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

 

BBC Digital Cities Workshops: Survive the Future

On Thursday 17th March, four FTV students attended workshops at BBC Birmingham as part of Digital Cities Week to pick the brains of broadcast industry insiders and participate in practical training with digital tools. In this post, Elena Tang and Yang Zhang reflect on digital storytelling, using new technologies to produce innovative content, and trying their hands at being weather presenters.

We were welcomed to the Mailbox with a 3D goggles show-zone and offered a chance to get immersed in this new interactive way to engage in previously 2D television programmes. After registering, we were led upstairs and through labyrinth-like alleys and finally arrived at the BBC Academy space where the workshops were mainly held.

Digital StorytellingBBC 17 March

The first session was hosted by writer Elaine Wilson. She explained how digital storytelling is different and what types of stories you can tell online. With the development of technology, the way to tell a story has changed dramatically and it is obvious that many people prefer accessing content through mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices rather than books and newspapers. Thus, digital platforms play a significant role in filmmaking and television production. After a brief introduction to the core points for a good story, Elaine suggested ways to take full advantage of social media in storytelling. Examples of short form vloggers like ‘MinutePhysics’ were also shown to demonstrate how effectively this type of content works.

We learned that a good character in a story should have a clear goal and motivation, being recognizable while having their own flaws and strengths. Critical elements of a story include consistency and consequence: what happens if the characters succeed or fail. During an activity we were divided into groups of four and given a nursery rhyme to adapt into stories to be told in digital forms. Everyone’s ideas seemed so unique and innovative, and it was great to see that people’s creativity could be ignited through simple inspirations like the owl and the pussy-cat falling in love with each other.

Next, in order to put the idea into practice, we were tasked with making a 10-second short film using Vine in a limited time. We grabbed the chance to make creative videos in small groups, and all videos produced were posted onto the big screen so everyone gets to see what the other groups had made: some hilarious, some very artistic, and many with innovative twists. The fun and relaxed activity helped us learn the art of digital platforms and see how swiftly a piece can be produced.

Hands-on Technology

During the lunch break we explored the BBC Public Space where we were able to try working as an anchor on either a weather forecast, the news or a natural history program. Reading the autocue was quite a challenge, but it was fun to see ourselves on screen on the hunt for polar bears or predicting rain, and we got a better understanding of how a
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In the afternoon session, we attended different workshops in smaller groups and tried making short form content with infographics, photos and audio using iPad and mobile apps like Splice and Pictophile Pro. We got to experience digital content including Pint-sized Ashes for BBC Radio 5 Live, facilities including green screen, 360º video and VR headset, all within 10 minute workshops.

The intense but fun workshops showed us how interesting and seemingly complex digital content can be produced in a short period of time with limited resources and on a small budget, especially using simple mobile apps. The future of creative media is indeed in the hands of everyone.

Elena Tang and Yang Zhang

If you’d like to learn more about Digital Storytelling, sign up by 30 May for a free course with the University of Birmingham, BBC Academy and Creative Skillset to access a wealth of tips and resources: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/digital-storytelling