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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 


Very Important day today at UWSAyr in Scotland as it’s the first day of Auditions for the 2013/14 BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting cohort. Drama UK recognition has meant a record-breaking year for candidate numbers ! Good luck to all applicants http://vimeo.com/m/41604817


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.


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


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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 WireTrue 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.



Logo of the British newspaper The Guardian

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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.


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

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