Tag Archives: employment

Foiled by a spindle moulder

Sooo, some stuff went wrong and I had to change my plans.

I spent the whole of yesterday setting up for the workshop interviews, only to find out the machine right next to my set would be being used until Tuesday. How I only found this out after hours of prep I don’t know, but its been an excruciating lesson in Sod’s law – ‘If it can go wrong, it will’.

My contingency was to interview the office employees, which meant finding a new location and all the challenges that posed.

I’m going to say this now, and until experiencing it myself I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it:

SOLO SHOOTS ARE REALLY HARD

Like the animals on Noah’s ark, my kit came in pairs. Having to set up a  camera, mic and light by yourself is not ideal at the best of times, but when each is multiplied by two it pushes you to the limits of your skill set. Nevertheless, I’m really grateful for the opportunity it has provided me to push myself. It’s a challenge having your motivation coming from the same source as your frustrations and problems, the overcoming of which is invaluable in all aspects of life.

One of my favourite tasks of the day was having the sound-proof the cupboard behind my camera which, after getting the guys in the workshop to turn their music down, I discovered housed a large and rather noisy server.

To get an idea of the noise prior to my handywork, hum moderately loudly until someone nearby smacks you.

Eventually I managed to get Ed, one of the managers from upstairs, to come down and be the guinea pig for my first (ever) solo interview. It was a really good run, by which I mean I found out a lot of the problems I hadn’t known about before I hit record.

Watching the footage back, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. My next challenge is going to be matching up the colours of the Canon and Blackmagic footage (which I *think* involves something to do with LUT).

Watch this space!

My 29-Hour Day

Yesterday I got my first real taste of the manic working hours of the industry. As I type this I’m still getting the occasional brain twitch, so bear with me if my writing gets a bit haphazard.

Starting out at 5am in Brighton, where I had spent the weekend, I began my journey into London, stopping off at Gatwick airport to drop off my  girlfriend as she flew back to Switzerland. From there, strung with various pieces of filming equipment and feeling like I was about to set off to destroy the One Ring, I continued into London.

Crashing at my uncle’s flat for a few hours, I then went out to Highgate, where I needed to film a Futurenauts podcast recording as part of my job with Atlas of the Future. This was the second shoot I’d had with the Futurenauts- ‘But wait!’ I hear my probably non-existent readers say, ‘Where’s your blog post about your first shoot Matt? How can you deprive us of even the smallest details of your professional activities?!’. Well, dear (imaginary) reader, the reason I didn’t write about my first shoot was that it was my first ever solo shoot and was frankly rather embarrassing. There were a number of factors which led to this.

The first was that I didn’t actually plan much which, although generally not too big an issue at university, in the real world really starts you off at a major disadvantage. There’s really nothing like a bunch of professionals turning to you and asking ‘What needs doing?’ and you not having an answer to really sear the importance of planning into your brain.

The second was that the kit I had probably didn’t even count as the basics of a solo-shoot, consisting of only a camera and tripod. Now, being used to having access to thousands of pounds of top-end tech at university, going into a shoot without even an LED lamp was much harder than expected. Especially when the kit I did have, a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, was much less forgiving if you don’t know your stuff than the Canon DSLR’s I’ve been used to. Manual colour temperature settings, shutter angle instead of shutter speed and no on-screen indicator crucial aspects like exposure really highlight the gaps in your technical knowledge and mercilessly demand you fill them.

The third was something I couldn’t have really appreciated until I experienced it – solo shoots are HARD. There’s not a small team of your mates all working at various levels of focus until you happen to get everything done. There’s just you – having to keep that pace and energy up at all times and with an intense level of focus to get the shots you need. If something goes wrong, if you forget a shot or don’t get it all done in time, it’s your fault and you’ve got to deal with it. I probably learnt more in those cringe-worthy couple of hours than the whole of First Year.

I now realise I’ve actually written about my first shoot. I hope you’re all happy with yourselves.

BUT, as I said before, I learnt a lot from it and this time round was a much better experience. Going in with a detailed plan and better technical knowledge, I got a lot of good footage and came away feeling much better about the future of my career. As they often tend to, the shoot went on longer than expected and I finished up around 6:30pm. From there I headed back to my uncles to try get a bit of sleep because I WAS NOT EVEN HALFWAY THROUGH MY DAY.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, I was yet to embark on one of the most interesting yet harrowing experiences of my life – a night-shift at ITV Studios. I’d managed to arrange the shift during my work experience in September with Loose Women by sitting down with Nick Thomas, the Head of Editing for Daytime, who invited me along to one.

For those of you who don’t know, the editing suites in broadcast television work 24 hours a day, with editors working in 12 hour shifts. So from 9:30pm to 9:30am, I would be shadowing the daybreak editors who worked through the night editing all the clips (known as VT’s) for the following morning shows. I spent most of the night with a guy called Chris who seriously knew his stuff, having started out in MMA 13 years ago and worked his way up from there. It was a really great insight into ITV’s editing workflows and I continued to learn about the importance of Avid’s hardware in such large-scale operations.

I only had one nap the whole night, which I’d consider a success, even though the lines I woke up with on my face from sleeping on my jacket were so deep they made me look like I’d been mauled by a large cat. I can honestly say that was probably the most tired I’ve ever felt in my life – my body was trying to forcibly shut down regularly, like someone as holding down the power button on my brain.

In spite of this I have to admit it was loads of fun, I’ll definitely see if I can do it again!

Loose Women – Day 5

And so my week’s work experience at Loose Women has come to an end. I must admit, even after only a week I felt a pang as I walked out the elevator for the last time. Of course, with all the running about I’ve done this week this may well have just been the ache ebbing from my legs.

But wow. What a week it’s been. The buildup to today’s big celebration show has certainly been an interesting one, with puppies, prosecco and Gemma Collins all featuring in the highlights. It’s been a really educational experience and even in the short time I was there my knowledge of terrestrial television as an industry has grown tenfold. From the Producer’s desk to Director’s gallery, Floor Manager’s studio to editor’s suite, Stylist’s wardrobe to Set Dresser’s workshop, I’ve had a glimpse into the huge workforce behind the TV we enjoy daily. It’s given me a clearer sense of not only what I want to pursue as a career, but my own place within the media industry.

It’s been a great start to my placement year, I can’t wait to see what the rest of it brings!

 

Loose Women – Day 4

So today I shadowed Jack, the Assistant Floor Manager, whilst on air. Running around behind the set getting everything ready, I was suddenly transported back to my acting days at school, the familiar buzz of preparing for a production surging through me. It was a feeling I’d missed.

The Floor Manager’s job is to keep everything running smoothly in the studio. This means organising props, the cast, rehearsals, timings and generally being alert to anything which might cause an issue whilst live on air. As to be expected, this involves a lot of running around trying to do 12 things at once. Thankfully I was only a witness to this, completing errands and relaying instructions, but nonetheless remaining largely observant of this manic activity at work. Gemma Collins (whose memes are dominating Twitter right now) was the main guest who we had to escort around the studio for the day.  It was a strange sensation seeing someone who had garnered such a frenzy of attention online in person.

Me and the Queen of Memays

Once the show was over I went down to wardrobe, where I got to see the somewhat less glamorous side of fashion – sorting through and bagging up all the multiple outfits which hadn’t been worn on the show. Although I don’t have a particular interest in pursuing fashion as a career, it was still another insight into one of the micro-industries which make up the world I want to work in.

Searching for Excalibur

As I continue to write these blog posts I have come to understand their value as a way of processing my own thoughts and opinions. As such, I am using this post to compile my initial impressions from research for my Work in the Media Industries report. It should be made clear now that this post does not represent a full and knowledgeable understanding of its subject matter, but rather the first impressions of an initiate media producer which will develop as I delve deeper into the topic.

I recently started listening to Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’ on audiobook and, although it doesn’t focus specifically on media workers, it does offer some insight as to why so many are drawn to the unpredictable industry. Newport talks about an American blacksmith who forges medieval swords using techniques of their era. He describes how the smith, using an ingot no larger than 4 or 5 iPhones stacked on top of one another, slowly hammers out the steel into a thin blade, reheating the metal after each deft blow in a painstaking process which takes several hours.

The anecdote illustrates an increasingly widespread problem that faces knowledge workers across the globe – where is their sword? Many struggle to see the physical impact their work has on the world; lost in a network of emails and meetings, their ‘sword’ is far less tangible than the gleaming length of steel produced by the blacksmith. Without this palpable definition to their work, it can be harder to find real job satisfaction.

This is one of the reasons I believe people are drawn to the creative industry. In his book ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times’ Andrew Ross outlines what he calls the “heavy sacrificial cost” of job gratification for creatives. Among this sobering list of traits is “self-exploitation in response to the gift of autonomy, and dispensability in exchange for flexibility”. Progressively sophisticated workflows have allowed corporations to chop projects into small chunks and outsource them, creating a temporary employment culture which the creative industry is infamous for. Yet these are the conditions which throngs of people are drawn to.

In a world where your profession has become an increasingly integral part of what defines you, the social prestige associated with working in the creative industry has outweighed the very real insecurities which face media workers today. The concept of high-risk/high-reward employment has become exciting rather than foolhardy, as people struggle to find their sword.

 

Work in the Media Industries

As part of our ‘Work in the Media Industries’ unit, we were required to design a job spec and person profile around an imaginary entry-level media job of our choice. It was a good exercise in helping me get in the mind of employers and see what sort of things they are looking for.  It was also somewhat terrifying.

We had to apply to one group’s job spec and received CV’s for our role from another. In the seminar today we went through the CV’s we’d received, scanning through them to see how well they fit the criteria we had set out and shortlisting the best. Although untrained and potentially not as thorough as the HR departments within the industry, I realised a number of harsh truths about the application process:

  1. Your CV will be skimmed – HR has to go through 1000’s of CV’s and can’t afford to do much more than skim them for the criteria.
  2. Meet the job spec in your CV  – If you aren’t meeting any of the criteria within the first few lines, your chance of getting through declines quite sharply.
  3. Conciseness is key – If I got bored after reading 5 CV’s, how do you think someone in HR feels after 500? Don’t waste their time with indulgent paragraphs of info, stick to the 1-page rule as best you can, spilling into 2 if you think it absolutely necessary.
  4. Back up your statements with clear evidence – Picture it, a generic “I’m a strong team-player who works well with others” line, being read for the 100th time by HR. As I read through some of these lines in the CV’s I found myself saying ‘So what?’ more than I’d like. Avoid the ‘So What’ Effect by giving hard evidence to back up your points.
  5. You NEED outside experience – A degree is no longer a guarantee of employment. Having outside experience in the industry, even just weekend and runner jobs, will make you stand out above the beyond the rest.

Number 5 is something that has rung particularly true with me. I had a great First Year in terms of social life and ‘getting the grades’, but to be honest it was a bit of a passenger year. I realise now that I need to get out there and start making stuff, getting some real experience under my belt and building up a portfolio to give me the best chance of making it in this industry. It’s an exciting time, but also pretty scary. I’ve got a couple of projects in the pipelines and I look forward to sharing them with you on here.