As part of my Journalism course, I was lucky enough to go to Prague as part of the Erasmus project. I’d like to explain what it is, but I have no idea. I vaguely know that the lecturers are doing something with a new application and we have to be assessed on how well we create media for this? I think?
Prague was… I don’t like talking about it because, while I know I was unbelievably lucky as a first year to go on a second-year trip, it was intensely anxiety inducing.
The latest stage was at Marjon, so no flights, no midnight hostel bookings, and no huge capital city. Plymouth is my turf.
Hopefully, this will be quite an accurate insight to the life of a journalism student. This is pretty much how every assignment, every story, every media piece made, ever goes.
From strangers to media production team in 5 days
After pilling on the beanbags in the lecture room above the library – jumping on beanbags is highly recommended for stress relief – there was an introduction to Plymouth, the program and our mentors, people from all walks of journalistic life who were to help us along in our media endeavours.
We were given the brief by BBC’s Tom Palmer: a short video targeted for an online audience. We were also told that, if they were good, they could potentially be shown on the BBC. Challenge accepted.
Then we met our groups; one Brit, one Czech and one Belgium to a team. Sounds like the start of a joke.
I had some things in common with my group, but it was as awkward as you’d expect being thrown together with two strangers, all with different first languages, to be. Well, at least for me.
We went off to have a talk with our mentors and discuss what our strengths were, what we all liked to do. My… lack of talent at filming, and basis in written media is going to be super helpful in a video making project, but. We’re all there to learn, even if it’s just to remember to take the lens cap off before shooting something, for once in your life, please stop doing this, you’ve been here two years.
We later headed into town on the bus, with my course mate acting as tour guide, (I think Stagecoach should invest in Abby permanently) for a treasure hunt across the city. There were fishes trapped in the floor… Tom Daley-ing our way to Olympic gold in the Sundial and a pint where the Pilgrim Fathers really took off from. Side note: “treasure hunt” was a bit misleading, because it implied there was a prize…
After showing our Belgium and Czech buddies a truly British institution in ‘spoons, I departed early to hunt for story ideas.
And let me tell you, I think they were great, and I’m probably going to do a couple as a side project and maybe to improve my skills in video production.
TLDR: we met some people, hunted a pint and I did some journalism.
Did the first day sound positive? Did it sound like everything would go swimmingly, and BBQ Friday would roll around like a gentle breeze?
Then I did a good job of fooling you.
It started out well enough. After a masterclass in Final Cut editing, we discussed story ideas and I ran through my list. People were impressed that I had a list, which I think gave me far too much confidence in how the day would go.
A story about multicoloured flower went over really well, as did young people owning houses, and an inside look at Plymouth Market stalls. I phoned Derriford to ask about babies with royal connections – yeah you heard right, people who know me in real life. I phoned someone up – and might possibly have given them the wrong email address but it’s fine because I’ll phone them tomorrow. Everything was looking good.
Then me, my Belgium student Gaël and my Czech student, Kateřina, went into town to scout for some potential interviewees for a piece about venders in the market.
No one wanted to talk.
Well, one person wanted to talk and we thank you, DVD man, for being so friendly and welcoming. One lady probably didn’t want to talk, but she did anyway, for which we are grateful. But two people do not make a BBC style video, so we dropped it.
By this point, we’d found out that the florist didn’t have any of the multicolours flowers in, and wouldn’t until Friday – when the pieces are due in – so that was also a no go. I messaged a friend about houses, but she is busy all week and it was such short notice.
I left feeling like a complete failure; here I am, in my own city, with no stories and no interviews lined up, and we’re supposed to start shooting tomorrow.
This is now. This is where we are, at half past 10 on Tuesday night, after a phone call to my parents, and motivational speech from my boyfriend. Should probably get some sleep, because tomorrow will be… well, I’d rather not think about it.
So, 10am Wednesday morning, we had no story. Everything had fallen through, I phoned more people this week than I have all year, and anxiety was skyrocketing. I did not want to get out of bed this morning.
After more dead-end phone calls, and Facebook messaging that gets us nowhere, I carry on scrolling through Plymouth Gossip Girls and Overheard at Plymouth for ideas.
Mike, one of our lecturers then phoned and told us he had a Masters student coming in for a chat in about 10 minutes if we wanted to interview him. He told us that Aaron had lost some weight and was willing to talk about his experience.
With that being all the information we had to go on, we figured we’d talk to him and see if there was a story.
And there was a story.
Aaron had lost 6 stone of weight in a year, and was aiming to lose another 6. He was a really nice man, a really good interviewee and we though it made for a nice inspirational story.
We ended up shooting everything we wanted within an hour and a half, and decided to do a little rough edit to show our lecturers and Jayne, our industry mentor for the week.
We pretty much spent the whole day editing our video. It’s strange editing as a committee, especially when all three of you are from different countries, with different style media and have been taught very different things. I think if each of us were editing alone, it would have taken 3 hours maximus, but every decision had to go through each of us, so we were in front of the computer for the entire day.
I slipped away for a little bit to make some music for our video – a short, funky, 2 minute clip – so there would be no issues around copyright. Once you’ve got the software (and I use what we’ve got on the macs) it’s surprisingly easy to make a fairly decent track. Pre-loaded instruments and sounds mean you’ve just got to time them right, really.
I know I certainly learned a lot from the others in my group. Filming is not my strongest point, and to have two third years in my group, one who specialised in film, taught me a lot. Paying attention to the little things, for instance, can have a huge impact on the overall ascetic of the video. Also, I’ll be sticking to Sony Vegas for my editing software of choice.
Having input from people in the industry – Jayne Martin who freelances in PR, and worked for Plymouth Herald, and Tom Palmer from the BBC – was fantastic, because it helped us narrow our story down and fit it within the time limit. It was also encouraging, because they let us know when something worked well, when it looked good.
We managed to finish editing the video, with captions, music and subtitles, and got BBC Tom to have a look and he thought it was really good. Like, could be put on the BBC good.
We drop-boxed him the files over the second he left the room.
Essentially, we’d gone from having nothing at all, to a great piece of video, in around 36 hours. I don’t like to toot my own horn but I’m pretty proud of that. And grateful to Mike for sending the story in our direction…
Might be the last day, but it was a bit lacklustre. It was probably overshadowed by dissy hand in though.
I went over to JAM (top floor, right hand side of HDC) to get a copy of our piece on my USB and, naturally, there were still things we hadn’t done, like sharing it to YouTube.
Fingers crossed you’ll see our video on BBC social media fairly soon!
I guess this is the conclusion of a long, rambly blog about a week long event.
It’s been a weird one. Getting chucked in a group with three people you don’t know at all will always be weird. But, I think the most important thing I learned this week, is that you’re there for a reason.
At the end of the day, you’ve got a job to do. You’ve got a 2 minute slot to fill with content, and if you don’t do it, then someone else will get their name in their first.