A Guide to Editing and TV/ Film Production Courses
What do the courses teach?
The course content for a TV/Film Production undergraduate degree can vary greatly from institution to institution – so it’s important to check the courses out online, or in a prospectus, to make sure it’s the right one for you. For example, though you might assume that ‘TV Production’ and ‘Film Production’ are basically the same, you have to consider the differences between the two, and the effect they’ll have on your overall abilities by the end of the course.
A course in Film Production will teach you just that; how to make films. You’ll learn how to use all of the equipment, and how to bring your ideas together to create films of varying length and genre. A lot of this course will involve on-location camera-work, and gaining experience in typical film-making roles from directing to set design.
A TV production course, on the other hand, will be (obviously) much less focused on film. There’ll be more studio work; though you will get some experience in on-location filming, and short film production – the level of detail in this area just won’t be there as much though.
TV and Film is no longer just about cinema and ‘the box’, though; so a number of courses will also teach elements of web-design, programming, animation/interactive media production – it’s important to consider how much value this will be to you; remember that by the time you graduate, the level of filmed web-content will likely be much higher than when you start your degree.
Do I take a BA or a BSc?
Generally, most TV and Film production courses are BAs – teaching the creative and theoretical side (almost) as much as they give the hands-on, practical experience. Theoretical aspects to the course might include learning about the history of television, the ‘popular’ culture, and detailed audience theory – areas which will be immensely important once you graduate and need to produce successful programmes and films.
A few places, however, will offer a BSc in either course. These are much more practical; focusing more on the production, and technical side of film or television. It’s these courses that’re more likely to incorporate web-design (usually in place of theoretical modules) and in-depth practice into, for example, wiring up a television studio correctly. If you’re considering taking on one of the more rare ‘BSc’ courses; consider first how important the theory could be to you. A number of universities will offer you electives, modules to be taken outside your course – and provided the university also offers a theoretical ‘Media Studies’ degree, there’ll be the opportunity to take on the theory separately – but remember this isn’t always possible!
How do I look for a ‘quality’ course?
The most important thing to consider when looking for a suitable Film or TV Production course, is, as said above, it’s content. There’s a great variety of courses out there now in this field, and with them all offering different things it’s best to really think about your intended career, and which course will offer you the most relevant education.
Another thing to take note of, however, is Skillset accreditation. ‘Skillset’ is a national body which ensures quality in Film and Television, so a course accredited by them has a sort of ‘guarantee of quality’ that lets you know that you’re learning the right things, and can offer some security that you’ve every chance of getting into the industry following graduation. Generally, the universities will want to make their ‘Skillset’ accreditation clear, so it’ll be mentioned on their website, or in the prospectus – but if you can’t see a mention of this anywhere, there’s no harm in contacting the university and asking!
I’ve applied, now what about interviews?
Whilst not all universities will invite you to interviews for Film or TV Production courses, a large number will. It’s important to be very prepared for these interviews; and that means having plenty to talk about AND having a portfolio to show.
Your portfolio will need to be as varied as possible, and there’s plenty to include. You might want to consider offering a DVD of your filmed work, and a separate portfolio, which can include essays, annotated/analysed photography, storyboards, scripts, screenshots (films/websites), radio recordings, newspaper cuttings, artwork...the more high-quality work you can offer, the better – but don’t go over the top with too much of the same format!
The spoken aspect of the interview won’t be as easy to prepare for. Some universities offer a very informal interview, where you’ll simply be asked about your interests in a ‘chat’, others will interrogate you. Don’t be put off though; if you go in with a few things you can talk about in detail, you’ll be fine. Have you got a favourite director, a favourite film or TV programme, or any past work experience that you can discuss in detail? You might be asked what the last film you saw in the cinema was – try and make sure you’ve been there fairly recently, and have plenty to say about both the narrative, and the techniques!
Remember that most courses will be taught by those who’ve been directly involved with the industry – so by all means read up on your potential lecturers and what they’ve been involved in, but don’t go into the interview and ‘suck-up’; as much as they might like to show off by talking about their celebrity friends once the course has started, they’ll not likely want to hear your ‘complete admiration’ before you get to that stage!
A course in TV/Film Production can lead onto many things. The first year of your course will likely be very generalised – giving you a small amount of experience in each aspect of production. You’ll get to try your hand at directing, editing, researching, producing, lighting, camera-work...
In later years, you’ll be able to specialise in a particular area; going into much more detail – but don’t worry, you’ll still get to work in all roles at some point, so no doors are ever closed completely.
Remember that no Media career is easy to get into, and a degree in TV or Film Production is by no means an automatic pass into the world of screen – it’s very important to build up contacts and work-experience – and this can be done throughout your course.
Apply everywhere for experience; but don’t be disheartened if you seem to be constantly ignored throughout your course. Remember, there’s much more out there than ‘ITV’ and ‘BBC’; check out the little indie companies too, or maybe look into web-design companies and see what aspects of film they incorporate? The Radio Times magazine will usually have a good few contacts in, too; and of course, your lecturers are usually more than happy to do a bit of name-dropping – they can use their contacts to get you some experience if you make a point of asking them!
Also consider film competitions during your studies – using your spare time to enter these can build up your portfolio further; always helpful after you graduate. Not only that, but should you win a competition, this can really increase your value alongside that degree!
Do I really want to do this degree?
Before applying, make sure that it’s for you. Don’t take one of these degree courses on expecting it to be easy; it’s not! It can be great fun, but with the courses, as much as with the industry afterwards, the pressure’s on right from the start, and you’ll have to have the motivation, and the organisational skills to succeed.
Remember that the media is a very tough industry: consider that you’ll probably be working freelance, and that contracts are short. Work is never guaranteed, and you could be out of employment for months/years on end; the pay is hugely variable, and you can never know when the project you’re working on will end. Don’t step into the industry lightly, be prepared for long hours, inflexibility, and late, late nights.
A degree in TV/Film Production, like any vocational degree, is very much geared towards specific careers; but don’t panic too much – there are a number of transferrable skills that’ll make your degree valuable outside the media industry, so your choices will never be completely limited.
Though it’s not a decision to rush, hopefully a degree in TV or Film production can provide the opportunities and skills you need to make it into the industry. Good luck!