ScreenHI Delegates at The Network report back...

ScreenHI Delegates at The Network report back...

Wed 22 Aug 2012


The Network:  22nd - 25th August 2012

ScreenHI sponsored Alison Johnston and Andrew Jeffrey to take part in The Network 2012, a scheme run by Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival during their three day industry festival in August They got a fantastic insight into TV production through workshops, attending the festival sessions, talking to and networking with industry professionals and most importantly hands on experience of making telly!   The Network Live show on the final day really illustrated all the things that go into making a television programme Read on to find out more about their experiences over the three days at The Network.

Live Celebrity Juice with Keith Lemon at MGEITF

Alison Johnston, Wednesday 22nd August 2012
Just sitting down to catch some breath after a packed day at the MGEITF as one of this year’s Networkers.  As a Networker, I get to attend workshops and master classes with some of TV’s top professionals.  Glancing at the schedule, I thought today would be a relaxed start to the four day programme: a couple of workshops at and then plenty of time for relaxing and meeting new people

It is past 11pm and I feel like I have not stopped all day.

Get Smart with your Smart Phone was a great starter session, especially as I have only just moved into the exciting new world of owning an iPhone.  The focus was on filming and I picked up all sorts of handy tips and hidden tricks – locking the auto focus and exposure, improving the sound quality and image dimensions.  Marc Settle, from the BBC School of Journalism, who led the session then got us to pair up and practise the techniques we had learned.  He gave examples of apps and accessories to make your filming even better quality.  Coming out of that session, I am looking at my fancy new phone with a whole new level of respect.

EICC foyer during the MGEITF

Next was an appointment at the CV clinic for some one-to-one attention looking at my overall hopes for the future in TV as well as how I can improve my CV to help me get the right job now.

A group session followed: The Pitch Doctor’s Guide to the Art of Networking with Paul Borros.  He made some fresh points through some funny exercises, which help change how I viewed the networking process.  I was one of the people who put my hand up at the start to admit to disliking networking (ironic given the name and nature of this whole event) but by the end of it I felt much more confident about myself.

Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s then gave us an introductory talk.  I enjoyed his sharp wit and reference to the late great ‘Why Don’t You’.  He introduced us to the The Network Committee – it was nice to see the faces of those who must have read and approved my application form from all those months ago – reminded us of the great opportunity that we’ve been given and urged us to make the most of it.

Then it was time for tea, dropping off our luggage, a quick change of clothes and back out for our first Network social event, a quiz called It’s Only TV But I Really Like It, hosted by CBBC’s Iain Stirling.  Sadly, our table came a dismal last in the quiz, but we certainly had a lot of fun in the process and it was a chance to meet more new people including a few from The Ones to Watch, the sister scheme to The Network, who are further down the TV industry path than we are.

The Network Delegates and some tv kit

To end the night, I joined the others in my group to meet Ewan Vinnicombe, Head of Presentation for Children’s BBC, and Jane Atkinson, Line Producer for Strictly Come Dancing, whom we will be working with in Production Skills: Behind the Scenes workshop over the coming days.  Just typing these names and titles amazes me: it reminds me of something Joe Godwin said in his opening talk: where else would we get the opportunity to meet, talk to and work with people at this level?

So, as midnight approaches, I might be feeling a little frazzled after the day’s excitement and all the new faces, and my head is certainly spinning with names and questions, but I cannot wait for what tomorrow brings.

Andrew Jeffrey, Wednesday 22nd August 2012
Finally slumping into a chair with a large sigh and a strange half grin half dazed expression … yeah this years MGEITF is well underway and hitting the ground running doesn’t even cut it.  I am attending this years ‘The Network’ which is a scheme run by Edinburgh International Television Festival helping new talent find their feet in the media industry.

The whirlwind of a day began at midday where I was rushed straight to a workshop entitled “ Get Smart with your Smartphone.”  Now having owned an iphone for 5 years, I felt fairly confident entering this workshop that I knew my I-phone inside out… I was very wrong.  The workshop helped me better understand how I can use the video recording function on my phone and the Do’s and Don’ts of filming using a smart phone to film from the simple make sure your video isn’t interrupted by a phone call, to the more complicated information on how to lock the focus of your shot.

The day is off to a flying start and any nerves that I arrived with are slowly dissipating as I make my way to the CV doctor.  Having wanted to edge a foot in the door of the television industry for a while now I am looking forward to sitting down with someone to help edit my CV.  I am worried that the glaringly obvious fact that I have no experience in television and no degree in media will make this meeting very short … but I am very wrong.  Sitting down with Gail Birnie her smile instantly puts me at ease and she critics my CV and gives me excellent advice, which I feel, will benefit me greatly and help make my CV stand out.  She helps me realise that although I don’t have experience in television YET, I do have a range of skills that are transferable and will help me greatly in the Industry.

I also sign up to the ‘Presenter Experience’ workshop and finally have my chance to complete my very own Blue Peter make, but alas I do not manage to say the famous line “Here’s one I made earlier”.  Who knows maybe I might get an opportunity to do it for real some day.  It was lots of fun and a real insight into what is going on behind the scenes and the amount of things a presenter has to think about; Connecting with the audience, Presenting to camera, demonstrating the make, smiling and all the time trying to keep everything to time.  Phew!

Andrew Jeffrey delegate pass, Charlie Brooker session

Next It was off to ‘The Pitch Doctors Guide to Networking” a workshop which I can see being very useful over the next few days when I am presented with the opportunity to Network with television professionals Paul Boross brought the subject to life and I look forward to letting you know if his hints and tips have been successful over the next few days.

All that before 4pm and little did I know I had only just begun …

We are shuttled to Pollock halls where we will be staying for the next couple of nights. No sooner had we all found our rooms and unpacked we were off again.

We arrive at the Edinburgh International Conference centre where we are treated to an evening of entertainment.  We are split into groups for a team quiz which is presented by CBBC presenter Ian Stirling and a very entertaining and comical performance form the fantastic Frisky and Manish who have everyone up dancing and laughing at their hilarious sketches and pop song references.

Some may say that after 9 intense hours the time had finally arrived to retreat to the comfort of my bed.  Not at the Network!  Suddenly as I am ushered off and Introduced to the Sky news team who are leading my workshop over the next couple of days “News skills: Making the News”.  Everything so far feels like a very timid warm up for what was about to begin.  Splitting us into groups we were given 15 minutes to come up with a News story to pitch.  Our group initially pitches an idea exploring how the Olympics have inspired a generation, and if this has affected the number of young people getting involved in sport. Unfortunately another group also pitches our idea and as they pitched first we have to scramble to find a new story to cover and decide to see if the Olympics have had any effect on ticket sales here in Edinburgh at the Fringe festival.  No one in the group has a clear picture of where this story might lead, so a long evening of research is ahead it seems … and it is now 00:23am.  I think I better get started and hit the hay soon as I have a funny feeling tomorrow is going to be another action packed day.

Alison Johnston, Thursday 23rd August 2012
After a very generous breakfast, we set off to Napier University for day two of the MGEITF.  Having learned lessons from yesterday, that things were likely to be packed in, I brought a banana for extra energy during the day.

This morning the Networkers split into three groups to attend two sets of master classes.  My first was with Daisy Goodwin, Head Girl at Silver River Productions, who began by telling us that there are jobs to be had in TV and we are bound to get one.  That was an encouraging start.  It seems that everyone we speak to and hear from is really trying to build our confidence up.

Al Johnston and Danielle, the scriptwriter putting final touches to their live show

Charlie Brooker, in a panel session that we all attended, was interviewed about his career path.  He described his route in as ‘more like swimming through a side door’.  The idea of a less conventional path into the TV industry was echoed by Peter Fincham, Director of Television at ITV, in the second master class I attended.  It is refreshing to hear that there is not necessarily a straight route in and that there can be a certain randomness.  It sounds to me like that might make the experience all the richer.

Next we met some of the team behind Horrible Histories.  It was great to see how proud they were of the series. Caroline Norris, the Producer, talked about their aim to create a children’s programme that adults thought was too good for children.  Clearly, they’ve achieved that.  It would be brilliant to work on such a programme.

Opening Night Party at the National Museum of Scotland

The day was still not over, and next was our introduction to one of the most exciting parts for me: the chance to work on the Production Skills: Behind the Scenes workshop.  In fact I have homework that I should be reading at this very moment, in preparation for planning and filming our live show.  That is why I decided not to stay out after the Opening Night party and the lecture by Elisabeth Murdoch, CEO of Shine Group, and have come back to Napier to sit in the foyer and type this blog.  I’ve just been joined to other fellow Networkers who say ‘Hi’ to Screen HI!

Elizabeth Murdoch delivers the McTaggart Lecture

Alison Johnston, Saturday 25th August 2012
If I thought the first day and a half of The Network was busy, I was in no way prepared for the next two days. That is why I am only sitting down to complete this blog now that I have made it safely back home.

Friday was focussed on our workshop groups. The News Skills workshop began at some horrible hour of the morning and the rest of us (Production, Research, Creative and Drama Skills workshops) began work at the only slightly more reasonable hour of 7:30am.

As we waited for our workshop leaders to arrive, including Ewan Zinnicombe (Head of Presentations for Children’s BBC) and Jane Atkinson (Line Producer for Strictly Come Dancing), we discussed all we’d managed to learn from the other Networkers about what they were going to produce. This was vital information that we needed to help us plan the content of our live show, a magazine-style programme, which would have to combine a live pitch, excerpts from Snog, Marry, Avoid and Waterloo Road and a Sky News broadcast, all planned and created by Networkers.

Next, we were shown round the equipment we would be using and given a rundown of job descriptions.  Kindly, our workshop leaders asked us what jobs we would not like to do.  I owned up to being scared of vision mixing and VT (the person who cued the tapes) – I don’t think my hand-eye coordination is up to the job.  As it turns out, they gave me the job of Producer, a privilege and a terrifying prospect.

The rest of Friday was spent running about and getting organised.  I can’t remember half the jobs that needed completing, just that they kept turning up needing done.  It felt, at that stage, that we were making progress, working on a script and a running order and getting familiar with the equipment.  After a quick trip to attend the Channel of the Year awards, where the BBC production of Sherlock (we had attended a panel master class with them earlier) won two awards, including the Network’s Choice, we returned for a working dinner. Looking back, I wish I had asked the keenest members of our group (of which there were several) to delay their trip to The George Hotel for the last social event of The Network, so that we could get the script finalised and the running order completed. That would have made a huge difference to the following day. Ah, we live and learn! Sometimes the learning can make the living quite painful however.

After the party, I stayed up to read over the script, view the raw footage of our own Behind the Scenes short film, watch a Visit Scotland film from our sponsors and put the final touches to the running order. I felt a bit hazy about timings (not a strong point for me) but as we were heading to the EICC at 8:30am the following morning, and our programme was due to go live at 11:45am, I thought we were probably going to be okay.

Alison Johnston with Assistant Producer going over the running order to the live show

Saturday morning began with an early meeting with Narraser (Assistant Producer) and Mary (who was involved with the sound desk and creating the Behind the Scenes film) and then a breakfast meeting with almost the whole group. So far so good.

Then things began to go wrong.I won’t go into all the details, as they are still too painfully recent.  Suffice to say, a late bus, computer difficulties, printing problems, technical issues, combined with some poor decisions on my part, meant that we were nowhere near as ready for the show as we should have been.  It is incredibly frustrating to think how good it could have been, especially as we worked so hard.  I guess that is a feeling that many (if not everybody) in the Media industry have experienced at some point.

The Production Skills team

However, we still managed to create a live show with all the other Networkers’ efforts in it and – though there were mistakes – I think there is still much to praise and we definitely deserve a pat on the back.  I guessed that a Producer’s job would be a tough one, especially as you are ultimately responsible for the resulting programme, and it was The above photograph from Ebony Harris, a former Network delegate shows the type of equipment used in a live show.

How will the events of the last few days affect me?  Ask me once I’ve been able to process them and catch up on some sleep.  What an experience!  All credit to the organisers of the event.  They did a brilliant job with The Network and I know we all feel privileged to have shared in it.

Andrew Jeffrey, Saturday 25th August 2012
6:15am … a mere 3 and a half hours after hitting the pillow the joyful tone of my alarm wakes me from my slumber, Its time to hit the editing suite.

We arrive under the cover of darkness and strangely I am feeling a lot less tired than expected which is probably to do with the excitement of editing my first ever news report which will be broadcast in front of all the other ‘Networkers’ attending the festival later on in the afternoon. So every second counts much like it would in the real world of Sky News. I am very excited to see some of the shots we got while filming as I am confident we have some really good ones which will help keep our news story really visual which is one of the golden rules in broadcast journalism according to our course mentors “Tell your story through pictures, the fewer words the better” I am really happy with how our story is coming together and within one short hour we already have the rough cut of our story complete. Luke Jones the reporter of our piece is rushed off to do the voice over for our story, While myself and Ellen Coyne are left to Cut 40secs of footage to get our story within the 1min30secs allotted time. With the deadline fast approaching I feel like I am in a very timid episode of ‘24’ (due to the lack of explosions, the stress levels are similar) and can hear the clock ticking … although maybe that has something to do with the lack of sleep.

With the finishing touches being made and minutes to spare we finally have our news story, which you can watch here:

The Network Live is possibly the best way to end the 4 days of madness and sleep deprivation. We are treated to an excellent show by all the Networkers working on the Production skills workshop which kick starts with some creative pitches for new television shows before we are treated to a hilarious mini episode of Snog Mary Avoid in which Networkers have been developing their research skills. Our moment is getting closer … I am beginning to understand even more about why working in television is so exciting, the waiting to see the reaction of people to what you have created and the excitement of seeing it all on the screen! The nerves are building as we watch some Waterloo Road scripted and directed by fellow networkers. It is so exciting to see what everyone else has been working on over the weekend and I feel a wave of that ‘I can’t believe I’m here right now’ feeling, which everyone has experienced at some point in their life.  It’s the moment of truth. Network News presented by Martin Stanford and our news story is up second. I may have stopped breathing for the whole of our news story but as people react and laugh a little at parts of our story I relax. Wow! What a thrill getting to see something you have worked so hard on broadcast in front of all the Network delegates and with a quick sign off ‘The Network Live’ is over and with it, The Network also.

The experience offered to me by the MGEITF and supported by ScreenHI is one I will never forget. The Media industry is extremely competitive and it is easy to fell completely lost to begin with, but to be offered such an insight to the industry is an experience not many people get. This is the first step on a long journey but if there is one thing I have learned is that if I really want to work in television, it is a journey worth taking… and I can’t wait!!