How green is your heart?

To celebrate the new Green Heart of campus, this year’s One Minute Movie Competition invited submissions inspired by the question ‘how green is your heart?’. There were 12 entries from across the University, which were screened on Wednesday evening alongside a showcase of work by students in the Department of Film & Creative Writing.

After a welcome from Dr Richard Langley, the event commenced with two MA Guided OMM2019socialEditing projects in the form of an emotive visual poem and a short documentary about how and why international students sometimes choose an English name. These were followed by Polymers, a dissertation comprised entirely of archive footage that, in keeping with our green heart theme, looks at the development and impact of plastics on our planet.

The second half of the evening comprised two more Guided Editing projects – comedy film The Guests and the more abstract My Platonic Odyssey – and an undergraduate video essay about the juxtaposition of veganism and masculinity in the media. Finally, the One Minute Movie entries were screened and the winning entries announced.

Five judges, including academics from the Department and industry professionals, had independently reviewed all entries. The winners were:

There was an impressive range of responses to the theme, and many that emphasised what was a tangible thread throughout the evening of the need for more sustainable lifestyles and the urgency to protect our environment. All the entries can be watched on the Department of Film & Creative Writing Vimeo channel.

A big thank you to everyone who entered the competition, our panel of judges, and to all who attended the event.

Jemma Penny, Placement Coordinator

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Jun Zhang, Ruby Hartley, Dr Richard Langley and Rory Applin

A day in the life of a runner

As someone who came onto this MA having barely any experience in the film and television industry, when a friend offered the opportunity to be a runner for a music video with Gas and Electric it was impossible to turn down, but extremely nerve wracking at the same time. I couldn’t wait to experience a professional production.

LydiaBlogThe day before the shoot we were emailed a call sheet (a real, proper call sheet) where we could see the various locations we would be filming, the plan for the day and contacts for everyone involved. The overall day took 12 hours and was scheduled in so much detail. Myself and another FTV student, Talla, were awake and on location by 6.30am. We had the warmest welcome and were introduced to the team with as many bacon rolls and drinks of coffee as we liked. At 7am on the dot, the advanced schedule began, and we started by being in charge of the distribution and set up of the radio mics. These walkie talkies were essential during the shoot as they enabled the contact between many of the production team. Talla and I were numbers 4 and 5, also included were the 1st assistant director, the production assistant and the producer, who was sat at the unit base looking after the equipment throughout the day.

While everyone was setting up, me and Talla were introduced to the new talented artist – a young local performer from Birmingham. She chatted away to us while having her make up done by an artist, also a local student, so we all had a lot to talk about. Then Talla proceeded to the first location and I remained at the base. Talla was initially responsible for the playback of the music via a speaker she was holding so the artist could be filmed lip-syncing to it – I also took responsibility for this later on in the day. I was then asked to meet the team with a neon yellow jacket at the next location to help stop the disruption of filming as people and cars were often coming into the shot – I do have to say I enjoyed having this power! I then began to watch the effortless filming of the crew and saw how a music video could be filmed.

I was summoned after a while to have the responsible task of returning the SD card full of footage to the unit base, to transfer it onto a computer and bring it back empty to be used again – this is when the term ‘runner’ really came into account, as I could be seen running through the busy streets of Digbeth back and forth a few times. Talla carried on with the playback duty and some members of the public wanted to join the filming. The talent and director both agreed, and I was therefore sent to grab some release forms to obtain their consent for being filmed.

Lunch time came and by then we had already been on site for 7 hours, so the chilli and rice provided for us at the unit base pub was (as you can imagine) a great success. After filming in multiple locations, I watched the team be challenged by someone from the council asking for a permit. This was handled so calmly, and the production assistant sorted it out so it did not affect the team shooting all the action. After 12 long hours of filming, Talla and I put away all the radio equipment and loaded it into the van to be taken back to London. From our position as runners, we experienced up close what goes into the production of a small-team location music video. All of the scheduled organised chaos at the time did not stop the positive and kind nature of the production team, who continued to ask how we were and whether we were okay as first timers on the job. In conclusion, I would 100% be a runner again, even if that does mean running around Birmingham in -1 degrees!

Lydia James

Do we all have to move to London if we want to start working in the TV industry?

On this MA, we aim to give students as broad a skillset as possible to allow them to move into a range of different roles and industries, with a key focus – naturally – on film and television (in the broadest sense of both terms). It’s a question we get asked time and time again: aren’t all the TV jobs in London? In this guest blog, recent student Heather Burrell talks about the early stages of her job hunt, how some of the bigger talent databases do indeed emphasise a London bias, and how there are some positive moves being made towards bringing more TV production to the regions.

The London Bubbleheather case study

Since finishing my MA last month, I have started looking for work in the TV industry, and found that an overwhelming majority of the jobs featured on a key talent database are in London (see map I created below). As a whole, UK media in general is heavily concentrated into the small bubble of the capital. Whilst London only represents 13% of the population, all our national English-language newspapers have their bases there and, as of 2015, around two-thirds of all television producers are centred there. This ultimately means London is massively dominating the rest of the UK’s media, whilst also generating a risk that regional talent could be hugely underwritten. As someone who hasn’t been able to consider applying for jobs in London, due to the cost of living there, my chances of getting a job in the TV industry have felt drastically limited.

From my own personal experience, in order to begin a career in television, a plethora of experience in the industry is imperative. In most cases, this will start off as unpaid work experience placements or internships; which I luckily managed to participate in as a built-in part of the MA. However, without that, I simply would not have been able to afford to commit to such long periods of unpaid work and, ultimately, my path into the industry would have been heavily restricted. Many people who I have met whilst working in the television industry managed to gain experience at the beginning of their career through personal ties to people already in the industry. Hence, it seems a route into the industry is easier for those who are well-connected and those who can afford to live in London or take on more unpaid work.

What about the regions?

Having said that, I also know that regional cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and beyond, do offer opportunities and experiences in the film and television industry. In fact, two out of my three placements were in Birmingham and the majority of placements offered on the MA are in the West Midlands. So, it is important to note that, whilst there are recognised biases in the industry, work is certainly not completely restricted to London! Continue reading

Grierson DocLab 2018

This year current FTV student Ellie Conway was lucky enough to be selected as one of the 12 Grierson DocLab trainees, a scheme that supports young people to commence careers in factual programme making. Her DocLab journey began with a week’s residential training course in Birmingham in May, before attending Sheffield DocFest in June. Here are her reflections on the experience.

EllieBlogOver the course of the week  in Birmingham, we were equipped with everything we could possibly need to know about factual filmmaking. Thanks to the MA, a lot of what we covered was already familiar to me, but the training also covered some new ground which was incredibly interesting. The purpose of the week’s training was to help each of us hone one of our own ideas for a factual programme, or film, and prepare a pitch which we would eventually present to real commissioners at Sheffield Documentary Film Festival.

We also had industry professionals in to talk to us about various topics during this week. A particular highlight of mine was the talk given by Tom McDonald, commissioner of specialist factual at the BBC, who spoke to us about the importance of diversity in the industry as well as his own progression within the industry. The week was intense and we all felt the pressure, especially as our practice pitches loomed on the last day, however the week was also immensely fun, we went out for group meals almost every night and had the chance to properly bond and share our experiences and knowledge as aspiring filmmakers.

Only a few weeks after the residential in Birmingham we all travelled up to Sheffield for the city’s annual documentary film festival, for a chance to put into practice what we’d learnt. The long weekend was an incredible, inspiring whirlwind of films, talks, networking events and parties. I had the chance to see some incredible documentaries. A few that stood out for me personally were Of Fathers and Sons, a brutal yet touching insight into the male relationships in a radical Islamic family, and Three Identical Strangers, a shocking, stranger than fiction tale of separation that had the whole festival talking.DocFest

On the Sunday afternoon came the part of the weekend we were all excited for and dreading in equal measure, the chance to pitch our own documentary ideas to a panel of experiences commissioners. Here was our chance to put into practice everything we’d learnt in Birmingham and show off our ideas. Pitching to Lorraine Heggessey (former BBC controller) and Jo Clinton-Davis (current ITV commissioner) was undeniably terrifying but the positive feedback and encouragement we all received meant we left the pitching session to attend the Grierson Trust drinks in high spirits. Whilst at the drinks I had the chance to interact with people from the top factual production companies in the UK, some of whom even had films on at the festival. This was undoubtedly one of my highlights of the weekend; getting the chance to talk to people in the industry about their own work was inspiring, but they also all took interest in my own ideas and thanks to the DocLab training I felt able to articulate them with confidence.

The DocLab has already been an amazing experience and after finishing the MA I will undertake a paid placement through the scheme as well as gaining an mentor, who currently works in TV Production, to help me as I take my first steps in the industry.

Ellie Conway

 

Breakfast brings in the crowds

The summer term is upon us, bringing long hours in the edit suite, ongoing placements and the occasional ray of sunshine. As the current FTV cohort embarks upon this next phase of the MA, we wanted to take a moment to congratulate them on a fantastic achievement: an immersive screening of 80s classic movie The Breakfast Club, held in mid-March, which had the highest attendance ever for any FTV event. 

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Since the University’s Arts & Science Festival began in 2013, we have always run a screening, which in recent years has also incorporated the One Minute Movie Competition. This year, instead of showcasing former student work, we handed the reigns to the FTVers to design and deliver their own event, based on the festival theme of Stop/Start and supported by the ever fabulous Flatpack. Zoe Turner took the lead, and in January plans began to bring The Breakfast Club – and breakfast – to campus. [image credit – Greg Milner Photography]

Over the next two months, a team of FTV students worked together to cast actors, design posters, organise rehearsals and run a social media campaign – all alongside their ongoing placements and coursework. We knew the event was proving popular on the festival booking system, but it was still quite astounding when over 100 people arrived on the evening of 14th March. Who knew 40 croissants, 50 mini boxes of cereal and an array of fruit and muffins could vanish so quickly?

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With breakfast served, the evening continued with the Stop/Start One Minute Movie Competition entries. Prizes were awarded, with first place going to ‘The Third Law‘, by Lorhren-Rose Joseph and Denyce Blackman. On to the main event, and the audience sipped tea and coffee as five undergraduate students took their seats for detention and acted out iconic scenes as the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. It was fantastic seeing the characters come to life in the lecture theatre as their 1980s counterparts appeared on the big screen, and wonderful to share the experience with so many film-loving students and members of the community.

A huge congratulations to Zoe and the FTV team for creating such a memorable evening, and thank you to Flatpack for all their support. Bring on 2019!

Sincerely yours…

Jemma Penny, Placement Coordinator

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An Afternoon with Tony Garnett

On Wednesday 31st January, we welcomed legendary producer Tony Garnett to campus. An honorary graduate of the University, Tony was born in Birmingham in the 1930s and made his name working on films such as Kes and Cathy Come Home, with later work including This Life and Beautiful Thing. FTV student Sofía Podetti reflects on his talk and how it has made her consider her own ambitions for a life behind the lens.

“The most important thing I can tell you today is there is no formula to making a film”. This was the opening line to what would soon be one of the most interesting talks I have ever attended. The guest speaker was Tony Garnett, one of Britain’s most distinguished film and television producers – and a truly interesting person to listen to. To say this is probably a hyperbole since Mr Garnett worked in the industry for over 50 years, retiring a decade ago.

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Dr Richard Langley introducing Tony Garnett

Overall, everything he said was fascinating to the small audience that was present last Wednesday. But probably the thing that impacted on me the most was the following phrase: “film is a social activity.” The fact is that the people who make films and television shows have always had a responsibility to society, since the product of their work is consumed by the masses as some sort of truth of the world we live in. Chilean scholar Valerio Fuenzalida argues that one of television’s core functions is the educational one because the audience tends to connect with the different characters and situations and take them as part of their social education. Unfortunately though, I don’t think this belief is shared by everyone in the industry; in my opinion, some are more centred in the economic aspect of the job rather than the social one. This results in products that sell very well but show no real values, which is a shame, really.

Realizing this has made me think about the kind of professional I want to be upon entering this incredibly competitive world: do I want to make money at any cost, or would I rather struggle a little bit more and produce inspiring shows and films? I would undoubtedly go for the second option, for I find it much more rewarding in the long term. I would love to produce content that raises awareness of different topics, empowering my viewers and helping them out through my films; I believe this is what the industry should really be about.

I know I am not alone in this. In the past years I have noticed a change of paradigm in sofiablogcrop.pngthe cinematographic industry, especially regarding the portrayal of women and children. This is just the beginning of a road that will bring sensible, valuable representations of society to our screens. I hope that ten years from now, when I have a family of my own, this will be a reality rather than a dream. Tony Garnett is one of the people who started this change; I hope that I can be a part of it too.

Sofía Podetti