Okay, so I wasn’t interviewing big names in the art world, and I wasn’t indulging in a bit of access all areas at an exhibition opening on a VIP pass…but! I did manage to meet an acclaimed film maker and gain a bit of kudos on the department’s Facebook page,when I recently did some filming for the University’s Media Centre.
Over the summer I was approached by the Media Centre to co-produce, write and present a short feature about Birmingham’s ‘hidden’ cultural gems. My creative juices were flowing and the bright lights of the red carpet premiere began to glitter before my eyes! I was promptly brought back down to earth when I was told that the feature had to adhere to a running length of 90 seconds (yes! A FULL 90 seconds!) and could only feasibly include three locations with easy access for a film crew and all its equipment in tow. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with pre-production procedures, it can be a tricky process to obtain filming permissions from the City Council, independent organisations and so on. And as for Health and Safety, well, that offers-up a whole host of other potential obstacles to get over…!)
In the end though I was paired up with a PhD student, Pete McMenamin, in Human Geography whose research exposes the overlooked yet detrimental effects of class division during a city’s tenure as the ‘City of Culture’. I had to be in good hands, surely! Our big-hearted film maker Mark Pressdee (with filming permissions in hand!), knowing the Jewellery Quarter inside out, suggested that we encourage students to step out of their Vale/Campus comfort zone and explore some of Birmingham’s more historic parts. After some basic production training, the producer and I got to work, storyboarding the scenes, shot by shot, to communicate the maximum using the minimum amount of exposure time. We had a huge amount of flexibility here, so, whilst of course keeping it realistic budget-wise, anything went. Graphics were a yes but no stunts, I’m sad to say.
With temperatures dropping into the single figures that week, I turned up sporting my puffy hoodlum-style orange jacket on shooting day and was quickly nicknamed ‘Salmon Girl’. So much for low key, that jacket is part of my winter survival kit. I really hope campus-goers won’t ask me to reel off cultural facts about Birmingham next term. Anyway, jokes aside, the freedom and leeway we were given to conceive and record this short film from start to finish entirely by ourselves as a team made for a really exciting experience, offering us all real insights into media production that has produced in the end something that we are all proud of. Managing to secure access to a backstreet jewellery studio was a personal highlight and it gave me a glimpse of the creative independents hard at work behind the commercial high streets, a side of Birmingham which, in 4 years of living here, I’d never seen before!
All the MyBham filming projects aim to give students a taste of production work that will ultimately encourage undergraduates to make the most of their university experience. All videos will be released before Christmas so check back soon for a preview!