Author Graeme Armstrong: “It’s my duty to disrupt”

NCL Film and TV’s guest speaker programme brought 2021 to a close with an inspirational discussion with Airdrie born author Graeme Armstrong, whose award winning novel “The Young Team” is currently being adapted for television by Synchronicity Films. 
 
The novel tells the story of “Azzy Williams”, an Airdrie teenager who at age 14 joins the local gang that gives the novel its title and follows his journey into adulthood, trying to escape the bleak post-industrial landscape of North Lanarkshire.  
 
During a wide ranging discussion with host Maureen Cuestas Rincon, Graeme shared his thoughts on publishing, public speaking and the importance of storytelling as testimony, recounting his own journey through gang culture and addiction in the process. 

“It was testimony. I went through all that and I want to tell people about it. I love when I get messages from young people – whether it’s kids, whether it’s prisoners or whether it’s anybody – who say that it has had an impact…It feels like vindication that all the suffering and struggling to do it was worth it. It makes me feel better – it’s like a healing thing.” 

Graeme Armstrong

 
“Graeme has emerged as an authentic new voice in Scottish literature and his story will resonate with many of our own demographic of students who face numerous barriers to education. As a department, we encourage the students to explore their own culture within the work they make and use their creative and digital skills to empower their communities and Graeme’s story is a fantastic example of the power of storytelling.”

Kim Beveridge, Film & Television Lecturer

“Having enjoyed the guest speaker slots so far, I was really keen to listen to Graeme’s discussion and get an insight in to his thought process as an author moving towards the TV industry.   It was refreshing to listen to someone who has not only turned his life around for the better, but is carving a career for himself in the creative arts to amplify voices like his own.  Getting the opportunity to listen to Graeme talk about his life, creative experiences and being unapologetically himself was really emboldening for me, and I’m looking forward to following his work in the future thanks to this introduction through the course.” 


Sarah Stables, HNC Film & TV Student 

Graeme really is an advocate for a lot of people, folk from similar areas to me that are massively under-represented in education. I feel I’m in a better place to guide young people because of the way I came into education, which wasn’t until I was almost 30. There are so many ruined lives after chaotic starts, but there is an alternative route and I feel the more working class, scheme raised teachers and lecturers that can relate more to young people the better. 

Barry Morrison, Supported Learning Lecturer 

“Through professional stories to funny life stories, each speaker has been very interesting to listen to and at times I have not wanted them to stop. The added ability for the students to ask questions at the end has been important as some questions have related back to exactly what we are studying/ learning at that time and hearing a professionals opinion has really made us think about the next step we take once we progress from college. Overall the guest speaker program has been one of the highlights while studying at NCL and the information I have been given from these professionals has definitely helped me with a better understanding of the industry I one day hope to be established in”

Graeme Ross, HND Film & TV Student

For more information on New College Lanarkshire’s range of courses in Film & TV, please visit https://www.nclanarkshire.ac.uk/courses/film-and-tv 

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NCL Film & Television student accepted to The Royal Conservatoire Scotland

Kieran’s 2021 Showreel

Belated congratulations go out to HND Film & Television student Kieran McLaughlin, who took his place this year on The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA in Film-making, one of the most competitive and prestigious film courses in the UK.

Kieran began his course at NCL in the autumn of 2019 and only a few month months later Covid19 hit the United Kingdom, effectively cancelling all physical classes and moving all remaining teaching online. Over the majority of their remaining HN course, Kieran and his classmates faced many practical issues with their coursework, trying to complete films and documentaries around the many physical restrictions placed on movement and meeting people.

In addition to shooting features like Cavendish, which was picked up by Amazon Prime whilst he was still a student at NCL, Kieran also managed to complete and deliver his documentary on Sartorialism in the autumn of 2020. He was also a key team member in the production of Extracts, a collaboration with Actor and Lecturer Brian Ferguson and his students at City of Glasgow College.

Still from Kieran’s documentary on Sartorialism

‘Extracts’ was comprised of a series of 10 short scenes, performed by City of Glasgow’s performance students and shot on location in and around Cumbernauld and was delivered at the end of the academic year 2021 for these HND students as part of their Showreels, when lockdown constraints were finally relaxed.

Behind the scenes stills from the “Extracts” project

In an interview for a feature in this blog Kieran talked about the Conservatoire and the fact he’d applied and been rejected once before for the BA and his focus around his 2021 application.

I have reapplied to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Having previously applied, I have been able to take positives away from each application, learn and develop myself and recognise areas for improvement. I have spent the last year focusing on this and hope to be successful in my application this time.

Kieran McLaughlin

It’s testament to the sheer hard work and determination these students showed over the pandemic that they not only completed their course but did so delivering a body of high quality work over the most difficult practical circumstances.

Our best wishes go out to Kieran for his BA course at RCS and we hope he’ll return and show us what he’s working on in the future.

Michael Grant, Film & Television Lecturer

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Brass, aye? The Sit Down

Brass, Aye? The Sit Down

NCL Film & Television students past and present, recently collaborated on the production of a music video for Glasgow band Brass, aye? The song; “The Sit Down” was created as part of the band’s Making Moves Project, made possible by funding from Creative Scotland, and released to coincide with COP26 in Glasgow.

The track was written by band leader Richard Merchant and the video was directed by band member Tam Dean Burn. Members of the public and local community around The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow were invited to participate and film alongside NCL Film and Television students.

Their footage was then edited by NCL Film and TV alumni Andrew Dunn supported by Tricky Hat Productions, associate artist and producer for the project; Kim Beveridge.

‘I’ve been part of Tricky Hat Artist in Residence creative team for Ward 23, Partick East and Kelvindale since the early development stage in spring 2019. During the last lockdown, we created a sound walk called ‘Round Out Place’ that took audiences on a journey around the area, through audio, listening to stories and music from the community via an app on their phones. 

https://explore.echoes.xyz/collections/a0eGLJ4KeKpRaPHq

The collaboration with Brass, aye? felt like a natural extension of this, seeing the community walk, talk, make music, film, and sit together to have an open and honest chat about the change they want to see, demanding to be heard and for ‘talk’ to be turned into action! 

Also, it was really fun to be out filming again with the students and this was the first time my 6-year-old son Archie had seen me work as a filmmaker. He’s in the video along with some of the students and other NCL staff’s kids. I’m really privileged to have a job where I’m able to blend and bring together all the areas in my life I’m passionate about to make art and maybe some change?

Kim Beveridge, Film & Television Lecturer

I loved being part of the Brass, aye? filming. It was a great opportunity to see the pre production, filming and post production processes in a real life scenario. Everyone involved was friendly, professional and had some words of wisdom for us students. It was a wonderful collaborative experience with everyone involved doing their bit for a great end result.

Sarah Stables, HNC Film & Television

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NextGen Pilot: Sustain and be able

Film & Television event at NCL’s COP26 venue in Glasgow

“In my opinion our use or misuse of resources the last 100 years or so, I’d probably rename that age, something like The Age of ignorance, The Age of Stupid!!!” 

Alain DuVerney, The Age of Stupid  2009

The Earth is a mere 4.5 billion years old and in our arrogance, we have failed to see past the last 200 years of industrialisation and evolution within this context. The lens we look through is smeared by events which take place in the here and now. The natural world, ancient, with its delicately balanced of eco-system, has been side-lined. We are at war with nature and every war we have waged inevitably makes reference to the human cost. The Iraq war was arguably the first to bring into focus the impact war has on the environment and it took the visceral images of burning oil wells on our TV screens to do this. We have been raging a war on the Earth’s natural resources and the ultimate cost of climate change will eclipse every war we have ever read about or watched live on our TV screens. 

What does this have to do with us in Scotland? How can we possibly make a difference in our local communities within North Lanarkshire and beyond?

During COP26, the burning question for us in Film & TV Education is how can you be sustainable?

There is a huge effort within the Film & TV Industry to acknowledge the impact that content creation has on the Environment and in turn, the future of the planet. How does this translate into the provinces? 
At NCL we have taken small steps to address waste and its impact. Recycling batteries and moving to re-chargeable ones was the first step. AA and AAA batteries (600 million find their way into UK landfill each year) are a particular bug bear as the NPF and LP batteries we use are excellent and some we have now been using for over 5 years. Also, not all packaging is recycled. Soft plastics are a particular problem as only a few shops actually offer this service. The Carbon footprint is also another area that is of huge concern. One exercise we carried out in August was to map the postcodes from where students were travelling from and put them in the same class. The idea behind this is that they could potentially car share if this was an option. Or at the very least, share a bus or train journey and chat about life in general. Some great friendships have resulted in this.

We have also set the Film Noir projects brief where the students must film within a 1 mile radius of the college, utilising the college itself and the surrounding brutalist architecture. All logging is now done electronically on phones so students are now being encouraged to log shots on location using their mobile phones. This cuts down on paper printing. The students were also set a task to look at how sustainable they could make a script by looking at aspects of production such as travel, catering, carbon offset and recycling. There were some really interesting and insightful pieces of work handed in as a result.

Finally there is the awareness raising around sustainability and the role we have as individuals to make a difference. From recycling clothes, buying less plastic, eating less red meat, using the car less, walking more and crucially having grown-up conversations about the future of our communities in the context of climate change.

The Film & TV industry are making strides to address climate change and the impact Production has on the Environment. Recently, BECTU, the trade union that represents those working in Film & TV, advertised for a fixed term Screen Sustainability Manager in Scotland. We shared this information with the students in order to let them see that the sector is taking this very seriously and the role itself will invariably look at policy and practice in tandem with Scottish Government net-zero emissions targets on Greenhouse Gases. An important part of the job is to establish a Sustainability Hub where serious consideration needs to be given to how we include and represent the views of young people.

Elsewhere, Albert are the major players when it comes to Sustainability in Film & TV. They have a small dedicated team which is set out to educate and inform the industry on good practice when it comes to looking at production and how it impacts on the environment. Using the carbon calculator, Production companies must register their carbon footprint. BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Netflix are amongst the major companies who have signed up. In order to achieve Albert Certification you need to complete a Carbon Action Plan. For this, companies must offset their carbon emissions.

During Cop26, we hosted a range of guest speakers which included brilliant Film Maker and more importantly, brilliant Film Activist Cameron MacKay talking about Greenwashing, the renowned actor Charlotte Riley discussing her venture Wonderworks and the issue of childcare in the Film & TV industry and Stage 50 who specialise in building modular sound stages in under 4 months…the genius of these sound stages being the fact that they can be dismantled and re-assembled in another location.       

Charlotte Riley presentation on childcare in Film & TV
Stage 50 presentation on sustainable film production

So educating Film and TV students on the measures that are being taken and the actions that are being put in place is of huge importance. We need to move from being passive observers to active participants if we are to roll back the damage that has and is being done. We need to do it now!!!

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NCL Film & TV COP26 Invite: Tuesday 9th November

As part of a series of New College Lanarkshire events aligned with COP26 the Film & Television department will be hosting an open day of information, networking, presentations and workshops at Edward House, 199 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow on Tuesday, 9th November from 2-8pm.

Come along and get a masterclass in mobile film making and check out some of the projects and community partnerships NCL Film & Television students have been working on around Cop 26.

Presentations/Speakers @ Edward House, 199 Sauchiehall Street, Tuesday 9th November:

  • 6:00pm: Actress Charlotte Riley, Wonderworks: a sustainable approach to childcare in the film industry.
  • 6.30pm: Tam Dean Burn, Brass, Aye? The making of the Sit down protest video for COP 26.
  • 7:00pm: Stage 50 – A sustainable approach to filming facilities.
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NextGen Pilot: Metaskills in Action

Documenting metaskills in Microsoft Teams

A large part of the new HNC is about capturing how students perform when you put them into a group or team setting. A lot of what we miss is also some of the most important parts of what a student learns – how to negotiate, how to contribute, how to stay focussed, knowing when to shut up and listen!

We’re now in week five and I’ve created a “Metaskills in Action” channel in Teams. The purpose is to observe and evaluate each student in relation to the projects they have been assigned. Hopefully by the time we reach June we will be able to demonstrate a methodology that goes some way to capturing the essence of learning in a group setting. I see this as a very important part of the new approach to Quality Assurance.

The latest exercise we set the groups involved setting them a Shot list/Shooting Sequence task. This proved to be the most challenging task yet and as of the Wednesday evening (22/09/2021), only seven students had managed to properly work out what the object of the exercise was.

They were given the task of taking a two-page script, working out a shot list and then re-arranging this to accommodate the shooting sequence and camera set-ups – all the time to make the shoot run as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

Again, both A1 and A2 Groups on the Tuesday were well attended and we are already seeing relationships being established amongst the students. There appears to be a natural order taking place in relation to those who are maybe a little more confident and those who are reluctant to pop their heads above or in some cases in front of the camera. It’s not an acting for camera course but there is something to be said about being in front of the camera and how difficult it actually is. Hopefully this will allow them to empathise with the talent as they will need to when they start trying to recruit for their short film.  

The students of course will not get to see this information as it will be used to Grade them in the Metaskills aspect of the course. They will be given feedback however on the work they produce and they will be given a “Report card” at the end of Semester one which will focus on areas we think they need to improve on. This will include technical skills, attitude, attendance and overall performance and contribution to team work

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Simon B. HNC Short Film: Tick Tock Repeat

I came up with the idea for Tick Tock Repeat from my love of time loop movies. Particularly Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow and Source Code. My script was also influenced by Back to the Future with the usage of clocks throughout.  

I knew this was going to be a particularly challenging shoot due to being in the middle of COVID-19 lockdown. I couldn’t get a crew and because I was also the lead actor I couldn’t be behind the camera at all times. I was fortunate to have a very patient family who offered to help even though none of them had any experience making films. The biggest challenge was getting them up to speed on what they had to do in a very short time frame and taking on multiple roles that would normally be split between a much larger crew.  

Due to lockdown the short was filmed over a strict 4 day window which meant we were unable to come back at a later date if we couldn’t complete filming.  

This very strict schedule presented us with a fair amount of challenges. The first of which came after I was reviewing the footage from day 1. I noticed that a lot of the shots had hairline and other small black marks on the image itself and after some investigation realised the camera had a damaged sensor. Unfortunately due to the limited filming window I decided to persevere as the black marks weren’t too apparent on many of the shots, but the ones outside were quite noticeable. I decided to try and incorporate this “dirty” look into the film itself with the title sequence and colour grading.  

I made several major changes overall from production. The first being the removal of the scene in which a mouth can be seen on a television whispering “tick tock”. This stayed in the cut until the very last day of the edit because I actually really liked how this scene turned out, but unfortunately it just didn’t fit well with the pacing on the rest of the film and narratively it didn’t make much sense how the main character only heard this television in one of his loops when it would have actually been playing in all of them.  

Another major change was how the bathroom scene was shot. In the script it is written that the bathroom mirror begins to steam up and the words “Tick Tock” are written on the steamed up mirror. Unfortunately it proved a bit too difficult to get this practically working on set and we ended up wasting too much time trying to get condensation on the mirror.  

Due to my shots and camera quality not being 100% I decided to focus on what I could control which was the edit. The colour grading was particularly important to me as I wanted it to have that classic cinematic look while also appearing somewhat dreamlike, giving this appearance that not everything is as it seems. I also put a lot of time and attention into the sound design, specifically the various clocks ticking throughout and the voice Peter repeatedly hears during his loops.  

Overall I think this challenging shoot was actually a huge benefit for me. It made me realise if I can film in this environment with all these challenges and have the final result turn out the way it did then I feel much more confident in filming with a full crew with no limitations and time constraints.  

Simon B. HND Film & Television.

Film and Television students have faced considerable obstacles when trying to make features over the last eighteen months, which has also led to some very creative solutions in the way they have developed and produced their projects.

Limited resources and lockdown constraints meant that many had to rely on the goodwill of their family and in some cases flatmates as either crew or participants in their films and Tick Tock Repeat is another feature which creatively approached these problems.

Simon’s time loop narrative gave him a format to incorporate some really nice set pieces of film making and post production processes into this feature and the experience of directing the project from inception to finished feature has added many practical and directorial aspects to his film making skillset.

– Michael Grant, Film & Television Lecturer.

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NextGen Pilot: Late Registration

HN students watch a practical demo. Photo courtesy of Graeme Ross.

So much to cover I don’t where to begin…how about week three.

We spent the first two weeks online which actually was a nice way to ease everyone back in to coming back into college. A lot of discussion took place between staff around levels of anxiety and worries about student Health and well-being. A decision was taken in the first two weeks to approach the teaching with a “light touch” and not put them on high alert.
Saying that, we did introduce them to Teams and managed to set them three assignments – one on the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator and two on Location and Risk Assessments. The latter being quite dry but very important for their production work. 

We also introduced the learners to the projects they will be doing in the next year. We managed to really sell the idea of project work and the importance of team work for the new NextGen qualification. I think they got it but we’ll see in a few weeks time when the projects start to roll.  

Practical shoot setup for HNC

The assignments they’ve been set so far are not graded. We’re too early into the teaching to start that, but I have identified the students who I think will be the first to hand in work. We usually can tell this every year. I suppose that only tells us that there are quite a few procrastinators in our midst. The grading system will kick in soon but I’ll cover that at a later date.  

The Myers-Briggs test was sold as the jump-start to the Metaskills part of the new qualification. The learners all enjoyed this and felt it was particularly useful and resonated. We also asked them to do it with their friends in order to see whether it landed with them too. It was good to see who the Commanders and Mediators were as this will come in handy during the group work. 

Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator: 16 Types

One exciting aspect of the new course is the project work. Kevin and Alec are being tasked with overseeing the technical part of the qualification and so far, the practical application is working well. The students are also responding to the workshop element and are happy to be outside working with equipment and delivering projects with a tight turnaround.  

The Tuesday lecture slot is also proving popular with learners as they can see other people who are not us and 20 years younger, talk about practice and their own journey in Film & TV. Hearing voices like their own is probably more important than listening to someone harp on about a Multi-million pound production. That sometimes feels like the equivalent of dancing to Architecture!!!

– Alan Moffat, Film & Television Lecturer.

HNC’s learn slating for a shoot.

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NCL Film & Television pilots Next Generation HN Qualification

NCL Film&TV students on location, filming for the National Theatre of Scotland.

In early 2020, the Film & TV department put in an application to be part of the NextGen pilot for the HN qualification in TV Production. 

The NextGen qualifications have been described as the most radical overhaul of qualifications in Scotland in a hundred years!!! For television, it represents a move away from the one and two credit model to a more project defined learner experience.

There are now two Production and Technical units that make up the Group award, both of which are worth five credits each. The SQA Quality Development Team were responsible for gathering feedback from industry and their findings led them to the conclusion that the HNC had to move away from a “quantity” based model towards a “quality” based model. Simply put, the students will be assessed less, and the focus will be on the projects they work on and produce.

For the first time, they will also be assessed on their MetaSkills (self-management, social intelligence and innovation) through the work they undertake as an individual, how they contribute to the team, and how they can reflect on their practice and their own development as they progress through the HNC.

Thirteen years ago we took the decision as a department to move away from collecting student evidence through traditional paper-based methods by adopting the Mahara e-portfolio. Our endeavours were rewarded by a 2011 JISC award for Innovation in learning and teaching and we became sector leading in this area.

Last week, we took the decision to move away from Mahara in order to make full use of Microsoft Teams, which has shown its value as a resource over the last eighteen months. This will see us deliver learning and teaching as well as assessing all student work in one virtual space. Demonstrating the department’s agility and willingness to embrace new platforms in the pursuit of excellence.

“This is an exciting time to be involved as a NextGen pilot centre. We have overhauled our curriculum delivery in an attempt to make it much more student-centred and outcome driven. Students will be assessed on the projects they deliver on, the ability to contextualise their research and the quality of their reflective practice. All the time having serious fun!!!”

Alan Moffat: Film & TV Lecturer

 

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Action!

During the pandemic, the Film & TV department, like so many other departments, went online. Although there were huge challenges to overcome, one of the areas that benefitted was our guest speaker slot…there were suddenly a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands!!!

In August 2020, Kim Beveridge and executive producer, Sarah Harkins, put together a guest speaker programme aimed at students looking at gaining a foothold in an industry that has issues with wider participation. This became the kernel of the Action! Project.
As we deliver the FA programme, Skills Development Scotland were interested in our approach to the guest speaker slot and we managed to secure some funding to develop the project.

Being in such close proximity to Wardpark where Outlander is based presented an opportunity to build links with the production and mitigate against the fact that students cannot apply for traineeships. The department put together a funding application which listed three aims and a series of outcomes.  

ACTION Project Promotional Graphics courtesy of department lecturer Alec Cheer.
  • To consolidate and develop the links we have made with the Outlander training programme in order to provide an insight into the Film & TV industry, with a view to establishing a pathway to future collaborations and work placements. 
  • To involve a wide inter-disciplinary range of students in the production of high quality video content, produced in collaboration with the Outlander training programme, to enhance their learning experience. 
  • To produce a range of high quality learning materials which will not only benefit the students involved in the production process, but also a wide range of future students. 

At the end of May Action! secured a production base and employed a production assistant, former HND Alumni Hannah Love, to oversee the project.In June, Action! shot its first video with Lauren Lambie and student Sean Gray and as we come into the new Academic Year, the project will move into its next phase. 

By creating a series of production videos, the aim will be to capture various roles and experiences with the focus very much being on the students. These videos will include exploring production roles, capturing the trainee experience and gathering student feedback on their own experience during the process. there will also be accompanying student resource packs aimed at the Foundation Apprenticeship students.


“Partnership and collaboration lie at the core of the creative industries and the student experience within NCLFILMTV is modelling this moving forward. ACTION! Has been established now and we plan to continue the project as the department’s internal production company.  

This is based on a series of collaborative projects like EXTRACTS, a partnership with Brian Ferguson and the acting and performing students from City college. We’re already in talks about how to refine and relaunching the the EXTRACTS project again next semester to showcase the skills and talent of both production and performance students.

The ACTION! Project has been funded by Skills Development Scotland and is operating as a production company run by students, developing skills and teaching material by directly connecting students with film and tv industry professionals.  

The content that Action! will feature will include in-depth interviews with professionals, focusing on processes and best practices within the Scottish Film and TV industry and the variety of roles within the sector and the skills needed to do each job, with diversity and inclusivity at the core.” 

Kim Beveridge, Film & Television Lecturer.

Action! is now up and running and looking for creative partnerships to enhance the student experience. If you’d like more details about the project or have a possible partnership in mind please email:

Kim.Beveridge@nclan.ac.uk

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