In the past I've had people ask "why don't you do some weddings", or "why don't you contact businesses about making some video adverts for them", but that just isn't me! I could do either of those things, easily, but sport is my passion, football in particular. I have found my own niche that I have chosen to focus on, and I strive to be the very best at it. I love it, and I am always learning. Whether I am filming football matches, producing documentaries, creating highlight reels for individual players, or even making promos for sports clubs or associations, I enjoy it. Sport influences my every day life because everything I do revolves around it! And hopefully, in the coming years, Up North Productions will continue to grow because of that!

Want to learn how to record your own professional video footage, and start producing your own match highlights videos? You can discover all you need to know in just SIX HOURS. CLICK HERE to find out more!

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