“You’ll never make it outside the valleys” was what Sean James Cameron grew up hearing. Now a director, author, producer, and all-round entrepreneur, Cameron has more than proved them wrong, and wants to help others do the same.
For a Jack of all trades, Cameron is doing pretty well at mastering most of them. His career has included forays into journalism, teaching, theatre and of course film-making. All this and still only 34, but Cameron’s ambition is far from satisfied.
“I don’t think I’ve done enough,” said Cameron. “There’s so many things I still want to do.”
Born in Treherbert in the Rhondda Valley, Cameron set his sights far beyond the hills from an early age. Since the age of eight, he was fascinated with film and theatre. Cameron did his first theatre production at 12 years old after being inspired by Rhondda-born playwright Frank Vickery.
“I suppose you could say getting involved in the arts helped me escape from the reality of growing up bisexual in the valleys“, said Cameron. “There was also the attitude that you’re never going to go anywhere. London was seen as so far away that you’d never make it there. Even Cardiff was a massive leap.”
Cameron is keen to nurture talent in the valleys and give people the support he feels he never had starting his career.
Cameron said: “I remember being asked what work experience I wanted to do when I was at school and I said I wanted to do it with a film company in Cardiff. People said forget about it and told me to do it at the local photo cuts shop instead. It’s quite hard for people to break out of that mould. I still don’t think that’s changed.”
An early brush with fame came when a 16-year-old Cameron got involved in the production side of a music video the Australian 80s pop band Crowded House were shooting in his village. But a lack of a passport prevented Cameron from continuing his work with the band.
Cameron moved to Cardiff at 21 intending to work for the BBC, but became a reporter for the Rhondda Leader when they suggested he work for a local paper instead. After working there for four or five years, a period of career tangents ensued.
“Whenever people ask me what I’ve done so far, it’s hard to put things in a time line because it has not happened in order,” he explains.
After dabbling as a director and producer, he became a lecturer on film production techniques at Manchester University after completing his BSc in the same subject, something he fell into after criticising the course.
“They asked me if I could do any better, so I did!” said Cameron triumphantly.
He went on to produce and direct for the BBC and Channel 4, and dabbled in feature films, mostly recently as location manager for Daddy’s Girl starring Jamie Winston.
He also found time to write two history books, as you do.
“In 1999 a few friends of mine discussed what we would do to mark the millennium,” Cameron recalls. “I said I would like to write a book. On the second of January 2000, one of the first publishers I’d contacted offered me a book deal. My friends couldn’t believe it!”
His latest venture is setting up an international theatre news service, What’s on in Theatre, which will be shown on British Airways flights, and he recently launched the accompanying website, whatsonintheatre.com. This has entailed jetting back and forth between Broadway and other parts of the world from his London base, where he moved four years ago. But Cameron visits Cardiff and the valleys every couple of months, where he still has family.
For the moment, he’s happy with what’s he’s doing.
“It’s quite a diverse job I have right now, but I always felt that if I got to the point where I was bored or things were going wrong, I would do something else.
“My goal one day is to work counting turtles on a beach. That would be a great way of life, I think.”
This was published in the Cardiff Evening News, Cardiff Journalism School’s training newspaper