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

 

Advertisements

Don’t take a job, make a job

On Friday 9th June, we welcomed James Cronin and Joe Partridge from Project Birmingham to campus to talk to our MA students about freelancing in the creative industries.  The interactive workshop covered James and Joe’s own career journeys to date and was designed to help students identify their objectives and aspirations in relation to personal skillsets, with a key focus on film, media and creating opportunities in the city of Birmingham.

Project Birmingham was founded by James in 2015. It aims to bring together the creative community in Birmingham and generate a buzz around the city’s culture and talented individuals. In addition to Project Birmingham, both he and Joe have ‘day jobs’ and additional interests they pursue outside of their careers. As they noted at the start of the workshop ‘it’s not about what you do, but why you do it’, which is an important question for anyone to consider as they prepare to leave university and commence working life.P1000011.JPG

Key themes of the session were the importance of having passion and pride in your work and recognising personal strengths and weaknesses – after all, if you’re an aspiring freelancer then the drive to succeed should ideally be rooted in a genuine love for what you want to do. Students were encouraged to think about the skills they might need to put a plan for their future goals into action: while some of us have no qualms about picking up a camera and setting up shoots, for example, others are far more comfortable dealing with business admin and social media. Going solo is a great aspiration, but having an awareness of where our individual limitations lie is just as important as exercising our strengths effectively. As James advised, ‘think about what you can do better than anyone else in the world’ and then research where (or for whom) you can add that value.

‘Focussing on strengths and weaknesses and setting a goal was a really useful exercise’ (James Cresswell)

Many people assume that pursuing a career in film and TV necessitates moving to London, but James and Joe reinforced the fact that Birmingham is also an excellent city in which to forge a creative career. As the broad film and media sectors continue to collide, being in a smaller pool where the pace is a touch slower can be beneficial to recent graduates. Nobody is pretending that it’s not still a competitive industry, but there are strong networks to tap into in Birmingham and dozens of stories waiting to be told through various art forms. Hopefully this session motivated our FTV students to go out and tell them!

‘I really enjoyed the interactive elements of the session, which made it stand out from other talks’ (Malcolm Remedios)

With myth busting and practical advice about tax and self-employment also being covered, the workshop was a fantastic opportunity for our MA cohort to think about what their next steps might be after September. As part-time student Jessica Brown commented, ‘It was cool to hear their stories and to be presented with the option of moving between different roles as we start our careers. ’ Both Joe and James demonstrated that a career doesn’t need be limited to one area or indeed one role as this chapter of education ends. As they rightly said, advice is useful, but ultimately it’s up to us to make jobs, and not just take jobs.

P1000016

Jemma Saunders, Placement Coordinator

This workshop was kindly supported by the Curriculum Enhancement Fund.