Find out how our 16 new entrant trainees got on
Find out about the second half of the Grierson DocLab core training week for 2021
Grierson DocLab core online training week
Select a day to read more... or head back to read about the first half of the week
Day 4, I enter the Zoom chat at around 8.50am, interrupting an exciting conversation about the upcoming pitches; it was clear we were all anxious but enthusiastic about Friday. I was then surprised when I was greeted with a flurry of congratulations for completing my final exam. It was great to see the genuine care and support from my fellow trainees, who were at this point beginning to feel a lot more like friends than just a group of strangers who enjoyed making films.
We were then sent back to the main room, where our enthusiastic and passionate teacher Carol began explaining the plan for the day. First on the itinerary, the legendary documentary filmmaker Steve Humphries graced us with an inspiring talk, where he empathetically relayed the importance of communicating truthfully and respectfully to contributors and creating a safe environment for contributors to express their true feelings and emotions without feeling exploited. We had the luxury of being introduced to some of his documentaries, including the shocking story of four woman and their experiences at various Magdalene asylums during the 1960’s. Listening to Steve Humphries describe the process of making the film and the social impact it had was nothing short of inspirational, reinforcing my passion for giving a voice to those who deserve it by allowing them to share their stories.
Once our time with Steve Humphries came to an end, I was fired up; my mind was overflowing with ideas for my projects; this was perfect as our next task was for us to split up into smaller groups to discuss the ideas we would be pitching on Friday. Discussing our ideas was one of my favourite activities throughout the week. Listening to a range of diverse and exciting ideas and receiving truly introspective and genuinely helpful feedback from my peers helped me have a clearer picture of how I would like my film to look and sound and what the overarching message of my film is.
After lunch, we launched straight into our next guest speaker Megan Hughes, a Production Coordinator with Blast! Films. Megan took us through her journey from graduating from University to becoming a Production Coordinator at a successful film production house. Through her personal story, Megan taught us about what working in production is like, what would be expected of us we progress through our careers, and how closely the production team works with editorial to create beloved tv shows and films. I would also like to add that this was one of the most engaging, interesting and informative presentations that I had the pleasure of experiencing and would be an excellent example for any lecturer to attempt to emulate.
In a nutshell, Thursday was another showcase of dedication and passion The Grierson Trust team puts into creating this incredible scheme. I want to thank Carol, Hannah, Jane and Yen for genuinely caring about nurturing the next crop of unique voices and talent in documentary filmmaking.
Thursday was a really exciting day for me and the other trainees. To kickstart the day, in small break-out rooms we gave each other feedback on our pitches, whilst having a morning cup of tea and breakfast.
In our first full group session, we were able to have an insightful session with Steve Humphries, exploring ‘The Art of the Interview’, which raised important advice for working with contributors, how to phrase questions and opened up fun thought-provoking discussions on clips from Steve Humphries’ work.
Later on, we had an interesting talk with Megan Hughes about Production Coordination, which really opened up options for all the trainees, in discovering how creative the role was.
Following this, as a group we discussed OFCOM case studies and their role in the industry.
On Thursday, I was really pleasantly surprised at the connections I had made with other trainees, especially over Zoom. Finally, as a fun way to end the afternoon, we all discussed our favourite documentaries. I have now come away with a long list of recommendations to watch in the next few weeks!
Audrey Duffy, part of Netflix’s team describes behind the scenes of their doc commissions and decision making.
Audrey describes how Netflix may keep the information of their new projects a top secret right up until 2 weeks before its release. Commissioning documentaries is not a one size fits all - they take each idea on a case by case basis and judge the suitability individually. This is due to the vast nature and topics that can be covered and so each idea needs to be considered differently.
Each delegate is to prepare their idea for a documentary and present to the group. We have been learning and discussing technical terms across factual programme-making throughout the week and these conversations will feed into our pitches. We are welcome to use presentation slides, pictures and videos to illustrate our idea. We will receive feedback across our presentation content, style, engagement and quality of explanation.
Jacob’s idea follows what our future worlds may look like as a result of climate change, Thaswina’s idea follows a fisherman whose livelihood is questioned after an oil spill and Sameen’s idea looks at 3 Muslim women converts' first-hand experiences.
On Friday morning, we were joined by the fabulous Maia Lidell and Rosa Moratiel who explained the process of making a special episode of a long running series from their experience on Secret Life of a Four Year-Old. We learnt not only about the technical elements of filming, but the legal and logistical elements that have to fall into place in order to make a special episode happen. From casting to consent forms - the collaboration between editorial departments and production management to make a successful show was more evident than ever when speaking to this team. We learnt a lot about the legalities and duty of care that shows have towards their contributors, and the balance that needs to be achieved especially when working with children. We followed the production from inception and commission to the production of the regular series then the production of the special and how the budget evolved at each stage.
Both of them described to us their route into the television industry, including all the accidental and on purpose moves they made to get to where they are now. It was great to hear how everyone was required to muck in at certain unpredictable points to ensure the success of the show - never mind their department or specific job role!
Preparing for the pitches was an exercise in self-restraint for me. Having chosen a topic that is very personally connected to my life, and attempting to create a pitch where all the emotion, history and accuracy of representation was expressed in three minutes was a real challenge.
Having also to understand the logistical possibilities of filming, when wanting to be commissioned by specific channels and adapting the filming style accordingly was really valuable application of what we had learnt over the past week. Furthermore, understanding that the exclusive access is often the tilt point on which a commission depends was something I was aware of but never thought of in relation to my pitch. Understanding how best to showcase that within the pitch and reinforce why not only this was a story that needed to be told, but moreover why I was the one to tell it, was a really valuable lesson learnt.
Everyone brought really interesting concepts to the pitches - and it was a great moment seeing how the raw ideas we all brought to our applications had been developed and finessed throughout the week!
Following our intense but informative and inspiring week of pitching, meeting industry professionals and other substantial training, we were excited to then meet a group of former Grierson Doclab trainees from various years to gain some advice about next steps, potential goals and learn about life post DocLab. The trainees were extremely accommodating and friendly in answering a variety of questions from the group as well as giving wonderful advice on what to look forward to moving on in the future world of Documentaries. This was extremely beneficial for us all and great way to round off an incredible week.
It is fair to say our final day was an emotional one. Throughout the week it has been a pleasure to get to know my fellow trainees. I am excited to enter the industry with all these lovely and supportive people.
I am a little sad that the week has come to end but we received some final words of wisdom from the fabulous Yen who made sure our CV’s are up to the job and now I feel ready to apply this new knowledge to the world of work.
Our final day was also a day of reflection. We reflected on our highs and lows, the things we learnt, and the things we could improve on. For me getting the opportunity to speak to Asif Kapadia and Tom McDonald was an absolute high. I was in awe of their wisdom and knowledge, their advice will stay with me as I start my career. It was also amazing to hear from Grierson Doclab Alumni. Their experiences of the industry although came as a slight wake-up call have inspired me to persevere.
Published: 9 June 2021