Media Industries 2: Week 9 (with reflection)

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.

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Reflection

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.

Media Industries 2: Week 8

I gave my jazz playlist to Ange, so that she could play the music through the lecture theatre’s sound system via her iPod. She also managed to confirm James Fettes, so two down, one more to go.

We changed our theme to that of a classy airport transit lounge. Simon wanted clarification on whether we were still going with the hotel lobby/casino/Ocean’s Eleven idea or with the airport transit lounge one. Ezra said that it’s a hybrid of all of those; “technically a part of an airport, but it’s classy enough to be part of a hotel, and our approach is that of an Ocean’s Eleven idea.

I told Xiang that it was probably better that we use two EX3s to film the seminar, as the footage would match better in the edit. He agreed, and went ahead and booked them, along with the required tripods. I haven’t used the EX3s before so I’ll be getting a friend of mine to give me a demonstration beforehand. Xiang also informed me that he also wasn’t too familiar with the camera, having only used it once, so he’ll be getting a friend of his, who’s very familiar with Sony equipment, to come in on the day to assist. I’ve also volunteered to wrangle data after the seminar, and transfer all the footage to the media server.

Judging by the Film group’s audio and lighting disasters this week, along with their general disorganisation before the seminar started, everyone discussed AV issues in more detail; no strong lights, better mics, backup audio recording, etc. We also made sure to clarify everyone’s roles on the day so that nobody was just standing around not doing anything.

Joyce also suggested a live jazz band, since none of the other groups had done anything like that before, but we thought it was a bit too much and Joyce suggested having just a single piano player instead. The jazz music will still be played before the start , during the break and after the seminar, but the piano player will be playing intermittently throughout (I think).

Media Industries 2: Femme Fatale (Women in Media) Seminar

1. CONTENT was relevant and informative – HD
2. Chosen APPROACH was coherent and engaging – HD
3. The THEME was executed with originality and style – HD
4. STAGING was professional – C
5. PROMOTION was varied and timely – HD

Great seminar, with great guests who had some very interesting and enlightening insights to share about women in media and the barriers/obstacles they may face in the industry from when they are starting out to when they are trying to move up the ladder to more senior roles. One interesting thing that Michael, the host, brought up in the quiz at the start (although it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the course) was the proportion of female media students in the course to male ones. I can see for myself that females clearly outnumber males in our course, though not by a huge margin, so clearly there are plenty of women wanting to work in the media industry; however, the moment you step out into the workforce, you find that it’s the complete opposite: men dominate the industry and there is a significant dearth of women, especially in the mainstream media. Then again, one of the guests sagely noted, without generalising, that men and women are drawn to different roles in media, explaining why some occupations might be filled by more females than males (e.g. costume designers, makeup artists, etc) and vice versa (e.g. gaffers, grips, cinematographers, etc [this is from my personal experience, too]). That doesn’t mean more women should stop being costume designers and start taking up the hard manual labour of a gaffer or grip, rather that the gender disparity in those occupations shouldn’t discourage women and men alike from going for those jobs if they want to.

Overall, a very informative seminar, though I wish I’d seen more of my male friends in the course there that day, since I surmised that their absence was due to them thinking that the topic wasn’t relevant to them; nevertheless, it’s important that they’re part of the conversation, since who knows, one day their future wives/partners/daughters might choose to pursue a career in media and they’ll need to be aware of the challenges that they may come up against.

The group incorporated the “Wanted” theme very well, choosing to focus on femme fatales in old Hollywood noir films, and I could tell that they went to a lot of effort even to film their very stylish promo video for the seminar. In terms of decorating the seminar room, they didn’t go to the same extent as the TV group, but I enjoyed it nevertheless; I liked that they brought in a stage, somehow it really made the seminar feel more professional. My only gripe was with the sound. The microphones repeatedly stopped working and the group didn’t try to rectify the situation even during the break, when they ostensibly would’ve had a chance to perhaps replace the microphones, unless the problem was with the mixing desk or the connections in the room’s PA system itself, in which case there wasn’t anything they could have done about it. Still, that issue really let the staging down, and so I only gave them a Credit for it.

Once again, posters were up around building 9 for a week before the event, and the seminar was promoted through Facebook and Twitter amongst the media students community. They didn’t manage to secure their radio guest until a little later, so the space for the third guest on the poster simply read “Radio Guest TBA”, which wasn’t a big deal personally, as I’m sure that anyone who was interested in the topic would have followed the relevant social media links to get updates. Some would say it looked unprofessional, but I didn’t think so. Organising a seminar, especially a free, public one mainly targeted at university students is no easy task, and guests often aren’t confirmed until the very last minute.

Media Industries 2: Week 7

I never heard back from Madman Entertainment, so I left that alone and figured that they’d either decided to go with the Film group or just neither of us.

Everyone is still in guest-contacting frenzy mode. I’d looked up some names in the Encore Directory but honestly didn’t find much; everyone who worked internationally was either based overseas (no surprise there), or in Sydney; ideally, we wanted some warm bodies, not just a seminar filled entirely with pre-recorded Skype interviews. Nevertheless, I took down some names (though they were all a long shot at best), and tried to contact a few of them, namely directors James Wan and John Polson, and screenwriter Craig Pearce.

James’ agent got back to me almost immediately and said, as expected, that James wasn’t in the country; John’s people never got back to me; and Craig’s agent said that he was unfortunately too busy at the moment. I had director Kate Woods down for my PNR, and decided to send another email to her assistant asking if she’d be willing to do a pre-recorded interview for our seminar; she never got back to me so I thought I’d just leave it alone since I knew that Kate was very busy and already doing me a huge favour by agreeing to help me out for my PNR sometime this month.

We still needed a “wow” guest, just like the Women in Media group managed to get the CEO of Film Victoria, Jenni Tosi. And just as we were getting exasperated by the unavailability (or unresponsiveness) of everyone we had contacted so far, Ange got a breakthrough: Max Mannix, a director whom she’d met while she was doing an internship 3 years ago. Apparently he’s been flying in and out of Melbourne recently, would likely be around on 26th September and would love to do the seminar. She said that he’d be getting back to her soon about whether he can come along. Fingers crossed, he can.

The heretofore missing member of the group who’d volunteered to do videography, Xiang, finally turned up today, so I was able to discuss with him the equipment we were going to need. We decided on using the Sony EX3 and my Canon 60D DSLR, but decided to discuss it further the following week as he turned up late to the meeting.

Media Industries 2: Midsemester Break

We met up over the midsemester break. We’d all been very focused on finding guests and giving feedback to the design team’s ideas, but now was the time to actually start putting pen to paper on role delegation. I volunteered to do videography for the seminar, and we remembered that there had been another member of our group who during one of our earlier meetings had put his hand up for filming too; problem was, he hadn’t attended most group meetings, nobody remembered his name, and he wasn’t on the Facebook group. Fingers, crossed, he turns up so that I can discuss what equipment we’ll be using.

In catering news, the caterer that Joyce got in contact with offered some great Malaysian food, but it was $20 a person. We hadn’t factored in the cost of decorations either. We decided then and there that all of us were forking out a maximum of $20 for both catering and decorations.

In keeping with the hotel lobby/casino/Ocean’s Eleven theme that Ange suggested and the design team further developed, I compiled a playlist of lively jazz music to go with it. Presumably, the music will be played just as audience members are walking in, during the break, and after the seminar as everyone is leaving and we’re packing down.

We’ve turned to other journalists like Hamish McDonald and Raphael Epstein, but none of them were free or in the country. Ange also suggested another guest: James Fettes, an ABC Radio journalist and ex-RMIT student. She heard about him through a girl she met at a party who happens to be James’ friend. He did a short journalism course in Jakarta after he graduated and his international experience gave him a real leg-up back home.

Media Industries 2: Breaking In (Television) Seminar

1. CONTENT was relevant and informative – HD
2. Chosen APPROACH was coherent and engaging – HD
3. The THEME was executed with originality and style – HD
4. STAGING was professional – HD
5. PROMOTION was varied and timely – HD

I really enjoyed this week’s seminar. It took the form of a talk show, quiz show and Q&A all combined into one, with Conor making for a very entertaining host. The lecture theatre was very nicely and elaborately dressed like a television talk show set; a perfect setting for the topic. The group also incorporated the “Wanted” theme very well, with a short parody intro video and skit that lightened the mood and relaxed both the guests and the audience, showing that students could have fun while also discussing something serious and relevant related to their future careers in television. Blue rock candy that looked like crystal meth (a nod to the television show Breaking Bad) was also handed out at the door, a great joke for everyone, but probably not for anyone who came into the room after and chanced upon suspicious little bags of blue rocks left behind. Still, it was a nice touch. The fact that the group managed to organise catering for lunch was very impressive; it was in stark contrast to the documentary group the previous week that only provided morning tea (which was technically provided by Shelley, Christina and Nick anyway) and left everyone hungry.

The guests all had very useful and interesting insights and stories to share about their time working in the local television industry. In keeping with the seminar title of “Breaking In”, the guests talked about how they indeed broke into the industry; from borderline-restraining order harassment (through incessant phone calls and emails) of television networks and production companies asking for a job, to lucky connections from volunteering at RMITV (like Ron Frim did), it seems like trying to get a job in television is anything but traditional. The more serious, relevant discussions were broken up by lighthearted quiz and game segments like “who am I?” and “first thing that comes to mind when you think of…?” (or whatever that game’s called), which I’m sure both the guests and audience members appreciated. Overall, it was an informative and fun seminar, much unlike the generally dry and rather humourless documentary one. Once again, posters were up around building 9 for about a week prior to the seminar, and the event was promoted on Facebook amongst the Media students community, ensuring plenty of awareness about it. A+ for the TV group from me.

 

Media Industries 2: Week 6

I got in contact with Madman Entertainment, knowing that their expertise in international film sales would be relevant to our seminar, and asked if they were able to send someone over for the seminar. Unfortunately, it seemed like the Film group had already gotten in touch with them. Philippa, the Product & Licensing Manager at Madman, got back to both me and the Film group’s representative in the same email, saying that she wasn’t sure if they could “accommodate two seemingly identical panel discussions a week apart”, with many of them having just returned from the Toronto International Film Festival by then and/or “preparing for the Movie Convention” (no idea what that convention actually is). She asked me to send her my supervisor’s email (that would be Shelley), and so I did.