On Monday, we secured Jane Liscombe from EXIT Films, courtesy of Ange. Promotion started and posters went up around campus. We later secured another guest: Susie Jones from Matchbox Pictures, once again through Ange. Posters weren’t updated, but no matter, the event page was updated with her bio.
Shelley started asking for our press release on Wednesday so that she could send it out to all the students in various programs in the School of Media and Communication. Nobody had done it, because we didn’t even know we had to make one. I volunteered to quickly write one up; there weren’t enough “Wanted” puns, but no matter, I sent it off to the Steering Committee, who sent it off to Shelley, who then sent it out to the rest of the school.
Then came the big day. We got to seminar room at 8am on the day, but the door was still locked and there was no way were were going to be able to get in until 9:30am, so I helped the design team set up catering and freebies outside, along with moving props from the RMITV props room in building 8. When the techs opened at 9am, I helped Xiang and Michael get equipment.
When the room was finally unlocked, I plugged in Ange’s iPod and controlled the music. I then set up the camera and tripod up the front, and stayed there to film the entire seminar. When everything was done, I helped pack the place down and return the equipment, and then dumped the camera footage onto the media server for Simon to edit sometime next week.
Overall, the seminar was a resounding success and went off without a hitch. Preliminary feedback from our peers was that it was the best seminar yet. We also noticed quite a few audience members from the general public, meaning our promotion to reach students outside of just our Media Industries class was successful.
Though I was busy with filming and was more focused on framing the guests properly than actually listening to what they were saying, I still managed to pick up some of their interesting insights and advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re starting out and new to a place or a job; try to learn the language and absorb the culture of a new place, as really, that’s the whole point of working internationally; and more importantly, fake it ’til you make it (and have no shame about it, because when you do make it, none of that matters anymore) and be wary of living in a false bubble of praise. Jane was an amazing guest, freely sharing her advice and telling lots of engaging anecdotes about her time working in the UK and the US. I went up and spoke briefly with her after the seminar, telling her about my plans to go to film school in the US with the view to live and work in the industry there in the future, and asking if it was a good way of building up a network and establishing myself there, and she agreed, saying that it would be much easier to start out in the industry if I had just come out from an institution there, rather than having moved there and tried to establish myself as a complete foreigner who knew nothing about living and working there.
It was really down to the wire on the week of the seminar itself, as we hadn’t secured a third guest by early Monday and online promotion was meant to have started over the weekend, with posters going up on Monday. Throughout the entire semester, everyone went about contacting potential guests, though they had to be pre-approved by the group first; this wasn’t a problem, as most group members kept up to date with things on Facebook, and so guests were usually pre-approved very quickly, until the date of the seminar inched closer and we had only secured one guest, when we all decided that we should simply contact whoever we thought would be good. The design team worked rather independently on the organisation of the seminar itself, showing us their ideas to get our feedback, so they were pretty out of the loop in terms of finding guests; I felt such role delegation worked well, as everybody knew what to focus on. Even on the big day itself, we delegated roles so that nobody would just be standing there, not knowing what to do and not helping out, which was a problem I knew the Reel Crimes (Film) group had.
As for my participation throughout the whole process, I attended all the group meetings, looked up and contacted potential guests (though none of them came through, unfortunately), gave feedback on the design team’s ideas and of course, wrote up a quick press release when it was apparent that nobody had written one. As I mentioned above, I was in charge of filming the seminar, along with Xiang, and I ingested the footage onto the media server for the editing team to work on; as far as I knew, I wasn’t a part of that team, but there was some confusion as to who was in charge of putting together the highlights video, and so it was delivered to the Steering Committee very late (Simon and Joel did a rough cut and cleaned up the audio respectively, but thankfully Chris went in and finished off the video and saved the day). I guess there was just some misunderstanding and miscommunication about who was assigned to that role, as not everyone came to meetings and may also have missed Facebook group updates.
In terms of my networking abilities, I’d say I’m probably a little less afraid to go out on a limb and contact higher profile writers and directors, since in my experience of contacting potential guests, their agents/managers were always very courteous and respectful even when they had to inform me that their clients weren’t available for the seminar. Industry professionals seem to always be happy to help students out when they have the time, and share their knowledge and insights gleaned from years of experience.
The value of the seminar series lies not only in hearing directly from industry professionals working in specific areas of the media, but also in event management; this was the first time I had to organise something of this scale, and the logistics of it were challenging to say the least. Fine-tuning our seminar’s focus; coming up with a theme and figuring out marketing and promoting; arranging catering, props and decorations; figuring out the AV/technical side of things; ensuring deliverables were handed to the Steering Committee after the seminar…now I know just how much time and effort goes into organising a public event. There was also a lot to be learned from how the other groups executed their seminars, both the successes and the not-quite successes; it said a lot about their cohesion as a group and how much effort they were putting into the organisation of their seminars. That being said, I guess another value of the seminar series lies in doing even more of what we’ve been constantly doing since our first year: working in groups with people of diverse backgrounds and personalities. No doubt, it’s about as stressful as working on a film set, albeit over 12 weeks and with constant setbacks and frustrations. But considering our end result, with the resounding success of the event and the unanimously positive feedback from our peers that it was the best seminar yet, I’d say it was all worth it, and I’m very proud of what I’ve contributed and got out of it, and what we’ve achieved as a team.