Work placement at BBC Doctors and Film Birmingham
MA Film and Television: Research and Production
“Through these placements I have been able to vastly improve my understanding of the film/television industry, and I have been able to gain a specific knowledge of what numerous people in the industry are looking for from their employees.”
I undertook two weeks work placement with the team working on BBC Doctors and a four-week placement at Film Birmingham, the division of Birmingham City Council that deals with all filming requests in Birmingham and its surrounding areas.
For the majority of my placement period at BBC Drama Village I shadowed one of the 3rd Ads (3rd Assistant Director) on a three-episode filming block of Doctors. This involved following the production of these episodes from pre-production right through to post-production. During the pre-production phase, I completed several tasks for the production team including collating the sides and information for the call sheets ahead of the shoots. During the production phase, I worked as a runner on shoot, which amongst other tasks involved de-rigging equipment, travelling actors to and from set, and cueing actors off screen. During the last two days of my placement on Doctors, I observed the edit of these three episodes at the BBC Drama Village’s editing suites. Additionally, during my time at Doctors I had the opportunity to spend time with and discuss the various roles in the show’s production team with various departments, including the script, camera, research, art and sound departments.
At Film Birmingham, I was tasked with sourcing and obtaining the relevant permissions to use clips from various productions that had filmed in the city for a show reel that would promote Birmingham as a filming location.
What were your main achievements?
As I was joining the BBC Doctors on what they considered to be one of their more logistically difficult shoots in recent times (as the episode block that I was undertaking my placement during was part of a big story arc on the show), I took it upon myself to get more involved in helping on set and helped the runners and the assistant directors with several important tasks. I believe that my added presence helped the shoot run significantly more smoothly, and helped me foster a relationship with the production team. After, that I felt that I was treated more as a member of the team as opposed to an intern, and was given increasingly more responsibility, which helped me achieve more in terms of my personal development and for the BBC Doctors team.
At Film Birmingham, I was able to complete my task before the end of my placement, the results of which I am hoping to see in the form of the finished show reel imminently. As a result of finishing the task earlier than expected, I was able to get involved in various other aspects of the organisation, including dealing with filming requests and writing additional content for the Film Birmingham website, which at the time of writing is currently featured on the website’s homepage.
What did you enjoy the most?
At both placements, I enjoyed talking with various film and television professionals as, through my discussions with the crew on Doctors and with the team at Film Birmingham, I have been able to vastly broaden my working knowledge of the industry, which was one of my primary goals in undertaking the Masters course at Birmingham.
As a microcosm for the industry, BBC Doctors was an invaluable work experience placement, as it allowed me to get an insight into the various stages of a production from beginning to end, an experience that in that time frame I would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Furthermore, the opportunity to shadow the 3rd AD was particularly useful for me as working as an Assistant Director is a role that I had been very interested in pursuing following the completion of my studies, something that has since been reaffirmed by my experiences on this placement.
Having overseen every production that had been filmed in the city over the past ten years and having the opportunity to discuss the industry with Sindy Campbell, the manager of Film Birmingham, was incredibly interesting as I was able to get an insight into a wide range of aspects of the industry, including some of the challenges presented by major Hollywood productions filming in the city.
What were the hardest aspects?
As I worked with various departments during my placement at the BBC Drama Village in order to cover the breadth of the filming process, my placement with BBC Doctors was intensive, and I had to constantly adapt to new situations and adjust my mind-set accordingly. The production phase was particularly challenging, as the shooting days were roughly 12 hours long, which was longer than I had previously been used to working.
As Film Birmingham is run by a two-person team and due to the nature of their work requiring them to attend meetings and observe shoots, during my placement there were occasionally times where I was the only person in the office. This meant that I had to solve problems independently, which required a lot of additional research as I did not always initially have the knowledge required to complete some tasks, i.e. I did not know which databases to use to find the relevant contacts. Furthermore, the placement required considerable telephone and face to face communication with industry professionals, and as I do not consider myself to be the most confident public speaker I did at times find this challenging.
What skills have you developed?
Through these placements I have been able to vastly improve my understanding of the film/television industry, and I have been able to gain a specific knowledge of what numerous people in the industry are looking for from their employees. For example, from working with the pre-production department of BBC Doctors I have gained knowledge of how to put together the sides (the shooting breakdown of the script), structure call sheets, gained experience of proof reading scripts and an awareness of the types of issues that a researcher will need to consider when assessing a script. By working on set, I gained a greater knowledge of the specifics of various industry job roles and developed my film set etiquette, by amongst other things, learning the specific jargon used by the BBC on set. During the post-production phase, I gained experience using industry standard editing software and equipment.
At Film Birmingham, through contacting various production and distribution companies, including Hollywood studios like Warner Bros and Lionsgate, to get permission to use clips for the show reel, I vastly honed my communication skills and gained a better understanding of the structure of the industry. Additionally, through the research I conducted for location requests, I gained an understanding of the pre-production organisational needs of various types of productions.
How do you think your placements will benefit you in the future?
Through both placements I have vastly developed my knowledge of the film industry. Having had the opportunity to observe film professionals from various sections of the film industry, I now have a much clearer idea of the expectations of various film roles, which will allow me to tailor my job applications as well as, should my application be successful, be able to prosper in a variety of roles. I have also been able to acquire a more detailed understanding of the industry’s structure, and as a result, I have a clearer idea about which channels I should exploit when looking for specific job roles or information in the future.
The placements that I undertook in particular have put me in good standing when applying for jobs. In comparison to other placements conducted on the course, I have been fortunate enough to work on shows - Doctors and My Kitchen Rules UK (on an earlier placement) - which will be broadcast on television, which in addition to providing me with a realistic experience of working in the industry, I feel will be well received by prospective employers when considering my applications.
Thank you to donors
I would like to thank the donors for their support, as without the PGT Professional Development Bursary I would not have been able to experience my placement to its fullest. As I commute to Birmingham for my studies, I primarily used my bursary to pay for my travel and accommodation costs during my placement period. As I would not have been able to make the start time of the shoots via public transport, for my placement at BBC Doctors I was able to stay at a hotel nearby the BBC Drama Village, which allowed me to stay for the duration of the shoots and treat my placement there as a real working day. This allowed me to gain an insight into the production process from beginning to end, and the experiences that I have acquired through this placement have been invaluable toward my professional development. I believe that as one of my first steps into working in the film and television industry, I have been incredibly fortunate to undertake my placement at the BBC Drama Village, as I would have been hard pressed to find a more challenging, realistic and rewarding work environment, an experience that was in part made possible by the alumni and other donors.
With grateful thanks to the alumni donors who made the PGT Professional Development Bursary possible.