Another of our 2019 Grierson DocLab cohort on what he thinks of DocLab!

Hear from Azeem about his experience of DocLab and the lessons he’s taken from the scheme into his TV placement and videography jobs

Azeem DocLab 2019 trainee

When I applied for the Grierson DocLab scheme, I was in the final stages of my History degree with no idea what I would do when I graduated. I had a general plan to apply for jobs in film and TV, although if you asked me for greater detail on what that would be, I’d struggle to formulate a sentence, let alone a plan. A friend at university had sent me a link to the application, and seeing that the deadline was the following day, I filled it in swiftly, with no expectation that I would get beyond that hurdle. Next thing I knew I was invited to an interview day in Birmingham, and by the following week, I was selected to be part of the 2019 cohort.

The first stage of the Grierson DocLab scheme is the one-week residential trip to Birmingham, where we spent most of the days in a conference room watching, learning and discussing factual programming and feature documentaries. What I learnt in that week was that working in the industry wasn’t out of reach, and it demystified many aspects of production for me. We also prepared for our eventual trip to Sheffield Doc/Fest, where we would be face-to-face with executives, directors and producers who might be able to open doors for us, and at the very least, would be open to having a chat with us.

Sheffield Doc/Fest was eye-opening, to say the least. I had no experience of networking, but like many things in this industry, you pick it up as you go along. Of course, you're also there to watch films, and you might be lucky to see your favourite filmmakers in the flesh - for me, that included Werner Herzog and Asif Kapadia.

The final residential trip for Grierson DocLab was the Shoot/Edit weekend, where we received more hands-on training and gained technical knowledge. We learnt the importance of good framing and clear audio, as well as the key lesson that these things aren’t difficult to achieve if enough care is taken. This is something that I’ve endeavoured to act on, having made short films and completed videography jobs since.

DocLab also set us up with work experience and in my case, this was at Nutopia, a London-based production company. During my two weeks there, I got to work as a researcher on a couple of projects in different stages of development and use my background in History. They also allowed me to sit in during the post-production of a Disney+ show that they were completing.

I’ve enjoyed every part of the Grierson DocLab process. It’s been a constant reminder that I have a lot to learn, but equally, it’s given me so many opportunities to grow and expand in the world of factual television.

You can apply to the 2020 iteration of Grierson DocLab now. Applications close Friday 20 March 5pm.

Published: 13 March 2020

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