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Once in a while I get loose from the UWS Mediaacademy and get out more and I spent a truly inspiring day at the Media Guardian Edinburgh Internaional Festival Network event the other day. The Network  (formerly TVYP) is run in parallel with  the International TV Festival and is committed to identifying and developing young  creative  talent who are interested in a career in Television. Thousands of hopefuls apply, and this year 80 successful delegates descended on Edinburgh for   four free  days of masterclasses, workshops and career chats.


"Writing's fine, but I really want to direct"

These  included….

– Learning the key ingredients for getting a start in TV
– Discovering just how huge and diverse television is
– Getting your hands dirty and finding out exactly how a camera works
– Meeting fantastically talented TV and showbiz types
– Understanding what all the people on a TV show’s end credits do
– Questioning TV execs who have the power to give you a job

As the Network website explains

“The Network  is now in its 20th year,  each year The Network delegates have the opportunity to meet, work with and learn from leading creative industry figures  ranging from scriptwriters to producers, presenters to publicists, programme schedulers to commissioning editors. Past contributors have included Chris Evans, Russell T Davies, Davina McCall, Jimmy Carr, Sir Trevor McDonald, Simon Amstell, Kirsty Young, Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, Tim Hincks, Chief Executive, Endemol and Jon Snow.”.

My particular workshop was sponsored by the ALCS , and through them  I was fortunate enough to be able to discuss creativity and screenwriting on an individual basis  with 15 of the delegates this year, and an overwhelming and humbling experience it was too.

The cliche about “teaching” is that when it’s working well, the teacher learns as much pupil, but I can honestly say that after speaking in detail to the young delegates, I really did learn a lot. I learnt that the future of British TV, if this lot have anything to do with it, is in good hands. All of them had well formulated ideas to pitch, all of them were willing to listen, and all of them taught me something I didn’t know before. They even had Business Cards, putting me to shame..(Memo to self. Must get business cards printed.)


Tash Collie pitching her new Radio Drama.

The feedback from the whole event is just in, and modesty forbids me repeating it all here. Suffice to say the delegates went away brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and creativity. If you are a creative young person who wants to be involved in the TV Industry, keep an eye on the Network Website for details of next years initiatives. It’s well worth it, even for the old fogeys like me  who are supposedly “teaching” you.

Special thanks has to go to James, Suzy and Holly for all their hard work and for providing me with the photos.


Steve Briggs(Law At Work) Chris Young (Associate), Stuart Hepburn (UWS)

After a demanding recruitment process, one of our most promising graduates from the Performance BA(Hons) programme at the UWS School of Creative And Cultural Industries started work this week on a brand new Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Chris Young , pictured left in the Law At Work HQ,  is no stranger to those who saw his porfolio of films  at our Annual Showcase in April. As part of the Tenement Productions Team, Chris was winner of the Willie Strachan Gold Medal  for Creativity.

Chris is an accomplished performer, director  and editor, and I am confident that he can act as a creative dynamo in the 10 week process which will result in an innovative training video for our Partners, Law At Work. He has completed the first week of the research phase and over the next two weeks will meet clients,practitioners and other trainers to establish the theoretical underpinning of the bespoke training video around the subject of Sex Discrimination at Work. After that, Chris has seven weeks to  write the script, recruit the performers, and direct and edit the final video. The plan is for it to become the first in a series of videos around various aspects of employment law.
Chris is looking forward to the whole process, even although the fact that he became a dad two weeks ago means that his time will be equally divided between researching the script and battling the symptoms of colic!

At the Law at Work HQ today he said “It feels like this project is exactly the sort of thing I have been trained for at the UWS. I spent two years with my fellow students preparing for this and I am really looking forward to directing   my first professional training film”

Chris Young & The Class of 2010 (Upstage Centre, of Course! ) Picture Chris Gilgallon

It is especially exciting for myself as an an academic,   as  this is the first ever KTP for the School of Creative & Cultural Industries. For background on this see my earlier blog. It will not only provide a great opportunity for  Chris , but it will act as an innovative testing ground for the development  of our relations with industry. Creative Industries KTPs are rare beasts indeed, and  we at the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries  aim for this to be the start of an ongoing process of engagement with business. At the very core of what we aim to do at UWS is to create Graduates who are fit for purpose with the transferable skills suited to  the needs of a  rapidly changing outside world .

Steve Briggs, Operations Director with Law At Work said: “We’re delighted  to be linking up with  the  UWS to produce what I’m certain will be a high-quality training video, with a “made in Scotland” feel to it. We seized the opportunity to work with a team that includes a high calibre  graduate, and accomplished actor and writer Stuart Hepburn. This was only possible financially because of the KTP funding structure, and we anticipate long-term benefits from the partnership”

No pressure there, then! I should add that my  colleague Helen Kennedy at the Innovation and Research Office at UWS  and I  have received excellent support and advice from Alasdair Cameron at the West Of Scotland KTP Centre . It’s been a real team effort, due in no small part to their  unstinting support  and I am grateful to them all.

It’s early days in the production process, and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We have to come up with a first class piece of work for Steve and the team at Law At Work, but if the way things have gone so far has been anything to go by, I am confident we can repay their commitment.

I’ll report further on the process as it develops over the next 10 weeks.

Anyone wanting more information regarding knowledge transfer opportunities should visit http://www.uws.ac.uk/iro


Equipe de tournage d'un court métrage à Paris,...

Ready When You Are Mr McGill

Marshall’s Misdemeanours is a hilarious  Short Film Comedy written by Glasgow writer and Actor Sandy Nelson . It was recorded for radio last year and now a 15 minute squence is being  filmed  by on the UWS Ayr  Campus on Sat and Sun 18th and 19th of September .
We gave the same help and support to The Crews and this  Production Team are  looking for supporting artistes  on the day, and for Technical Help.
Please take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to see how a film is shot, and also possibly to see yourself on the big screen.
The team need supporting artistes,the more the merrier  as well as  a boom operator, a camera assistant and a runner.

Please help if you can . Email Calum “Bob” Weir at the email below. If you are on facebook or twitter spread the word.
All the best and remember, if you want to be creative, hang out with creatives.

This is Calum “Bob”‘s email addy.   dmbd@hotmail.co.uk


Jim Sweeney, Kolin Ferguson & Stuart Hepburn

I first  met screenwriter Kolin Ferguson on a rainy Sunday in East Kilbride about three years ago.We were working on a short film by Write Camera Action Director Linda Campbell called “Stub It Out”. I was acting, and Kolin  was holding a mike boom on what could loosely be described as a “Geurrilla Shoot”. In other words there were three of us! He told me that he was no sound assistant, but was  a screenwriter, and was developing  a 12 part TV Series about Glasgow Gangsters called “The Crews”. Not only was he going to write it, he was going to shoot it, with little or no  budget. Along with Director Colin Ross Smith, and actors Jim Sweeney and Robert Harrison, they had the revolutionary  notion  that if they actually shot the first two episodes, then they would be able to raise the cash to finish the project. The whole thing was to be shot in HD, with broadcast quality sound. Oh and they were going to nip over to Amsterdam for a couple of days to shoot there too.  I nodded and smiled benignly . I admired their chutzpah, but doubted their ability to carry it off. Nevertheless, later that year,  Kolin  and Colin came down to talk to our students on the Performance Programme at UWS and we watched their short film Sandwich, which also introduced me to their hatchet-faced co-star, Robert Harrison. I asked them how “The Crews” was going, and they told me they were going ahead with the plan. They had bought an HD  camera, and it was all systems go. They thought it might take them six months.

“But’, I said patronisingly, “NOBODY does it that way. It costs too much time and energy to do that. What you have to do is write the first episode, complete a one page synopsis, and punt it round the broadcasters. That’s what EVERYBODY does”. “We’re not everybody”  they said, and ignored me. I am glad they did, because these brave, creative innovators have  at a stroke,   re-written the text book on  TV Script Development. I know this because on Tuesday night, a full two years after our conversation at the UWS,  I sat with an enraptured audience at Cineworld in Glasgow and watched the completed first  two episodes. All proceeds from the 300 tickets (sold out)  were going to Spiritaid, and I was happy to be there for  the good cause. Because of the way in which The Crews had been developed,  I had prepared myself  to be in turns embarrassed, bored or  even  mildly impressed. What I was not prepared for was to be  completely blown away by the whole event.  “The Crews” rocks!   Using complex  techniques such as  fractured narrative, flashback within flashback, and a bewildering  multiprotagonist storyline,” The Crews” is ambitious, demanding and unsettling TV. Its the sort of thing we normally see on HBO or  AMC. “The Crews” is tailor made for BBC4 or Channel 4. It’s the sort of show  which  unfolds at glacial pace and with the cadence and  authenticity of work  such as Simon’s  “The Wire” ( 2002)  and Scheuring’s  ” Prison Break” (2005). The  joint creator’s bill “The Crews”  as “The Glasgow Sopranos” , but for me, it has more in common with David Simon’s televisual masterpiece from Baltimore. You thought Omar Little was nuts? Wait till you meet Stevie Turner.

Whatever it’s worthy progenitors, while it’s Glasgow through and through, what makes “The Crews”  unique is that to my uncertain knowledge,  no one in the UK has ever done anything on this scale before . It’s no exaggeration to say that if this makes it to the small screen, this impressive product out of Dennistoun by East Kilbride and Ayr  could prove to be one of the most important developments in the history of British Television making, and you can quote me on that.

At the moment, the finished DVDs are with the BBC, and STV, and the guys are planning to take on the States at some point in the future, to see if funding can be attached. I am a writer and actor and no expert on the distribution side of things, but it seems to me that they need a selling agent or exec producer to convince a broadcaster to come up with the development and production money. They have personally spent more money than they can afford to get this far, and when I look at the standard of some of the stuff on TV at the moment , and think of “The Crews”, there is no justice if it doesn’t get made and seen by a wider audience. Kolin has the detailed plans for the rest of Season one, and , wait for it, has sketched out a full five season 60 Episode Arc.

Caveat Emptor! I can’t enthuse too much about this as I am a cast member too . The silver-tongued KColins managed to cast me in a small role. (In fact, the banner above is a still from ” The Crews”  taken by the Show’s make up artist, Yvonne Lynch. Yes, it was that sort of shoot!) On top of my cameo as DCS Watt, about 10 of our  Performance BA Students were involved in the project, with special mention to great performances from  Martin Haddow and Suzanne Morrison, and if you look very carefully you will see that quite a few of the locations were shot at our UWS Ayr Campus. Does this make it sound like some sort of an amateur profit share film? Possibly, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. “The Crews” is professional in all but name, take it from me. David Hayman’s another cameo player in the mix, and he shares my opinion that this work must be seen by a wider audience, and all the professional actors involved are of the same mind.

The point is, will the industry listen? My hunch is that middle of the road  TV exec  types  will  probably look on “The Crews”  with mistrust . Why? Because this is a done deal. The talent is in place, the roles cast, the director decided, the first two episode shot and edited. Conventional Producers and Broadcasters( in Britain at least)  tend to defend and implement  their right to make major creative decisions over the heads of the real creatives at the cliff face. Will any of them have the stomach to  put their money and reputation  into something as left field as this which has been created by a bunch of  virtual unknowns from Glasgow? Only time will tell, but I for one won’t bet against Colin and Kolin  making it against all odds. All it will take is one broadcaster or commissioning editor, one cable company or distributor  with enough courage   to back them.

You can get an idea of the show from this interview on”  The Culture Show” , if you go to 17 mins and 15 Secs , or have a look at this trailer on Youtube.

If anyone deserves a break, it’s the  KColins and all those who backed them from the start.

If you want to support them, please forward this blog to anyone you think  may be able to  help get this on screen.

The UWS Crew. Anna Barclay, Suzanne Morrison, Garry Hogg,Kirsty Bagan, John Quinn & Evelyn Caputa


FILMCAMP 10 Glasgow at the GFT: FilmCamp 10 (Glasgow): Digital Innovation & Moving Image

Tuesday 28 September (2.00 – 6.00), free to attend

With a line-up of leading speakers and presentations from programme and film-makers, game developers and web designers and people behind emerging creative digital media technologies, this event explores the future of moving image, multi-platform content and the increasing convergence of technology. Aimed at freelancers in broadcast and digital industries, as well as final year students, programmed commissioners and editors, FilmCamp 10 is an event inspired by the spirit of BarCamp (www.barcamp.org) – a free, ‘un-conference’ designed to facilitate the sharing of ideas in an open environment. The event will end with an opportunity for networking and refreshments.

FilmCamp 10 has been developed by New Media Corp and GFT, in association with Glasgow: Scotland with Style.

Further information: http://www.gft.org.uk/content/default.asp?page=s61


It’s always gratifying to see that ones students are doing well. Often, they graduate and you never hear a word till you pick up a paper and see what they are up to.My morning was brightened up by discovering  that Kirkcaldy-based Martin McCormick, who completed his BA Performance Degree at UWS last year is getting rave reviews as David  The Narrator in Gridiron’s  “Decky Does A Bronco” . The production is currently touring outside site specific venues in Fife. Well done Martin.They will be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight.

Decky Does a Bronco is at Lochgelly today, Ballingry tomorrow, and Crosshill on Saturday, East Fife and North-East Scotland until 22 July, Dundee Rep from 23-24 July and at the Edinburgh Fringe, Traverse@Scotland Yard Playground, from 6-21 August.

http://bit.ly/9LydXF


ACTOR REQ’D: 20 something male actor required for urgent audition for lead role in feature film, shooting scheduled for September.

Jason Archer aka Jazz (early to mid twenties, nerdy but handsome). Jazz is intelligent, quiet, somewhat shy and doesn’t have a girlfriend. Through the course of the film, his need to save his business, falling for Lauren and fending off Edison and Jimmy means he has to step up to the plate and become the hero he’s always read about in comics. More info on the film at http://www.electricmanmovie.com.

Get in touch with David Barras (contact details below) and he’ll send you a few pages from a scene to film on your mobile phone and send on after which you may be recalled for audition.

So get on the phone and get filming – it’ll be challenging and fun!
David Barras
all@strangeboat.com
Tel – 0131 476 7211
Mob – 07821 397552
Web – http://www.strangeboat.com
Thanks to Linda at Write Camera Action For this. Let me know how you get on.


TV Studio at UWS

The first ever Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) for the University Of The West Of Scotland’s  School Of Creative and Cultural Industries (UWSSCCI) was approved for funding this week. This is an important step forward in the University’s  central strategic goal of having…..

“an applied research base in all of our key subject areas to enhance our wider reputation, contribute to external links, the quality of key programmes and to our credibility as a provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes. “1.

Across the United Kingdom, KTPs   have been developed to  fulfill  the  core function of   enhancing  the    engagement of academic institutions  with industry.  All well and good, but  up until now , it has proven particularly problematic for the UWS SCCI  to initiate these in the context of  the  fast changing and converging Creative  Industries, where the importance of  the bottom line is putting innovation and creativity under more and more pressure. Given this, the success of our first short  KTP , however modest in scale,  is particularly welcome in these times of financial challenge and  academic  funding uncertainty.

So what is a  KTP? Fundamentally it  is a three way symbiotic partnership between an Academic,  a  Business Partner   and a recently qualified  Graduate Student or “Associate”. It is a UK wide programme which is funded by the Technology Strategy Board with 17 other funding organisations.

“KTP works with over 100 universities, further education (FE) colleges, and research and technology organisations (RTO) across the UK, which translates into over 450 university departments. That includes all Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) rated departments, covering a wide range of academic disciplines – including engineering, computer sciences, physics and mathematics, management, social sciences and the arts.” 2.

Successful KTPs are a win win situation for Universities, Businesses and the successful Graduate Associate. The KTP   website informs us that since their inception, KTPs   have benefitted businesses  by an overall increase in taxable income of over £100 million pounds. From our point of view, academic institutions also benefit by being funded to  apply their research and innovative practices towards industry, and finally the Associate Graduate student who is employed on the KTP has the opportunity of working in a supportive environment at an early stage of their career to work on a cutting edge, practical task. It looks pretty good on their CV too, and may well lead to more permanent employment should the KTP be deemed successful.

For those of us  in the  School of Creative and Cultural Industries,  it means that we  can share our   creative knowledge, research  and innovative practice  with an outside business   in order to transfer skills  which the partner company needs to help increase efficiency, development and profitability. Through action research, it  can inform, develop and  enhance our teaching methodology and delivery in the light of real links with major industrial players. It allows us to engage in high level strategic interaction with the people who will potentially employ our graduates. It forces us to live in the real world and create teaching and learning which is relevant to the fast changing world of the Creative Industries.

In the light of this, a KTP is the opposite of an academic “exercise”. Rather,  it is a concrete relationship with a commercial  concern. The Commercial partners participation in the process is key. From the KTPs  inception and throughout its term, the Partner will be asking serious questions about its efficacy, relevance and ability to enhance the bottom line of their balance sheets. Let’s be clear on this, KTPs exist to help businesses to make money. If they don’t, then  on an elementary level, they have failed. For all the advantages they provide our graduates and our research, if the partner has lost money , we won’t be seeing them again in a hurry, and this relationship is one which we want to last longer than simply one short KTP. We want to develop business partners for  long term strategic aims , not the short term benefit of three months  work for a graduate.

So who is our business partner in our first   KTP? The BBC? STV? Possibly a leading independent programme maker? None of these. Somewhat surprisingly , they are a a leading Glasgow  legal advice business, Law At Work. You can find out all about them at their website http://www.lawatwork.co.uk/ which explains that …..

“Law At Work is a business support organisation, specialising in helping clients identify, manage, reduce, and eliminate risk to their businesses in the fields of employment law, human resources, and health & safety.  The company achieves this by adopting a prevention rather than cure approach. We ensure that clients’ employment documentation is up to date and fit for purpose, and we update it throughout the relationship. We supplement this with 24/7 advisory services. Additionally we provide tailored training and project management services in our areas of expertise.” 3.

Law at Work are a successful, innovative and expanding company.Their  employees spend their time travelling up and down the country at great expense, time  and ecological deficit  personally delivering workshops to clients  on such matters as Health and Safety at Work, Sex and Racial Discrimination, Employment Tribunals and the like. What they do NOT have are the skills to create a web deliverable interactive service for their clients, and that is where the UWS comes in.

Steve Briggs, Law At Work’s  operations director ,  has been involved with employment law since the late 1970s, and  has worked in advisory, representation and teaching roles in the public, private, and voluntary sectors. He realised that there was a need for his company to produce new interactive training videos on particular aspects of Employment Law. Steve approached me and asked if there was any way that I could assist him in the creation of such a film. The initial idea was that myself, as a scriptwriter, and  Michael Hines, one of our practitioner lecturers, would write and direct a video. The only input that the UWS was to have at this time was for it to be an opportunity to engage my BA(Hons) Performance students in some valuable Work Based Learning as Actors and Production Assistants.

However, I realised that if the project could be re-framed , it could well be adapted into a fully fledged Knowledge Transfer Partnership, where one of our top Graduates could be employed full time to research and create the video, while still providing much needed experience for our students to engage in the process at the performing stage. When Helen Kennedy, our Knowledge Transfer Officer informed me of the recent  creation of “short” KTPs of 10-12 weeks, I realised that this was an ideal opportunity to move the whole project forward.  With Steve’s approval, and with Helen’s energetic support and guidance,  we set the wheels in motion.

The process was not without its challenges. Law at Work has 19 employees , and we had initially thought that as such they would qualify for a Small And Medium Enterprise (SME)  60% grant for all expenses. Unfortunately, when the numbers were crunched and the details examined, it became clear that they were in fact owned by a larger parent company, and hence would lose their SME status and thus have to contribute 60% of the cost.  Steve had initially allocated a specific budget to the process, but recognised the value of the KTP, and agreed to  go back to his board and ask that they provide the  extra tranche of money for the project. A  further meeting with his CEO and our staff ensured that the additional funding was provided, and I am eternally grateful to Steve for his support and encouragement throughout this process. If it has taught me one thing it is that if one has not won the argument of the value of the whole process, there are many ways in the which the reluctant partner can smile, and wave goodbye.The wholehearted  support of the business partner is a  crucial element in the success of any KTP. It is better to spend six months going through the details of what the financial implications are for the Partner, rather than  initiating the grant application  process too soon. The KTP process  is about partnership, and mutual trust, and if you don’t have that you don’t have anything. A wedding with a reluctant bride or groom can only end in tears, however much the minister may wish to bless the union.

So, last week , after in all about a years discussions, we heard that our application had been successful. Now,  with all the funding in place,  myself as leading academic and my  Law at Work as Partners are in a position to   jointly appoint a Graduate Associate who will join Law At Work’s payroll as a Production Manager. They will be  tasked with    researching  and creating  a bespoke interactive training video deliverable by web streaming and DVD. The key word here is “researching”. There are any number of Corporate Video concerns who could create an off the peg video of whatever standard, but what Law at Work would NOT get would be a comprehensive research paper on state of the art interactivity and their relevance to the online delivery of the firm’s commercial product. As such, the research capabilities of the successful candidate is every bit as important as their abilities as a film maker.

My role at the UWS is to act as a tutor, mentor and enabler for the Graduate Associate in his or her time at the company in order to ensure that the work carried out to  the high standard which industry demands.

We have high hopes for this project. It may well serve as a pro forma for future SCCI KTP’s. There must be many commercial companies, SME’s, Health Trusts Community Groups and the like  out there who have a very clear narrative  to share, but are unsure of the best way of disseminating it. Training videos abound, but anyone who has attended a corporate training event will know that many of them seem to have been created by David Brent,  rather than David Lynch. I can see a future where the SCCI could be the first stop shop for a business or company who wish to get their message out to the world, and wish to use our expertise to work out how best to do it.

Our  expectations  are  tempered by realism. The finished artefact will be created on a very small budget, and though we hope for success, the whole enterprise  is entrepreneurial in nature and success is not guaranteed.With this caveat in mind, we shall work hard to  minimise the risk and maximise the chances of commercial success.  It may well be that from an academic research point of view,  the  process itself  is more important than the final end product, but we are committed to making this  as high a quality  a training video as we can  .

For myself as a teacher, it will  provide me with a unique opportunity to develop a creative project from inception, all the way through to its commercial realisation, something which I have been doing as a practitioner for the past thirty years (with lesser or greater degrees of success). The important point is that  from this initial KTP  experience will hopefully flow innovative teaching practice based on the experience gained from  this real world practice, and it may well spawn undergraduate projects and useful business contact for Work Based Learning in the future.

As a practitioner engaged in active research, the papers and publications which will flow from the project ( and indeed from the Associate)  are potentially REF  submissible  and will hopefully provide the quality, impact and vitality needed to   enhance and develop the SCCI’s  research profile.

All in all , then exciting times for the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries. I am at this moment liaising with HR for the engagement of a suitably qualified Graduate Associate. I will  be able to furnish readers with more details of this as the process unfolds.

1. UWS Strategic Plan 2005-9, Page 16 .

2. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships   http://www.ktponline.org.uk/academics . Viewed  1/07/10

3. Law At Work-What we do. http://www.lawatwork.co.uk/ . Viewed 1/10/10


I am inordinately proud to announce that two of our fourth year  BA(Hons) Performance Teams  have been nominated for the  Awards at the UWS  Film Awards at the CCA at 7 pm on Tuesday 18th of May. Both student production  teams took part in  the inaugural delivery of our  Screen Drama Module where 7  teams  had to create a 5 minute short film.

Creative Industry Professionals such  as Sound Recordist Rebecca Thompson and  Camera Operator  Keith Ingram delivered workshops on their individual specialities, and onsite support was delivered for the production week by  Chewing The Fat  Director Michael  Hines. It was  an intensive  5 day shooting schedule in which all the teams helped one another to create their films.

Seven teams created a film apiece, and our two nominated teams  were the cream of the crop.

“Tam’s Last Supper” is a hilarious black comedy  directed by Chris Young. The action takes  place in a morgue , and   features a coffin, a body, two cleaners and an act of outrageous sexual gratification.

“Psychosis”  Directed by Dorothy M. Stewart is an altogether darker piece about a young woman taken to the brink of madness by a disturbing hallucination.

You can find out how they got on if you can make it along to the CCA for the awards on Tuesday where I will be Master of Ceremonies.


Csi2

Can Students Invent?

Well, here we are at the end of the creative process in the UWS Module, Team Writing For Television. This  20 Credit  module is part of the Filmmaking And Screenwriting Programme at the UWS Skillset Media Academy at the University Of The West Of Scotland  in Ayr,  and is delivered at Level 9. The class is made up of  60 students comprising  9 Writing  Teams, creating 9 Series Bibles, and with each student responsible for writing an individual episode of their team series. Three tutors oversee all the creative elements of the students work, with 3 teams allocated to each. Thus the tutors act as defacto Showrunners.Now, after 14 weeks of intense work,  the students have finally handed in their assessemnts.

What the written  assessments amount to is 9  full  breakdowns for a brand new long running television series .  Bibles, Scripts, Character Arcs, Viral Ads, Music, Design,  and  even Springboards for the second series. So rather than being in the customary  position , as academic  assessors, of surveying 60 separate examples of students work, the tutors  are more like directors or producers, sitting down to read a new, integrated  creative artefact.

Stuart Hepburn "working the grid" at BBC Scotland

We   start with the Pilot Episode, usually written by the student whose original idea was adopted by the team, and read  on as the series unfolds week by week by week. Each team was jointly responsible for creating the Characters arcs, Series Arcs, Episode Breakdowns and Springboards for the new series. Each team MEMBER was responsible for writing their own individual episode ensuring that it fitted in with the overall plan and development grids.

Throughout the process, the teams have engaged with  their tutors and one another in a whole series of  ways.

1.Weekly short lectures exemplifying contemporary team writing with reference to  individual Long Running Series such as True Blood, Glee and The Tudors.

2.Weekly team meetings where the students hammer out the team series grids for a couple of hours, ending with  class plenary feedback sessions.

3.Daily Online Team  discussions using the Virtual Learning Environment, Blackboard.

4. Nominated Scribes publishing  a weekly  Team Blog on the VLE  evidencing their progress to their classmates.

5. Communicating  with team mates  creatively  in live chats  using the Wimba Pronto suite.

6. Publishing their collaborative  team bible on their individual Team WIKI.

7. Pitching their Bible in an assessed session  to top industry practitioners.

8.Creating, developing and writing their own individual episode,  feeding back and forward to their individual tutor through their individual shared ePortfolio.

9. Finally writing their own reflective 1500/2,500 word essay on particular aspects of the creation of Long Running Television Series.

This has been a  mountain of work, totalling over 2000(and counting)  separate messages, posts, ammendments and digital artefacts. Some of it has worked better than we hoped, some of it worse than we might have expected. There have been ICT glitches, team breakdowns and team buildups, but the main thing to say is that the whole has been greater than the sum of the parts. I have been stunned at the quality  and coherence of the best work.

My colleague John Quinn and I will spend the summer doing a bit of number crunching and analysing student feedback  to work out exactly what worked and didn’t work, and why, and we will consolidate this work into developing the module further next  academic year. You can expect a paper or two to emerge from this which we plan to publicise in the Autumn. In the meantime, I would like to thank my colleagues, John Quinn and Dr Gill Jamieson, who have supported and encouraged the entire creative experiment. My greatest thanks, however, goes most of all to the  students at the UWS School of Creative and Cultural Studies, for their energy, commitment and creativity.

“Did I ever tell you the one about the zombie killers in a space hotel? It’s a kind of CSI on the Moon meets Buffy….it all starts one day when this spaceship finds a beacon with a very strange message………….”

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