“Never Apologise for Existing on Stage”, and other Lessons from Theatre School

“We’ve had emotional days, and intense days.  There’s no room for ‘I wouldn’t say that’, or ‘I wouldn’t do that’.  A drama degree is naturally going to be stressful.”

On the brink of graduation, preparing for the “next stage”, three University of Sunderland BA Drama students share advice for emerging actors.

Continue reading ““Never Apologise for Existing on Stage”, and other Lessons from Theatre School”

99% Extra – Mike Pinchin, Video-Game Designer

12606959_10153928402063552_264623515_nA few times a semester (fancy talk for “a third of a year”), our radio classes at the University of Sunderland feature guest lecturers, usually people who are active in the creative industries.  Our last:  Mike Duddy, who recently shared a boom-handling session with our students.

But last week’s session excited me a lot.  And I mean a lot.

Mike Pinchin designs video games.  I remember a lecture with him back when I was a student, from 2010.  He’d recreated the university campus, and had Daleks patrolling the media building.  Since then, he’s been making money from releasing his own games on mobile platforms.  He designs the characters, the aesthetics, the sound…  And he joined our class to show us just how important sound is to enhance the immersive experience.  “There are people doing all kinds of awesome sound design in video games – whether they’re actual video games or interactive experiences.”

Continue reading “99% Extra – Mike Pinchin, Video-Game Designer”

Picking a Degree – The South Asian Edit

Hafzah Zamir on the difficulties of pursuing a career in the creative industry, whilst being surrounded by Asian academic success

Hazfah Zamir - 99 reduxYou’re probably reading this article because you are thinking about picking a degree, or even considering whether the university lifestyle is even your fortè.

Being South Asian, when it came to picking my degree, there was a sense of pressure to say the least.

Coming from a South Asian community, or to be more specific, a Pakistani community, it was difficult when it came to choosing the career path for me.

I remember picking my degree and being torn between a dream and reality (as clichè as that sounds).  The dream was that I wanted to be an artist. Since I was a young girl, I had aways been into the creative side of life; from painting, to theatre, to literature, to photography and film-making (to be honest the list could go on).  But ultimately, my reality was that the careers that were made for South Asians were more on the…  academic side.  Growing up, I was surrounded by family who went into the conventional Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, Accountant category.  I knew this was not for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I did have the capability to pursue these careers, but there was one particular night that I remember vividly.

It was late and I was thinking about the career that I would want to go into.  I mean the right thing to do was to be academic, be successful, make my family proud.  But would I be happy for the rest of my life?  Of course not.  I’d be stuck in a dead end job doing the same thing day in day out that I didn’t like and be depressed.

But this was always a worry for me; I didn’t care what society thought of me, but I did care about the griefing my parents would get because of a few comments made by some distant auntie visiting from Lahore coming up to my Mama and being like:

“Oh your daughter is an artist…  My daughter is doctor, earning thousands.”

Girl, please!  If you’re going to sit there and evaluate my life, the life of someone you barely know, you need to go and reassess your own life.  Yes Lahori auntie, you’ve been shut down.  *Snap snap*.

But anyways, I therefore decided to start looking for a degree where I could get the best of both worlds (sort of like the Hannah Montana of degrees).  I looked and looked and instead of just giving up and following suit to the conventions of my society, I instead found Public Relations.  As a combination of business and marketing, it allowed me to appear academically successful in my society, whilst creating creative campaigns and working a lot with social media.  I managed to find a degree that would also satisfy me.

When people ask my Mama what I do, she isn’t rather proud to say that she has a daughter that is a trainee Public Relations Practitioner.

And me?  Well, currently halfway through my degree I can happily say that I get to be as creative as I want and branch out into doing other opportunities, which gives me the satisfaction that I once thought was only a dream.

Creatives.  Do not let societal norms affect who you are and your dream, because at the end of the day, this is your life.  Please let me be that first step that changes your life forever.

Stay Productive, Stay Awesome!

Words by Hafzah Zamir

Episode 19 – Making the Most of your Creative Degree

It’s somewhat ironic that what followed the episode entitled “Never Stop” was an absence of podcasts for an entire month. Let me start with an apology. I’m one-man-band; making this podcast alongside everything else in my life. I’ve started a new semester at the University of Sunderland, where I’m now lecturing three radio/journalism classes, which has taken up a great deal of time & energy. I’m also working for the arts networking organisation ArtWorks-U, making occasional videos for the university, producing four weekly radio broadcasts, and sporadically working on a handful of other projects.

Life is chaotic, unpredictable and hectic… And I love it.

As such, I put 99% Perspiration on the back burner. To my own detriment, as much as yours. It’s not good practice, I know. But. The show must go on.

You can expect weekly episodes from 99% Perspiration once again.

Episode 19 is the very first live special of 99% Perspiration. It was broadcast during Freshers’ Week at the University of Sunderland, where I work as an Academic Tutor of radio. They invited us to create a special, live, one-off programme tailor-made to incoming students – “Making the Most of your Creative Degree”.

Click here to listen to Episode 19

Click here to listen to Episode 19

A big thanks is in order for Matthew Donnachie and Grant Lowery, who were our sound-designers on the project.

I’d love to hear back from you about whether this is useful (or not) if you’re not based at the University of Sunderland – our Twitter is @99Podcast.

———-

Our guests on Episode 19:

Click here to listen to Jill on Episode 19

Click here to listen to Jill on Episode 19

Jill Kirkham is the Programme Leader of Fashion Product & Promotion at the University of Sunderland, and there are tons of opportunities and tips available for fashion students which will be applicable to fashion-conscious listeners.

Click here to listen to Lily in episode 19

Click here to listen to Lily in episode 19

Lily Clifford is the Learning and Engagement Officer at the National Glass Centre, based in Sunderland.  Lily began volunteering at the NGC whilst she studied at the University, and this volunteering experience led her straight into her current role.

Click here to listen to Sarah on Episode 19

Click here to listen to Sarah on Episode 19

Sarah Heseltine is currently a Graduate Intern within the Student Recruitment team at the University of Sunderland.  She joined us to give us insight into extra-curricular opportunities at the University; in particular the Student Ambassador scheme which she was involved in.

Click here to listen to Episode 19

Click here to listen to Sinèad on Episode 19

Sinèad Livingston is a graduate from BA Community Music, in partnership with the Sage Gateshead.  She’s currently setting up a musicians’ creative network, and working alongside me on a radio programme called ArtyParti on Spark FM (Wednesdays at 3pm) – and you can hear more from Sinèad on episode 4 of 99% Perspiration.

Click here to listen to James on Episode 19

Click here to listen to James on Episode 19

James Hamilton is currently studying BA Journalism at the University of Sunderland, and currently presents Drive Time on the student/community radio station Spark FM.

Click here to listen to Rute Correia on 99% Perspiration

Click here to listen to Rute Correia on 99% Perspiration

And Rute Correia, who you can hear more from in Episode 18 of 99% Perspiration, is an incoming student of MA Radio (Production and Management).  She previously studied at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal, worked with Nintendo of Europe, and now creates the weekly White Market Podcast and runs creative company Rute’s Loot.

Audio Documentary – Advice from a Lecturer

One of the reasons I’m absolutely loving my time as a lecturer at the University of Sunderland is working alongside skilled lecturers who have been.  And occasionally, I get to sit in on a class.  I never took a specific radio documentary class during my Media Production BA, so it was great to see what I’d missed out on first time round, and gather some more techniques from an industry professional/lecturer.  Intellectual osmosis at its best!

And in the spirit of paying it forward, I’m passing on the insight to you too.

So, a lot of Andy Cartwright’s documentaries on BBC Radio are unified in some interesting way by a running theme; something that ties the documentary together.  For example, in a documentary about the “shoddy” trade in Batley, he used a train ride linking the towns in West Yorkshire together, and explored the landscape through stopping at different destinations.  Narrative shaping devices like this smooth the structure, and give the documentary a hook to keep a listener on board.

But don’t be afraid to be experimental.  I’ve heard radio documentaries that are tied together by a dramatic narrative as well, such as the Charles Parker 2015’s prize-winning entry; it’s an investigation into the supernatural story of Black Shuck, however we’re led expertly through the supernatural segments by atmospheric sound pictures bringing the stories to life.  We hear the dog, the trees, the creaky church doors…  It’s structured almost like a radio drama at times, and I really enjoyed these elements.  However, he did mention that when using sound effects to support an audio documentary, it’s best not to mirror what the interviewee is talking about.  Be more suggestive. But, whatever technique you do, follow a journey, and get your listeners invested!

Another cool tip is to introduce an interviewee with one of their key sentences, or a great stand-alone soundbite, before the presenter introduces them (if you do opt for a presenter led documentary).  It’s another way to hook your listener; and continuing to do that throughout your piece is so important, especially for longer documents, to keep your audience attentive and on your frequency.

The audio documentary industry has established certain ground rules over its time, and so it’s wise to stick to some key structural elements and avoid sounding jarring.  In a documentary section that features two voices at once, crediting is key.  If you order people “incorrectly”, if there is even such a thing, it’ll sound “wrong”.  Here’s what to do – if your narrator is saying the name of two or more people before you hear them, they credit the first person you hear last, whereas if your narrator speaks afterwards, they should credit the last person you hear first

Think about your structure, using likeminded interview segments together effectively, or use juxtaposition (strikingly different) when you want to be shocking or thought-provoking.  Think about a male-female balance, or (when relevant) different accents – make your piece sound “colourful”, as they say in radio.  Think about the eb and flow of speech, of each indivual, of the story.

Because audio documentaries by definition are, well, audio, when there’s no sound there’s nothing else – no images like visual mediums can rely on.  Successful radio dramas use this lack of sound, this silence, effectively.  A well-placed silence can have big impact, draw the listener’s attention, and be very interesting.

The world has changed a great deal since digital technology began, so here’s something I would never have advised – but having sat through the class, I certainly saw how this had merits.  Log your interviews.  Transcribe your material, even just a rough transcription.  If you’re making a long documentary, it’ll help leaps and bounds.  If you’re looking for someone some says, it’ll be much easier to search for specific words in a document than painstakingly trawl through your audio.  Andy also showed us how using the transcriptions allows you to construct a structure quickly & effectively, by highlighting on paper what you intend to include.  And, you know what?  I learnt something there!  (I’m a huge believer in the notion that you never stop learning.

So.  Just some handy tips if you’re interested in producing audio documentaries.  Because of technology today, It’s never been easier to put together an effective audio documentary – you can head out with a smart phone, interview some people you know and mix them together in an editing software.  And if you’re already producing audio documentary, (or even video documentary), hopefully you can take something else away from this blog post.

And if you have any suggestions yourself, do leave a comment below.

Until next time…

Stay productive, stay awesome!

– Jay