Camera Woman Liselle Bertrand – Roadies of Color United
By Liam Klenk
It’s not common for women to work in the concert touring industry. It’s even less common to have a Caribbean woman behind the camera. Liselle Bertrand has been touring for ten years now and is one of the best camera operators in the business. Interviewing Liselle was a pleasure. I greatly enjoyed to learn more about her career and her views on the industry.
So, without further ado, dive into Liselle’s world:
I’ve been touring for ten years now and have yet to meet another female of color in the camera business.
In one sense, this is not surprising. Historically, touring was done mostly by men because touring means being away from home a lot. You’ll be away from your family for months. This is not an easy feat if you have family or kids. Moreover, touring is also tough on your body.
In another sense, however, times are changing, and so I hope to see more female technicians in general in our industry, and especially more females of color.
The concert touring industry is a tough industry. But it is also very rewarding.
I am from the small island of Dominica in the Caribbean. It’s located in the West Indies. It’s a gorgeous place. Lots of rain forests. It is very green.
Growing up in such a beautiful environment was a huge inspiration for art.
To go after their dreams, most people leave the island for education purposes as they grow up.
I dreamt of being able to film.
My passion for camera started with music videos. Especially, when music video director Hype Williams used fish eye lenses and wide angle lenses. I was fascinated.
Back in the 90ies, music videos were so elaborate. Nowadays, with social media, everything needs to be much more instant. But for me, the music videos from back then were definitely my first major inspiration.
Interesting is that, while I dreamt of working behind the camera, I wasn’t even aware that touring could be a career for me. I didn’t understand that option.
I left Dominica and went to art school to study camera. Right after I got my degree, I began working as a news camera woman. I did that for two years.
But something was missing. I needed to be able to be more creative. Thus, I decided on a second course of study and went to the Full Sail University in Florida to get my bachelor in entertainment business.
At that point, I wasn’t really sure how to continue with my career. I ended up working at audio-visual for videoconferences for a few years. But this, again, just wasn’t creative enough.
I kept telling myself that, somehow, I’ll get a big opportunity.
I thought, I might have to move to New York or Los Angeles to make that happen. But ended up meeting a production manager at a show I was working on. I told him I was interested in touring and he gave me his email address.
That’s how I slowly began getting into the industry.
However, it didn’t just happen. I had to keep writing this production manager and tell him that I’m interested. It took me two years before I actually managed to get into touring off of that one contact.
My first gig was with Jay-Z and Eminem’s Home On Home tour. It was a huge event.
But, even after this first opportunity, it didn’t get any easier. You have to go after the next job. The next gig. Be tenacious. Work on your network. And there will be moments when you get turned down.
For me now, for the last ten years it’s been pretty steady. I’ve worked with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye, Jennifer Lopez, Queen, and One Direction, to name only a few.
For women, it’s often harder. You have to outwork the men around you. Earn their respect. I had to wake up earlier, work harder. And, sometimes, things men get away with women do not.
On the positive side, on tour the crew becomes a second family. In any environment you’ll get challenged at some point or another. But for the most part, I have amazing co-workers and we grow into a big family.
I would also say, in the last ten years there’s definitely been an increase in the amount of women on tour. When I started, I was the only female technician on the entire tour. I am talking the entire technical team, not just the camera team. Now I see other female technicians every now and then.
One thing that has supported my career has definitely been working with Beyoncé. Seeing how she works is extremely inspiring.
I loved our rehearsals with her. Working for an artist like that makes you up your game. She pushes everyone and aims to raise you up.
One element of touring which was eye-opening was travel. Working all over the planet makes you open your mind so much more. Many places I also returned to so many times. Traveling all over the world is one of the most rewarding elements of touring. Experiencing different cultures, and working with so many different individuals.
It’s not all about the money but also about the experiences.
Something that is really close to my heart is: I want to let young folks know it’s possible to get into the business. It’s possible to have a good career and make a good living out of it.
Very simply put, I would say, especially now that the touring industry is going through a rough time because of Covid: Keep your faith when things are harder. Keep believing that better days are ahead.