The Royal Television Society (RTS), an educational charity promoting the arts and science of television, held another series of its student masterclasses on the 14th and 15th November 2016. The first was all about television programming, covering drama, documentaries, journalism and entertainment. In an interview style talk, each speaker would answer questions about their careers, with clips of their work intersected and with an occasional audience Q&A.
First to speak was BAFTA award winner writer/director Sally Wainwright, known for her 2014 drama series Happy Valley. One of the main points in her talk was less is more, an example of this was the end of episode four where the main character has a brutal fight scene, she states part of this was cut as it appeared too violent but it still had the same impact, especially when they decided not to have the end music but the police emergency radio tone through the credits which had previously appeared in the series when an officer was attacked and killed.
Next was documentary filmmaker Rowan Deacon, known for The Tube a documentary series about London underground and How to Die: Simon’s Choice. She described how she goes through the process of making a documentary and focused on the ethics of documentary filmmaking, how she and the production have a duty of care to those who appear in her documentaries. Code of ethics and producer guideline can be found with Ofcom. Rowan finished with a good bit of advice from an audience question, having access is your buy in to produce a documentary.
Third was Rohit Kachroo, the Security Editor of ITV News, having won young Journalist of the year 2011 at RTS, he then went to be the African Correspondent for ITV. He reported on the death of Nelson Mandela and interviewed Robert Mugabe in his home, being aware of how Mugabe regime sometimes treat journalist. Rohit returned to the UK to become the UK editor and then Security Editor, a newly formed position in response to the rising level of threats and terrorism to the UK and around the world.
At the end of his talk I was able to meet with Rohit and ask him about how he keeps himself and his crew safe when he’s in dangerous places around the world and interviewing people like Mugabe. He said you’re always in contact with risk assessors, while some would go for the story, your first priority has to be yours and your crew’s safety.
Last to talk on Monday was Suzy Lamb, Head of Entertainment for Thames. She spoke about how she got a job at production secretary and continued to climb the ladder becoming a researcher then assistant producer, series producer, series editor, exclusive producer and now head of entertainment for Thames Productions. She has work on many well-known game and TV shows for example; Take Me Out, Top of The Pops, Comic Relief, The Royal Variety Show, National Lottery, BAFTA Awards and many more. Her advice is to apply and become a runner, there are producers who work at Thames who started out as runners.
After the talks there were drinks, and a meet and greets in the lobby with speakers and other university students, all studying different areas of media from universities all over the country.
The second day was all about craft-skills in editing, sound and camera. A little different than the first day with two speakers for each one and a little extra time added to the talks.
We started with editing and had Rupert Houseman (7/7: one day in London, The Apprentice) and Yan Miles (Sherlock, Band of Brothers, Sherlock and The Crown). After talking a bit about their careers and projects they’ve worked on and we heard them talk about how important pacing is, not only for the film but yourself and sometimes having a silent scene can be more powerful.
Next was Sound with Emma Penny (Sound Engineer) and Louise Willcox (Sound Supervisor) who both described how they got into sound and talked about the importance of sound in productions. They explained If no one mentions the sound then you’ve done a great job but weeks and months go into planning for sound and the resources. They also mention that despite limited numbers of women in sound, companies are always looking to hire more as it adds a new dynamic to the production teams.
Emma mention about automation in sound desks and she wasn’t worried as even with automation they needed sound engineers at the desk in case anything went wrong live on air.
Last up was Camera with Directors of Photography Paul Lang (Hitler: The Rise and Fall, Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell) and Ed Moore (Red Dwarf, Vera). Their advice was to let the filming breathe, get one long shot then a few cutaways, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. One big bit of advice I picked up from Ed was people worry too much about lighting, you usually only need one big one far away.
Afterwards, again was drinks meet and greet listening to others questions to the speakers sharing some great knowledge.
The message was clear from this whole event to the students:
- Be persistent
- Contact people (Look at credits from TV/Films you watch)
- Talk to people
- Be confident (even when pitching ideas)
- Rejection is always a part of it
- Get over it and just keep going
Note: 20 LSFM undergraduates on the Film Production Projects module (run by co-ordinators Dominique Webb and Chris Hainstock) took part in this super student opportunity.