This Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto a 4Talent day in the wonderful city of Bristol. While this day didn’t give me a lot of time to explore said wonderful city, it did provide me with an incredibly useful experience that I’m determined to put to good use. As any soon-to-be-graduate will tell you, preparing for life after university is a daunting prospect. It’s so daunting, in fact, that I’ve spent a good deal of time putting it off. But over the past year I’ve begun to consider my position within the working world, and I’ve been getting ready to edit my CV, write my covering letter, and send off a wide variety of applications. Specifically tailoring these applications to the media industry. My time with my university’s television station over the past few months have confirmed to me that my interest in the so-called ‘idiot box’ isn’t merely limited to watching programmes, but also to its production and composition, and therefore my career daydreams (definitely a thing) revolve around my future job in that universe.
The 4Talent day, geared at wannabe media people aged 16 to 25 and provided by Channel 4, offered a variety of workshops relating to the production side of the industry. Being able to choose two workshops, I opted for a talk on Factual Documentary and another on Visual Effects. In the first workshop, we heard from Icon Films, a production company based in Bristol. This talk addressed how difficult it is for an independent company to pitch ideas to a larger corporation: the hit rate for ideas is terrifyingly low, at about one successful idea in 300. After this discovery, we began to pitch our own ideas for short documentary films suitable for the One Show: interesting stories with a significant twist, which would allow the presenter to do something entertaining on camera. Pitching off-the-cuff ideas to actual people who work pitching well-researched ideas is just as terrifying as you imagine.
After this workshop, I moved on to the VFX talk from Howard Jones. Not being hugely more proficient at computers than the average UK twentysomething, I was more interested in discovering how my favourite programmes were composed rather than genuinely considering a career within the particular industry. We were presented with clips spanning the history of visual effects, beginning with the late Ray Harryhausen’s work on Jason and the Argonauts, and progressing through the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg, and moving on Pixar and Jones’ work on Aardman’s Pirates!. Seeing how the technology has developed over a relatively short space of time, and learning about the movement from film to digital in more detail than I’d previously had, was particularly fascinating. I have a newfound appreciation for just how hard VFX is.
The day was also punctuated by talks from the fantastic members of the 4Talent team, who did a great job of being both encouraging and realistic about our prospects. At the end of the day, the message to take from the experience was “if you want a career in the industry, go out and work for it”. A simple message, maybe, but one that’s easy to forget. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve watched so many films in my formative years that have persuaded me that I can do anything I want whenever I want to. But sometimes it pays to remember that while you can certainly try, it definitely involves a lot of hard work and things don’t just fall into your lap when you aren’t looking.
So, as the day wound down, I began to think about how I’d break into the industry myself. I’ll be working with SUSUtv on a more frequent basis throughout my final year, so I’ve got that going on. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that hands-on production isn’t necessarily the path I want to go down. It’s something I enjoy immensely, but there is something that feels even more my kind of thing. Writing. I don’t mean writing scripts (also an occasional pathway in the aforementioned career daydreams) but I mean writing about programmes other, far more imaginative, people have produced. Writing summaries, and working with the press to get the message of productions out there before the shows themselves hit the airwaves.
To pursue this, I’ve decided that over the next year – with the beginning of my time back at university in September – I’m going to start a series of posts called ‘The Production Diaries’. These posts, hopefully, are going to show how my hands-on production skills have improved, as well as allowing me to work on my writing ability. Now I know press releases and the like aren’t exactly relating to the process of production, but I’m going to use this knowledge to help me understand television on a more detailed level and then apply this to any future television-related writing I do.
These posts will come under a new part of the site, titled ‘Production’. Click on that link in the header and see all of those posts. But I’ll also be keeping up with the reviews and the other stuff that I’ve been doing on here before. So have a look around!