Annual Showcase & One Minute Movie Results

Last Tuesday evening we held our annual showcase as part of the University’s Arts & Science Festival. This incorporated the results of the Department of Film & Creative Writing’s second One Minute Movie Competition.

It was great to see so many familiar faces in the audience, including FTV students past and present, members of Guild TV, and industry partners. In addition to a range of 5-minute Guided Editing Projects, we screened two documentaries from last year’s cohort: My First Time, which followed Luke Smith’s preparations for his first stand-up gig in Edinburgh, and Junior Doctor Diaries, a pertinent film from Katharine Walker examining the challenges faced by junior doctors in the UK as they enter the workplace.

IMG_6362In the second half of the event we showed all 14 One Minute Movie entries, which responded to the festival theme of Memory and Forgetting. The range and quality of submissions to the competition this year was fantastic, necessitating an expansion in the judging panel! The overall winner was MA Film & Television student Bhulla Beghal, with his animation One Day. Asked where he drew his inspiration from, Bhulla mentioned Ari Folman’s documentary Waltz With Bashir, which features on the MA’s Documentary Filmmaking module syllabus.

The four runners up, in no particular order, were:

  • Elena Tang            Some Memories Don’t Fade
  • Paul Turrell            Missing Time
  • Rosie Kelby            Tip of the Tongue
  • Sarah Thölin-Chittenden            Skögen

Congratulations and a big thank you to everyone who entered! Watch Bhulla’s winning film here:

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

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. Continue reading

The Off-Beat Path: Freelance Economics, Spiritual Wonderings and the Arts

Parul Punjabi Jagdish graduated from FTV in 2013. Since then he has developed a portfolio career, working in both Europe and Asia as a filmmaker and economist. His films have been screened at several international festivals and in this guest blog he shares his thoughts on the connections between cinema, life and spirituality.

ParulMy journey has been a bit more circuitous than many others’ from the course. And truth be told, it is not surprising at all: even when I joined the MA in September 2012, my motives were not merely making it big in cinema or becoming a filmmaker. The reason I joined, with no pretenses whatsoever, was to discover the ‘right path’ in life. Inspired by the Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky (my favourite, if I can call any filmmaker that), I took to cinema mainly because I believed that when an artist engages in the act of creation, he (willingly or not) connects to his Creator. I never looked upon cinema as a medium of story-telling alone or a form of entertainment; it was a language of images and sounds through which experiences (from this world or beyond) could be communicated, or at least shared. “Share a sublime, purging trauma” between the filmmaker and the audience, if you will. Watching one or more of my films (though I frankly will admit the films were never meant for mass consumption and hence will not be appreciated by everyone) will help in understanding what I’m on about.

Anyhow, even I could not have even vaguely predicted the path my life ended up taking. While making the movies I so dearly cherished on the MA, several wondrous experiences came to pass. While I was locked up in my room, meditating on the dissertation film and its idea, images began to appear (dream-like) from nowhere particular and in a way I was ‘guided’ to make the film I made. Naturally, the urge to return to my country after the year in UK and to experience first-hand all these mystical utterances and experiences brought me promptly back to India after completing the MA. I set out to the Himalayan foothills and wandered, lost in abandoned caves or populated monasteries, seeking out the meaning of life, ‘the purpose of my existence’. Films were, so to say, a medium to lead me there. I admit that when I began it was about the films itself, but soon films became the container and the focus shifted to the content (life itself). The story of what all transpired in the monastery and afterwards is too long for such a brief account as this. Only, a spiritual awakening occurred, whereby the ideal became to love and to serve, rather than to lead and to condemn. It was more important to experience everything that life offered and not run after anything particular, to flow with the river instead of against the current.

After all that, I returned back to my mother’s home, then back to Italy for a while (where I lived a full life, working as an economist) and tried to set right all the wrongs. Of course, it is not an easy process, nor does it ever stop, for man makes more mistakes than he rectifies. And it is all right, it is part of living itself. In any case, returning to the story of my life, I sent my films to festivals and they were well received (in India, Thailand, UK, and now there’s something coming up in France). What I found particularly useful was shortfilmdepot.com with a listings of various festivals and the possibility to submit films online for screening. It was from that website I started and it led to several other festivals not included on the website.

While working on my dissertation project, I also received an opportunity to collaborate with a local UK artist, the painter Sara Hayward, and we ended up creating another abstract film (see above, and it should still be screening at the Winterbourne House and Gardens). In short, the films did reasonably well on the festival circuit and I took back my job as an economist, though of course working as a freelancer and from home. Now, I work freelance on public policy (to earn my keep), am developing a few scripts and even short stories/ novels, and tons of other things.

I cannot say this or that path is better: each one of us has his own marked out. Mine has taken me wandering both within myself and in the outside world and the objective now is to try to live in harmony with all that I see, both within and without. I feel films are no different: they do not have to mimic life, so long as they exist in harmony with the world outside. Life can (perhaps must, for what else do we have) inspire cinema, but cinema does not need to be a copying machine, reproducing scenes from life as they are. Let us first question how things really are! Do not take that as advice: the only advice I can proffer is to live life fully and to set out on your individual paths. Be not afraid to explore and be ever more daring in trying to express the experiences of your journey. Do not be bound by conventions; think of cinema as a new language to express the very stuff of the soul (words naturally cannot do justice to such a mission, and that is why we have poetry, that connects disparate things and creates a mosaic and makes us see the ‘in-between’ things).

Seek, and ye shall find! God bless…

Parul Punjabi

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

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…