Reflection on the 3 things that inspired me most

In this essay I will be reflecting on the 3 things that inspired me the most and how they effected my approach to my discipline.

Engineering/Design Background
Both my dad and my granddad have been involved in engineering designs of somesort throughout their careers, I was interested in continuing that tradition along with the sheer creativity involved when I chose Engineering as one of my two extra choices in GCSEs at high school.

What I love about designing mechanical products is the way that every piece has a specific function which helps create the overall product, how the slightest difference can decide the machine’s success for failure. And in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exuper; “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

I find that this can be applied to creating a media product, especially in the field of editing. No matter whether it’s image, video or audio editing, I take pleasure in getting the placement and effects just right for the desired result.

GCSE Action Film
My second choise for an extra GCSE course at high school was Media Studies, where the major project of this course was to create a short film of any type. Being a teenage boy, the only natural choice was an action movie with plenty of guns.

The creation of a gun-toting action movie was much easier than if I were to try it today. This is because of a few things; it was just a GCSE level course which didn’t have such a large focus on professional paperwork, it was the year 2003 and despite being post-9/11 there wasn’t any nanny-state style anti-BB gun laws or practices, and the school staff were just that ‘easy going’. Though we at least had the common sense to film during after-school hours and inform the staff before filming.

This left me and the actors free to film throughout the high school with a semi-professional camera, an Airsoft M16 assault rifle and a replica musket converted to look like a sniper rifle. I even spent extra time after my engineering classes to create fake bullet casings to use as props, manually dropping them to the floor as the actors pretended to fire (with the gunshots being edited in post-production). I used the CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture) equipment in my engineering classroom to create the empty assault rifle casings out of pine wood (shaping steel would have been a bit too realistic) coating them with a wood varnish and metallic gold paint to make them appear more realistic to the camera. And after all that work, the close-up camera shots were worth it. My Engineering teacher not only gave me permission to do this, he was actually very supportive throughout the process.

During the post-production phase I was fortunate enough to gain a head-start over my classmates when learning the basics of Adobe Premiere, as the multi-talented Dr. Ken Farquhar (my brother’s science teacher at the time) was kind enough to give me a casual tutorial.

My film went on to be shown at the school assemblies for all year groups, and was looped for a solid week at the school reception; though I don’t blame the receptionists for eventually muting the sound, as it involved a lot of gunshots.

While my action film was bodged and unprofessional due to its severe lack of organisation, it did teach me that anything can be done with the right amount of intuition and improvisation. Now 7 years later, I find inspiration in the ability to produce media when faced with deadlines and practical issues, but this time with more knowledge and maturity.

The Media- Being the ‘Middle Man’ of society.

With the media’s name derived from ‘medium’ or ‘medius’, meaning the in-between stage of a source and the public, being the ‘middle man’ is quite a good thing to be in society. For example, when doing voluntary work at the Norwich Theatre Royal I found that being a theatre technician is the best way to get to know celebrities, as there are no cameras or magazine interviewers; allowing the celebrities to be more natural without their ‘stage face’ on.

Being the public’s source of information also puts you in a very responsible position as your bias has, given certain circumstances, the potential to be imprinted on the audience. Television stations such as Fox News have been criticised for having such a right-wing bias that it’s an affront to ‘honest journalism’.

The thing which inspires me about the media its power to shape society, for better or for worse. And as I said in the theatre example, it’s also the closest you can get to the limelight without being dazzled by it.

Extra-curricular activity reflection

I have been fortunate enough to be involved in many media-based extra-curricular activities over my seven years of Media courses. I have done a lot of voluntary work with the media technician of Norwich City college, Derek Williams, which has lead to other work.

I think that the most notable of these extra-curricular activities has been Tempting Fates, the online ‘black drama’ by Eye Film and TV. It was made as part of a paid training scheme for post-gradates, and Derek was kind enough to recommend me to Eye Film and TV despite myself having just graduated from college rather than university.

In the production I was an Editor, which involved capturing/logging DV footage, and then editing that footage in the Non-linear editing program Final Cut Pro. Me and the other editor (Tom Hall) were particularly pleased once we managed to complete particularly hard task involving a stunt taking place in the footage, which we were able to successfully edit in such a way as to make that stunt appear more realistic. From this, I have gained more knowledge and confidence in the possibilities of post-production.

I think the main way in which this job contributed to my professional discipline is the general experience of working as part of a commercial team rather than an educational one. Having recently graduated from my BTec National Diploma in Media Production, I was able to look back upon how the simulation of professional practices in my class (such as health and safety forms, and project deadlines) worked well in some aspects of this work, yet failed to touch on other aspects of commercial life such as the long working hours and the heightened importance on what you produce. It was also interesting to see how the locations were transformed to the director’s wishes. The Character’s bedrooms had a prop budget, while a lot of the props in the professor’s lab, most notably the fake super-computer, were scavenged from an Aladdin’s cave of obsolete computer equipment which we borrowed from the college we were filming in (which also happened to be my college). This was another example in my media career where improvisation has proved to be a very important skill.

Tempting Fates Credits: http://redeyepictures.com/credits/

Made in Coventry: When Romeo met Juliet

This session of Coventry Convocations involved Lynn Barlow Series producer has been speaking about her latest BBC Arts drama titled ‘When Romeo Met Juliet’. This involved the coaching of many local young first-time drama students and producing a modernised version of the Shakespeare drama ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

I found this talk to be very interesting as it involved Coventy’s recent history in the arts and BBC action, as well as the complications of producing a broadcast-worthy arts drama using only inexperienced actors.

This was particularly interesting because it reminded me of my first paid job in the media, being a temporary editor for the Norwich-based TV/writing company ‘Eye Film And TV’. It gave me my first taste of what it’s like to work for a company rather than for a college assignment.

This production was quite different I the way that these teenagers in ‘When Romeo Met Juliet’ had to partially learn on the job, being mentored by Paul Roseby, Lolita Chakrabati and The Hustle’s Adrian Lester.

One of the most interesting things about the talk was learning how the team attempted to make Shakespear popular and engaging with the teenagers and setting the story in 1980’s Coventry, with all the two-tone and individualist culture.

Managing the Media

During this Coventry Convosation I found it very interesting how Prof Trevor Morris, the former CEO of Chime PR, explained the place that public relations (PR) has in the media.

I found it especially interesting when he portrayed the similarities and also differences PR has with journalism. He explained that generally speaking, journalism is the profession of the cynical and perhaps introverted people, whilst public relations is the profession of the more out-going extroverted people. Whilst a certain amount of extroversion is required in journalism and also many parts of the media, I can still relate to what he said as I agree that a certain amount of cynicism is required to be a good journalist. This is because cynicism promotes investigative journalism and the general practice of critically analysing your subject.

Prof Trevor Morris also explained how the public relations industry likes to portray itself and how it acts in reality (again, not speaking in an absolute/literal way). The public relations industry would champion itself as a protector of reputations and the creator of friendships, “maintaining goodwill” as if they are commercial peace negotiators. However, he says that the public relations industry is simply spreading their client’s desired image, ignoring the negatives and highlighting the positives. This could be seen as obvious considering that it’s no secret the public relations companies are being paid by their clients to spread a favourable viewpoint, but when it gets to the ‘frontline’ of the market such as advertisements, the PR company and it’s client’s rival is invisible to the consumer.

The example that Morris gave was how the PR companies aren’t stopping Shell and Green Peace from being intolerant to each other, infact the antagonism may partially be because of the PR companies. The bottom line being that the public relations companies are acting purely for the customer-company relationship, casting other views aside for the sake of commercial gain.

Looking Beyond Top Gear

Steve Cropley gave a very good speech, I found it interesting as it touched on the journalistic industry and the wider media. His describing of us Media students as being very ‘well placed’ for our futures was rather reassuring, saying that they [Autocar] and the wider journalistic industry is looking toward the younger generations when recruiting, with Autocar recruiting many graduates.

He also mentioned how dedicated you have to be to join this industry, which I understand very well as I have chosen to do Media courses ever since I chose my first media course at the start of Year 10 at high school, and done voluntary work at my regional newspaper and for my college’s Media technician.

Connected with the dedication he mentioned, I found Cropley’s idea of “working for the reader” interesting. I can relate to this in a slightly different way in that one of the aspects that appeal to me about working in the theatre (though Cropley was of course talking about journalism) is the way that your work as part of the entertainment industry has an effect on people, even if it’s just the changing of the stage lights.
Cropley went on to say how he loved the feeling of the “readership being with you”, that readership staying with your publication because of its quality and trustworthiness.

Anouther thing which I found interesting was how Cropley said that when writing a story about the gadget, it can also be seen and made into a story about the people behind it. I think this is important is there are always interesting ‘hooks’ you can give to a story, and giving it mofre depth such as a human interest story is a good way to capture an audience’s attention.

The Scandal Makers

The Scandel Makers is a feel-good South Korean comedy staring Cha Tae-hyun as Nam Hyun-soo, Park Bo-yeong as Hwang Jeong-nam and Wang Seok-hyeon as Gi-dong.

This film could be seen as a romantic comedy, with the film’s narrative focusing on main character Nam Hyun-soo tryin and his efforts to keep his family and love life intact. This film has in interesting twist in the way that his daughter is at first unknown to him, being the caller in his radio chat show how is saying that she’s finally decided to look for her father. He supports her as a staple item of his radio show, yet when she turns up at his home just minutes before his date is due to arrive, he is suddenly very negative towards her and and the child she brings along who turns out to be his grandchild.

The growing pains of Nam Hyun-soo trying to become accustomed to his upper-middle class bachelor pad being used to house his young grandson and his daughter shows via the drama early on in the film. Once he discovers the musical talent of both his daughter and his grandson, eventually entering his daughter into a music contest at his radio station. The plot thickens as he slowly learns to accept the new additions to his family and household, falling in love with his son’s nursery teacher and at the same time trying not to be associated at his radio station with his singing daughter.

This attempt to hide his father hood only exacerbates the problem, causing one of his radio colleagues to suspect that he’s in love with the younger girl and seems him as a rival to her affections. This, like some other aspects of the plot, eventually comes around with extra significance later on, with Nam Hyun-soo telling his colleague that he’s her father before punching him in the face.

Being a romantic comedy, each plot device (the daughter and grandchild, the flirtation with the nursery teacher) works with each other, connected in multiple ways or leading to other events. For example, Nam Hyun-soo finds that his commitment to take his grandson to nursery school soon becomes a sub-plot of Nam Hyun-soo trying to gain the teacher’s affections; using his grandson to covertly find out what the teacher likes and dislikes in order to portray himself as the perfect man for her, only for it to backfire as the grandson is inept at hiding and only hears parts of her conversations, causing him to have a distorted image of her which results in a comedically bad dating technique.

His grandson does however reveal that he (like his mother) is a prodigy of music, particularly the piano. Nam Hyun-soo uses this to his advantage in the way that his grandson’s skill gains the attention of everyone at the nursery. This later conforms to the ‘entwining plots’ theme by the entire family forming a band at the end of the film, with the grandson on the piano.

Overall this film has been a very positive and funny film intertwined with a plot about family, love and at times tragedy.

Breathless

This award winning South Korean gangster film, directed by Yang Ik-june (or ‘Yang Ik-Joon’, from other sources), is excessively violent throughout. However its violence is not excessive in terms of limbs being ripped off or other forms of graphic injuries, but instead the film filled with punch after incessant punch of beatings. In the opening scene the main character, played by Yang Ik-june as well as directing the film, rescues a woman from what appears to be an abusive partner, only to start systematically slapping her. This nonsensical beating brought even the audience to laughter.

The humour was short lived, as the plot quickly turned to dealing with the sobering issues of domestic abuse, broken homes and loan sharks. Personally I found this made the film less interesting as it lacked the high drama and spectacular fight scenes of a conventional gangster film. For example, The Shinjuku Incident had gun fights and ninjas at the end, however some may see that as popularist philistinism. While Breathless has a lack of large-budget scenes, it does touch on serious and wide-spread issues which do give the film a realistic, gritty touch.

Sang-Hoon, played by Yang Ik-june is an embittered loan shark who makes a living off repeatedly punching people who are “late” with their expected payments. His violent streak is hinted to come from the death of his mother and sister after an incident of domestic abuse conducted by his father when he was a young child. This creates the narrative that violence only breeds more violence, which is further conveyed at the end of the film when Sang-Hoon’s previously passive apprentice eventually hits and kills Sang-Hoon as a punishment for reacting less violently during dept-collection.

What this film lacks in theatrical gangland violence and politics, it arguably makes up for with its portrayal of down-to-earth contemporary issues via interweaving character narratives.