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

 

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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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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

 

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

 

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.

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Jemma Saunders, Placement Coordinator

This workshop was kindly supported by the Curriculum Enhancement Fund.