Friday, 26 September 2014

Career advice from our Latest Graduate Panel at Bucks

our graduate panel at Bucks
Yesterday, Thursday September 25th, we welcomed our latest graduate panel. These are Bucks graduates who have made it in the creative industries who come back to tell us about the latest trends in creative media, and to help our students gain an early understanding of what it takes to launch their own careers.

Our guests this time were cinematographer Barry Gross, Matt Harris, Tammy Riley-Smith, who has just directed the feature film Delicious, BBC Producer Simon Fox, John Osbourne of Brassneck TV,  and TV director Lorna Gibbs.  A number of the panelists will be coming back to Bucks to teach our students the latest skills in new media.

Delicious by Tammy Riley-Smith
Steve Partridge chaired the panel, and his first question to the panelists was:

How does the rise of new media digital content such as YouTube and mobile devices affect your job in creative media?

Lorna Gibbs said that she was not heavily impacted, as she does mostly live broadcasts. John Osbourne of Brassneck said that broadcasters have "less and less money to spend", but brands (by contrast) tend to have healthier budgets - especially for web content.

This means that the market for "short form videos" is growing. And these can still be high quality, such as a series of films that Brassneck did recently for Fred Perry, who commissioned six 15 minute films on the history of British youth sub-cultures, such as Mods and Rockers. They wanted the films for their website.  So, overall, there is a growing market for "short form" videos.

But how do you pitch your ideas? Nowadays commissioners don't just want a paper proposal - they "want a sizzle", which is to say a four or five minute video which encapsulates your idea.

John recently made a video about the housing estate where he grew up, and they are creating their own musical about this - which has been given funding for a feature documentary.
John Osbourne
Simon Fox said that web content was still regarded as the poor relation of TV - but it really isn't anymore, and the web should not treated as a lesser medium.

Tammy Riley-Smith
Tammy Riley-Smith said that film was changing fast - consumers "don't go to the cinema as much anymore".

But, she added, digital platforms are "saving the lives" of independent film-makers. Theatrical distributors are hard to convince - they want mass audience material. For niche film-makers, you can't get into theatres, but you can get a release online. Delicious (her latest film) got a release on iTunes, and YouTube offered a chance to promote the film. This is "exciting news" for student film-makers - now you have a platform that you can access.

Barry Gross
Cinematographer Barry Gross said he is doing more and more work online, shooting on 2k and 4k cameras, with high production values. Higher resolution cameras can now shoot great material; the technology is improving all the time.

The trouble is that actors are getting paid less and less for their work, and it is harder and harder to track where the material is being used and broadcast. By the time our current freshmen have graduated, the new media and old media will have "merged into one".

Matt Harris said that broadcast is still fairly secure, still focused on TV and less on YouTube and Vimeo.
Matt Harris

Tammy Riley-Smith talked about how the industry is changing "not just year by year but month by is changing all the time".

Stephen Partridge talked about the positive side of new media - ie how much bigger job prospects are today, because their are "zillions of channels". There is "plenty of work out there" which is "exclusively for the web".  He talked about a new Government survey which recently predicted that "half of the new jobs in the UK will soon be in the creative sector".

The next question was: "Who is paying for content, and how has this changed?"

Stephen Partridge
Barry Gross said that the author of content is not being paid in the same way; you can't digitally watermark stuff and he "hates seeing people create stuff and get ripped off".

Animators for example put "a lot of time and love" into their work (Amen to that - Ed).  Music videos used to have budgets - now they don't.

Stephen Partridge argued that it is still possible to make money - but Barry pointed out that only small players and the majors (like Disney and DreamWorks) still survive - the middle-sized companies have disappeared. He asked "honestly, how many people in the room have pirated a film online?" - almost everyone put their hand up.

Tammy Riley-Smith said that the equipment has gotten cheaper. But John Osbourne said that Broadcasters are paying less too; they "know that costs have come down". Tammy said that film-makers aren't always completey truthful about their budgets. She also mentioned that there are "lots and lots" of ways to get a film made nowadays - "you have to be guerillas".

The next question was: "What should universities and colleges do to prepare students for the market?"

Matt Harris said that almost all his work "comes through his Twitter account". His advice is: "Get a Twitter Account". Also, don't just email your CV. You have to "try something new - why not send a box of chocolates with your CV? You have to what it takes to get noticed".

Sending CVs "by mail or email - it does not work anymore - everyone else is doing the same thing". You have to try harder. "Find the show you like, find out who makes them, find their Twitter account, and congratulate them on their work. Then once you have made a connection, try to meet them; ask to shadow them for a day - you will eventually get a job". That is how Matt made it work for him.

Steve Partridge said that most undergraduates find networking hard, but this can be the most important thing in terms of building a career.

Lorna Gibbs said that "no experience is bad experience". Even jobs you don't like can provide you with good experience. She also said "never lie about your experience, because it will always catch you out". The industry is "still quite small...and it goes around".

Lorna Gibbs
John Osbourne said that to find work "you have to hustle". He added that Bucks was "awful" when he was here. It is "much better now...else I would not be here now". He had to "get out there and do it himself", he would "go to London and work for free" to find work.

"What did you do?" asked Steve. "What didn't I do?" replied John. He "worked for everyone, to get a real flavour for the industry". John said you have to make it personal, you can't just email the office your CV. If you don't make the effort, you won't make it. He added that "spelling mistakes" will cost you work. No-one will hire you "if you can't run a spell check".

Simon Fox said that all the great people "are looking for have to get out there and make a nuisance of yourself, in the nicest possible way".

Tammy Riley-Smith said "you can't sell yourself if you don't believe in yourself". So, over the next three years, you have to figure out "what it is you want to do". She thought it would be "glamorous working for a production company...but it was bloody awful". So, find "what you want to do, and develop that, find your self-belief". You have to "know thyself".

Matt Harris "studied TV production at university". He networked by "going on reality TV shows". He did "ridiculous numbers of pilots", mainly dating shows, one of which got aired.  He got to know people, and he would get called back. It was "not a normal way to get a job", but it worked. They "see you are keen, and they will employ you".

Barry Gross worked on Desperate Housewives in Los Angeles
Barry Gross said he moved to the UK and had to hustle - but at least "he was in his forties", so he was able to do it. Networking is a lot about trust; his contacts really helped him when he first moved to LA. "Get onto a [film] set", he added, because "it's not like anything else you have experienced".

Another thing: "never talk smack about anyone". And, don't "buy stuff on payments", because it's important to work for free from time to time.  Also, "go to whatever you're invited to", and "hang out with the smokers" outside. Networking is "so important".

The closing question for the panel was:
What current innovations and technologies are exciting you right now?

Lorna Dean Gibbs mentioned "The Mars system" which is changing broadcast TV. Barry Gross said that 5K cameras are appearing now. The Canon 5D "changed Barry's world", because it has a "very shallow depth of field". In the end though, it's all about what you do with the camera. A camera is "just a box with a hole in it". New cameras "can make people look like they've just been dug up", because "the cameras are so good".

Other general advice for students included the following:

John Osbourne said that to get your ideas made, "you need a great title". A great idea "with a bad title, will not get made". Tammy Riley Smith said that "collaboration is key".

To read more about our recent Graduate Panels, follow this link


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