Elstree UTC is the first specialising in the creative media arts and performance industries. Set alongside Elstree studios, home of many popular TV shows and major movies, Year 12 students from the UTC have already made a difference through the production of a promotional video for a national charity. In a series of interviews, staff and students explained the new and unexpected skills they gained.
"I really do look on life so much differently now. I don’t take anything for granted like I did before."
Megan, one of the Year 12 students, was describing how she felt after being part of the Production Team behind the moving video for the Brain Injury is B.I.G. national charity. The promotional video was launched at the charity’s fund raising ball at which two students from Elstree UTC also presented a cheque for £500. Megan and four other Year 12 students have won high praise from the charity for their professionalism and sensitivity in dealing with a difficult subject. Clare Deacon, Community Art Coordinator at Elstree UTC, explained how they came to be involved:
"We were approached by the charity and asked if this would be a project we would be interested in. We thought it would be a very valuable learning experience for our students as it would involve training on camera and in the whole video production. Due to the nature of the subject, we thought it was a very important thing to do, to be able to put something back into the community."
Anna Ramm, Film Projects Coordinator at Elstree UTC, explained how they thought carefully about the students who would be right for this project.
"Clare and I had been working with the students all year and we knew those who would benefit due to their studies and would also have the maturity to handle the subject matter. We also spoke to the parents of the students so they were aware of what would be involved."
Before any filming began, Clare and Anna placed great importance on building trust between the families who would feature in the video and the student production team.
"We were really aware about how they felt as we were dealing with their close family members who had suffered traumatic brain injuries and there may be questions they didn’t want to answer but their response was – you can ask us anything. They were incredibly strong people."
As the Director and interviewer, Megan was involved in many of these early meetings.
"I researched the charity and read the different personal stories on their website. The families wanted the interviews to show how the charity had helped them and what it could do for others – how the charity had changed their lives and helped them to develop really close friendships."
Myles, also a Year 12 A level student, was one of the production team with responsibility for operating the camera. He spoke of the benefits of being on a live set and how quickly he had to learn the skills of a camera operator.
"I don’t think I would have learned as quickly if I had been in an ordinary lesson. When out there on a live set you have to perfect your craft very quickly. It also gave me a real insight into the other roles on a set such as sound and direction."
Myles went on to describe the confidence the project had given him to consider a career as a flm maker:
"It has made me realise that with dedication it is not out of my reach."
Georgia, again a Year 12 A level student, was another of the camera operators. Although she had previous experience of photography she hadn't used a flm camera before.
"Anna, the film teacher, was there to guide us, but it was largely up to Myles and me to decide where we placed the cameras, where we placed the lights, what aperture was needed, what film speed to use - everything, and as someone who hadn’t had this technical background it was a real challenge."
Georgia was undaunted by these challenges.
"After three days of training I was eventually able to say right - that needs to go there and this needs to go here, and now it’s really funny whenever I watch a TV programme I hear myself saying – no that’s over exposed, that’s out of shot, that’s out of focus. It has really made me appreciate the new skills I’ve gained."
James, a Year 12 student, was the sound man on the production team.
"I really enjoyed the time I spent with the crew, with interviewees and learning a new side of sound. I do a lot of live sound and recording sound but have never recorded sound on a film shoot. It's completely different and requires different skills from the others I’m used to. This made the shoot both challenging and fun due to the learning new skills at the same time."
A theme the students repeatedly return to is their commitment to doing the best for the families involved in the flm whose lives had been so dramatically changed by a brain injury to a loved one. Georgia explained:
"When you watch Comic Relief or Sports Relief they always seem the same. We didn’t want to have a video which was just emotional. We wanted to show the families in the charity as they are, always trying to bring out the positives in their lives."
James brought this commitment closer to home.
"One of the stories in the video concerns an 18 year old who had been involved in a car accident. This hit me and I feel the rest of the group the most. We could relate to this situation the most and as we were sharing the room with her and her family I was looking at the pictures of her and her friends on the wall, and then looked across to her now. We had to remember that we had to produce this video to the best standard possible, to display this brilliant charity in the best way possible because we want this video to create an impact, to interest people into donating time and money to the charity."
Such has been the success of the video that Elstree UTC has been approached by other charities. Clare Deacon explained,
"This is something we are really passionate about and we want to offer this service to other charities. One of our next projects is for the Night Rider Charity. They have asked us to do a promotional film for their website to encourage more people to sign up and raise more money for the many charities the ride supports."
The final word should go to Judy Taylor, one of the founders of the Brain Injury is B.I.G charity.
"The students dealt with a very difficult subject with sensitivity and kindness and their professionalism and attention to detail throughout the day was impressive. Nothing could have prepared us for actually watching the film though, it was truly inspirational and moving, a work which showed off their individual talents and left us in no doubt that these students are a real credit to the Elstree UTC."