One Minute Movie 2016

The Department of Film and Creative Writing is pleased to announce the 2016 One Minute Movie Competition. Run in association with the University’s Arts & Science Festival, this opportunity is open to all Birmingham students, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

The challenge is to make a film on the theme of memory or forgetting (or both) that is less than 60 seconds long. It can be fact or fiction, literal or abstract; we want you to be as creative as possible. Specialist equipment is not a requirement and entries produced using smartphones or tablets are very welcome.

Winners will be announced at a screening event on 17 March 2016 and the first prize is an Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Runners up will receive Amazon vouchers.

If you have any questions, please email Dr Richard Langley r.m.langley@bham.ac.uk or ask Jemma Saunders in the Film & Creative Writing office (Room 415, Arts Building). You can also find out more on the department website.

The deadline is Friday 26 February at 1pm. We look forward to receiving your entries!

2015 Round Up

The Christmas break is upon us once more, and it’s been another full and exciting year for the MA in Film and Television: Research and Production.

We kicked off 2015 with the Department of Film & Creative Writing’s first ever One Minute Movie Competition, which is being revived again for 2016 with a theme of ‘Memory and Forgetting’. Easter saw a trip to Bristol for a recording of ‘Deal or No Deal’ and between January and August our students undertook placements at twenty-four different production companies, five of which were new partners for the MA.

Over the summer three FTV students worked with MA convenor Richard Langley to produce a short film for Age Concern Birmingham, which is now featured on their YouTube channel.

In mid-September we bade farewell to our 2014-15 cohort, who formally graduated last week. Many have already enjoyed paid roles in industry at organisations including Fremantle Media and Al Jazeera, and it’s been great to hear of other alumni successes throughout the year.

We welcomed our new FTV students two weeks later, who have had a full term of seminars, screenings, training and guest speakers from industry. After Christmas they will start embarking on their placements and working towards their film assignments; a 3-5 minute guided editing project and a 25-minute documentary, which serves as their dissertation.

It will be full steam ahead again come January, but in the meantime thank you to everyone who has worked with us this year, and we wish all our students, alumni, placement partners and friends a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

FTV Christmas

A Visit to the Mockingbird

Our new cohort of FTV students are now well into their first term at Birmingham. We’ve had an exciting timetable packed with seminars, screenings, guest workshops and practical training, and last month we also arranged a trip to the Mockingbird Theatre in Digbeth, led by Professor Roger Shannon. In this blog, Magdalena Swiatek shares her reflections on the day and some fascinating insights into Birmingham’s film culture, past and present. 

MagdalenaSwiatek (2)In Week 2 we – the new FTV Students – took a trip to the Mockingbird Theatre in the Custard Factory to meet Roger Shannon, producer and Professor of Film and TV, and alumnus Luke Smith, who had just finished the MA.

Luke showed us his amazing dissertation documentary about his first stand-up performance and talked about his experiences during the MA. He recounted the process of filming, his successes and the mistakes he made. It was motivating to hear how a former student experienced the year on the course and I´m sure all of us took a lot out of this meeting.

Afterwards, Roger Shannon gave us an overview over Birmingham´s film history and its meaning for the UK film industry. Even though the industry is not quite as vivid as it was before in Birmingham, there are still loads of opportunities for us to discover here. 

Birmingham and Film

Birmingham´s film history started in 1862 with the discovery of celluloid. Around 60 years later, in the early 20th century, three Brummies – Michael Balcon, Victor Saville and Oscar Deutsch – started to take over the film world from the West Midlands.

Michael Balcon (1896 – 1977)  – the honoured film producer who discovered Alfred Hitchcock was born in Birmingham. After the war he and his friend Victor Saville opened a film distribution company in London and started to produce films. In the late 1930s, Balcon was Head of the Ealing Company, one of Britain´s most famous studios.

Victor Saville (1895 – 1979) – the film director, producer and screenwriter celebrated his success in the UK as well as in Hollywood. During his life he worked on over 70 films.

Oscar Deutsch (1893 – 1941) – the founder of the ODEON cinemas was born in Birmingham as a son of Hungarian Jews. The first ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’ (ODEON) – cinema was opened close to Birmingham in 1928. After this, many others followed all over the UK. 10 years later there were already over 250 ODEONs. The architecture and interior design were their unique recognition value. Today the ODEON remains one of the most important cinemas in Birmingham.

Birmingham´s Cinemas Today

The ODEON – located in the city centre of Birmingham, the ODEON prides itself on offering the best cinema experience, just as Oscar Deutsch promised. With 8 screens, the cinema offers a variety of current films.

Cineworld – on Broad Street, surrounded by pubs, clubs and restaurants, the cinema is located in the heart of the city. With 12 screens, the Cineworld offers a big range of top films for every age and interest.

The Electric – the oldest working cinema in Britain has been showing films since 1909. On two screens the viewer can experience loads of indie films, performance screenings and classics in addition to the latest film releases. A regular view of the program is worthwhile.

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Our MA mascot, MacGuffin, at The Mockingbird

The Mockingbird Theatre – a Bistro, Bar and Theatre placed in the Custard Factory. Beside theatre plays and music gigs, the film club hosts festivals and organises indie film screenings

Midlands Arts Centre – one of the most important and diverse art centres in Birmingham; offering exhibitions, courses, theatre, music and of course films. It shows a range of new released films, art-house films and live screenings.

Everyman Cinemas – this independent cinema is located in the Mailbox in Birmingham. The uniqueness of this venue is its atmosphere and fancy cosiness.

A big thank you to the team at The Mockingbird for hosting us, and to Roger and Luke for sharing their knowledge and expertise!

Magdalena Swiatek

Favourite Kids’ TV Shows

With CBBC marking its 30th anniversary yesterday, we asked FTV students and staff which kids’ television programmes made an impression on their childhood.

Very few of the students remembered the days of Otis the Aardvark in the Broom Cupboard (making placement coordinator Jemma feel rather old!) but a lot of the favourites mentioned have stood the test of time, such as Zach’s programme of choice Pingu, arguably an all-time classic.

One of Shane’s favourites was Power Rangers, while Katharine has fond memories of singing along to the theme tune of Barney & Friends, which featured a purple anthropomorphic dinosaur. Incidentally, it transpires that programme convenor Dr Richard Langley knows all the words to the opening theme of Pinky and the Brain, a series about two laboratory mice who endeavour to take over the world.

Other favourites include Tracy Beaker (Mariam) and Horrible Histories (Luke). Our technician Oz says that Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow was a highlight of his Saturday mornings, as it was anarchic and reminiscent of Tiswas. Rob, on the other hand, claims that every time he watched Sesame Street he felt like he was doing his Dad a favour, and, controversially, that he hated Bernard’s Watch.

Although CBBC has only existed since 1985, television programmes aimed specifically at
children have been around for decades, with the long-running Blue Peter first airing iMcGuffin and Clangern 1958. This year has also seen the reincarnation of The Clangers on the CBeebies channel, a stop-motion animation set in space that was first broadcast in 1969, but has proved popular again with a 21st Century audience. What our mascot MacGuffin thinks of these creatures from the little blue planet, however, is less certain…

Deal or No Deal

On Monday 27 April, a group of FTV students travelled to Bristol to be in the studio audience for a recording of popular gameshow Deal or No Deal.

IMG_5220Armed with our confidentiality forms, we were welcomed into the audience area where there were lots of opportunities for photos – including, of course, with the FTV course mascot, MacGuffin.

Once inside the studio itself, we were seated on tiered benches and able to observe the final preparations for the recording, including the random allocation of boxes to each contestant. There was an audience warm up and then the theme tune played, the lights started flashing, and before we knew it Noel Edmonds was centre stage and the cameras were rolling.

We cheered and groaned as the game developed with the opening of each box, all feeling the tension far more as we saw events play out in person than when watching from our living room sofas. The dramatic changes in lighting each time the phone rang and Noel liaised with the Banker added to the atmosphere of anticipation. (As to the Banker, his identity remains a mystery!)

After the recording, the show’s director kindly undertook a Q&A session, providing us with some further insights into how Deal or No Deal is made and also offering the students tips for the next stages in their careers.

A big thank you to all the team at Remarkable Television in Bristol for such an interesting and enjoyable day!

IMG_5219

 

Announcing the One Minute Movie Competition Winners!

On Tuesday evening we welcomed visitors to our third annual screening event, showcasing work by recent alumni of the MA. At the start of the second half, entries to the inaugural One Minute Movie Competition were also screened, and the winners were announced. The judges were hugely impressed by the range of creativity in all the submissions and awarded first prize to Dan White (BA American & Canadian Studies and English Literature) for his film An Interesting Trip.

The runners up were:

Imran Qureshi Exhibition – Anastasia Kharchenko

22:00 – A team effort from Jack Crowe, Vafa Motamedi, Tom Lofkin, Anya Hancock and Cameron Blair.

A big thank you to all who entered and everyone who attended on Tuesday. Congratulations to the winners!

L-R: Vafa Motamedi, Jack Crowe, Dr Richard Langley and Dan White

Left to right: Vafa Motamedi, Jack Crowe, Dr Richard Langley and Dan White.

Actuality Media Outreach to Kisumu, Kenya

Before completing his MA last September, Sam Robbins spent several weeks in Kenya producing a documentary film with Actuality Media. From the email that began his journey, to an award nomination for the finished project, here’s his account of the outreach programme.Sam R blog

In August 2014, I travelled to Kenya as part of the Actuality Media team. I’d been forwarded a link to their website by the MA staff, took a quick look at their page and pretty much decided right away that I wanted to do it. I’d been stuck at home for a while; before enrolling on FTV the bulk of my time was spent earning money for its tuition, then once I was there staying at home saved me that bit more from accommodation fees. I’d already lived it up in my undergraduate days, so it seemed the sensible option with no student loan available.

No surprise, living at home made me pretty restless though. I was more and more determined to get out and do something new and exciting, something ambitious and out of my comfort zone. I’d never even heard of The Study Abroad Programme that Actuality Media were offering, it came from nowhere, just some random email that I happened to pursue. I saw the words, ‘outreaches in Kenya, Ecuador and Cambodia’ and I was sold. The worst thing I could be was all talk about wanting to do this and that, it just took a little spontaneity and I was committed.

So roll-on August! That was my mentality for the next few months. I was accepted onto the Kenya outreach to be Producer for a short documentary on Palos Farm, a permaculture farm based in the sugarcane region of Kisumu. My team consisted of myself – the Producer – and three others: a Director, Cinematographer and Editor. So with twelve of us on the programme, that made three groups each working on separate documentaries within Kisumu, all of us relatively new to the work. To overlook and guide us on these projects, as it was so new to us, there were also two Production Supervisors offering their expertise in helping us create a polished piece.

Pre-Production

Things kicked off with research. The first two weeks were dedicated to making a plan of attack. Whilst the leg work had already been done, liaising with the organisations we were going to document, we still had to discover a unique story to chronicle. Part of the outreach scheme was that each organisation we worked alongside was promoting social change in the community. Palos Farm was introducing a new, sustainable means of farming that could improve the livelihood of workers in the region. Meanwhile, the other two groups were working with the local charities SWAP (Safe Water and Aids Project) and the YCCM (Young County Change Makers). As Actuality Media were keen to find a strong protagonist to tell each organisation’s story, this meant uncovering an individual that had been positively affected by their NGO’s work. These protagonists were to take centre stage, a character with a compelling life that could promote all the work that each program had done for them.

Blog - Palos Farm Nursery (2)For my group, a large amount of research was spent immersing ourselves in Palos Farm. We learnt the structure and goals of the farm, what they were growing and why, and we also met and talked to a lot of the farmhands. It took some delving and at times work with a translator, but we soon met our protagonist in one of these farmhands, a supervisor named Joseph.

Once this was decided we had to structure our documentary. This meant creating an arc for Joseph’s story, specifically pointing to how Palos Farm had helped him and his family. We had to know beforehand how we were going to edit the film together and visually capture moments that backed-up what was being said. We needed to create a shot list, determine interviewees and decide on locations and the necessary questions to ask. In all, it meant putting together a production schedule that would take us neatly into week three; shooting week.

Filming

This week was all go, early starts, long days and a lot of organisation. We weren’t just spontaneously taking the camera around the farm, at the beginning of each day we needed to know the footage we were going to be able to log by its end. Having only a week to capture all the necessary material meant our days had to be carefully structured. There were times when we were re-enacting and working with large groups of people, some with limited English and most who had barely seen a camera before. To an extent, this was also why research had to be so thorough, we needed the documentary’s contributors to be comfortable around us and the equipment before any essential work.

Once we’d collected all the footage, the final week of the month was dedicated to editing the piece. With a story arc and corresponding shot list already compiled, it was now a question of stitching the documentary together and deciding what worked best. There was a large amount of material that needed logging, including some substantial interviews that kept our editor, in particular, working a lot of long hours. The dialogue often needed subtitling and most of the sequences were regularly altered as the piece took shape. The whole process also met setbacks, such as our protagonist asking us to omit certain information for the screening in Kenya, that meant rearranging the documentary. Although we were under the clock, we managed to complete our film in time for the local screening at the end of the month; an opportunity to showcase the result of our efforts.

Exploring KenyaBlog - Masai Mara

Of course, the month wasn’t all work though, our evenings and weekends were free to explore all that Kenya had to offer. This meant crossing the equator to visit Kenya’s only tropical rainforest, the Kakamega. It meant a boat trip across Lake Victoria to sight hippos and crocodiles, football games against locals, trips to Kisumu’s markets and nights out in restaurants and on the town. But best of all, a road trip to the Masai Mara game reserve, where we spent three days enjoying its world-famous safari drive and the great Wildebeest Migration.

For me, Actuality Media was the perfect program. If you’re into home comforts then maybe it’s not your thing, but it was exactly the experience I was looking for. I got to get out and immerse myself in a new culture and part of the world, working on a challenging project with a meaningful cause. It opened my eyes to a much wider world, all while testing and improving me as a filmmaker.           

Permanent Culture is available to view below and at http://vimeo.com/106930298, (remember to choose captions to watch it with subtitles). It has been shortlisted as a finalist for the 2015 Social Media Impact Awards in the Impact Videos Category.

Sam Robbins