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Over the last 4 years, the University Of The West Of Scotland has hosted regular Weds Afternoon collaboration workshops  in our TV studios at UWS Ayr. 

In that time over 400 participants, the majority of them International Students from countries all over the world have participated in the workshops. These student volunteers have collaborated together to record, edit and present the work of the BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Degree students . 

Full details of the StudioLab process can be found here  

I am pleased to announce that next Wednesdays StudioLab will be the 100th session . We will have a film crew down to record events . Look out for details of how we plan to celebrate our 100th Birthday . 

Contemporary Screen Acting Students in our recent Rail Safety  project 

This week Contemporary Screen Acting students at the University of The West of Scotland took part in the launch of a unique new creative Screenwriting project. “Studio Lab” is based in the UWS new 80 million pound Ayr campus where students have access to two  full HD state of the art TV Studios.

As part of their final year Research Project, Ba (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting  students are creating an hour long drama which will be recorded live in  December  at UWS studio 1 .However, what makes this cross-over project unique is that students from other UWS Programmes are being integrated from the beginning into what will be a 12 week process.

Every Wednesday afternoon, Film Making & Screenwriting  students will help to develop the narrative, Broadcast Production students will be in charge of the recording and vision mixing it, Commercial Music students will supply the soundtrack and so on. The whole enterprise will come to a climax on Dec 5th when the entire team , directed by “Chewing The Fat and “Still Game” director Michael Hines, will record the drama “live” in the TV Studio.

As leader of the Programme, I am supposedly  in creative charge of the whole process but if truth be told it is the students who are leading the way. The first step was taken in our main Studio 1  yesterday when the actors took started  their initial improvisation .They are charged with the task   of creating three dimensional characters who will eventually go on to improvise a script which will then be rehearsed and acted out  in the drama.

While the Screen Acting students took part in a tense “hot seat” improv, Film Makers recorded their every move on two HD cameras. By next week we will have a digitised and  edited Quicktime of the process created by the Film Makers , and it will be viewed by all participants . They will then discuss the characterisation  , decide what to use and what to drop, and then move on to recording  the next stage of the improvisation,  and so on. A script will evolve over the first 6 weeks of this process, and by week 11, a fully fledged unique studio drama will have emerged to be recorded in  the final week.

Students at the first session described the process as being “an intense experience”……”as soon as I was under the lights, all the stuff I had planned on using disappeared, and I found I was really being the character”.

The whole idea of the “Studio Lab” process is to create an exciting collaborative environment where we mimic the professional Creative Industries where teams of different disciplines get together to create the final product. If the first week is anything to go by, it will reap creative rewards. We don’t know if the final  programme  will be a comedy, a drama, or a mixture of the two genres, but it will certainly be a unique  experience for all concerned.

I have taught Screenwriting and Performance at the University Of The West of Scotland since 2006.  Dr Sarah Neely, who at that time was teaching Screenwriting  here,  originally asked me to visit   to deliver a one hour talk on my work in the Creative Industries. At that time the institution was called “The University Of Paisley” .  I thought I was agreeing to go and talk in Paisley, Renfrewshire,  until the day before the visit  I  looked at a map armed with the Post Code and realised that I was booked to speak in Ayr. Ayr???  What….Ayr, Ayrshire? Robert Burns? Ice Cream? Butlins? I remember phoning Sarah up the night before and asking her once again…”

“It is Ayr you want me to go to, is it? ”

She assured me that it was indeed the toon of honest men and bonnie lasses,  and off I went with my bike on the train, to Ayr the next day. I got out at the end of the line, and outside the station, asked the ticket inspector  if he could tell me the way to the University. “Oh aye, ” he said, ” Ayr College….doon there, mate…”

“No..not Ayr College…..the University….” I said.

He drew himself up to his full 5’5″ , cupped his fag against the wind, and said ” There’s nae University in Ayr, son….”

Noting my puzzlement, one of his colleagues paused from rolling a cigarette and shouted over…” It’s Craigie he’s wantin’, Wullie”

With that, a light came on in Wullie’s eye…” Oh..CRAIGIE, is it?….how did you no say?” And with that he gave me pinpoint directions to the  Craigie Campus of the University Of Paisley.

6 years later and I am still here.

The New Campus

The New University Campus In Ayr

Now renamed University Of The West Of Scotland after its merger with Bell College Hamilton, and newly relocated in our new £80 million state of the art campus on the banks of the River Ayr, the place I work in  now is very different from the leaky, drafty, run down ex-teacher training college I walked into that day in March 2006. Thankfully, there is sign outside the town which says “Ayr..A University Town” , so that even Wullie from the station will now realise that there is a University in Ayr…and a damn fine one at that!

But there is something else that hasn’t changed at all. The students. Oh they aren’t exactly the same student’s of course. Six cohorts of graduates have moved on and made a life for themselves in the time I have been there. But they are exactly the same type of students.A large percentage of them tend to come from the same housing schemes, the same small towns, the same Islands  and urban conurbations as  they did then.

There is a specific “look”  and “sound” to a group of  UWS students.  I can’t define it, but I can instantly recognise it. I have lectured to MA students in  ancient oak and leather furnished rooms at St Andrews: to groups of  Film Students in  a modern Lecture Theatre at the University of Stirling: to  Theatre Studies Graduates in a beautifully dramatic arts “Church”  at Glasgow Uni. Every one of those groups   was instantly differentiated from my students at UWS.  Let’s cut to the chase here. We are talking class. The statisticians don’t talk about class. They talk about “areas of high deprivation” or “lower socioeconomic sectors”. Whatever way you dress it up as, the “look” and “sound” of a group of UWS students is closely linked to the fact that a large percentage of them come from the sort of places that most of the middle class worthies who run Scottish Education  only see through  smoke-tinted windscreens. Many of my students are the first person in their family to take up Higher Education. Many of them are single parents. Many of them have full time jobs in very low paid areas. Many of them subsist on bursaries, grants,handouts  and overdrafts.  Over 35% of our Performance Students have special educational needs which are fully supported by our fantastic team at UWS Ayr. I wonder what the equivalent  figure is in St. Andrews? I don’t have that figure to hand, but today, thanks to the NUS Scotland, I DO have a figure which has made me proud to work at UWS, and proud to teach my students. More of that later.

The New NSS Survey is out?  Oh……great.  :..(

Creative Hack Day in The Control Room

When you work at UWS, the release of National Statistics is rarely a pleasant experience. With teeth-grinding regularity, I see the National Student Survey  “Performance Charts” which put Oxford , St Andrews and Cambridge at the top, and UWS somewhere…well…. let’s say a wee bit further down than Edinburgh.

Never mind that my students are taught in the most modern Creative Industries University in Britain.Never mind that all the hard work, toil, time, effort and downright passion that  my colleagues and I put in to our students learning experience  comes to nothing. My UWS students aren’t even included in the National Student Survey. Astonishingly, unbelievably,  incredibly, as direct entry third year “top up” students, they don’t even get ASKED what they think of their education. Why? Because  the entire NSS system is geared to assessing the thoughts of  18 year olds with A Levels  who are  studying   three year degrees. None of my students, not a single ONE of them, adheres to that biased,  Southern, middle class model. Many of my students don’t even have Highers. They left school at 16, maybe took a year out to work , or signed on. Some of them have been Fire Officers, Estate Agents,full time mothers, even a magician! Whatever their past, at some point,at some time,  they  took an access course, went to a local FE college, and achieved an HNC or an HND in Performance and Acting. They did this  in circumstances which were a million miles away from the creme de la creme of the education world who are  recruited by the “elites” .   This large group of Articulation students is completely ignored by the NSS.  Institutions like UWS  takes  large numbers of  these  students .  We   cajole them,  teache them, argue with them,  are frustrated and infuriated by them, but  finally we arm them with an honours degree , self respect,  and a practical tool kit to go out into the world and make a career for themselves. And yet my colleagues, students and I  have to watch as their progress is completely marginalised as the NSS  statistics  “prove” how wonderful the “elite” universities are, and how low down we are .

League Table Shmeague Table.

As we all know, the  true situation at the chalk face is far more  complex than any crass league tables can ever reflect. For example,  I am bursting with pride at my two Honours students who achieved First Class degrees this year. They could walk into post-graduate studies of any elite institution in the country if they so wished. However I am just as proud of  my other students who have emerged  from challenging circumstances and learned advanced criticality, reflection and transferrable soft and hard skills which will help them gain employment or create their own jobs and careers. They want  to ensure that their children don’t get the same free meals that they did, and I am proud to be part of that process. Indeed I  am literally  part of that process, because I too was  the possessor of a dreaded free  “white dinner ticket” while at school. But none of this is reflected in the cursed tables I see published in the papers every year. And do you know what? I’m past caring…..well…until today……because…..we made it to the top of a table today, and suddenly , I think they are a GREAT idea….so….

Our HD Television Studio at UWS Ayr.


Hallelujah! Let joy be unconfined!  Let the church bells ring and let laughter and mirth spread through the land! At last, some statistics are published which finally reflect the pride I feel in my institution, and which justify the passion and energy which my colleagues and I  put into our work here. UWS has come out ON TOP in a statistical survey! I will repeat that.  University Of The West Of Scotland  has come out ON TOP! We are the  top recruiter of students scoring highest using  the criteria of  the Scottish Index Of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)

According to a recent study commissioned by NUS Scotland,  UWS recruits a greater percentage of students from “deprived areas” than any other university in Scotland. Of course needless to say, this was not presented as a positive story. Did I pick up my Herald yesterday and luxuriate in the headline  trumpeting “UWS Triumphs In Campaign For Open Access” ? Errr….No. Instead these figures were described as  “Elite Universities Fail To Recruit Poorer Pupils.” ‘Twas ever thus.

Nevertheless, it IS a positive story for us at UWS! Last year we  recruited 1,117 students from the lowest SIMD sector. To give this a bit of context,  St Andrews, (which I believe is thought of as one of the elite ) , managed to  recruit……..wait for the drumroll……..a grand total of ….13.   Maybe we should call them the St. Andrews 13. Maybe they were all from the same Rugby League  team? Whoever they are, I really  do wish them well, because they must be 13 of the most outstanding students in the country. However  it  means that while 2.7% of St Andrews students might have got free school meals or had an unemployed parent, the UWS figure is 25.4%.

Not only that, but  the elite universities (what a wonderful term that is ) are actually recruiting less disadvantaged students  than they did 10 years ago. This means that these  august  educational institutions , whose senior common rooms no doubt glow with statisfaction at their domination of the NSS statistics, are getting  less and less  successful in helping the poorest attempt to break out of a cycle of deprivation and poverty than before.

The Blame Game? 

Let’s make one point crystal clear here. I don’t blame the elite unis for this. As Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland states in the Herald  of  June 4th 2012

“To deliver significant change in universities, you first need to tackle the root of the problem, which is the large gap in attainment according to deprivation in schools, as recent reports have confirmed,”

I’ll say!

Coupled with this, I also don’t blame the elite for wanting to recruit the best students. If I got the chance to recruit a fantastic actress who had gone to Swiss finishing school and had an International Baccalauréat ,  I would do it in a flash. But I live in the real world too. I am competing against other institutions which are deemed “elite” and superior to mine. I know that because I see it in the League Tables, so it must be true, musn’t it?

Prolier Than Thou?

Of course, The solution to these societal inequalities, as Alistair Sim points out,  lies  not in the University sector  at all. Universities are the symptom of the disease, not the cause.  It is  in the schools and pre-school system that this canker of inequality is nurtured.  The fact that elite schools dominate the intake  of elite universities  is clearly symptomatic of the effect of pouring massive subsidy and resources into the education of the 7% of British Children who attend  “independent” schools. Thus inequality is structurally inevitable if we are to continue to give parents the “freedom” to buy their children’s superior school education. Even the proposed imposition of quotas, through  which the Government plans to force Universities  to take more disadvantaged students (and which the “elite”  will inevitably rail against) , are  naught but a  tiny sticking plaster  on what is  a far , far   deeper  inequality wound in contemporary Scottish society.

The Way Forward.

If we Scots decide that we want to build a fairer society (and the evidence of election after election in Scotland is that we do ) ,  then the  only way to redress our  massive societal inequalities is through investment in education and training at the pre-school, school, FE and HE level. At UWS, we  can only do what we can do, and  I am proud to be part of an HE institution which is clearly and  demonstrably doing more to enable open  access to HE than any other University in Scotland.

Graduation Day At UWS Ayr

So let’s hear it for UWS, our students, and especially for Wullie the ticket inspector from Ayr whose town has a University which is top of the performance charts in at least one crucial area.

If you want more information on the sort of work our Articulation students do in Ayr, please have a look at the Video below. It was created, written, acted and edited by  my third years last term. These students came  straight from an HND at FE College, and have  no current voice in the National Student Survey. Let their words speak for themselves.  Contemporary Screen Acting At University Of The West Of Scotland.

I have blogged in the past about the Commercial Screen Project module at the University Of The West Of Scotland . This is an innovative “real life” project  where 3rd Year student Teams use their acting, writing and filming skills create a  web video for an external client.

The Projects Will Be Workshopped in Our Ayr TV Studios.

This year I am delighted to reveal that  two of the  clients for whom the teams are creating web content are Spirit Aid , the Charity set up by Glasgow born actor David Hayman, and the UWS Skillset Media Academy, based in Paisley. Spirit Aid wish to promote their annual Fund Raising climb of Ben Nevis on the 19th of May, and Margaret Scott, manager of the Skillset Media Academy is using the talents of the students to publicise the opening of the innovative Social Media Hub in March.

Students teams have already had preliminary meetings with the management of both organisations to discuss the brief, and are currently researching and planning the next stage of the process.

They are aided by two Industry Practitioners who will be Project Managing the  entire process. Director Michael Hines  of Chewing the Fat and Still Game fame will be leading up the Skillset team, and Writer and Actor Martin McCardie will be responsible for the Spirit Aid Project.

All aspects of the videos will be researched. workshopped, recorded, edited and distributed by UWS students. Teams are using the skills of 4th  Year Contemporary Screen Acting students, Commercial Music Students, and Film Making & Screenwriting Students to ensure that the finished products are of the highest standard.

I hope to blog on the progress of the projects as they develop, and look forward to showcasing the end products towards the end of May

Clive Rumbold of ABC and the UWS Production Team

I’ve blogged before about the South Of Scotland Business Solutions Knowledge Transfer projects which the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University Of The West Of Scotland  has been developing over the past few months.

We have come to the end of the cycle and all the production, editing , paperwork and reflections have been completed and finalised.

In the end, the whole process has been a challenging and exciting experience  for the Contemporary Screen Acting students and staff who took part, but the end result has made it all worthwhile.

Last year’s  level 9 students students successfully produced their  assessed assignments on time  and  achieved a  100% pass rate, and the feedback from them on their learning experience was outstandingly good.  The project has thus proved an outstanding success as a work based learning module  for the students.

Students reported that “ this has been a fantastic module for actually meeting with a client. This made it far more difficult than an ordinary module but far more rewarding “

“I was really proud of the work we did for ABC. I have never been involved in such an exciting module . It was totally different from just doing an imaginary project”

Feedback from the clients has also been overwhelmingly positive. Clive Rumbold of ABC Recruitment commented ”   The finished video  is a league away from our  original film in terms of professional creativity, presentation and filming styles.  In all we now have a professional, commercial film which delivers the messages significantly better and is already proving itself in a very short time.”

Wilma Finlay , from Cream O’ Galloway added  ” The project provided us  with a suite of high quality promotional film clips that we have used on our website and in social media to promote the fun that a wide variety of age groups can have at Cream o’ Galloway.”

Personally the most rewarding aspect of the whole process for me was the team who produced an HD quality video based on research into the life challenges of troubled  youngsters. For this  project, students Andrew O’Donnell, Amy Elftathi, Eileen Frater, James Todd and Anne-Marie O’Connor deserve special praise, along with DOP John Caldwell , who between them produced a fine piece of work.

Thanks also  must go to Eva Milroy and the staff of South Of Scotland Business Solutions for their energy and enthusiasm, and also a very special mention  from me to my colleague Joan Scott of the UWS Business School  in Dumfries who was a constant support in this whole process. Finally, none of this could have been accomplished without the filming and editing skills of UWS MA students Louise Muir and Marta Adamowicz and that wizard of Adobe Premiere Eileen Frater.

2011/12 Intake of Contemporary Screen Acting Students at UWS with social media guru @jennifermjones

I am now planning next years projects for the new intake of third year students which I hope will take this innovative knowledge transfer model to a higher level. We will be  employing  embedded Workplace Learning Students from the Filmmaking and Screenwriting Programmes at UWS, combined with the Project managing skills of industry professionals such as “Chewing the Fat” Director Michael Hines , and award winning Screenwriter and Actor Martin McCardie. Watch this space for details.

If you think you might be interested in studying Contemporary Screen Acting at the University Of The West of Scotland, visit our site here.  . Remember you  can follow me on twitter @stuart_hepburn where I tweet on all things creative at the UWS and further afield.

Last week was the first recording run  through of the TV Studios at the University Of The West Of Scotland‘s new 80 million pound campus in Ayr. Camera Acting students from the Contemporary Screen Acting Programme were recording the first ever series of screen dialogues at the new campus. Students re-enact duologue scenes from movies such “Juno”, “Bridesmaids” and  “Let The Right One In” in order to gain experience of working in a multi-camera studio set up. The above photo shows 4th year honours student  Alana Murray working on the production of her multi-media Creative Project with her cast.

Along with the finest radio and music studios in Scotland, UWS Ayr now boasts two  state of the art HD studios with Green Screen Technology,  Autocue, and top of the range sound and editing facilities. There is space for large scale productions such as dramas, orchestral performances and musical theatre, as well as room for up to 30 students to view the process from the gallery.

The feedback from the students has been very positive. Debbie Lochran commented ” This is fantastic. I’ve never seen a set up like this before anywhere else. You get the idea that you could create any programme you wanted”

Rachel Kennedy preps her Gaelic Children's programme

Zoe Silver said ” I feel like a real professional. The first job I had to do was to be a camera operator in headphone contact with the control room and it went really well”.

Jess Munro commented “I’ve never acted in a studio before, but within minutes I had forgotten about the cameras and lights and was able to concentrate on my performance”.

As we roll out the use of the studio for the fourth year honours students and  post graduates, the amazing potential of this resource is going to be unleashed. Students will be able to create , record and distribute HD broadcast quality programmes , be they filmed dramas,  documentaries or  light entertainment shows.

It’s a genuinely exciting time for all involved.The first slate of programmes recording in the next few weeks  include a Gaelic Children’s show, a modern digitised re-enactment of Tam O’Shanter, an experimental multi-media theatre piece and a  Scottish take on the “Creep Show ” horror format.

I hope to post footage of the work as it is created, and release them through the UWS  Skillset Media Academy 

Television Presenting Workshop

This is an expanded version  of  a talk I gave  at  a Glasgow University Theatre Film and TV  Student Employment Forum At Gilmorehill Church On Monday 21st March 2011

“Delicious Complications” : Employment And The Creative Industries Graduate Today
By Stuart Hepburn
Here are 10 tips for Creative Graduates, in no particular order.
Tip 1. Carry out a Google search of your name.
Tip 2. Change yourself from a consumer to a creator.
Tip 3. Investigate the blogosphere.
Tip 4. Think Small.
Tip 5. Think Big.
Tip 6. Be Passionate.
Tip 7. Network.
Tip 8. Hang out with creatives.
Tip 9. Be Flexible,
Tip 10.Have a backup plan.
We are all witnessing today a world changing more rapidly politically, economically and socially than at any other time since man came down from the trees and started hitting bones with rocks.
A combination of Technological Change, Ecological Shock and the seemingly  irrevocable forces of Globalisation mean that all over the world, in all sorts of ways, people are having to cope with adopting a post-industrial lifestyle and economy.  The three hundred year “honeymoon” which Northern Europe enjoyed by leading the Industrial Revolution is apparently  over, and it would appear that  the post-colonolialist storm is about to break. It could get very uncomfortable for us cossetted Westerners, in  all sorts of ways.
The irony is that you,  as Creative Industries students from  the West of Scotland, stand at the very centre of that process, and are in a healthy  position to  take advantage of this state of flux. I’m reminded of  the Neil Simon scripted  “Barefoot In The Park” (Sachs 1967) , where the Charles Boyer’s character  states of the uncertain future ‘ I foresee delicious complications ‘. The entire developed world is at the centre of those complications, but it is my contention today that  If you are able to take advantage of them, then  the sky could be the limit for you all.
As the  rise of the Digital Economy goes on apace,  it  means that Cultural Trade of all sorts, all over the world,  is growing exponentially. As the   the old ways are breaking down, new forms are emerging to fill  up the vacuum. For example, Hollywood makes about 500 movies a year; Bollywood about twice that. But did you know that “Nollywood” AKA Nigerian Cinema makes over 2,000 films a year?  Albeit they are low budget, locally produced and distributed and have an average budget of £10K. Across the continent,the notorious Kibera Shanty town in Kenya, 10 digital flipcams have been supplied by TED to local residents who use them   to gather, edit and then broadcast worldwide on the spot stories of their lives .  The “Woman Are Heroes” project in the same are has allowed local creative artists to have their work spread  through the use of public art, digitation of imagery and blogging.
Will Nigeria ever overtake Hollywood as a world leader in film production? Will Kibera News Network ever eclipse CNN? Probably not, but there is something very alluring in low budget hi-fidelity digitised creative output, and  like it or not,  these localised  processes  are  forcing  the old order to face  stark choices for the future. As with with every choice in life, this  is a challenge which  has  tremendous opportunities,  as well as real  dangers. It is my contention that you as Creative Industries graduates must seize that opportunity.
As graduates of the class of 2011, you  are the the first Web 3.0 Higher Education generation, and you hold the future of the world in your hands. Literally in your hands with your pdas and smart phones and  flipcams. Five years ago, I didn’t even possess a mobile phone. Now, my iPhone is an integral part of how I interphase with the world, through my website, my blogs, Twitter, Facebook, videos, photographs, a web browser and any number of other apps and creative communication tools.
I use microblogging and digital output at the core of my own pedagogy as a  key to enhancement of  the student learning experience, and I want to share with you today, the possibilities of extending those undergraduate techniques into post graduate modes of employment and sharing and even monetising your creativity. It seems to me that the key to the  whole process which we are all  going through  is the notion  of  User Generated Content,  and as graduating Theatre Students, you are uniquely well suited to taking advantage of this innovative  collaborative process.
UGC is all about creating, and developing  your own narrative through your experience and those around you, and then   sharing and disseminating it all round the world. Our world is now a 360 degree multiplatform environment, with motivated individuals and groups operating on a 24 hours a day digitised interactive basis. Open source software and UGC is the future. The post-Wiki leaks  Firewall is now  little more than the  redundant dream of overworked ICT practitioners continually attempting to put another finger in the dyke to  protect the integrity of self serving institutions.
Don’t get me wrong, I want my bank account to be as secure as can be , but I want my CREATIVITY to be as open as possible.
Universities and large institutions are as fettered as Government Departments and the Ministries of Truth all round the world, all desperately (and vainly)  attempting to hang on to their own exclusive cultural knowledge. The truth is that the genie is out of the bottle, and it is reluctant to  go back, and it seems to me that it is the task of us  creatives to ensure that it never does.
The upheavals in the Middle East, the demise of the old ways of creating and consuming news and culture, the rise of Youtube and Twitter are all manifestations of this process,  and you can be at the centre of it if you choose.
And as we stand in the West End of Glasgow and look down on to silent shipyards , empty factories and a diminishing industrial base, the Creative Economy and those who operate within it have become more and more important economically, politically and socially. Scotland has changed forever, and we will either buy into that change or be left behind for ever.
As  Jamaican Senator Donna Scott-Mottley put it in 2006….
“Sugar days are done, banana days are done, but in this globalised world, our culture is what sells us and we have to begin to look at it as a business”
For Sugar and Bananas in Jamaica, read Shipbuilding and Sewing Machines in Scotland.
But lets not get too negative here. We can pine and moan and say “Ochone” about the glorious sepia-tinted past, but there is also  good story to tell about contemporary Scotland today.  The  newly constituted Creative Scotland’s website informs us that
”  more than 60,000 people are currently employed in the Creative Industries, generating £5 billion for the economy.
It’s clear from figures such as these that  iconic structures and the digital hub around Pacific Quay, Film City and the SECC are no mere empty symbols, and that  Glasgow has a large share of that economic output. Of course, there is no guarantee that these new industries will have any more or even the same degree of longevity as the heavy engineering before it, but at the moment, they are a vital component for the success of the beleaguered Scottish economy.
So as  as the old industrial order   breaks down, and the old certainties fade away, your creativity, and your ability to articulate your own narratives become absolutely key to the way in which you interact in the brave new  world of the modern globak economy. You can be the equivalent of Kibera’s  KNN . You can tell your story to the world.
Human beings have ever hungered for stories. It’s what being human is all about ,  and theatre students have an almost unique opportunity to supply those narratives on a scale of which generations before can only have dreamed. I know, because I am one of the old gaurd who has witnessed the change.
In  January 1990  I performed in the celebrated  Communicado Theatre Company production “Jock Tamson’s Bairns” as the opening theatrical event of “Glasgow, City Of Culture”. Moving into the draughty dirty Tramway in late November ’89,   It felt as if the Trams had just  been moved out as the actors , dancers and musicians moved in. The piece, a natural development from “Mary Queen Of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” (Lochhead 1988)  turned out to be one of the most seminal pieces of Scottish Theatre it has ever been my privelege to appear. It  was a qualified triumph, received good reviews, and Melvyn Bragg even filmed  a South Bank Show special  on it’s writer, our newly appointed Scottish  Makar, Liz Lochhead.
But that was it. The show opened on 25th of January, ran for about four weeks as I recall, and then finished, never to be seen again. The one lasting creative entity coming from the show was the continued creativity of our house band, The Cauld Blast Orchestra, which has recorded and toured sporadically ever since.
How a modern theatre piece would have a very different life story. Through the collaborative digital media there would have been a pre-production Twitter and Facebook Campaign; it might have benefitted from a #JTB Twitter hashtag and a Facebook Page. Rehearsals and workshops would have been blogged, fiimed, recorded on high quality smart phones, shared on Youtube, discussed in chat rooms, and the ripples and eddies from it would have travelled the world. A child in Kibera could have googled “Glasgow Theatre” and been able to share in all this, and indeed, reflect and add to the online narrative discussion. The digital revolution cant turn bad art into good, but it can spread the story of small, site specific art far far afield from it’s place of origin.
The future and potential for creating and sharing narratives is only limited by your imagination and ambition. The New Theatre is going to be collaborative, site-specific, multi platform and end user generated, and all those soft skills which you have learned in your time at University should leave you in an excellent position to take advantage of these developments.
But what does this stuff all actually mean? User Generated Content means that the entire creative process becomes part of an online communicated network of reflective and reflecting processes.
For example, before this talk today,  I tweeted my modest list of Twitter Followers and told them what I was going to be doing today, and wondered if they had any projects which I should be sharing with the Final Year Theatre Students.
Rosie Kane told me about the inspirational work of the Women’s Creative Company which meets at the CCA every Monday, where women who seven weeks previously wouldn’t have had the confidence to speak to a meeting of three,  are now up on their feet and telling their stories to an appreciative audience.
Linda Campbell of Write Camera Action told me about the exciting short film project she is curating.
Step2Collabo TV asked me to mention the £10K budget they had managed to create as the prize for a new pilot for a long running Screen Web Series. These creatives , through the new media, took part with me in a two way conversation which was then disseminated and refracted through this meeting with you  today and its subsequent blog. The (modest)  whole will thus be greater than the sum of the parts, and this is the most exciting thing of all about UGC.
It makes us bigger than we are alone.
It involves us.
It grows.
It turns the ephemeral nature of the theatrical act into something which can be shared.
That said, it is not an easy road to take. It involves risks, it involves exposing ones own ignorance, it involves laying out ones own creativity at the mercy of anyone out there who wants to give it a kicking. Technically also, it’s not an easy nettle to grasp. I still have only a passing understanding of Facebook. Where’s my wall? Who gave me a poke? Why do these people I have never met want to be my friends? I valiantly keep up my Facebook site as a feeder for my blogs and Tweets, but in truth I don’t really ” get it” . However, in a sense, this doesn’t really matter. Nobody “gets” it all. There is a myth, promulgated by lazy thinking,  which talks about the younger generation being the first truly “digital natives.”
I reject this notion. Many of my students at the Skillset Media Academy  University Of The West Of Scotland find themselves seriously challenged by the problems associated with the new media. They may be able to text and log on to Facebook, but as for building their own  digital footprint or monetising their creativity, they are as much at sea as an old age pensioner looking aghast at a Computer Mouse for the first time. Or a lecturer trying to understand a “poke”.
The truth is that there are no experts in this field. Things are moving so quickly, and old technologies being superceded, so that we are all simply catching up in one way or another. Every teacher has something to learn from his or her students. Every student can share  something no one else in the class has found, and there is a refreshing democracy to the whole process. It’s a heady brew indeed.
So finally what can graduating Theatre Students do on a practical level ?
So to repeat, and in more detail, here are my ten tips action checklist.  It’s not definitive, and I am sure you could add or contradict much of it. That said, it has worked for me and my students, and there’s no reason to believe even following just  some of them will make a real difference to your creativity.  (I wrote these for Theatre Makers, but it could be just as easily applied to Writers, Poets, Engineers  or Wheeltappers.)  There is creativity within us all, and WEB 3.0 and UGC gives us the chance to explore it with the biggest group of collaborators  that has ever existed. The rest of the world.
Tip 1. Carry out a Google search of your name. If you discover that the only thing online about you is a photo of the tattoo on your bum and the fact that you were hungover on Sunday, then you need a digital makeover. Get a new Facebook or Twitter account, and start posting professionally  and creatively.
Tip 2. Change yourself from a consumer to a creator. Go on to and create your own blog site. You might discover that you can buy the rights to .net or whatever for about £25.00 for three years. It’s inexpensive, and looks very professional.
Tip 3. Investigate the blogosphere and  find out who’s interested in the same things as you. Comment on their blogs, and start to write your own modest input. You know that voluntary workshop you do every Thursday night in Garthamlock? Blog about it. Tell people what you are up to, ask for advice, start a conversation.
Tip 4. Think Small. Be specific. Write this in big letters above your computer screen. No one knows your narrative but you. Your story is unique, and may well be interesting to others. NEVER underestimate how exotic you may come across as to someone on the other side of the world who has never missed the last bus home from Yoker and had to walk all the way up Great Western Road.
J.R Prufrock’s life could be measured in coffee spoons. Choose your metaphor and tell the world.
Tip 5. Think Big. Be Universal. Write this in big letters at the bottom of your computer screen. Spread your ideas on your new professional site  via Twitter, Facebook and the myriad of other platforms that exist. Between the “thinking small” of your initial idea, and the “thinking big” of disseminating your story, lies the true WEB 3.0  crucible of creativity.
Tip 6. Be passionate in everything you do. Again and again, employers tell educators that they are looking for graduates who are bright and passionate, not quiet and introspective. Get out there, develop the glint in your eyes, and ally it to  a degree of sensible arrogance. If you don’t blow your own trumpet, no one else is going to do it for you. Get rid of the Scottish Cringe which we seem to imbibe with our mother’s milk.The Creative Industries is no place for shrinking violets.
Tip 7. Network. This DOESNT mean going up to strangers at the Citz bar  and handing them your card. It does mean going to meetings and workshops, asking questions, getting noticed, and most crucially,  forefronting YOUR WORK, however modest.  Remember that the work HAS to be at the centre of  the networking process.  All it needs for you to be a  successful networker  is for one  threshold guardian to say to  another ” I’ve heard that X’s show is quite good”  and you are away. Don”t worry about being put down, you’ll find that most doors are open for you. Any older and well established creative who is NOT interested in engaging with emerging talent is an irrelevance anyway,  and should be ignored.
Tip 8. If you want to be creative, hang out with creatives. There is no shortcut to this. In every village, in every town , in every city, there are groups of makers, doers, creators. Become one of them, and you will find that one of the most wonderful things about creativity is that it is contagious.
Tip 9. Be flexible, and don’t specialise too soon. Be aware of the need to take advantage of serendipity. If you get the chance to do something but fear you don’t have the technical skills, ask someone who does. There is a strange breed of creature out there who understand things like  Final Cut Pro and can turn your shaky DV  footage of your theatre workshop into a wonderful piece of archive or reportage. Cultivate these people, and ask for their help when you need it.
Tip 10. Finally, always have a backup plan. If things don’t work out for you, after a while , take the hint. We can’t all be Gregory Burkes  or Emily Watsons, but at least you will have tried.
Stuart Hepburn. March 2011

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David Simons The Wire

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Team Writing For Television is a level 9 Module I deliver along with my colleagues Dr Jill Jamieson and John Quinn as part of the Film Making & Screenwriting and Broadcast Production Programmes at the UWS Skillset Media Academy Ayr Campus.

We investigate the theoretical underpinning of shows such as David Simons’s The Wire ,  True Blood (Ball 2008), and Sky Atlantic’s Boardwalk Empire,  and then apply these lessons to the practical task of writing a long running TV series.

This year we are  by the fact that for the first time this year we will be using Twitter at the core of our delivery. We will be using #TWFTV hashtag to allow students to receive feedback, for them to feed forward and also to reflect on their learning experience on an ongoing basis .You can read the preliminary results here on the BCI Research-Teaching Link.  This innovative online discourse both in class and outside should  hopefully provide us with an instant two way creative relationship between staff and students.You’ll be able to follow developments on Twitter by simply performing a #TWFTV search so there will be no hiding place from negative or positive feedback.

The students are all skilled in using Screenwriting Formatting software (such as CeltX and Final Draft, ) and have learned elementary Screenplay narrative structure in previous Modules such as Introduction to Scriptwriting and The Short Film. In week one they took part in an initial skills audit where we assessed their likes, dislikes, preferred genres and technical skills . From this data we have formed them into nine hopefully coherent teams whose task is to create the Bible for a long running TV Series. Each of the teams nominates a scribe whose task it is to record and publicise the discussions and action points of the individual groups online in a WIKI on our VLE , Blackboard.

Stuart Hepburn Working "The Grid"

The cohort of 68 students are now about to enter week seven  of the fifteen week TWFTV process. What started off for all of them in the first week was  a 30 second elevator pitch of their own individual idea. Gradually, as the classes go on, each individual student’s creative idea has  been  honed down to one per team, and the teams are constructing a Bible, Series Arcs, Character Arcs and outlines for each individual episode of their Team Project.

Over the next few  weeks  they will work on their project,using the creative grid system to develop their Team  Bible into a coherent 15 minute pitch which they will then deliver to Industry Professionals from the BBC, STV and MG Alba on Monday 18th of April.

In this way, Work Related Learning is embedded right across this level 9 module. (It’s worth noting that some of our best writers have gone on to work professionally on Shows such as River City and Waterloo Road.)

After the pitching session in week 10, each team member then writes an individual Episode of the Series. They also contextualise their learning by researching and writing a 2,500 word essay on a specific theoretical aspect of Team Writing. The end product is an entire scripted season of a long running Television series, from opening Episode, to the Final springboard to the second series.

As the Module rolls out, I’ll blog most weeks on the development process.

Recent years have seen a regeneration of Glasg...

Queer Street? Turn left at the Squinty Bridge.

David Gillick is a fourth year Performance student at the University Of The West Of Scotland in Ayr.

His Creative Project is a Mockumentary Film called “Queer Street ”

He is looking for male actors  to play larger than life  characters in this black comedy based on  the lives and loves of the participants of  a fictitious Glasgow gay scene.

They  all constitute  a group of misfit males trying to conquer and control Glasgow nightlife.
Think Rocky Horror meets the Sopranos with a bit of Stellar Street thrown in.

David  is also   looking for one male actor  who is comfortable in front of the camera  and would be the TV  interviewer of this Mockumentary.

David is  hoping to start workshopping this on the 15th of November at UWS Ayr or  in Glasgow, whatever suits majority of the cast.

David says that ”  I wont be forcing anyone to perform outwith their  comfort zone, as I  know some budding actors  may be put off by the sound of  the material and theme of the film…all I want is to make a funny film about a bunch of Glaswegian gays”

If you think you might be interested in the project, or know someone else who is , please email David Gillick at the address below as soon as possible and he will get back to you.

Many thanks.

[email protected]


BBC Alba (TV channel)

MG ALBA sponsor FilmG


Helen Mackinnon of the MG ALBA sponsored  FilmG short film competition will be visiting the UWSAyr campus on Wednesday. In room A 103  at 4 pm on the  13th of October she will  throw down a challenge to all local film makers. Can you create a 3 to 5 minute short film in the medium of the Gaelic Language? One of our students, Lynn Stewart took the challenge last year and won!

You don’t have to be a fluent speaker in  Gaelic but you DO need to be interested in filmmaking. If so,  you should give the  FilmG shorts competition a go!

Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience in making films. FilmG have a range of training initiatives available to you and if you need help with your Gaelic check out TàlantG on the FilmG Website to find a talented Gaelic speaker who can help you with your film. If you already work in the industry, as long as you don’t have a broadcast credit as a producer or a director you can enter.


UWS winner Lynn Stewart with Donald Campbell (MGAlba), Michael Hines & Mike Danson (UWS) ,Iain Hamilton (HIE) and Stuart Hepburn at last years awards


This year’s theme is ‘Lamh an Uachdar’ (The Upper Hand). If your film is distinctive, imaginative and engaging, you could win some fantastic cash prizes, as well as make important industry contacts, that could help you towards a career in broadcasting.

As usual the FilmG’s prizes are fantastic, you’ll be hard pressed to find a film competition in the country that can match this.

Best Drama Short: £2,500

Best Factual Short: £2,500

Best Student Film: £1000

Best Performance :£1,000

Best First-time Director: (Industry) £1,000

Best First-time Director: (New Entrant) £1,000

Best Student Director: 1 month paid work-placement with media company

FilmG Theme Award: £1,000

This year there’s an added a work-placement prize for the best student director. If you are a student this could be your chance to get a foot in the door and get hands-on experience working in the industry.

Don’t forget, that the competition can open doors for you in the Scottish media industry. The BBC ALBA commissioners will be looking at every film submitted, and national organisations such as Scottish Screen, BAFTA Scotland and BBC Scotland attend the awards ceremony and are happy to chat and give advice on how to pursue a career in the industry.

Helen will be holding a meeting open to all in Room A 103  at 4 pm on Weds 13th at the University Of The West Of Scotland Craigie campus. Please come along, even if you are not a Gaelic speaker you may be able to become part of a team who have the chance to win the cash prizes.

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