Posted 10 January 2023
Mention Ant Belle
Interview by Lyla Maeve

Camera trainee Ant Belle talks on-set problem solving and working on Netflix’s Top Boy

A philosophy graduate, Ant Belle began their camera training by working with friends. Within months, they did a stint at the BBC, before balancing work on queer short films with a day job as a bartender. An invitation to join the crew of Netflix’s hit series Top Boy then allowed them to make the move to a full-time camera trainee role, while also being part of other projects including Adidas London X Guap Magazine’s Originals Creator Network. Already primed with a varied host of experiences under their belt, here, Ant speaks about the unpredictability of locations and tasks on the job, as well as the value of short courses and the trials and tribulations of navigating the industry as a non-binary and neurodivergent creative of colour.

Ant Belle

Ant Belle

Job Title

Camera and Lighting Trainee



Selected Clients

Adidas London, Guap Magazine, The US Embassy in London, The London LGBTQ+ Centre, Penguin Random House,

Previous Employment

Cocktail Bartender (2021-2022)
Teaching Assistant (2020-2021)
Junior Video Executive, BBC Studios (2019-2020)
Barista (2017-2019)

Place of Study

BA Philosophy, The University of Nottingham (2014–2018)


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do?
As a camera trainee, I work on set to assist and support the camera department.

I’m responsible for the logistical tasks. For example: ensuring everyone has food and water, all batteries are charged, the camera truck has power, liaising with other departments, sometimes setting up video monitoring systems, ensuring the camera equipment is safe and protected from the weather, making teas and coffees and stepping up to second AC [assistant camera] if the second or first AC are busy off-set.

Some of the most important skills you develop as a trainee are vigilance, intuition, communication, creative problem-solving, keeping track of lots of pieces of equipment and thinking ahead to resolve issues before they take place.

The unpredictability of freelance work means that my work can take place anywhere: from the side of a mountain in the pouring rain, to the champagne counter of Harrods at 3am.

“My work can take place anywhere: from the side of a mountain in the pouring rain, to the champagne counter of Harrods at 3am.”

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Ant working on set

Ant gear Spidey suit for Halloween

Ant in working gear on-set

Ant belle creativelivesinprogress camera trainee 2

Ant in front of a poster for Top Boy, which they worked on

What’s your favourite thing in your workspace right now?
I get sent all over London for work and have no idea where I’m going until I turn up, so the closest thing I have to a workspace is my ‘soap-on-a-rope’ camera tape and my floor bag which contains all of my kit: wet weather gear, clamps and cables, canned air, cleaning solvent, lens cleaning kits, floor marks and such.

My favourite thing would be my new clapperboard that I got myself from Filmsticks as an early Christmas present, and my custom-engraved Leatherman Sidekick multi-tool, which my 2nd AC gave to me as a wrap gift. Both of these tools make it easier for me to practise ‘stepping up’ to 2nd AC on smaller projects, so that when I am ready to step up in a couple of years, I’ll have had plenty of time to make mistakes in lower-risk environments.

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Ant on the set of Top Boy

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Ant and their mentor Kanamé Onoyama on the set of Top Boy

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
It sounds really cheesy, but the assistants I trainee for inspire me on a daily basis. I’m always impressed by their ability to execute seemingly impossible tasks under immense pressure, all while maintaining professionalism and good humour.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have experienced such warmth and support from the assistants I’ve worked for – the camera department can be a pretty cutthroat place, and it has made me resolute that when I step up I’m going to pass on the same encouragement and positivity to anyone being a trainee for me. Camera department unity can save a lot of sticky situations, so having a team you can trust is of paramount importance.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects to date?
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to be the mentee of director of photography Kanamé Onoyama on season three of Top Boy. This job will always live close to my heart – it was an incredibly special project and the crew genuinely did become family.

On the flipside, some of my favourite days on set have been holed up in derelict houses shooting indie queer short films – I loved assisting on The Score (above) at the beginning of this year, and seeing it screened at the Close-Up Cinema in London was such a wonderful experience.

How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
Being a trainee is a job that you cannot train for; all of your training happens while you work. This being said, I’ve found that a lot of the skills that help me as a trainee come from my background in hospitality.

As a cocktail bartender, I had to hone my manual dexterity, fine motor skills, as well as the ability to concentrate on multiple tasks at once. This got me used to having a set workflow with simple systems of organisation, labelling and regular resetting of a workstation. I also had to develop fast mental arithmetic, communicate clearly with my team, memorise nearly 50 cocktail recipes and keep track of over 30 pieces of equipment, all while working quickly, safely and cleanly.

A final, unwritten piece of advice is to keep a good attitude. A buzzkill on a shift makes any job ten times harder, whether you’re mixing cocktails or rigging up cameras. If you are intimidated by the thought of entering the camera department, I can guarantee you I have had worse shifts working a busy cocktail bar than I have ever had on set.

“Don’t be intimidated by the thought of entering the camera department – I’ve had worse shifts working a busy cocktail bar than I have ever had on set.”

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I began as a trainee on music videos and queer short films in June 2021 and had my first proper TV job by October 2021. I was the greenest of the green: clumsy, clueless, constantly forgetting what I was doing and my loader [2nd AC] had to break down even the most simple of tasks.

This time last year I was still struggling – it took a full summer working with many different teams and making lots of mistakes to feel even halfway confident as a trainee. I did not find my feet quickly; it has been a long process and I still doubt myself most of the time. But that’s why I’m a trainee – there’s always more to learn.

How did you go about landing your first job?
I was brought on set for the first time by a friend who entered the camera department after graduating from film school. I got my first TV job by responding to an instagram call-out from assistant Samara Addai, who I emailed explaining why I would like the job. She then put me forward to the 2nd AC, and from there I secured the role.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
As much as I hate to admit it, social media has been instrumental to my career. I use instagram to see what other assistants are working on, and other news in the wider camera department community. It’s helped me understand what other assistants are working on and discussing with one another, what film festivals are coming up and what projects are currently in the works.

Being a part of Adidas London X Guap Magazine’s Originals Creator Network provided me with an invaluable opportunity to be a DOP [director of photography] on a video as part of a global campaign, which was a huge step forward in understanding where I need to improve when shooting my own projects.

The NFTS’ [National Film and Television School] 16mm/35mm Film Familiarisation Course was a huge investment in my career, and I am so glad I did it. Doing any film course is invaluable. It helped me understand some fundamental concepts of how we approach cameras, has massively improved my discipline with my work and opened up several job opportunities.

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Ant on set

Ant belle creativelivesinprogress camera trainee Stepping up to 2nd AC on a short film

Ant stepping in as 2nd assistant camera for a shoot

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge by far has been dealing with ADHD on set, and the issues it can present. Having a poor working memory can cause paranoia about having forgotten tasks, and emotional dysregulation can cause intense emotional reactions like frustration at myself when I can’t fix something I feel I should be able to fix, or embarrassment at having to ask what must appear to be very simple questions to people far beyond my experience level. It can be difficult to keep a level head, which is a crucial part of the job.

There have also been days where I’m the only person of colour on set, or the only person that isn’t a man. There are many mistakes I make that could make me appear fundamentally incapable in my job. Sometimes I feel I shouldn’t be there in the first place – which is an incredibly self-sabotaging mindset. It’s been an unexpected challenge having to combat the way I’ve internalised reacting to prejudice in order to be my best self, both on and off set.

“It’s been an unexpected challenge having to combat my internalised reactions to prejudice in order to be my best self, both on and off set.”

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work? Do you have any advice or learnings to share?
Instagram can be a great resource, primarily for its strengths as a visual portfolio. In the past I’ve used it to document my progression on set through highlights and posts, which honestly is more for me than anyone else. But while self-promotion is important, nobody wants to be bombarded with content – particularly when work is scarce. Using social media sparingly brings more effective results, as is harnessing its power to connect you with the right people.

Ant teaching trainees at the Focus24 Camera Trainee Workshop

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I’ve only been able to be a trainee full-time as of three months ago. Before that, I knew that I didn’t have the experience or connections to rely on long-form work as a source of income, so I got a pub job to tide me over. This worked in my favour, as it allowed me to enter the commercial world, where the jobs are shorter, more flexible and better paid.

Working at the pub while also as a trainee gave me a dual stream of income to stabilise my finances, and I was able to work all summer with a variety of teams – it was a really good set-up. However, it reached the point where I was being asked to trainee more and more, and the pub job became unsustainable. When I got the call to do Top Boy, I was finally able to quit.

But [short jobs] can be a double-edged sword: all jobs end, and you always have to find the next one. Lots of people join rental houses as kit room trainees to support themselves, which is also a great way of entering the industry and getting a stable income.

Ant on set

Are there any access schemes, initiatives and mentorships you’ve found helpful to your career?
The ScreenSkills bursary allowed me to afford the NFTS 16 and 35mm film course this year. I would also recommend initiatives like Sporas, Illuminatrix Rising, The Equity List, The Trans Creative Collective, the Trans On Screen directory, Girls in Film and Babe City FC.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Complaining makes everything worse; don’t waste your time on it. Make every mistake, but only make it once. And most importantly: we’re not saving lives, it’s not that deep.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar career?
Be self-sufficient and brave. Never let someone tell you what’s impossible for you. Don’t push yourself to the limit. Don’t sit around waiting for things to happen – you have to make them happen.

Mention Ant Belle
Interview by Lyla Maeve