In 2016, TICE, Generator, Foundation Futures and Youth Focus NE teamed up to deliver Ladders – a free programme helping young people in the North East aged 17-24 with an interest in the creative and digital industries. Not only was there the opportunity to develop skills and industry knowledge in their chosen creative area but they were offered enterprise support, start-up packages for employability support and pastoral care. We have had the honour of meeting and guiding many young, talented people over the past three years of running this course, many of them now pursuing exactly what they intended to achieve. With the help of Youth Focus Young Champions, Lee and Wayne, we reflect on the final cohort…and what a way to end an incredible journey.
Designed for those with little experience of their chosen creative sector, Stage 1 is all about providing knowledge and awareness training under the guidance of an industry mentor, guest speakers and masterclasses.
Documented by Lee Porter.
So, we are back at it again with Ladders! The participants have been enjoying busy and informative sessions delivered by mentor, Chloe Rodham. During session 1 the participants were introduced to the film industry – the ins and outs on what it takes to make it in any capacity. To break the ice, they also introduced themselves to the each other and talked about their industry experience thus far.
Once everyone was settled, they headed over to Kaleidoscope CFA where they were introduced to the wonderfully talented, Craig Hawkes. After a chat about pre-production, the group were put to the test and were asked to create something for Snapchat, where time is everything as you only get a limited time frame to take pictures or videos of whatever you like. The group then pitched ideas to Chloe and Craig, which opened up some useful feedback and discussion.
For session 2, the group were introduced to some local companies. This was their chance to ask questions and engage with professionals. They began their journey into the industry with a visit to Superkrush, where they met Marc Runkee who spoke candidly about what they do and their process in making adverts. They then visited the National Youth Film Academy where the participants learned about what they do and the opportunities they offer to young people looking to get into the profession. The visits moved on to Proto where they were introduced to Cameron Craggs and Tom Scarborough of Cintel Global. This was an exploration of Virtual reality and immersive technology and how it can be used within the film industry. The guys also discussed with the group how they went about building the company after university and how it has developed over the years. All in all, it was a very informative and varied experience for the film team.
Session 3 brought the introductory stage an exciting close. First Freelance Animator, Paul, stopped by to talk about a project he is working on at the minute using free software (Touch Designer) which turns visuals into sounds etc. Admittedly, it looked very intimidating and confusing but the output from it was fascinating, to say the least. You can code components in a programming language called Python and create some pretty cool visuals and sounds! He showed the group that using an Xbox Kinect camera and Touch Designer you can track the movement of people and what parts of the body are moving – this could be very useful for more contemporary animators. Paul then showcased his work on a band’s music video, showing the process to the final thing. It had various different character designs with their movement, as well as different “style shots” which helps understand the environment being created.
Screenwriter, Rebecca Innes, also visited the Ladders team to share some insight into her profession. The first thing she showed us was a very interesting illusion created in 1944 to show how we as humans are hardwired, if you like, to create stories from the things we see and experience in day to day life. She then discussed Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation and how this can be applied to create believable characters and could inevitably drive the narrative. We then had a look at how we tell stories – the audience, themes, messages and characterisation – all very important components to use when writing a story.
Then it was time for something practical! Rebecca showed us something called the “Pixar Prompt” often used by Disney Pixar to create stories or a narrative to follow:
Once upon a time there was _______
one day, _______
Because of that, _______
because of that, _______
until finally _______
The group came up with some very interesting Pixar Prompts. One in particular was a story about a light bulb. The main message from the story was that with a little bit of teamwork, the lightbulb shone brighter than ever meaning that if everyone works together you get greater results. It was agreed that this would make a lovely little animation idea!
Rebecca’s final points of her talk was about writing visually, never relying on dialogue to tell a story working on the idea of “show me, don’t tell me”. To demonstrate these ideas, she showed us a clip from the movie Wall-E and asked us to consider what the script might say. She asked us to come up with a section of scripts ideas and then compare it to the actual script. The results were fascinating because the script was surprisingly short and concise showing that as a writer, you really just need to get your ideas down enough so that the director can interpret them and flesh them out to fit the overall theme of the movie.
It can certainly be said that the group have a lot of insight and fuel from the visits and speakers to get their ideas for the next coming stages of the course and hopefully we see some very interesting ideas in the project portion of the course in coming weeks! I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
Observed and noted by Wayne Potts.
For the first part of Ladders Music, it’s less about creativity and more about the realities of the business. Even though the team had impeccable levels of musicianship, the next few weeks were about focusing on building a foundation of knowledge that could enhance their career significantly. From management to record labels, publishing to live agents, participants were introduced to diverse roles in the music industry.
Music mentor, Sam Burt, began the sessions by introducing himself to the team and showcasing his very impressive background in the music business. Likewise, the group of young musicians shared their stories and aspirations in preparation for the weeks ahead.
They spent their sessions visiting various influential people in music industry including meeting owner and producer of Loft Studios, Andrew Archer. He shared his fascinating career journey, followed by a tour around the facilities. The students also visited Blast Studios to have a look at their £1m facility. Overall, a very impressive and eye-opening tour of Newcastle-based recording spaces – something which we arguably don’t hear about very often in the North East. There were also plenty of guest speakers who popped in, including the team at Generator themselves who discussed creative opportunities and workshops they have available for those starting out in the music sector.
Accessing the tech industry can be a daunting task for many. With the help of Phil Jeffes, the mentor, the team were introduced to the type of roles which are available in the North East in particular as well as skills they would need for each of the roles. We were also told about the sorts of career progression opportunities and what sort of wages one could expect in the industry.
For Day 2, it was touring time! The participants were taken around Infotel UK Consulting. It was really eye-opening for many of them to see a modern working office and hearing from some of the people who work there, like Ahsan and Dan. They told us about what a typical day looks like and how they approach the interesting new problems that they come across during the working day. The CTO then came to talk them about how the company started and some of the clients that Infotel has day to day. It was particularly exciting to hear of their future plans of moving offices to attract younger people – one thing is for sure they left our young people fascinated.
Next stop was a visit to Nebula Labs – a company that started in 2017 to help customers with mobile apps and APIs. It was surreal to ex-Ladders student of 2018, David Campbell, now as part of the Nebula Labs team and sharing his story. He kindly mentioned about how he had learned on the job, building on the skills he picked up from his time on the Ladders course. Most importantly, he enjoys the job because he learns new things every day.
The third and final session of Stage 1 homed in on a particular (and popular) aspect of the Software industry, gaming. So, Phil thought it was only right to give students a sneak peek of this side of the industry through firstly introducing Unity 3d – one of the pieces of software used to create commercial video games. The participants learned about how to get started and create a simple interactive game where they could move a character around and bump into objects in the game world. A very useful skill for anyone looking to explore the games industry.
What a fascinating first segment of the programme! Next up, we’re looking skills development…