What makes a good media employee pt.2 Work Experience and Personal Practice


Talking again to Pendeford’s media studies department on the ways to encourage work experience makes me focus on how pupils get access to this precious resource and whether it’s the only way to hone and display your creative talents. 

Sadly, for the most important and influential work experience, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Media work experience almost invariably is gifted to the children of the well-connected. So if you aren’t well-connected socially, you’ll have to be more proactive. Unfair, but true, so try and think about how you can overcome that issue. It is possible, even if you come from a background with no connections at all. You just have to be a bit more imaginative: A skill that will stand you in good stead as a creative person anyway. It worked for me.

It is one of the most important parts of your media CV. At my BBC interview in 1989 I was able to talk about my voluntary work as a DJ on local hospital radio and the short film my pupils made, which had recently come first in the Co-Op Let’s Make A Film’ Festival. 

These things helped me to prove that I was committed to the media. I spent my free time on it, both on a personal level and with my pupils out of school. I had no idea when I started these activities that they would be so useful, but I felt the spark of interest and approval in the interview. 

So if you want to be a media maker, it’s a good idea to make media, in any way you can. It has never been easier but a surprising number of media students don’t take advantage of the opportunity. 

Work experience in any creative workplace is a dream, but you will rarely end up getting your hands on much of the creative output, so be aware that work experience may only be an opportunity to rub shoulders with those who might be able to help you. If that’s the case, do rub those shoulders. Ask them if they have time for a cup of coffee and to just tell you a bit about what their job entails and how they got it. The information will be useful but so will the opportunity for them to see you as an interested, pro-active and likeable worker.

But as well as, or instead of, work experience, make something. Create something. You can broadcast yourself in many ways, write, film, edit, podcast and vodcast, use free animation software like machinima to make a short animation, run the school magazine or its alternative underground magazine – any of these will give you an artefact to show, and a sense of a long-standing passion for creation.

We also talked at Pendeford about managing your online presence, for example how it’s important to avoid exposing things online to prospective employers. But Facebook, My Space and You Tube also offer you a forum for displaying your talent. Just as it can show that  you’re a drunken waster, it can also show your films, audio recordings, photography and other creative output.

If you don’t have good online access at home, you may have to cultivate your media studies teacher, impress him or her with your seriousness and see if they can let you have time after school or at lunchtime or set up a digital media after-school club, to make films, newsletters and podcasts.  It might not be easy to convince an adult to help you, but if you want a career in the media, it’s as well to get used to dealing with difficult people.

Pendeford AS Media – What makes a good media employee?


Yesterday I visited Pendeford High School in Wolverhampton to deliver a presentation to the lovely AS students. This was partly inspired by the ever-cheerful and proactive Nicky Ball at Screen Yorkshire who gave her time so generously when she described how she made students aware of what it’s really like working in the media.
She set me off thinking what I would describe as essential skills and I surprised myself when I realised how low down the list skills and knowledge were. The vital skills on my list were all personal, social and transferable skills.
It’s possible I just take knowledge and technical skills for granted as everyone I’ve ever worked with has them in spades. But what differentiates the ones I want to work with and the ones I consider great, from the ones I don’t, is the following:

Be fearless
Work well in a team of strangers
Be flexible
Be open to new experiences
Ask questions
Be a radiator not a drain
Take responsibility for your actions

What makes a bad colleague?

Not getting your hands dirty
Offending others unnecessarily
Being passive aggressive
Being passive
Being aggressive
Not being straight/honest/clear
Being lazy
Being unable to get what you want

They’re probably just general life skills for anyone, but they seem to me to make the difference between the successful production team and the unsuccessful.

DVDs of schools video clips for whiteboards


Most schools TV is now in clip form. If you miss a schools TV broadcast on BBC2’s Learning Zone, it’s still possible to get it on DVD to play on your whiteboard.

1.Your school can buy DVDs of many key programmes. The service is cheap, at about £10. for a DVD wth two hours of high quality Schools TV on it. (I made a chunk of it so I would say that)
Tel 08701 272 272 or email bbcsbr@twoten.press.net
This is what’s called the BBC’s Cost Recovery service or Overnight Broadcast Service. It’s poorly advertised but an excellent source of missed video material for your whiteboards.
The DVDs can only be sold to educational establishments. It’s useful to the teachers who forget to hit record or who end up with the last five minutes of their recording missing.
iPlayer and other online delivery streams remove this issue for the general viewer but teachers need longer than 7 days, or even 30 days, to integrate a new video into their lessons. It’s often a ‘holiday’ time activity and can take a year or more to get round to.
The Overnight service can’t be anything other than just the basic video material of the programme. No video that hasn’t been transmitted can be added to the DVD, No notes or other support material can be offered with it, so teachers have to come up with ways of integratng it into their lesson from scratch.
This cost recovery Overnight Broadcast Service is sometimes confused with the commercial DVD service offered by other providers such as:

2. BBC Worldwide/Pearson DVD service.
Commercial DVDs are not tied to broadcasts and often offer extras. They aren’t restricted to providing just the video but can produce well-researched supporting materials, extra video clips not transmitted, extra audio, e-books and all of the other stuff that can make a stimulating whiteboard experience that teachers don’t have time to build from scratch.
What used to be BBC Worldwide Children’s Learning is now part-owned by Pearson and called BBC Active
There is a more specific primary schools site for primary whiteboards also. This is where you can get the wraparound of notes, clips from various sources and teachers’ and pupils’ books, posters and ebooks.

3. Channel 4 also has specific schools resources for sale at the 4Learning shop.

4. Teacher’s TV has shedloads of great resources permanently available on their website. All can be streamed and many are available for download.

5. The BBC also puts clips which can be streamed from the Class Clips section of the learning zone website

Whiteboard video clips issues


I’m making video to be used in classrooms, specifically for the whiteboard. Whiteboards aren’t the same as TV or computer screens. This has good and bad implications for making video clips. The worst factor is how drab a lot of video looks in a lot of classroom situations. This useful technology can be less than compelling in the wrong lighting conditions. What looks marvellous illuminated on a desktop in optimum lighting conditions can be washed out, indistinct or muddy on the big screen, particularly compared to the sharpness and clarity of a flash animation. Over the coming months we will try to solve this problem in shooting new videos for whiteboards. 

 Shooting factors include lighting, film effects, choice of locations, sound, and recording format. We aged old crone movie makers love our arty film lighting but that won’t wash on whiteboards. The director, design team and camera crews will be considering how we can avoid this pitfall, improve the picture quality and avoid any white- or black-outs of the type that can apear in typically artistic scenes. We’ll also see what benefits shooting on HD will bring.

 Classroom factors are outside our control. They include use of projectors, classroom blinds and other ambient light controls, speaker quality and seating arrangements for viewing. We have to assume the video will be seen under the worst classroom conditions.

This is an old problem also. In the past it was poor quality TVs with tinny speakers, 30 kids clustered round a wheel-in telly. No curtains in the classrooom. But in some ways. we’re still there with badly lit and set up whiteboards.

Showcomotion Innovation Labs


At today’s Showcomotion I had the good fortune to attend a session with Frank Boyd and Marc Goodchild. ‘Crossover Kids’ introduced me to their method for sparking off multi-platform developments amongst a random group of interactive and TV producers. Having brainstormed lists of platforms and genres we were randomly allocated two platforms and a genre and sent away to come up with something that worked for kids. I particularly enjoyed Frank’s excellent road map for creativity and ideas generation which led from ‘an opportunity’, via a widening miasma of ‘seeking perspective’ then down into a narrowing funnel of ‘editing’, to ‘a thingy’. It was reassuringly low-tech and resulted in free and easy brainstorming.