The sessions for Ladders Film & TV began at Sunderland University – impressively they have recently jumped 30 places from 2016 to 2017 in the Guardian rankings. As if it couldn’t get any better, they have their own dedicated cinema room, radio station and state of the art recording facilities.

Sounds dramatic but as you can already see, you are in for a treat.

We began in a room filled with none other than students, Ladders mentor Chloe Rodham and visiting speaker Tim Lozinski. They talked through a variety of mics, one in particular that most of the youngsters could identify was the OmniMic which are the ones you’d find in theatres, coming through wig or perhaps around the performers in order to pick up the sound. You could feel the eagerness to get up and test all the equipment in the room which was a great feeling because you then got a feel that the group were instantly going to be very hands on. Seeing them try and retain the technical information about what he had just said to them was rather amusing for everyone as obviously some nerves and uncertainty was evident for the new experience. Watching them forget in an instant brought a giggle to us all! Nonetheless, they were able to jump straight back in so go team amazeballs!

 

The group then went on to watch clips and identify how a camera was moving throughout – that was fun because we were totally flung off as to how much the camera was moving in the scene – once you concentrated on looking for it.

After lunch, the group had a workshop in the green screen studio. Students were given a script page from a Hollywood sci-fi movie to suit the green screen environment for post-production. We built on our sound and camera skills from the morning and got to use a follow focus set up. Half the group were in the role of the crew in the scenario with the other half cast as actors in the scene. They then swapped roles in rotation so that everyone had a practice of each of the different production tasks.

After the team wrapped up shooting, they were given a tour by Ian McPake and Gary Stubbs – tutors on the BA and Masters media courses at Sunderland Uni. We saw the wide range of professional facilities the university offers and heard about Spark TV and Spark FM – Local media companies that produce and broadcast out of the campus. It was truly fascinating to see so many different aspects of the industry – from working the camera to broadcasting to an audience.

The second session entailed a rather experimental undertone, and this primarily allowed the young people to begin to try and play around with the footage from the previous session. Upon uploading the footage onto the computer, it became apparent very quickly just how much hilarity and enjoyment was flowing amongst everyone because of some simple fun play about on the software. Simply stretching one actor’s face made the interaction in the scene infinitely more hilarious. But on a more serious note, they were guided through how to transform their green screen footage, placing the actors into a space setting. Soon enough, the students were able to make composite in new backgrounds, looking at how they could make rotating planets and motion graphics to add in to the scene.

I think over the coming weeks this group are going to have a lot of fun and with an overload of valuable information, creating their own projects in the coming weeks will be very exciting! Watch this space…

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If, like myself, you spent countless hours in front of your television as a child watching programmes such as Tracey Beaker, Diddy TV, and Arthur then I can guarantee you would have been just as excited as I was to tour one of the many BBC studios we have in the United Kingdom. On the 10th of October, I joined a group of young people on a tour of Newcastle’s BBC Broadcasting House, Barrack Road, in the Spital Tounges area of Newcastle upon Tyne. The buildiJng itself is made up if a mixture of small offices, library recordings, and modern high-tech studios. BBC Newcastle employs around 200 staff with around 30 of these being permanent positions.

On arrival we were met by our tour guides who showed us where to sign in, offered us lockers to store our coats and bags, and gave us a tour lanyard. There’s something about being given a lanyard that makes you feel professional. We were made to feel very welcome and at ease as we were led through the infamous first set of doors on our journey of exploration. The first part of the tour was looking at the history of BBC Newcastle. It was fascinating to see the timeline across the walls; starting at 1922 and ending at 2011. I found a few interesting facts about my favourite childhood programs, like Tracey Beaker, was filmed in Jesmond until the spin-off show Dumping Ground came about and that Jaqueline Wilson’s tale of care-home kids is now being filmed in Walker. I was also surprised to learn that Byker Grove (1990-2006) is now owned by Ant and Dec.

We were then shown a cabinet showcasing important items of the BBC’s past; one of which was including the original sign that was put up when BBC Newcastle first relocated to Broadcasting House on Newbridge Street – opposite the Laing Art Gallery in the Centre of Newcastle. Prior to being the BBC Broadcasting House used to be a Lying-in Hospital for women who were pregnant / in childbirth and for years after the building was purchased pregnant women used to turn up at the doors of the BBC expecting to find a hospital there.

We then moved onto the library which holds around 45,000 recordings – as well as a Flexicart; which stores the last 90 days’ worth of footage. They keep this at hand for legal reasons and it can also be accessed from anywhere in the world via a BBC computer/account to be used in various venues/countries with permission.

From there, we moved on to our first studio of the day. Before entering, I had images of a large studio, one with plenty of space to get a decent sized group of people in comfortably to take photographs etc. This is not what the first studio was like at all, instead, we were ushered into a small room into a horseshoe formation in front of a grey screen (yes, you read that correctly; a grey screen – not green as I had also imagined.) Our tour guides explained the use of desk, camera and broadcasting equipment.

After learning about the setup of the grey screen camera and watching the screen in front of us change ‘live’ (pre-recorded live) backgrounds, I was asked to move to the centre of the room wherein we all witnessed my hair disappear into the clouds. This would be an opportune moment to inform you that my hair is a faded blue/green colour (I’m too poor to afford hair dye at the moment), and one of the tour guides took pleasure in changing the background to give me a bald head and experimented with various colours giving me a myriad of weird and wonderful halos.

We were then taken into the back of a warehouse type set-up where we were able to step onto the set of Hetty Feather – a program which I didn’t know existed but have since discovered is another of Jacqueline Wilson’s books about a baby girl abandoned at a Foundlings Hospital by her mother. We were informed that this set – like many – is made out of wood, plastic and various other light materials as it makes production cheaper, easier to construct and easier to transport.

At the end of this corridor filled with old scraps of furniture resembling a haunted IKEA, a large shutter door opened to reveal an entirely different atmosphere. The large filming studio where they present the news and is one of the biggest studios used for the BBC. We were introduced to Colin Brigg, BBC Newscaster who informed us that the studio can hold between 300 to 400 people.

Colin explained how he presents the news, sharing with us that behind his desk is an auto-cue pedal which is hidden from the viewers at home and that he finds it easier to pedal the news without his right shoe on. That’s right, folks; you heard it here first. Whenever you see Colin Briggs reading the news, he’s only got one shoe on. After this revelation, he discussed how much easier it is to cue his own writing on the autocue teleprompter and the appeared to take great joy in sharing his recommendations on the make-up that he uses. Ps ladies and gentlemen, he recommends ‘Chanel Bronzer’ as ‘it stops you from looking like an unforgiving white rat.’

For our final stop, we were introduced to the interactive studio where the sounds for radio dramas and sound effects for the news are recorded. The group of young people, my co-journalist Nicola and I, and workshop staff were able to play around with the equipment for a while – recording our own short drama and reading the news which was both recorded and played back to us at the end. Where was that Chanel Bronzer when I needed it!?

All in all, it was a very interesting tour full of enlightening facts, fun interactions, and humorous guides. For anyone interested in a career in TV and Radio, I definitely recommend attending the tour yourself. If for whatever reason you can’t make the tour in person but would still like to get involved; there are various links on the BBC website – and there are also plenty of opportunities to be on TV. If you’ve ever had the burning desire to be on Bargain Hunt, the BBC website is your new best friend.

Special thanks to our tour guides and Colin Briggs for their good natures and expertise.

Part 2 of Film & TV tours coming soon…

By Mirander De-La-Haye

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After hurrying out of the BBC Tour, Tuesday 10th October, following the last minute rush of taking selfies next to the T.A.R.D.I.S and getting caught in the revolving doors, there was a brief lunch break; so brief if fact one of our journalists had to carry mince and dumplings around in a chip box – shout out to the Big Market cafés.

After lunch, we continued to Bamburgh House which is a spectacular looking building in Newcastle’s city center just off East Pilgrim Street. For those of you that don’t know what goes on inside, it’s an eight-story building that houses various artists and project spaces. It all sounds really arty, however, I wasn’t very impressed with the inside. I love modern buildings, they make me feel like I’m strutting around like Meryl Streep inside of Runway Magazine from The Devil Wears Prada. Once inside the small elevator, you’re taken up to a variety of floors with long corridors; low ceilings and a very daunting absence of windows.

We were guided from floor to floor by Zoe Anderson who allowed us to dictate what parts of the building we wanted to see, as well as answered any queries and gave us insight on some of the company’s history. Those of us on the tour had the pleasure of making the acquaintances of game developers from Nosebleed Interactive and Craig Hawkes from Kaleidoscope CFA (née Docyoumentary).

My favourite part of this tour was sitting down in Craig Hawkes’ office and listening to him present the who, what, where and why of his company Kaleidoscope CFA (Creative Film Agency). Craig was friendly, cracking jokes immediately about how his company recently rebranded due to Google’s autocorrect but now clients struggle spelling kaleidoscope.

Craig made a point of asking who in the room has an iPhone or a smartphone with a camera. After everyone in the room raised their hand, he explained that anyone can go out and make a film. Even he uses his iPhone to shoot footage – footage that is actually being used for a client’s campaign. Did you know that BBC reporters have been reported to be seen filming news footage via iPhones and tablets?

“Being a filmmaker isn’t enough anymore.”

Craig had a lot of the advice for the budding film producers in the room, emphasising that one of the key aspects of starting off is to be enthusiastic; to use the technology available to them and to make sure they’re memorable. He went on to tell us about his own personal history about how he studied Fine Art at University but had never bought into the solid physical aspect; he much more preferred the stories behind the art. When he first moved to Newcastle, he needed a job as he has a child to support; so, he ended up in a corporate lifestyle that he admitted made him unhappy. However, he never lost track of where he wanted to be and what he wanted to achieve. Craig ended up studying a part-time Masters while working with Bamburgh House and started his business Docyoumentary 4 years ago.

In the beginning, Craig found that he was only being contacted to replace bad footage taken by the company’s first choice, however using this to their advantage the company made a good lasting impression, making valuable contacts, building up trust and delivering quality footage, this took them to where they are today.

 

Craig spoke about how quality control is one of the only things keeping the professional world of filmmaking/features alive now that anyone can get access to cameras and editing software. Again, the way to be noticed in this modern age of technological advances is to make sure you stand out, Craig stated they should “always look for influences, always push yourself” because “you’re only as good as your last job.”

For the budding editors in the room, he talked about what software he recommends and preached that YouTube is always a great help when getting to know new programmes. He told them that “editing hasn’t changed since it started,” therefore the reason behind the footage had to be what stood out from others of a similar nature to get it noticed. Many companies, such as Apple, now advertise products on TV without showing the viewer what they’re selling, they are so big and easily recognisable they don’t need to. Apple has created such a memorable brand that they can simply sell the reason why behind their brand. Example: lots of companies have brought out smart watches – but I own an Apple watch, why? Because I’m invested in Apple; I buy into the why behind their brand because it lasts, it retains a lot of its value and if you have any problems you just take your stuff to the Apple store and they sort it out for you. Plus, let’s be honest here; it looks awesome.

Those of you out there who are breaking into the industry or are students, Craig recommended a kit hiring site called Monster Peacock. You can go to the website and email Adam if you have any questions.

“I’m selling myself more than I’m selling my work.” 

By Mirander De-La-Haye