When I got an email from Richard Holliman about an Open University (OU) media skills training course, it took me all of 30 seconds to double-check with my PhD supervisor and sign up. I’d previously attended a one-day event with the Royal Society, and was keen for a more in-depth course. I had no idea what to expect, but was excited to hear that the aim of the course would be to build up the skills needed to design, produce and edit a short film.
From the 2nd to 6th June I worked with fellow OU PhD students Frazer Bird, Jamie Dorey, Hnin Myint, and Phillipa Smith, under the expert guidance of presenter Janet Sumner, cinematographer Gerard Giorgi-Coll and Assistant Producer Tom Ryan to create a short film about a collaborative research project between the OU and the Field Studies Council (FSC), an environmental education charity that provides opportunities for people of all ages to engage in fieldwork. You can watch the results of our efforts by selecting the video below.
The first two days of the course focused on equipping us with the skills needed to create our film, with plenty of practice at interviewing, being interviewed, presenting our research to the camera, and filming. Through this process I produced a short film that explains some of the thinking behind my PhD research; select the video below to find out more.
Wednesday was when things got really interesting, as we started our group project, looking into joint OU/FSC research into technology enhanced learning.
The OU has a long history of collaboration with the FSC, which is illustrated through the work we explored in our film. To start the production process we were briefed by OU researcher Trevor Collins and FSC Senior Tutor Liz Earley. Through them we heard about their current project, the Field Network System, which allows pupils to collect and analyse group data sets whilst out in the field.
The benefits of this collaborative research, both to the OU and to the FSC and the teachers and pupils it works with, was the key idea we wanted to get across in our film. We decided that we would first introduce the technology through an interview with Trevor, before interviewing Liz about how the technology is used in the field, and finally bringing both Trevor and Liz together to discuss how the partnership is benefiting everyone involved.
After checking out a few locations around Walton Lake, and selecting our roles (I would do the majority of the filming, assisted by Phillipa and Hnin, while Frazer would present and Jamie would be director and producer), we set about scripting our piece ready for the big day of filming on Thursday.
I found it nerve-wracking being in charge of the camera. Forgetting the fact that I was responsible for around a thousand pounds worth of camera equipment by the edge of a lake, I knew that the quality of my work would have a big impact on the quality of our film. I got into the swing of things though, and by the end of the day we were all feeling confident in our roles. Frazer’s presenting, and Liz and Trevor’s interviewing, was excellent, and we were all pleased with the footage we got.
We spent the final day of our course in the studio, where we began to see our film coming together as we made a rough edit. We left that day on a bit of a high, but it wasn’t until we saw the fine cut, edited by Gerard, that we realised exactly how much we’d developed our skills and confidence over the week. It’s incredible to see our film on YouTube, and it really is something I’m proud of.
The course has encouraged me to look out for further public engagement opportunities. I’ve already worked with Phillipa Smith to produce a short film about her research work on the JUICE project—watch this space for the finished video—and I’m looking forward to getting back behind (or in front of) the camera again in the future!
The media training workshop was funded as part of the OU’s RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research (PER) Catalyst, ‘An Open Research University’.
To find about more about RCUK’s PER Catalyst programme, select: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/pe/catalysts