Following on from the success of the initial Summer cohort, Monday 6th February marked the first day of round two for the Film/TV/Animation Ladders course, an 8-week course which provides students with access to hands-on training from industry professionals, motivational advice from guest speakers and practical workshops which allow students to explore a range of career options within the film, television and digital media industries.


The week started off with an introduction from Louise Henry, Enterprise Development Coordinator at Generator, who is responsible for the management of Ladders at an administrative level. Louise explained that Ladders has been set up foster the next generation of creative talent within the North East; Generator hope that Ladders can bridge the gap in guidance and resources focused specifically on careers advice which is perhaps missing from most school and university curriculum’s at the moment.


Students were then introduced to Jen Barrett, founder and managing director of This Is Creative Enterprise (TICE). TICE are one of the key delivery partners of the Ladders scheme, providing skills development workshops led by industry professionals, enterprise support and masterclasses in each of the three fields, Music, Film/TV/Animation and Software Development. Jen explained that taking part in Ladders would help students to stand out from the crowd in a society where many young people are equally highly qualified but lacking in practical experience and industry contacts.


Jen also informed students about the Enterprise Support Package, offered to anyone considering pursuing a freelance career or developing a business idea in the creative industries. Peter Banks and Sisley Henning explained to the group how the Enterprise Support sessions had provided them with valuable insight and helped them to set up their production company, Fandangle Films. Peter was keen to stress that the mentors and speakers were very keen to help students at every stage of their career; “It’s really weird,” he joked, “They just want to help you!”. Sisley added that you really get out what you put in, and that being driven and motivated to get the most out of Ladders was the best way to ensure that you achieve your dreams of being involved in your chosen industry.

Students were then split up into their respective groups. Film/TV/Animation mentor Chloe Rodham introduced herself to the cohort, explaining her own work as a freelance animator and screening her showreel to showcase her own talents in the field. Chloe went over the current climate of the Northern creative industry, explaining what is currently happening in the North East in terms of film. You might be interested to know, for example, that Gateshead-based Atomhawk spent over a year working with Marvel on the concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy or that ITV’s Vera and BBC’s The Dumping Ground are both filmed in our region. Chloe herself has worked on projects for clients including Denver-based band DeVotchKa, The Labour Party, London theatre group Fourth Monkey and CUMI, who created animation for Channel 4 documentaries. It is clear that Chloe has a lot of knowledge and expertise to impart and can offer students a real taster of what it is like to work in the industry. She also provided the interesting statistic that a large majority of people working within the film and television industries gain employment via word of mouth; 56% of jobs in the industry are unadvertised, so meeting with industry professionals further along in the course could prove to be just the ticket to building the networks which are so crucial to those working in film and television.

Students were set an icebreaker task to learn about the person next to them, why they had chosen to be involved in Ladders and what sort of experience they have already. It was clear from listening to everyone’s responses that there is a good range of students from different backgrounds, from those who are in their final year of school to those who have already completed postgraduate courses in their fields. This will no doubt be beneficial to everyone, as students will be able to share their skills and knowledge amongst each other and can perhaps team up with others who have similar interests on their final project.


After going through a range of useful resources, including a number of handy websites, Chloe set a brief for the students to create a storyboard of an advert for one of three companies. She explained the best way to go about researching a brief and the students got to work on creating their storyboards. Students were asked to finish the storyboard at home and bring it to the following session to learn how to make an animatic, a short film of animated stills that filmmakers and animators frequently use when pitching to clients.


The second Ladders session was focused on learning the basics of Premiere Pro. Chloe set a task for students to edit footage for a short documentary, between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, on the theme of Virtual Revolution. She explained all of the necessary basics, including CODECs, QuickTime containers and tips on how to organise files, before giving a live demonstration of some of the tools which Premiere Pro offers. The students were given free creative reign on the piece and everyone took a different approach to editing the footage together.

After everyone had got to grip with the basics, Chloe scanned in everyone’s storyboards from the previous session and showed the students how to make them ready to present to companies in the form of an animatic. She demonstrated this to everyone with an animatic from one of her own projects, an advertisement for yogurt, and it was clear to see how presenting ideas in this format can give a good feel for how the final project will be – alongside the fact that animatics allow creatives to work out timings when setting their storyboard to a particular piece of music.


The first week of the second round of Ladders has been insightful for everyone and it is clear that everyone will gain plenty of skills which will be excellent CV fodder and which will hopefully increase their employability. Chloe mentioned early on that it would be valuable to start thinking about final projects early on so that she can tailor her advice and ensure that students are able to get the most out of the forthcoming industry visits and talks by professionals. Tune in next time to hear about the first of these talks from NFM’s Gayle Woodruffe, and to hear about Audition and lens-based technologies with Tim Lozinski!