My second year at the University of Portsmouth seemingly began in a familiar fashion to the previous year. We sat in a large lecture theatre and listened intently to our course leader, who gave an outline as to what students on the BSc Television and Broadcasting course should be expect experience-wise from the up-and-coming year. He continued to explain to the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young people in front of him that the course this year was a step-up in requirements, and in particular, it contained a taught module where students (in small groups) were required to produce, write, shoot, direct and edit a film for an actual real client. So, no fake films for tutors, lecturers or external examiners, but an actually genuine, professional, scary, real-life film for adult humans who existed externally outside of our educational world. Boy, did he see those bright-eyes dim, and those bushy-tails disappear!
Making a professional film for a genuine client was a frightening prospect indeed, and if Im totally honest, it was one I was not looking forward to in the slightest. So, I think it fair to say that I entered this experience with a fair amount of caution and concern.
All groups were required to review the many clients on offer, and then to pitch and win them via a convincing presentation, and this meant literally standing in front of them and giving it our best shot at winning their trust. My group felt quite strongly about an organisation called parkrun, and once we found out that parkrun was a huge success story and global phenomena, it was the one we really wanted to win. Just in case you have just returned from a long-haul flight to Mars, parkrun organise weekly, free, timed 5K runs that are open for anybody, and they happen all around the world. So regards the video we were required to make, no pressure then¦
The reality of filmmaking can only be really understood if you have actually done it, and to be fair there is a difference between student filmmaking, and the real deal. Achieving the real deal was the purpose of the taught module, and that cannot be achieved in some carefully designed classroom experiment. So, our lecturer was very clear about the problems that would likely happen, and when some of them did we learned first-hand the pressures and stresses of a real shoot. Surely there can be no substitute for real experience? One of the issues we faced was coming to terms with the elements in January and February. Our parkrun event location was Portsmouth Lakeside, and getting there for 7:30am in the morning (I kid you not!) was comparable to a particularly brisk winter day in the Arctic, or it felt like that anyway. Now, we had of course been lectured to about how unfavourable weather conditions can impact on a shoot, but many of us in our year (myself included) had not experienced these for real. I dont know what was more shocking, the cold, or runners turning up in just t-shirts and shorts, which quite frankly made me feel even colder! We made mistakes in our planning for the shoot, and we suffered the inevitable location shoot issues, but I suppose the key factor is, learn from the mistake, and never make them again!
My course often discusses industry practice, and aside from the physical aspect of learning how to get great results from the kit and the software, it is also about the philosophy of professional work, and I suppose this really boils down to the fact that we are not making films for ourselves. This taught module is about producing a film for somebody else that has a real need for it, and although there is of course creative input from us as students, the key factor was to realise the vision and requirement that parkrun UK wanted, and to keep their values intact within a professionally looking film. Its no secret that given the choice, most students would choose to make films that were based on their own ideas, but this doesnt really reflect the reality of the industry we are looking to work in, and the real reality is - whatever you are making, make it like it was your own personal passion project, and make sure it is always your best effort. The latter point is the steep and crucial learning curve, and main point of the whole taught module.
So it just leaves me to conclude and reflect on the experience, and firstly I would like to thank parkrun for their trust, support and friendliness towards us throughout the whole process. This investment of trust was rewarded with our team being able to produce a successful film (https://youtu.be/UZcYZbsHEjI). I view the whole process of making professional video films in a brand new light, and I feel so much more confident approaching any future project. And lastly, regards parkrun itself, I urge everyone to go try it! It is totally free, it is volunteer driven and it is an amazingly friendly experience that is helping to connect people and change lives by providing a regular way for everybody to engage in a healthy activity. The parkrun phenomena is an amazing achievement, and something I am so proud to have been a part of. Have I convinced you to go seek out your local parkrun?