Review: In Conversation with Tomska (11.12.13)

Our 2011 Graduate Tom Ridgewell’s talk was captured by Lincoln School of Media. Images are from Senior Lecturer Chris Hainstock and a personal account on Tom’s evening lecture is by Lecturer Martyn Thayne:

TomSka_talk 1_11.12.13_fromCHTom ‘Tomska’ Ridgewell returned to Lincoln (11 Dec) to give a brilliant talk to a packed EMMTEC audience, offering some great advice for LSM alumni, prospective graduates and budding YouTube stars of the future. The talk provided a brief snapshot of Tom’s illustrious career to date, highlighting some of the highs and lows on his journey to world domination.  Tom is officially ranked within the top 200 YouTubers in the world with over 2.4 million subscribers, whilst his videos have gained over a staggering 450,000,000 views. During the talk Tom reflected on his experiences since leaving the University of Lincoln, offering an insight into how to become a successful YouTube video producer: Get yourself a crew | Take advantage | Be rubbish | Take jobs | Do the thing | Don’t panic 

TomSka_talk 3_withcam_11.12.13_fromCHGet yourself a crew Tom underscored the importance of cultivating a strong and reliable network of artists with a wide range of skills, and was quick to acknowledge all the talented practitioners he has worked with on his way to becoming a YouTube superstar. The story started with CakeBomb, a group of like-minded individuals (including LSM alumni, Christopher Bingham – a successful YouTuber in his own right) who came together whilst Tom attended sixth form college to experiment with short-form online video. Little did Tom know at the time, but this collaborative approach would form the blueprint for his later success. Tom suggested he has now formed a veritable ‘supergroup’ of artists that he works with on the majority of his projects, forging a relationship with a crack team of sound designers, camera operators, visual effect artists and editors who help him realise the many concepts that find their way into his trusty notebook. He said he owes a lot to this crew, and together they help each other develop as artists; the key point here being that improvement emerges through working regularly with other people who share this collaborative work ethic.

Take advantage Tom was keen to highlight the importance of ‘taking advantage’ of the equipment, crew and opportunities that one might have to their disposal when coming up with projects and developing concepts. He suggested that a lot of his best ideas have emerged from thinking carefully about all the “things, stuff and people” he could realistically use at that time, offering a great analogy to emphasise this point: “creativity is like a kitchen – when you are trying to cook up a meal you have to ask yourself what ingredients you have. The same applies to creating online videos”.

Be rubbish Tom admitted that when he first started making videos he was “a bit rubbish”, but he stuck with it and continued to learn and develop as an artist. He urged fellow ‘YouTubers’ in the audience to embrace the fact they might also “be a bit rubbish”, advising them not to be too hard on themselves, but to keep on creating “stuff” and gradually their ideas will improve.

Take jobs Tom also stressed the importance of not only applying for jobs that might come available, but also of approaching people they might want to work with, highlighting their key skills and suggesting ways they could improve projects they want to be a part of. Part of this involves networking, relentlessly, whilst it is just as essential to produce a show-reel that can demonstrate their best work and various talents.

tomska_31 (1)Do the thing  A great bit of advice Tom had for both prospective and current students was to use their time at university to hone a variety of skills, develop as practitioners, and experiment with a number of projects outside of University assignments. He urged people to “do Uni right”, this involves not merely do a degree for the qualification, but use this time to constantly create, improve, develop, and network.

Don’t panic  His final piece of advice for the audience, especially recent graduates, was not to panic. Becoming a YouTube artist is not as scary as you might think. Whilst it can be very tough to begin with, Tom encouraged people to “keep fighting, keep improving, keep creating, and keep moving forward”. The crucial point being that “you have to make it happen, no one is just going to hand you your dream job”.

Tom concluded his talk with a ‘question and answer’ session, which covered a number of interesting topics including how he deals with his fame and where he gets the inspiration for his videos. He also offered some insight into YouTube’s monetisation system, offering his opinion on recent developments to the YouTube/Google+ infrastructure.  All in all it was a brilliant talk from a very talented star!

TomSka_talk 2_11.12.13_fromCH