Quickclass needed a new ~1 minute explainer of our platform and its many benefits to Teachers and Students to help Accelerate Learning. Through funky and nibble Production House MondoTV, we found George O’Regan, who produced the GEM you can now see on our public homepage. In his own words, George answered a few questions to reflect on his shoot and the lessons he learned. Its beautiful insight onto the trials and opportunities of young filmmakers – which YOUR students will do well to learn from! So, in George’s own words….
- How did you first have contact with Ben, the Producer from MondoTV?
My friend Lucas and I were waiting on a train platform with a pile of film kit; we were heading off to Brighton to shoot a scene for our Year 13 ‘Short Film’ unit. A chatty American guy wearing a denim jacket with an embroidered dragon design on the back came up to us and asked what we were shooting. We talked for a little while and found out about MondoTV, his Shoreditch-based production company. This was of course Ben.
We ended up getting on the same train as him and before he got off at Gatwick, probably to jet off to somewhere exotic, he offered us our first job with the company. Lucas shot two events for him, and I edited both videos…incredibly slowly. Perhaps during my interactions with Ben on these projects he realised that I could have more potential as a Director than as an Editor. And here we are.
- How much freedom did you have to create the treatment?
An unusual amount. In my previous experiences of online advertising I had been quite restricted by brand guidelines, executive decisions and even to already fully formed ideas. Beyond a couple of reference clips and suggestions from Ben (MondoTV Producer) and StJohn (Quickclass Founder) I had free reign over the treatment. Recently I had stopped suggesting risky ideas to brands as they would always say “no” and play it safe, there wasn’t even a point, but St John didn’t have any fear of being bored and reassured me that I could be as creative as I liked. The freedom was refreshing and undoubtedly led to a more stand-out video.
- Were there any difficulties in casting for the film?
Once the call was out on Casting Call Pro we had over 200 applications within 24 hours for the role of Andy. I tried to make the job sound as fun as possible (which it was) and left out any specific physical traits to attract a larger number of applicants in case anyone surprised us and completely changed how we saw Andy. In the end we picked the very expressive Teifi who was the perfect fit for Andy and looked just as we’d imagined. All in all, a very stress free casting process.
- How many shots did you have for the film? Was this typical for a 1 day shoot?
40 shots, 4 hours, 10 shots per hour. Sounds doable right? However, we needed to set up and pack down in that time, which left us with about 3 hours of actual shooting. When you add that to the fact that we were shooting with 8 extras, 4 crew and 1 actor as well as a dolly and crane in a tiny meeting room on one of the hottest days of the year, we weren’t left with many reasons to relax. Long story short, we didn’t finish on time, but thanks to some fantastic schmoozing from the production manager, Cisco, we secured an extra hour in the room, within budget, and wrapped with a happy cast and crew.
- Any unexpected difficulties on the day? Any problems you were unable to overcome?
Because we had so little time on location, everything was meticulously planned. It did take a little longer than expected, hence the extra hour of shooting, but it did go very smoothly.
- How long did the edit take? Anything you found was missing?
The edit only took about a week on and off. Again, because we had planned well, we weren’t missing anything in the edit. However, we did re-shoot a few bits that could have been improved, such as Andy’s computer – we made it a lot more messy.
- How was directing the Voice Over? Where there any unforeseen difficulties there?
StJohn’s is the voice that you hear in the film. However, as I live in London and StJohn in Amsterdam we had a considerable barrier to cross.StJohn sourced a good microphone from a friend and we set up a Skype call. After a couple of tests where I listened back to the audio we decided to jump in and record the voice over. It took a couple of hours to record a take of each section that we, or I, was happy with. Unfortunately, my experimental method of recording with the microphone in a cardboard box sounded awful when mixed in with the properly recorded sound effects and music. This meant that we had to re-record everything, stood in a copying cupboard, when StJohn came to London the following week and the day before it was ‘premiered’ at the BFI Media Conference.
- Any other lessons you’d like to share from making this film?
Never record a voice over from inside a cardboard box. Never.
Summer, right? Long bright evenings, frisbee in the park, barbecues with friends….
Except… except, we know the British summer often has different ideas about what it’s supposed to be. Our North Atlantic maritime climate means we’re just as likely to be running for shelter or huddling under an umbrella!
Still, for the cinephiles among us this isn’t necessarily ever a bad thing, as we’ll trade a soggy park for a comfy cinema seat any day. As luck would have it, there’s a rich offering of new releases this summer to keep us entertained (and dry!)
Here’s the Top 10 we’re most excited about this ‘summer’.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Marvel’s surprise hit from 2014 has spawned a laugh-out-loud hilarious and action-packed sequel which simultaneously manages to explore many deeper aspects of family rifts.
- Snatched – Allowing us not only to sneer at the naivety of the hapless American tourist totally unprepared for a South American vacation (let alone kidnapping), but first outing with 70’s screen idol Goldie Hawn, practically this century!
- Wonder Woman – Not Marvel, but DC this time comes up trumps with this surprisingly refreshing and female-friendly superhero movie which actually shows some hope for the DC comic universe being constructed to compete with Marvel’s string of hits. After the horrendous Batman vs Superman, this could be exactly what they, and we the audience hoped for!
- The Big Sick – Combining traditional family interracial tensions with love, heartache and serious illness. This drama is funny and heart wrenching at the same time. Fresh and worth checking out.
- Lady MacBeth – Katherine, played stunningly by Florence Pugh is trapped in a cold marriage. Rebellion and lust lead to murder and tragedy in one of the brightest slow burns of the summer.
- Atomic Blonde – Another powerful female leading character, also adopted from a comic book, but trading a magic lasso for knee-high boots and secret-agent ass-kicking. Charlize Theron stars as a British spy Lorraine Broughton whose love-interest is a beautiful French counterpart – how refreshing!
- A Ghost Story – One of the summer’s most provocative, thoughtful and SLOW films involves Casey Affleck with a sheet over his head as his character’s ghost haunts the house he once inhabited in life, as his partner moves out and moves on.
- Maudie – Ethan Hawke (we know, we know) puts in a promising performance as a miner in 1930’s Nova Scotia with Sally Hawkins as the arthritic housekeeper who hones her skills as an artists and becomes accepted and celebrated by the local community.
- Okja – Ever fallen in love with a pig? How about a genetically modified giant pig? This unclassifiable film from South Korean Bong Joon-ho is a delight through and through.
- Baby Driver – We’ve left the best (in our eyes) to last here. Edgar Wright takes a well-worn genre of the bank heist gang and turns it on its head with the downright coolest film of the summer, no competition. Just see it.
The film industry is the fastest growing in the UK, now worth £4.3bn to the economy and employing 66k people – approximately the population of Boston (Lincolnshire). This suggests a bright British film industry future, surely? Yet the industry is now uniting to ensure a future for the sector, by using £20m of BFI lottery funding to train a new generation of creative talent, and a new future of UK filmmaking.
This comes after a recent report claimed that 10,000 new workers are needed over the next 5 years. According to Future Film Skills, there are key skill gaps in the sector – such as art and production departments, camera, costume, hair and make-up, post-production, VFX, and even construction and electrical – all require funding for training to ensure a British film industry future.
This is why a new 10-point plan has been devised to tackle these gaps, which will be addressed over the next 5 years, supported by £20m BFI lottery funding.
This industry-led initiative is chaired by famous producer of the Bond films, Barbara Broccoli OBE, who had this to say: “We live in a diverse society and it is vital both culturally and commercially that our industry reflects this in front of and behind the camera. With industry, education and government uniting behind this new Film Skills Strategy and 10 Point Action Plan we know we will be able to increase the number of people working in film and ensure we have a representative workforce.”
Broccoli mentions representation as a key aim due to the new report also showing that the film workforce is comprised of only 12% from poorer backgrounds; 5% with a disability; and black, Asian and minority ethnic groups representing just 3% of the workforce. Whilst women, who make up 40%, earn on average £3,000 less than male counterparts – how can we have a bright future of filmmaking (lest a bright British film industry future) with these statistics?
The 10 Point Action Plan
- A trusted and reliable careers information service
A single, trusted online destination for anybody seeking information to start or progress a career in the industry. Offering links, networks and information for training and jobs in film throughout the UK, building on and linking to sites such as Into Film, HIIVE and BAFTA Guru.
- An accreditation system to guarantee employer confidence
Developed by the industry for the industry, in partnership with higher education, to win the confidence of parents, learners and employers, this will build on the achievements of existing work and will involve industry and employers in setting up the scheme.
- A suite of new Apprenticeship Standards
Complete and deliver a new Apprenticeship Standard, which will be applied to courses for a range of job roles throughout the industry including production, distribution and exhibition.
- A Skills Forecasting Service
A responsive skills forecasting and planning service to respond to industry needs, and ensuring the regular supply of data across the sector on future skills opportunities.
- Embed the BFI Film Academy into the skills pipeline
Develop the BFI Film Academy to work closely with industry, placing set-ready alumni as trainees on film productions across the UK.
- A mentoring service to break down barriers for new entrants and returnees
A new personal mentoring programme that offers bespoke support for individuals wanting to enter or progress in the film industry, and those returning after a career break. Including mentoring, pastoral care, coaching and opportunities to network, and awareness of specific job opportunities.
- World-class Centres of Excellence for screen-related craft and technical skills
Working with higher education and the new Institute of Technology to create a small number of world class Centres of Excellence for screen-related craft and technical skills.
- A new bursary programme to ensure wide participation
A new bursary programme designed to support individuals taking their first steps, and removing some of the practical obstacles to those currently under-represented in the industry.
- Professional development courses to maintain world-class skills
A new range of professional development courses, aligned with the latest technology and business skills will ensure our workforce maintains world-class skills.
- Mobilise the industry
Encourage the industry to support the future workforce through a number of schemes and campaigns including creating a database to match individuals with local needs, and which recognises enlightened employers who encourage skills transfer.
Artificial Intelligence in education? No, it’s not science fiction, it’s real and it’s here. Love it or loathe it, the benefits of artificial intelligence in education are hard to deny. Here’s a rundown on exactly what those benefits are, and what the potential drawbacks might be too.
IBM’s Watson platform is a great example of artificial intelligence in education. Essentially, it’s a chatbot, but one with far more oomph behind it than you tend to find in the ones online! It was originally developed, of all things, to win the quiz show Jeopardy over in the U.S. It did just that back in 2011, beating two former winners and winning a million dollars- although what it did with the prize, we aren’t sure. Probably put it aside for its Orbital Destruction Laser project.
One of the many uses that Watson has been put to over the years since is as a teacher’s assistant. Watson started work at American university Georgia Tech last year, answering questions posed in a students’ forum. The professor who ‘hired’ Watson, Ashok Goel, initially didn’t tell any of the students that their questions were being answered by artificial intelligence… And nobody noticed.
Using the pseudonym ‘Jill’, Watson answered questions where it had a 97% (or greater) certainty of the correct answer. Over the course of a normal semester, Goel and his teaching staff alone receive over 10,000 questions, and Watson managed to free up an enormous amount of time for them all. It sounds like the stuff of dreams- what is this ‘free time’?
The Bad… and the Ugly
As it stands, our AI is very impressive. It’s light years ahead of where we were just a decade or two ago. But that’s the nature of progress: there’s always more to discover, more to understand and more ‘Eureka!’ moments. We still have a long way to go before we realise the potential of AI, both generally and in the classroom.
Ashok Goel’s Watson experiment was an amazing success, freeing up time for teachers and assistants; but it also proved the one major shortcoming of artificial intelligence in education right now. Online tools are one thing, but when are we going to be ready to make that leap into the real world?
The truth is that the biggest problem, and perhaps the last thing that we’ll be able to address, is the fact that AI lacks a human touch. We wouldn’t currently be able to achieve the benefits of artificial intelligence in education within a classroom setting: it’s just too obvious that we aren’t dealing with humans. And as we’ve reported on before, a classroom lacking this human touch just doesn’t work.
The best solution is the virtual learning environment: the best combination of human and AI. With a VLE, you can enjoy the ease of organisation that AI brings- especially if, in the future, programs like IBM’s Watson can be incorporated into them- along with the human touch without which learning in the classroom just can’t happen at all.
This isn’t the first or the last time we’re going to extol the virtues of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) for schools. The main benefit of a VLE for teachers is that it helps you to organise all learning and course materials and cut back on the vast reams of paper we all had to wade through before. But for students, it can have a very real effect on attainment. Let’s examine what the latest research says are the main benefits of VLEs for teachers, and for students.
Different levels of access
The 2017 study The Influence of Virtual Learning Environments in Students’ Performance found that the number of times students would access the VLE varied wildly from between zero to a maximum of 1532 for the courses examined in the study. But within this range, they found that students’ use of the VLE would fall within a general set pattern: grouped into five levels, these were around 10, 60, 100, 200 and 400. This suggests that apart from a small subset, engagement with the VLE was generally good.
Now, this study was carried out at a higher education institution in Portugal. Generally, universities have so far better understood the benefits of the virtual learning environment for teachers than secondary and primary schools; so the takeaway message here is that genuine engagement really can be achieved. This is, of course, a different story in say, a secondary school; students take far more subjects, and do less self-led research than university students. But that just plays into the true benefits of a VLE.
Similar marks, but more passes overall
This particular study actually didn’t find a positive correlation between the number of accesses to the VLE, and the mean marks received on a particular course. So, for instance, whether a student accessed the VLE a hundred times or a thousand times didn’t actually affect their mark. This result certainly surprised us, but it makes sense when you think about what VLE brings to the table.
What this study did find was a correlation between the number of accesses and the number of courses passed. This suggests that students who make the most of their VLE have a broader range of success than their peers. So while the VLE didn’t help these students to achieve better grades in particular subjects, it did help them manage their workload better, so that they could take on and pass in more courses. This means that the main benefit of a VLE for teachers is that it helps students tackling a large range of subjects, all at once.
If you want to boost your students’ attainment, then, encourage their engagement with a VLE. It doesn’t have to be fun, but it does have to be useful: there has to be a good reason for students to access it. Fill it with useful information and links, things that will genuinely help your students, so that they can better deal with taking on so many subjects simultaneously.
Not known for their serious reporting, the Daily Mash nevertheless may have hit on the real reason why this latest Tory government seems so determined to drive the country… and our publicly funded education system, off a cliff.
Do you think the following is a bit much like fiction imitating fact… or the other way around?
“THE Conservative party has confirmed it is opposed, on both a theoretical and practical level, to solving any of the problems faced by modern Britain.
Tory chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin admitted that serious issues facing housing, education, and social care could be solved, but that it would be wrong to do so.
He continued: “We could build houses, of course we could, but encouraging private development by offering tax breaks which will increase profits while not building houses is much more the Tory way.
“Likewise, instead of investing in education we’re making those sums available to anyone nominally running an academy while paying themselves an enormous salary and, via a company owned by their wife, annual consultants’ fees.
“What people fail to understand is that spending taxpayers’ money directly on issues which matter to taxpayers is repugnant and 1950s, even if it works.
“Far better to have faith in the free market to do it all for us. We may not live through it, but at least we’ll die pure.”
When fact and satire are almost indistinguishable, should we be worried? :S
2017’s annual gathering of the great and good of the UK’s Film and Media education community at BFI Southbank on 29-30 June was another example of the BFI using their unique position in the UK’s Film to be able to attract some of the biggest names in the industry, to present and discuss some of the most pressing and relevant topics being grappled with today.
Despite its popularity, one of the few bugbears that delegates in previous years have simply had to put up with is the fact that in order to be able to pack 40 amazing workshops and presentations into only 2 short days, the organisers have to program FIVE streams of presentions to happen simultaneously. You do the maths: that means that the very BEST any one delegate is going to be able to see is only 20% of the conference, MAX!
Until this year…. when the BFI invited film and media VLE Quickclass to partner with them and Bournemouth University to create a Catchup service exclusively for the conference’s delegates! This special team then filmed, edited, compressed and uploaded 26 of the 40 sessions during the conference to the Quickclass platform, where they’ll be available for 3 months. Conference delegates just need to log in on the Quickclass Filmmaking apps or at members.quickclass.net and navigate to Reference Films to catchup with the talks they missed or even rewatch the sessions they really loved and learnt the most from.
The gargantuan effort that the Bournemouth students, MondoTV and Quickclass put into production seemed appropriate at a Film Education conference, and hopefully the added value to the conference will allow much more of the wisdom to reach the conference delegates than would ever have been possible in the past!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how a secure App-based VLE can be used in all sorts unexpected scenarios to enhance the learning around film and media education!
Zero-Budget Filmmaking is just as the name suggests; making a film, all pre-production, filming, and post-production, using just what you already have – on almost no budget. It is a brave thing to do, especially now, in an industry of larger and larger blockbusters, but it will also make you stand out against all the superheroes, giant robots, aliens, and all other manner of world-ending threats.
Most of the biggest names in Hollywood (and many more of the biggest names of world cinema) started out by making a film with what they had. Using what they had and saying “Why not? What is stopping me?”
This may also be the most logical way of starting and getting noticed. The film industry has followed the same general trend as corporate economics have; where corporations have become ‘too large to fail’, so too have the films. Now fewer big films are made but they are huge (nearly guaranteed to gross over $1billion) as opposed to making more small budgeted films. Getting enough money to start a project has always been a struggle for filmmakers, along with not making a loss on it. So now, in this ever-divided film-industry, perhaps the best way of minimising your loss, especially with your first production, is to have nothing to lose.
With the new emerging technology of the 21st century, this is now truly possible too. With smart-phones and a lot of cheap or free software, you can make a film on almost zero budget. There are always actors, DPs and sound technicians looking for promising work who may be willing to work on a voluntary basis (with the promise of pay should the film be a success).
Yet this just shifts the struggle further down the production line, to distribution: getting your film in festivals, in cinemas, or even on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon. However, just like with filming, new technology can greatly help with finding distribution opportunities, and in promoting your film.
A key part of promotion will be optimising on the ‘otherness’ of your work, separating it from bigger budget films, in finding and pin-pointing your niche before targeting your marketing. That implies that you’ll need to angle your film towards a niche from its inception. Take the recent Oscar Best Picture ‘Moonlight’ as an example of this, it is about the intersectionality between black, poor and gay people, in doing so it was able to pinpoint its audience, however also appealed to a wider audience by bringing to light a completely unrepresented demographic. This does not mean you should just find a minority to use and exploit, but instead in finding the niche group of people who most NEED to know that your film exists, and perhaps tweaking the finer details of your script with this in mind.
Once that is done, you’ve got a film, and hopefully a success (even if only a mild one). Zero budget filmmaking isn’t easy, but no amount of money will make a film good. The question is not whether you can do you (you can!). It will take smarts and gusto, but now is a better time than any to go for it.
In film, we completely understand how tough it is to get your feet on the first rungs of the ladder. It’s a choice between using all your filmmaking tips and tricks in a masterfully done, well written and well produced short film- which everyone believes they can do, but fewer truly can- or finding a low paid or unpaid position right at the bottom of the food chain, where you’ll spend more time running coffee than using all the filmmaking tips you’ve learned for years. It’s demoralising to say the least.
But what if we told you that there’s a third way? That you could find a decently paid job where your skills are useful and- gasp!- maybe even appreciated? We think that teaching may be that that direction to consider. Here is a brief rundown of why we think that independent filmmakers make excellent teachers.
You can still develop your skills while you teach
First and foremost, this doesn’t just have to be about your students. At the end of the day you want to work in a position where you can improve yourself, improve your skills, and maybe one day move upwards. Believe it or not, teaching gives you that opportunity to work on yourself and keep learning filmmaking tips, while you get paid for doing it.
As you work on putting together lesson plans, it can feel like studying- because it is. You constantly have to learn all sorts of new things about the technicalities of shooting film, and get real world practice shooting film with your students. And as you pass on all of your filmmaking tips and tricks to your class, you learn how to talk film: how to put into words exactly what you want out of a particular shot, for instance. This is a vital skill in your own filmmaking career.
Your talent and enthusiasm are infectious
People who genuinely care about what they do make the best teachers, and you wouldn’t have become a filmmaker if you weren’t passionate about it! If you cast your mind back and think of your favourite teacher, it wouldn’t be unusual if they were somebody intelligent, quick witted and who had a real passion for whatever it was they taught you. Somebody who thought that what they did was the best job on Earth!
You could be that person: the one teacher who lights a spark in somebody’s heart and gives them a lifelong interest or passion. It’s not just about filmmaking tips, it’s about passing on your love for what you do, and students crave teachers who show them why something is worth learning. Not only that, but having actually been there and got the T-shirt, your experience and filmmaking tips are sought after. If you are a genuinely talented filmmaker- and if you’re reading this newsletter, we believe you must be- then it won’t be hard for you to find a school that will take you on. It might be a horrible old saying, but ‘those that can’t do, teach’ can many cases prove to be depressingly true. The talent you personally bring to the table could make all the difference in a student’s life.
Teachers give emotional support and encourage emotional development
Watch any sci-fi movie and there’s a theme you’ll see time and time again: faceless, nameless robots who don’t know how to feel, emboldened by their lack of empathy to take over the Earth and shape it in their image (or some such storyline). Now, we’re not saying that this is definitely going to happen if we keep losing teachers at the rate which we already are; but like most fiction, there’s a grain of truth in there that we could (and should) learn from.
Learning, especially learning something new, is a struggle. It’s tough to encounter some new information or some new rule, internalise it and to apply it in a novel situation. That’s why children don’t always want to learn: because it’s hard, and it takes effort and perseverance. When they can, teachers do their best to help their students develop those all-important skills, and to teach them that it’s natural to feel frustrated and even angry at a tricky problem.
And on top of that, teachers play an absolutely vital role in helping their students to tackle bullies and the emotional fallout they cause. As much as we love them, VLEs can’t do that.
Teachers teach values and ideals, not just facts and figures
And while classrooms aren’t just about learning facts and figures, they aren’t just about emotional development either. They’re also for learning about culture and society, and the values that we’ve adopted as a civilisation. In conjunction with our tools for teaching online, we as teachers are tasked with teaching the values that we’ve fought for: things like free speech, the importance of standing up to bullies and ‘bad people’, and hard work and effort.
If teachers are taken from the equation, all we have left is the cold online world where, frankly, these ideals are less important. On top of that, it’s difficult to really understand why something like, say, the ideal of free speech is so important from a YouTube video or from social media. These things are a product of our society- of the people- so really, they can only be taught to others by people.
The inclusion of digital technology shouldn’t mean the exclusion of teachers: the two work best together.
Taken on their own, online teaching software and virtual learning environments are excellent for giving students a structure for their learning. We aren’t going to argue that point today. But what we do say is that if students were, excuse the pun, left to their own devices and told to learn on their own with no input from a teacher- nothing would get done.
Students need somebody to guide them through online environments, because let’s face it, especially older systems can be tricky beasts to understand, although newer services are becoming ever more intuitive and easy to mould to the way you already teach. When used properly, virtual learning environments are an amazing tool for getting your job done, and they help you to enhance your students learning.