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This Video was made by UWS Contemporary Screen Acting students.


The first cohort of 4th year honours Contemporary Screen Acting Students graduate on Friday. This would be as good a time as any to look back and reflect on the first two years of the Programme to assess how we have developed and where we might be going.

The Class of 2011

There was a crucial point in the development of Contemporary Screen Acting at University Of The West Of Scotland and it took place after the initial Accreditation Panel meeting in March 2010. Generally , the panel was very supportive of the notion of a new niche degree in Screen Acting. It would fit snugly between our two other programmes, Performance and Musical Theatre. It would encompass Social Media and the New Technologies, it would arm actors with the skills to navigate the post-web 2.0 world. It would be new and exciting, collaborative and inclusive. But there was one thing missing. The name. The name was going to be “Screen Acting”, but somehow the panel felt that this didn’t suitably reflect the course content. It needed something else. Something to bring it up to date. Now whether it was Dr Sarah Nealy from the University of Stirling, or Ali de Souza from the then RSAMD, someone came up with  the term….”Contemporary Screen Acting”.

I didn’t like it.

Cheifly I didn’t like it because I didn’t think of it first. In my mind  wanted the Programme to have a be simple, short and easy to remember title, and I reckoned it was a bit of a mouthful. But….I had no option. The panel wanted a name change and that was that.

Two years later, I love it. The word “contemporary” is one of those plastic, malleable catch all words which immediately fit in any situation where you have just come up with a new idea…and that is exactly what the last two years of Contemporary Screen Acting has been all about. A series of new experiments, new ways of teaching, new ways of learning, new ways of creating work for the small group of screen actors who I have had the privelege of teaching . The small group of graduates (including TWO first class honours) have been the first group of my  students to use iPods instead of video cameras, twitter instead of feedback sheets, iMovie instead of Final Cut Pro, a Panasonic AGF 101 instead of an ancient Sony Z-1. At the same time, they have been the first group of my students to make REAL videos for REAL clients, created their entire corpus of work online in their own showreels, and finally the first group who are able to go out into the world with the skills necessary for success in the connected, networked world of 2012.

Some new stuff we tried didn’t work. But thats the nature of experimntation and “contemporary” practice. If it doesn’t work, all you have to do is just not do it again. A bit of a no brainer.

Anyway, congratulations to my Honours students, and thanks for the exhilarating journey that the first two years of Contemporary Screen Acting has been. Here’s to the next two.

If you want an example of my student’s work, or are interested in studying at UWs, here’s a video which our 3rd years made to market their course.

Here’s to the next two years .


Image

In Field of Dreams Kevin Costener’s character is told by an invisible voice  ” If you build it , he will come” .

So this guy,  who everyone else thinks is crazy,   builds a baseball stadium in the middle of his corn field, and sure enough, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago White Sox team of 1919 emerge out of the corn to play a game of baseball. That same blind  trust in providing the facilities for an as yet unplanned gig  is  shown by the ghost of  Jim Morrison in Wayne’s World 2 where he advises Wayne that Aerosmith  will show up for Waynstock , if only he has the courage to  book them.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy for Hollywood dreamland, but what’s it like in real life when you announce  an open creative  space at a certain time and place hope that someone decides to show up and fill it?

That’s where we were five  weeks ago at the University Of The West Of Scotland‘s £80 million pound campus in Ayr when we announced that every Wednesday  there would be a “hack day ” in our new TV Studio  where students could come along and just  “create stuff”. For what it’s worth, the new studio is light years ahead of our old facilities on the Cragie Campus and we are searching for new ways of using these fantastic facilities. The new campus requires a new imaginitive mindset, so  hence the “hack day” initiaitive. The point is, would it work?

The first week, six students turned up, all of them actors on our Contemporary Screen Acting Programme. So far so good, but there is a limit to what actors can achieve without technical back up. The breakthrough was when my colleague Jane Robertson  realised that we could integrate the process where some students were creating their marked assessments, while others on the production side were voluntarily  helping them to record them. Except we didn’t have any on the production side. So we expanded the invitation, and got the support of our colleagues in other programmes, notably Paul Tucker in Broadcast Production, to advertise  as widely as possible.

The second week , 7   actors turned up, and one brave Broadcast Production student.

The third week, we had MORE actors, and TWO production students.

Now in  the fourth week, we have 4 broadcast students, two film makers, and 15 actors, all of whom (without tutor input) are rehearsing, lighting, recording and editing work for their own individual portfolios.

Anna Kennedy, Mike Murray, Emjay Doherty and  Lizzie Kane in the TV Studios.

I couldn’t be there for the first hour of the process yesterday , and apologised to students in advance. Of course, if I wasn’t there, nothing of any import could possibly happen.

Wrong.

I arrived AN HOUR AND A HALF late  to find groups of students from three different programmes  rehearsing, recording, and generally enjoying the creative atmosphere…ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS! More than this, the students  had started arranging to help each other with technical support and encouragement even outwith the “hack  day ” time slot. I heard one group agreeing to collaborate on the basis of “working from 4pm  till 8pm  at night.” Have you ever tried to get students to stay even half an hour after class at 4 pm? Here they were agreeing to work overtime amongst themselves.

It’s too soon to tell if the euphoria of the first few weeks will continue. No doubt as we get closer to assessment deadlines the numbers may drop off, but for the moment, the experiment has proved a success.

I am hoping that in the future on this blog I will be able to showcase some of the students creative work to show just what the possibilities are for this way of working. In the mean time, hopefully, we’ll build it, and they will continue to  come.

Steven Black and Gareth Malone in the Control Room.


Rachel Kennedy, Sam Love, Daniella Ritchie, John S Caldwell, James Todd and the team celebrate their wins.

Contemporary Screen Acting students from University of the West Of Scotland won three awards at the FilmG Gaelic shorts award ceremony at Glasgow’s  Fruitmarket Gallery last night. MG ALBA , the Gaelic Media Service have created the FilmG  short film competition in order to foster and encourage film makers in the gaelic medium. Our  student’s five minute film An Aite Eader na Facail (The Space Between Words) won Best Director, Best Drama, and the People’s Award.
The film was created as part of the fourth year Screen Drama module, where students are tasked with creating a five minute film . This is a Cross Programmatical module where Directors, Writers, Actors and Musicians can all be assessed through their specialisations.
Although 7 other films were created this year, because one of our students , Rachel Kennedy, is a native Gaelic speaker, this  student team   decided to make their film in the  Gaelic medium and to enter it into the annual FilmG Competition.
All this bore fruit at the Fruitmarket last night as they won three awards, including Best Drama.
Special praise should go to Director Of Photography , John S Caldwell, whose Black Pepper Studios  provided all the post production facilities.
Below you can see the full list of prize winners, and the films can be accessed by clicking on their titles.

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.


I have blogged in the past about using new media platforms as a learning & teaching resource. The entire content of our  BA (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Programme at the University of the West of Scotland is delivered using Twitter, Posterous and Youtube at the very core of Teaching , Learning and , crucially Assessement. From it’s inception in September 2010, student engagement with these platforms was developed gradually over the first 15 weeks of the programme. In the second trimester of the programme there is now 100% participation from  the students and participating  staff across a wide range of New Media . However I had carried out no empirical research on the pace of takeup from the students. This was due to the fact that September 2010 was the first time I had run the programme and I had other things on my mind more pressing than research.

However it has become clear from the level of student engagement and their enthusiastic and positive feedback that the experiment of using the new media in this way been a qualified success. Obviously I was hampered in that I had no data to demonstrate to what degree this had been the case . I also did not know if the alacrity with which my small group of 15 Performance students engaged with these new platforms could be replicated across the board with other Creative Industries students. The students had, after all, been interviewed and recruited on the basis of using these new media platforms as the key deliverer of their creative screen acting work.

My colleague John Quinn and I teach a module on the Film Making and Screenwriting Programme here at UWS titled “Team Writing For Television.” You can read about the background of TWFTV as I have blogged previously about the module here .We
decided to attempt to use Twitter as a platform at the centre of the module for student feedback ,f eedforward and reflecti0n, using the #TWFTV hashtag.

Since the start of the Module in February 2011, there have been over 300 (and building)  separate #TWFTV responses from the students. You can carry out your own #TWFTV search on twitter to have a look at them right now.  They range from reflections on  lessons, suggestions for new themes and Television Series to studied , and real time comments on shows I have asked them to watch out of class.This has been a voluntary process. Every time John or I get an interesting tweet on #TWFTV, we RT this to our own followers. There are no marks or brownie points for the students, other than the fact that we have shown them that we read their tweets, and will respond to them if we can. The sight of a student’s face when you reveal that you are indeed going to analyse their favourite long running TV series because of a casual mention on Twitter makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Thus, they KNOW that we listen to them , and the engagement goes up steadily as a result. A point to note is that the content of the students tweets,( contrary to fears expressed by colleagues) has been overwhelmingly positive and creative as the take up has grown steadily. It takes a bit of courage to throw open the doors of the classroom to one billion potential eyes and ears, but so far no one has flamed us online, and even if they did, as is the way with Twitter, the dogs would bark, and the caravan would move on. At least I hope that is what would happen. We shall see.

As the module has progressed,John Quinn and I have been monitoring, reflecting and reacting to the tweets, and have now carried out a short interim survey of the up take and use of Twitter and feedback from the students, to see if we can draw any general conclusions. We are specifically interested in exploring the use of Twitter as a tool for enhancing the Teaching and Learning experience from the perspective of the student.

There have been some serendipitous events as a result of this process. Peter Kosminsky (@kosmoSFL )  tweeted back to us on our response to his recent mini series “The Promise”. Francis McKee of the CCA in Glasgow  ( @CCA_Glasgow) RTd one of our responses also using the hashtag.  Reaction to our discussions have come from followers of The Glasgow Film Festival, Step2CollaboTV, and even as far afield as the States and Australia. In this way, the #TWFTV hashtag, which started off as a modest attempt to engage some students in Ayr with their teaching and learning has spread its wings far afield. It’s no Justin Beiber, but at least it is causing a small ripple or two in the Tweetoshpere. I even recieved an email from New Zealand asking me about the module and if we taught it by distance learning!

Below are some of the preliminary data and findings of this anonymous survey.
It is worth noting that the *12.82% of students who had used Twitter in the past for academic communication were all studying on my Contemporary Screen Acting programme. None of the remaining students had used Twitter in this way before. This survey was carried out in Week 5 of a 15 week module, so we are one third of the way through the process.

Response rate 78% (39/50)

1. Prior to the start of the TWFTV module, had you ever communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: *12.82%
No: 87.18%
2. Since the start of the TWFTV module, have you communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: 53.85%
No: 43.59

3%. Do you think that social networking platforms are a useful tool in communicating feedback to your peers and tutors?
Yes: 94.87%
No: 5.13%

4. Would you like to see more modules using social network platforms for class feedback and engagement?
Yes: 82.05%
No: 17.95%

5. Do you prefer using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Docs to the university VLE Blackboard for feedback and communication?
Yes: 76.92%
No: 23.08%

We also asked for comments from the students about the use of Twitter. These were almost wholly positive .

One note of criticism was that ” It’s not fair that students who don’t use Twitter have an advantage by getting their views across.” my response to that was , if you think that they are gaining an advantage, then engage!

Another comment was ” You should use Facebook. Students don’t like Twitter”

Actually we ARE using Facebook, all my Tweets are delivered to my Facebook site, and at least two of our  teams use Facebook pages to communicate with one another, as well as Googledocs and , suprise surprise, Blackboard. However I am happy not to use Facebook directly, as that’s where students tend to hang out and discuss…well everything. And I don’t want to hear everything, I only want to hear about stuff relating  to TWFTV. I don’t have to follow them or find out what they did on Friday night, but I am able to key into their thoughts and comments every time they decide to use the TWFTV  hashtag. I make sure that I do a #TWFTV search once a day , and then RT any interesting material, and also ensure that I act upon any good suggestions. One very interesting corollary to this is that it is many of the most reticent students who use Twitter, the ones who never ask questions in class, the silent majority. Twitter gives them the ability to ask questions and make points without having to intervene at class.

I should add that Twitter is used exclusively as an ADD ON platform to our VLE, Blackboard. All important messages, assessments,dates, pdfs of lectures and the like are posted on Blackboard, and these are supplemented by a weekly videocast from me which you can see on the blog above.

These findings were  presented and discussed at the Student Engagement in Learning & Teaching Forum (SELT) in the classroom of the Future at the University Of The West Of Scotland on Thursday 3rd of March at 10.45 GMT. We carried out a real time discussion with the students and staff, and  demonstrated  a real time Twittter Ticker on display. The idea that a group of students can contribute any where , any time , to a discussion about the delivery of their own teaching and learning is a relatively innovative idea, and one that I will continue if I present the final figures. Another interesting point which came up in discussion is that we fully expect the students to continue engaging in online discussion using #TWFTV after the module has finished. We will archive the searches and use them as a resource for next years class. It may be the case that this cohort of students will carry on this method of feeding back in other classes. Time will tell.

We will continue with the monitoring process as the weeks go by, and share our data and findings in a concluding blog. along with a set of  conclusions.

Watch this space, and for a real time update, carry out a #TWFTV search on Twitter right now.

I will be presenting the final results at the TeachMeet event at UWS Ayr on Thurs  April 23rd.


Glasgow city centre panorama from Lighthouse t...

Creative View From Glasgow.

The University Of The West Of Scotland’s School of Creative and Cultural Industries Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is aimed at producing an innovative training video on discrimination at work. The project is designed as bespoke piece of training  for our partners, leading Glasgow law firm, Law at Work, and  is now entering a crucial phase in Week 7.

UWS graduate and KTP Associate Chris Young has delivered a 20 page research dossier on Innovative Training Videos which was discussed at our last  programme meeting at our partner  Law At Work’s  HQ in Glasgow.  This impressive  body of research will provide the creative team  with the theoretical underpinning for the next stage of the process. It is this critical research  based approach which  makes the KTP unique in terms of it’s  impact on our creative educational practice and the service  that we can provide for industrial partners such as Law At Work.

In the light of our discussions, Chris is  now  finalising the shooting script of the web-based  training video.  With a planned screentime of  20 minutes, and a cast of 12, this is a major undertaking for Chris as a first time professional director.  Camera, lighting, sound ,  makeup, and catering have all been finalised for the weekend shoot, and if the script outlines are anything to go by, we are looking forward to a fantastic piece of work from Chris and his production team.

The final draft of the script will be ready by Friday 29th of October,  casting will have been finalised  by Wednesday 3rd November, ready for the shoot on Sat and Sun 6th and 7th of November. The KTP team are taking over the entire floor of Law At Works offices for two days in order to shoot the video.

Post production is slotted in at UWS Ayr for the two weeks after this, with a planned delivery of the final product to our clients Law at Work on 22nd of November. As luck would have it, the filming of the new video takes place at the same time as Law At Work are undertaking a complete re-branding of their website and corporate identity. It  is planned to coordinate the launch of the video with the new website in the new year. The timing for all of this could  not be better.

It has been a challenging process for all involved, particularly since this is the first ever KTP embarked upon by the School Of Creative And Cultural Industries.

These are exciting times for all those involved in this unique project. There’s no doubt that this will  lay down a marker for the sort of creative engagement  with industry  which the UWS Skillset Media Academy plans to roll out in the future.


Last Year at Sabhal Mor Ostaig

I  am packing up my bike and off to the hills at  Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, on the  Isle of Skye for the weekend. I am taking  part in the Script Development workshops  for the FilmG short Gaelic Film competition. The event is sponsored by Scotland’s  Gaelic  digital TV station, MG Alba, and developed by Canan.

I will be working on the screen outlines of about 25 new writers who want to develop ideas for Gaelic Shorts in a number of different categories. The sessions I run work by simply asking the writers to pitch their ideas to a small group, and then collectively we explore the possibilities in an honest, supportive way. Each of the ideas is given about 15-20 minutes for discussion and development, and there is ample time for follow up and have a bit of craic  afterwards. All this in the majestic environs of Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Sleat on my favourite Scottish Island, Skye. It’s a helluva job but someone’s got to do it.

I took part in  this last year along with colleagues from the UWS, and it was an exhausting but exhilarating event. What was a  truly  amazing (and humbling) experience  was pitching up “Kilted and Booted” at the Awards Ceremony at Eden Court in Inverness to see the realisations of the ideas on the big screen at .

It is too rare in this business that we get to see the fruits of our labours so soon after the development and discussion process takes place, and so I relish the opportunity to be part of a creative process which has such a short lead in time and clear outcomes.

I should point out that not  only are there workshops on script development(  which I am leading ) but you also get advice on  production, directing, camera work, sound recording and basic editing – all  led by industry professionals such as my colleague Michael Hines (producer/director: Still Game).

You can get more details of all the workshops  here.

You can also find details here  of the innovative new programme in Contemporary Screen Acting which I am leading up with Michael Hines and Scottish Writer, Actor and Director  Martin McCardie at the UWS this year. We will be using many of the same techniques developed on Skye and at other workshops to create new and innovative screenworks which we are sure are going to provide a real impact on the development of education for the contemporary Creative Industries.

Ill report back next week on how we got on in Skye  and what Gaelic  shorts to look out for as they go into production in the Autumn.


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.

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