DocLab participant Eleanor Wight recalls her experiences at Sheffield in June and her subsequent work placement with True North in July.
"Hopping off the train at Sheffield I was greeted a few familiar faces. Not the other Grierson trainees but only Michael Moore, Louis Theroux, Reggie Yates and Joanna Lumley, whose faces are plastered on billboards around the city as Doc/Fest descends once more upon the Yorkshire city.
This was my first ever film festival, and as a Grierson Trust Trainee, my schedule throughout the week was crammed full of pitching, presentations, premieres and parties. Here’s a tip for any Doc/Fest newcomers and non-Brits: queues are your friends. I met more contacts in queues this week than I did anywhere else. It’s not often you get a chance to be chatting to a director of a renowned BBC documentary series for a couple of hours, and the good thing is they literally can’t leave, so you can gently grill them on all topics you wish.
My highlight of the week in terms of screenings was ‘The Extraordinary Case of Alex Lewis’, a Channel 4 First Cut film about a man who is rebuilding his life after suffering a deadly illness. I strongly urge you to see this film, emotionally charged yet vibrant and heartfelt. This film is what I strive for in the future as a director in the sense of creating content that is so profound and so moving.
During the week we were also geared up to pitch to ABC’s Mandy Chang and Sky’s James Quinn. The pitches were really encouraging; I didn’t feel too nervous because we had learnt so much from our week at the DocLab training event and I felt supported by the other trainees. It was lovely to hear what the other trainees had been working on since we met in Birmingham and I enjoyed everyone’s pitches.
A particular party highlight was our Grierson Young Filmmaker Party which was quite surreal in the sense we were mingling with so many production companies and important filmmakers from the festival. I also got to meet some previous Grierson trainees which was so incredible because I got to hear their advice and their stories of how much Grierson had changed their careers as young filmmakers.
At the party, I was also able to network with several creative directors from independent television companies across the UK. This then lead to me to gaining two placements for five weeks over Summer. My first placement was with True North, an independent television company based in Leeds. I immediately felt at home as soon as I started at True North, I was placed with the development team which was made up of assistant producers, researchers and a development executive. Whilst at True North I was tasked with researching ideas, contributing to brainstorms, attending shoots and finding contributors. I was also able to work with the editors on a reality television series in which I learnt more about the post-production phase of television. The work was exceptionally varied and thought-provoking, and everyone at True North was supportive and helpful, and I found the experience to be very beneficial to my career within television.
I'm currently at Testimony, so news on that to follow...
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