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

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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

Term One: A Story by Nina Jones

As we re-open the edit suite doors for 2018, our technician Nina tells us the story of her first Autumn term at the University, and how it was working with the new cohort of FTV students… 

It started like any other day.  I tackled the morning rush hour and secured my parking spot.  As I sprinted up the four flights of stairs (this is a lie, I took the lift) to the edit suite I contemplated what this term would bring.  The next Spielberg?  Fincher? Hitchcock? Would I be spoiled with technical wizards? As I flung the double doors open and keyed in the code I felt hopeful this term would be filled with excitement, merriment, creative genius and movie magic!

I have not been disappointed (well not too disappointed).  Aside from the litter, tardiness, noise and missing batteries everything has run pretty smoothly…

P1000396.jpgLou managed to cover the whole of the fourth floor with glitter, Christos had butter fingers,  Frida gave us all diabetes, Zoe made an unplugged hard drive seem like the end of the world, Cheryl was ‘stupid’ (or maybe she’s just kidding us to hide her editing prowess), Claire managed to exist about 20 minutes behind the rest of the universe, Sofia enchanted us with her colourful language, Jenny made putting up a tripod in record time look like a matter of life or death, Jack was LOUD, Sam lost all his hair, Hermione got beautifully lit selfies, Black Market Beth managed to run her own DVD business on the side, our wonderful international students joined in with our terrible British banter and discovered the joy of Christmas crackers, Rayna gave birth to a whole other human and still made classes, Techy Tash impressed with her audio skills, Lorhren started off looking terrified but showed us her creativity producing an amazing visualisation film P1000223.jpgwith Hatty (starring Christos as Salvador Dali – nice wink), I finally worked out who was Heather and who was Helena after 11 weeks, Shereen’s fashion sense put us all to shame (seriously though, how did you get so cool?) and we all survived the terrible Scandinavian sweet challenge.

(Note from Jemma: barely survived – everyone is getting Marmite in the spring term)

To the others I haven’t mentioned, thank you for being so wonderful! It really was an amazing first 11 weeks teaching you the ins and outs of filmmaking.  You have all blossomed into confident and capable filmmakers.  I am so proud of you all and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store.

Nina Jones, Film Technician

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Staff and Students celebrating the festive season with our annual Christmas Jumper Competition

 

‘Flat-packed’ myself for a film festival!

On Wednesday 1st November, we were glad to attend a workshop held by Amy
Smart, the Assemble Project Manager of Flatpack Film Festival. A fresh and
deep insight of operational issues and practical experiences was given to the
new cohort of FTV students.flatpack

Cannes, Berlin, Venice and London are the heart of where film festivals live, but apart from those renowned ones, hundreds and thousands of film festivals emerge at every corner of the world, including Birmingham’s Flatpack Film Festival. Have you ever considered building your own film night? I admitted I did. Thanks to Amy for giving me a chance to have a glimpse of holding a film festival, helping me shift my mindset from a participant into an organizer.

When you are going to hold a film festival, what factors are needed to take into consideration? Amy answered this question in the morning by sharing her experience. We digested lots of advice including different parts of curation, whether a license is
necessary, how to choose the best venues, how to deal with technical issues, some thoughts about PR and promotion etc.

flatpack logoWhat made the biggest impression on me was the selection of the venue. Basically when I think about choosing a venue, some places where they are already prepared for screenings are my first thought, namely, cinemas. However, within the brainstorming at this workshop, Amy challenged us about how to choose a venue which could be more attractive to the audience. For example, cafes, church halls, and warehouses are lovely places for screenings if they are accessible to audiences. Besides, keep turning over the event of the day in mind because details are the key of success: if something unexpected happens but no preparations have been made, the only 1% possibility could become 100% disaster. As Amy presented, no matter how amazing your film festival is, if the toilets are awful on the day, that will be the only thing the audiences remember!

After enjoying shorts that have appeared in previous Flatpack film festivals, we were divided in groups, discussing a project which could contribute to the Flatpack Festival in 2018. I really enjoyed coming up with new ideas, and what could be more exciting is the possibility of incubating our thoughts into a real project!

Just cannot wait to contribute to the film festival!

Cheryl Li

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Using social media to promote your work

Fred Ikezue-Clifford completed the MA in September 2017. While finishing his dissertation, he was also working as a freelance filmmaker in London, focusing on music videos and using Instagram to grow his client base.

FredBlog1Instagram is a social media platform that filmmakers and photographers can use to promote their work and get it seen by people from all over the world. As an aspiring filmmaker I began watching various YouTube videos on how to effectively promote your work and gain followers and discovered that Instagram was one way forward. I’ve always had a love for music so decided to learn how to create music videos in the most cinematic way possible and then promote them on social media.

I strongly believe that music video production is one way filmmakers can effectively make money because of the amount of artists who want videos. It may seem daunting at first but there are people who will need your services and creative eye! However, there is a lot of competition out there from other directors who may be more experienced then you or have better equipment but its all about perseverance! I was able to get my first client via Twitter. An artist who studied in Birmingham was looking for a local videographer and I happened to see him tweet this at the right time. So I contacted him and sent through my work, which convinced him to work with me. Once I finished his video and promoted it on social media, more work started coming my way and this cycle continued to repeat itself.Fredblog2

On my own Instagram profile, I make sure I upload the best quality pictures possible and try to be as creative as I can with how I upload my videos. For example, as well as uploading videos I also upload still frames from my projects as way of showing off my editing and colour grading skills.

Furthermore, I use hashtags such as #musicvideo, #cinematography and #directorslife when I post my work and make sure I’m consistent with the content I upload on a weekly basis. After doing some research I discovered that the best times to upload content on Instagram is between 8pm and 9:30pm on Wednesday/Thursday and virtually anytime in the afternoon on Sunday. These are the days and times you can drive the most traffic to your page. Usually once a potential client sees my post they message me directly and discuss their needs for a potential video. Back in June I had about 120 followers on Instagram and now in October I’m almost at 500 followers and that’s purely becausFredblog3e I’ve been consistent with the work I post. It may not be a massive amount, but slow progress is better than no progress.

I’m still learning how to grow my following and improve my content on a daily basis but I hope these tips will be beneficial and make you consider trying out music video directing, and promoting your work on social media platforms.

 

Fred Ikezue – Clifford