6 weeks with NCS The Challenge

I’ve just spent six weeks working as a Media Practitioner for NCS (the National Citizen Service) powered by The Challenge, which is the NCS provider in London, the West Midlands and the North West. NCS is a government-funded initiative that supports community engagement and social integration among young people.

The Programme

Participants are aged 15-17 and over 18,000 young people were offered the opportunity to take part in the project this year. The summer programme had three aspects; week one is the ‘Personal Challenge’ in which participants challenge themselves and take part in outdoor activities like kayaking and abseiling. Week two is the ‘Team Challenge’ where the young people learn new skills in one of their chosen subjects (this year the choices were Media, Drama, Photography, Sport and Enterprise) and meet people in their local community whom they may not normally interact with, then in week three they have the ‘Campaign Design & Action’ where the team works together to create and manage a project or campaign in the community and pitch it to some business “dragons” to secure funding.

My role was to lead sessions for the Team Challenge section of the programme, working with groups selected to learn Media skills. Each week I worked with a new group of young people and a new community partner (partners included day centres for people with learning difficulties, recovering addicts and others who are isolated or in need of support) for three days to create a film or several short films to demonstrate what these local organisations do and to promote their services. On the third day of each week the finished films were screened in front of the whole ‘wave’ of NCS participants along with their friends, relatives and community partners.

Most of the participants had no previous media experience so on the first day each group split into smaller teams and assigned crew roles, and in the morning before the first of two community visits we would go over the basics of what those roles involved and practise using the sound and camera equipment; we would then have until the afternoon of the third day to shoot and edit our film(s). Each week we were given information about our community partner and an outline of the project brief and aims, which were usually flexible and allowing plenty of room for the participants’ own ideas.

The Experience

Covering sensitive topics and meeting vulnerable members of the community really took the young people out of their comfort zones but I was really impressed at how sensitive and respectful they were to both staff and service users, and also at how quickly they got to grips with using both the filming equipment and the editing software (Final Cut Pro X). My role as Media Practitioner was only to teach and facilitate; the participants conceived, planned and produced both the films and their showcase presentation all themselves. I found the project really enjoyable and rewarding, it was great to meet so many different people in the community and take part in something that was beneficial both to them and the young people taking part. There was also a great team of staff and volunteers who were really helpful, friendly and supportive.
10/10, would do again!

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4K has landed! First play with the GH4

The Panasonic DMC-GH4 arrived today! After the briefest of glances at the manual and a few minutes of faffing with the camera settings I was raring to go and film something, so here is my very first slice of test footage: a completely unedited micro-interview with the resident feline, Kira. She was as expressive as always.

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New job at PQA

It feels like ages since my last blog, the last month has flown by… Anyway firstly I just want to briefly sing the praises of arts networking events – you hear a lot of different views as to how effective or useful these things are, but the reason my last few weeks have gone by so quickly is because going to all these local gatherings has led to new collaborators and a new job 🙂

I ran into the lovely folks at jam-av several times at various events organised by Creative Enterprise, who do really good work providing many different training and networking opportunities for people working in the arts across the West Midlands that are often free to attend. We got to talking and I ended up helping out as an extra camera bod for an interesting project called Peace Through Unity, in which young people are given the opportunity to meet and talk to war veterans, hearing their stories and working together to explore the meaning of peace while celebrating it with creative projects including making a short film, writing poetry, etc. I found it really interesting to observe the respect and fascination the students held for the veterans, and they had many interesting questions for them. They were often clearly moved by the stories they heard and I think that everyone involved seemed to take something positive from the experience.

I am now also teaching the film and TV module at the Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts which also came about through jam-av, who knew the principal well and put me in touch. It has been a while since I did any teaching on a regular basis but I’m having a great time with it, it’s nice to get my teeth stuck into some new projects and I’ve been impressed with the students’ capabilities. It’s only been a few weeks but we already have a complete film, a fun little horror from my oldest afternoon group called ‘Rocks in the water’; as soon as I get it uploaded to the PQA website I’ll post a link. We will be working to produce a number of films to screen at the students’ showcase towards the end of the year so watch this space!

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In a New Light 2014

Documentary video by Nick Fogg featuring some behind-the-scenes footage of the animation workshops I led in Wales in July and December 2013 for Theatr Brycheiniog’s ‘In a New Light’ project – my bit’s at 2.15 🙂

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“My bag is in the hat, it’s filled with this and that…”

Carlito would like to tell you all about his magic hat, which he found at a charity shop.

This is a short video I created for a contest on Zooppa entitled ‘Bring a Child’s Imagination to Life’ where the rules dictated that I had to recruit a child aged 9 or under to be the brains of the operation, only helping them to shoot and put the thing together into a film no longer than two minutes long.

The idea, spoken word content (none of which was scripted or even really planned) and most of the props were all Carlito’s; he turned up all ready to go. I just pointed the camera at him, chipped in to the dialogue where I was prompted, and edited the footage – as you can see it is heavily edited as the talent kept insisting we had a ‘few more minutes’… these film stars can be right divas eh? At some point I’ll do a longer edit so you can see what else came out of the hat. 🙂

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‘Burn’ wins a spot at IdeasTap Takeover

A few days ago I found out that my micro-short What a lovely way to burn was one of five winners in the IdeasTap Takeover:Love competition, the brief for which was to submit short films about love with a duration of up to 60 seconds. The IdeasTap Takeover is a five-day festival taking place at London’s Rich Mix from Wednesday 12 February to Sunday 16 February 2014 (sorry, only just got around to blogging about it now but you can still catch the end of it!)

As I only found out I was a winner at the start of the festival I’m sadly unable to attend, but if you are in London or can get there this weekend maybe you can check it out for me and tell me what I’m missing! Read about the event and book tickets here – ‘burn’ and the other winning films will be screened at 7.45pm Thursday-Sunday in Venue 2, Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 1LA. If you’re keeping the Valentine’s spirit going over the weekend then going to see some new films is a bit more interesting that the usual mushy stuff no? :p

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Best of Moviedrome

I took a wander through the vaults of my NAS recently and ended up watching through a bunch of old workshop videos – while I have unfortunately produced more workshop material than I ever kept, I am still in possession of some of my favourite videos and animations created by and with young people and thought it was time that some of them had an airing!

Moviedrome was a weekly filmmaking workshop I led for young people at the Hive Music and Media Centre, Shrewsbury from 2004 to 2010 (pre-HD, hence the low resolution). Although I have led numerous other film and animation activities both during and since, those sessions were some of the most fun I ever had running a workshop; the films the participants made still make me chuckle now 🙂

Here is a small selection of some of my favourite videos – the surf guitar track at the beginning and the end is ‘That’s Right’ by Pirato Ketchup, check em out here.

And yes, we did use that dodgy Youtube-ripped clip from ‘Knowing’ twice – we ain’t even sorry.

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‘What a Lovely Way to Burn’ to premiere at Stuttgarter Filmwinter

In November I found out that the silly little film I shot on my desk one afternoon had been accepted into a film festival, and I was delighted that it was such a lovely one – my partner and I went to Filmwinter two years ago when he had an art installation there, we had a great time at the festival and loved Stuttgart. It was my first trip to Germany and I’ve been itching to go again!

What a Lovely Way to Burn will be screened as part of the 2 Minutes Short Film Award category on Friday 17th January. Yay!

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Dome Club: The Return!

In September Mario Di Maggio – planetarium manager and dome-based art enthusiast – parted ways from Birmingham’s Thinktank Science Museum, taking his awesome Dome Club project with him – Dome Club is now based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth, and has an exciting programme of forthcoming events; I had my first taste of the portable dome experience at the V&A’s Digital Design Weekend (where I ended up sharing in the presentation duties – I thought I was only coming to take photos!) so I highly recommend it as a great way to experience visual content. Many visitors found the experience relaxing, mesmerising, and the dome environment itself strangely womb-like (in a comforting rather than scary way – I think). Many have predicted that viewing films in these sort of immersive environments will be the future of cinema; Steven Spielberg and David Lynch are among the most famous advocates.

When Dome Club started in early 2013, it was an opportunity for artists, filmmakers and musicians to explore the fulldome medium and experiment creating work specifically for immersive environments; it was also an attempt to draw a different audience to the planetarium dome, demonstrating that such environments can be used effectively for content other than science or astronomy-based shows.

My partner and I first met Mario a few years ago (I met one of Thinktank’s directors at a Museums Association event in my curating days; he introduced me to Mario and I introduced him to Michael), and they collaborated several times to bring art to the science museum – Michael showed a number of art installations at Thinktank starting with Data_Sea in 2009, a fascinating piece about the radiosphere. When Mario started up Dome Club, this encouraged me to experiment with fisheye photography – something I had never tried before – and I submitted images and animations to a couple of events, the last being my Pecha Kucha presentation at the 10th Dome Club (read my blog about it here). I was glad to hear that Mario wanted to keep the event going even though he was going freelance, and doubly so when he asked me to design some publicity material for ‘Dome Club 2.0.’

Mario first asked me to redesign the logo, keeping it similar enough to the original to still be recognisable as the same brand, but different enough to reflect Dome Club’s ‘reboot’. Here’s what I came up with (check out the old programmes on the Facebook page to see the difference):

DomeClubLogo2_Final_RGB

So still very similar in terms of font, style and structure, but cleaner and (I think) a better visual representation of the portable dome’s shape.

I also knocked up a couple of flyers, here’s the one I did for the Pink Floyd events – tickets are still available so get ’em while they’re hot!

Dome Club Pink Floyd Flyer (front)

Dome Club Pink Floyd Flyer (back)

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Sblash o Olau (or ‘In a New Light’) screening

Back in July I did some stop-motion animation workshops with groups of young people at Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor and Galeri in Caernarfon for Sblash o Olau, a project culminating in an evening of moving 3D animation and shorts projected onto a 10 metre high wall of water on Victoria Dock, presented by Theatr Brycheiniog, Galeri and Fallon Films; check out the video of last year’s event below. Unfortunately I am unable to attend, but the screening is tonight at 6pm so if you’re in the area (or can get there in time) you should definitely check it out, admission is free!

Sblash o Olau animations from Emma Puente on Vimeo.

 

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