Wilson’s Placement Trilogy

Wilson McCall hails from Philadelphia, USA and was enrolled on the MA from 2013 to 2014. As an international student, he was particularly keen to develop an understanding of how the British media industry works, and his placement time was effectively split between three different companies. Here’s his account of his experiences at Wall to Wall, Isis Media and the BBC.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe MA in Film and Television: Research and Production attracted me for a number of reasons. In particular, the industry placements offered valuable production experience, which was often hard to find in the USA. During my studies, I had the privilege of working at three excellent companies. Each placement taught me something new, honed my skills and widened my understanding of the industry.

Wall to Wall: On my first placement of the year, I joined Wall to Wall Media in London. They were in the midst of producing Child Genius for Channel 4 and I helped by transcribing interviews for the editors, making notes of any standout sentences or moments. This job allowed me to get a sense of each participant’s story and encouraged me to think from the editor’s perspective.

I then moved to the Research Department for Secrets from the Workhouse. There, I assisted the other researchers by utilising census databases and searching for useful historical details. I particularly loved working in this area, because I always learned something new and interesting about the past. I followed this up by annotating scripts for Drugs, Inc., verifying the accuracy of fact-based statements. During this time, I also took part in a game show run-through – a very interesting and fun experience!

I really enjoyed my time at Wall to Wall Media, and I came away from it with great appreciation for, and knowledge of, the work behind factual television programmes. 

Isis:  At Isis Media, I had the great opportunity to develop and pitch a programme for their consideration. In the process of preparing my concepts, I analysed the existing content of prospective channels and considered how to appeal to different demographics. I researched potential locations, organisations, participants and, with help, structured show ideas into returnable, international formats.

Besides working in development, I also assisted in the subtitling of corporate videos. This involved matching translations with timecodes and ensuring their correct entry into a provided template. After that, I researched for a project in development, sourcing potential locations and hosts.

The team at Isis Media was truly wonderful. They always encouraged and engaged with new ideas, offering valuable advice, insight and an environment open for creative discussion.

BBC: My final placement was at the BBC Drama Village in Selly Oak, experiencing Doctors from pre-production to the editing suites. I started in the Research Department, reviewing scripts for factual details in need of advisement. I then moved to the Script Editing room where I wrote script synopses and witnessed how a story develops from idea to production-ready draft.

From there, I moved to the Locations Department and learned about the process and considerations involved in selecting new locations. I also worked as a runner on set, assisting the actors and crew, and observing their craft. Finally, I moved to the post-production suites and, there, I saw the dubbing and audio mixer, colour grader and visual editor complete the story.

Working at the BBC was a fascinating experience. In particular, I found it extremely important to see how each department interacts and contributes to the finished episode.

New Start: With experience in both factual television and drama, I feel confident in my skills and prepared for future work. My understanding of the UK television and film industry will also give me an edge when applying for jobs in the States. These placements have been invaluable in contributing to the growth of my career, and I am grateful that I got to work with and learn from such talented people.

Wilson McCall

Life as a TV Researcher

Alumnus Pete Twibill graduated from the MA in 2010, when it was still known as ‘History, Film and Television’. In the past four years he’s worked as a researcher on numerous broadcast television programmes, predominantly on Birmingham-based productions but also with stints in London and Leicester. In this blog he shares his experiences of life in telly…and yes, he really has pressure washed an elephant! Pete Twibill blog

I did my MA work experience at North One TV working on The Gadget Show (Channel 5). After finishing that I was offered a 3 month contract with North One as a Researcher. All in all I was at North One TV for around 14 months.

Since leaving North One I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of prime time shows including three series of Superscrimpers (Remarkable TV, Channel 4), Snog Marry Avoid (Remarkable TV, BBC3), Junior Paramedics (BBC North, BBC3) and The House that £100k Built (Remarkable TV, BBC2).

It’s pretty difficult to describe what my job role is as it varies so much. In essence, I do whatever needs to be done to make TV programmes. I’ve had to dip my toe into a number production processes; casting, shooting, editing, writing biographies, fact checking, setting up shoots, the list goes on (with a lot more banal examples!). I think an important aspect of my job is being able to adapt, as every project is different. For instance, my last job saw me on the road attending medical emergencies like seizures, car accidents and cardiac arrests. The job before that was an office based role on a history documentary and next month I might be pressure washing African elephants (again!!!).

For me, TV often feels like a very bi-polar career, it comes with extreme highs and lows, it’s very rarely mundane. There are often times, exhausted, dishevelled and broken, when I ask “why do I do this?”. But on the plus side, I’ve been witness to some awe inspiring moments, had privileged access to some incredible places and experiences and made some wonderful TV!

I’ve been lucky to get this far into the TV industry, I’m lucky to be able to do what I do and my good luck started on the MA placement!

Sweet as a nut!

Peter Twibill

Rebecca’s Placement Diary: Maverick Television

Between January and August each year, FTV students undertake work placements in the media industry as part of their MA. Here is current student Rebecca Conley’s account of her time at Maverick Television – complete with an entry for Careers Network’s Intern Selfie Competition

Rebecca Making a start: My placement at Maverick Television began as a junior researcher in Development. I began by phoning and emailing people for background material into specific topics to inform the producer’s decision on whether to develop a certain TV programme idea. If an idea was progressed I would then research key statistics and search the Internet for potential hosts, characters or experts. Other tasks included brainstorming new ideas and format points and suggesting titles and taglines based on a treatment. I soon learned that there is no such thing as a “typical working day” in Development.

Game Shows: Six weeks in and I changed to working in Maverick’s Multiplatform department. First task was to work on a proposal for a new game show in development. I was involved in researching statistics and accumulating scores from real contestants in a mock run-through of the game show. Other duties included gathering results from the Embarrassing Bodies My HealthChecker web content and making comparisons e.g. based on age, gender and occupation. I also made recommendations of how to push the health apps, doctor response videos and condition guides in each episode of Live from the Clinic.

Embarrassing Bodies: I was able to gain some experience as a production runner on the live set of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies: Live from the Clinic, Series 4. My duties included making the teas and coffees for the production office and crew and making sure the green room and the studio was tidy and well stocked with supplies. You can quickly gain the enthusiasm of others by offering a nice cuppa and it’s a great networking tool. I was able to have a chat in the green room with Doctor Brad Mckay, the host of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, about his new show.

(Also, I made a small cameo as Doctor Christian’s back up dancer for a VT in the same episode).

On to London: I spent the final week of my placement in Maverick’s London Office. I was responsible for creating categories of multiple-choice questions for a run-through of a game show. I was on hand at the run-through location to meet and greet the game show contributors and make sure they were all provided with light refreshments. This was an interesting insight into the how a programme is developed before it can be provided with funded development or a successful commission.

It was a great opportunity to be able to work at Maverick Television. So much confidence can be gained in a short time by hands-on tasks and mixing with seasoned professionals. It puts you in a good frame of mind for the next challenge and improves your CV for the applications. I would certainly like to thank all who helped me at Maverick during my placement and hope we can keep in touch.

Rebecca Conley

FTV alumni work on BAFTA-winning programmes

It’s always great to hear what FTV alumni have been up to since leaving the course, so imagine the excitement in our office when we heard that two past students have been working on television programmes that were awarded BAFTAs a few weeks ago! Scott Billing (2012) has been a researcher on Gogglebox while Rosie Pooley (2013) has been casting for Long Lost Family. Here are their accounts of BAFTA night, complete with photos of those iconic bronze masks. Congratulations!

Scott Billing

ScottBillingBAFTAAt the recent BAFTA Television awards Gogglebox, the hit C4 show which I have worked on for the past two series, surprised everyone by winning in the ‘Reality and Constructed Factual’ category. At the time myself, the crew and the contributors were all obviously delighted and shared a sense of combined achievement I have rarely experienced whilst working in TV.

We didn’t get to go to the ceremony, and in fact we were still filming the show the night the ceremony was held (we celebrated in the kitchen of one of Gogglebox‘s now semi-famous families). Since we wrapped on the show I have had time to reflect that not only was it an honour to contribute to a show recognised in such a way, but I also have quite a nice achievement to add to my CV, not to mention a pretty decent profile picture!

Rosie Pooley

Since leaving FTV I’ve been working on various projects at Wall to Wall, a production company in London that makes programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1), The Voice (BBC1) and Drugs, Inc. (National Geographic). After finishing my 3 month placement I worked primarily with the development team on proposed factual series and dramas (which I loved), before I was lucky enough to land a role on the ITV series Long Lost Family, presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell. The series as you might expect finds and reunites long lost relatives that have been separated for years, and in some cases, may have never even met. It has been an amazing experience and I couldn’t have hoped to work on a better programme for my first TV production role.

Currently I’m casting for Long Lost Family Series 4, which due to the nature of the programme can mean you’re often shedding a few tears in the office, but it’s great to get out on a shoot day and see the reunions that really make your job worthwhile. Series 4 will be airing in July so we are all working hard at the moment to make sure the series is even better than last year by finding great stories and helping some lovely people.RosiePooleyBAFTA

Plus on May 18th, Long Lost Family won the BAFTA for ‘Features’ and although I did not work on the previous series I was lucky enough to celebrate with the wonderful team at the Grosvenor House Hotel – we even managed to work our way in to the after party where we partied until the wee hours of the morning. It was firstly great to get the news that we had won, and even better when we saw some members of our team go up to collect the award whilst Nicky and Davina made their acceptance speeches. We then of course spent the rest of the night unashamedly taking a million and one pictures with the BAFTA heads and various celebs that were still partying away…

Screening Events and Flatpack Festival

On Tuesday 18 March we will be holding our second documentary screening event, showcasing work by recent alumni of the MA. This is once again part of the University’s Arts & Science Festival and tying in with 2014’s theme of Life and Death, we will be finishing the evening with My Way, an intriguing look at the UK funeral industry. Admission for this event is free but booking is advised, so please drop me an email if you’d like to reserve a seat (j.j.saunders@bham.ac.uk) ArtsandScience2014

The department of American and Canadian studies is running another screening event on Thursday 20 March, ‘Life and Death’ and the Social Action Film. This promises to be another fascinating evening, including short films and a panel discussion.

To add to this wealth of cinematic treats, Flatpack Film Festival is returning to Birmingham at the end of March and there’s a preview taster screening right here on campus next Thursday. The full programme of events is on the Flatpack website.

Popcorn, anyone?

Merry Christmas from FTV!

Christmas TreeAfter an exceptionally busy few months for FTV, the festive season is now upon us! We’ve had a great term welcoming our new cohort of students to the MA and it was great to see some familiar faces at last week’s graduation.

A very Merry Christmas to all students (past, present and future!), placement hosts, guest speakers and staff at the University.