I’m a final year Creative and Professional Writing and Film and Screen Media student. Prior to choosing to do a Workplace Learning Module I knew I wanted to develop a career in video or film production, but I hadn’t quite landed on what particular job role in this sector would best suit me.
I worked with the Placement Team throughout the summer to improve my CV and consider my options. I was then given the opportunity to submit my portfolio and CV to Video and Film Production company, NextShoot.
Happily, NextShoot’s work placement programme exposed me to the various disciplines and processes in corporate video production in particular and production for visual communications in general: the pre-production process, filming, and post-production. I also had the opportunity to learn about the business management of a small-to-medium sized production company, giving me an invaluable insight into this growing, but increasingly competitive, industry.
On my first day, I worked as a runner on a filming day at the National Gallery, during which NextShoot shot a series of tours of the Artemisia exhibition, presented by the show’s curator, Letizia Treves. The tours were conducted through all the rooms in the exhibition and much of the content was captured on the move on a gimbal, as the curator-guide followed the triumphs and tribulations of Artemisia Gentileschi (perhaps the most accomplished female painter of the 17th century) through her artwork, related court transcripts and her intimate correspondence.
It was instructive to see how a video production company like NextShoot covered the filming, and it was interesting also to see how the National Gallery was adapting in such a tumultuous time to the reality of a pandemic. Offering tours to its members, and to non-members for a small fee, was a recognition that while few visitors could come to the gallery, their interest in an exhibition of this quality would not be diminished and that there was much to gain from reaching out to its audience with an online tour.
The filming day also taught me about the value of organisation and preparation in the pre-production period. I learned that ahead of the filming time had been allocated to blocking out the entire shoot on a recce, with the curator, director and DoP all present. This ensured the best use of the valuable hours during the actual shoot day, which itself was very carefully structured and precisely scheduled. I was responsible for making sure that everyone’s lunch was pre-ordered and available exactly on time so that it was possible to break for just 30 minutes before the team pressed on.
What was also interesting to witness was the relationship between efficiency and morale amongst the team members. Through good communication and mutual trust, a high-level of commitment was maintained which lead to a really effective collaboration. Most surprising to me was how much I was valued by everyone involved on the shoot.
As a runner, the most lowly rung in the production hierarchy, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of attention, but everyone made a concerted effort to get to know me and to include me, which was kind and reassuring.
Watching the team film the curator, I was intrigued by their balanced approach which held a space for both guidance and collaboration. Everybody had the same goal of achieving a coherent narrative focused on the life and work of Artemisia, and so opinions were welcomed, discussions were constructive, and decisions were reached with the interest of the project in mind. With this sensitive approach, what followed was a calm, collaborative and ultimately successful shoot.
On my second day, I gained a great deal of insight into the business side of setting up and running a corporate video production company in London. As this was beyond the scope of my degree, I felt my knowledge in this area was a little thin, but Dominic was patient in explaining the foundations of NextShoot’s business model to me.
What I found particularly interesting was the company’s approach to client interaction, which strikes a balance between marketing towards potential new clients and active engagement with existing clients. The need for a high level of commitment to their business partners and the great effort required to maintain their online presence to gain new business would never have occurred to me had we not taken time to discuss how the business was run.
I was also able to shadow their in-house editor, Alessandro. With little experience in editing and post-production, I was excited to learn of the intricacies of this job role. One of the lessons I learned was that while the editor may not attend a shoot, they are tasked with creating the rhythm of the narrative and shaping coherent content for the target audience. This may take more manipulation of the material than people would imagine. It is certainly a role that requires good technical skills, extreme patience and attention to detail, as well as creativity.
My second filming day took place at the London Mithraeum, Bloomberg SPACE in the City of London and covered the installation of artist Lucy Skaer’s piece Forest on Fire, a commission featuring a sequence of bronze-cast animal pelts and stone carvings.
I shadowed cinematographer Fabio Guglielmelli as he filmed the development of the space ahead of the opening. Whilst Fabio had considered a lot of his shots in advance, he also listened to the installation team, taking on board their schedule, what they thought were good ideas and incorporating them into his plan.
Again, clear lines of communication were needed to ensure a really high-end product which satisfied all the parties involved. I was really impressed with the way Fabio logically broke down his coverage of the space. With only a few large pieces of work, I assumed the filming would be relatively quick, but I soon learned how a systematic and creative approach to the coverage actually produced a large number of interesting shots.
Unfortunately, after this shoot I had to relocate to Harare, Zimbabwe, due to the travel restrictions that were about to be enforced. However, I was still able to gain considerable further knowledge about the video production industry, in particular the business side.
In order to complete my required placement hours, we adapted our approach that had until then been mainly based on practical experience. I was now tasked with creating a blog assessing brand relationships with social media in 2020 and how they may have differed from previous years.
What I found was that a more emphasis was placed on the authenticity of the context in each advert, with some brand’s choosing to comment on or align themselves with socially topical issues, such as the Black Lives Matter movement or on-screen representations of minorities. I also payed attention to the filmic integrity of each piece. As someone who typically clicks ‘Skip Ad’, this new focus was unusual for me.
Overall, I gained a greater appreciation for advertisements and the effort required to create authentic material that resonates with its audience at a particular moment in time, in this instance during an extraordinary year of change, challenges and, in some places, conflict. I was really excited to take this task on and the more I researched, the more interested I became in the industry as a whole, with my previous intimidation being replaced by a constant curiosity.
During such a strange year, I am so thankful for Dom, Mike and their team for accommodating me and fostering my interests in such a warm and encouraging fashion. I may not have landed just yet on what role will best suit me in the work place, but I could not have wished for a better environment in which to learn about the craft and business of corporate video production and I would highly recommend this work placement programme to anyone wishing to broaden their horizons and deepen their understanding of the video marketing industry.