James Cresswell, MA Film and Television: Research and Production
“I have really valued the understanding I have gained of the freelance lifestyle: being able to see what skills and attributes are expected and desired of a freelance worker in this field has really helped me to think more clearly about my own future.”
As an intern at Creative Media, I, like many of the employees and freelancers, was set to work in a number of different areas. When not assisting on shoots (usually as a camera assistant, or acting as boom mic operator, etc.), I was given independent projects to work on. The first of these was a one-minute montage video that consisted of sixty one-second-long shots taken from around the university campus. The second – which was the main independent project – was a short video in the vein of Creative Media’s other input intended to promote an aspect of the University of Birmingham; for this project, I was responsible for all filming, editing, and gave me a good opportunity to understand the planning and attentiveness that went into the projects I was working on.
Working on Creative Media’s projects gave me a chance to gain experience of a diverse cross-section of what the company produces: I contributed to more ambitious and large-scale shoots (among them a video to promote the crowdfunding of a campus-based cycle hire scheme and a fundraising video for the university’s Development and Alumni Office), as well as the more standard, smaller-scale projects (capturing general views from the Lapworth museum, producing a Welcome Week video showing students how to use the library services, etc.).
What were your main achievements?
My biggest achievement was completing the main independent project. This video – which aimed to promote the facilities and services available to prospective postgraduate students of the University of Birmingham – was entirely my own project. I organised my own small crew of fellow students, I pitched and developed the idea, and filmed and edited together all the footage for the project. With the work I have produced as part of my Film and TV Masters thus far, I have had a greater degree of personal creative freedom in terms of what I have produced. Being assigned to produce something within more constrained parameters (i.e. to promote an aspect of the university, to fit relatively closely with the company’s other content, etc.) was a valuable experience, given that these are the sort of parameters I will inevitably be working within when working in the future in professional positions.
For this reason – as well as the fact that this project served as a culmination of everything I’d learned through the placement and through my course – I am especially proud that I was able to successfully complete this project. I am glad, also, that I will be able to take this achievement beyond my internship experience; as I will certainly be able to use both independent projects I worked on in a professional show-reel.
What did you enjoy the most?
What I enjoyed most was going out on shoots. Accompanying Creative Media on projects – as well as being an illuminating opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the various processes and responsibilities involved in media production – gave me an enviable chance to work with a number of different people and in a number of different locations.
Though my official position on these shoots was that of a runner / assistant, the nature of these shoots meant that I was often able to use the smaller tasks I was assigned (cable running, setting down marks for camera operators / talent, de-rigging equipment, etc.) as a means of learning more about the “higher-level” responsibilities. For example, having to assist a camera operator in such tasks as changing lenses or setting up a tripod is a good way of learning more about the considerations a camera operator makes when constructing and taking a shot.
Even though my interests with regards to pursuing a career within the media industry still predominantly lie within the field of post-production and editing, working in these more “hands-on” areas was a valuable experience; not least because I have learned, through this internship, that – in the contemporary media industry – being versatile and able to work in both production and post-production is a highly valued skill by many employers and clients.
What were the hardest aspects?
The most challenging aspect of this internship was probably getting to grips with the levels of attentiveness required on shoots: working as an assistant alongside professionals, who were often working to tight schedules, meant that I had to learn quickly what to do to best and most efficiently be of use on set. In terms of outdoor shoots, also, I quickly learned how important it is to consider the complications that can be thrown up by the Great British weather.
Another challenge was posed by my independently produced intern film, when I was balancing the planning of this project with the work I was doing on Creative Media’s own shoots. This planning involved, amongst other things, arranging a meeting with a member of the postgraduate recruitment staff, arranging and scheduling interviews with contributors, and gaining permissions to shoot in locations around campus. Adding to this challenge were a few unfortunate circumstances I had to work around, including having to cancel one of my planned interviews (due to interviewee illness) and having to therefore change the structure of the video. Though this was a less than ideal situation, I value that I was successfully able to adapt my work in spite of these obstacles.
What skills have you developed?
Through working with Creative Media, I have definitely gained an insight on how important patience and attention to detail is when working in any aspect of media production. This is an insight I have already begun to apply within my future projects. Working as an assistant with Creative Media has acquainted me with the small, somewhat more nuanced, tasks (tasks like marking positions, or even clapperboard operation) that you can only really learn by having to do them on the job. Additionally, I definitely feel more confident in terms of my general technical skills.
Specific skills I have gained while working with Creative Media have included learning to correctly detach and install different camera lenses, and learning to operate an auto-cue, amongst other things; and I have also been able to develop and become more confident in areas like being able to efficiently set up a tripod, and in setting up lighting for interviews or for a green-screen.
Finally, my independent assignments were a great way to work on honing my skills on putting a project together from the ground-up; from planning the individual shots, to editing them together in order to create the finished product.
How do you think your internship will benefit you in the future?
I definitely think that this activity is going to benefit me in the future. Even though, at the time of writing, my placement ended very recently, I already feel that I can apply the skills and experience I have gained within a number of forthcoming projects and within whatever future career opportunities await me in the future. Probably most significant is the fact that I now have an extra two short films that I can incorporate within my show-reel to promote myself to future employers and collaborators.
Additionally, I have really valued the understanding I have gained of the freelance lifestyle: being able to see what skills and attributes are expected and desired of a freelance worker in this field has really helped me to think more clearly about my own future. Witnessing the structure of a crew, as well – whether on small scale shoots, or more complicated projects – has been highly beneficial to helping me to form more realistic and informed expectations of future work and projects. Generally, being able to get a hands-on experience within all the different processes of media production has made me more confident when it comes to thinking logistically about what work I plan to produce in the future.
Thank you to donors
Many thanks for the support that you have provided. As this placement was unpaid, the fact that I was able to cover my travel costs with this bursary definitely enabled me to make the most out of this illuminating and beneficial experience.
With grateful thanks to the alumni donors who made the PGT Professional Development Bursary possible.