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Ellie Tomsett

Ellie Tomsett profileFoundation Year Media Course Director

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your course?

My professional background has been in participatory arts and filmmaking. I spent several years working with professional filmmakers and young people aged 5-19 on filmmaking projects across the UK. I trained filmmakers to share their filmmaking skills with young people and ran courses for teachers on how to integrate filmmaking and media analysis activities into the school curriculum. As a result of these experiences I am used to making complicated technical skills and theoretical concepts accessible to those who maybe haven’t come across them before. Whilst working in Higher Education I have worked with filmmakers, photographers, performers, animators and film students to explore the way practice and theory combine. My research is interdisciplinary and is focused on comedy studies and contemporary feminisms. I love teaching media and I try and make new ideas fun and accessible - this approach underpins all my teaching.

What is the philosophy of your course? 

The Foundation course is a supportive environment within which to experiment and grow as both a maker of media and a reflective researcher of the media.

The course is interdisciplinary (involves exploring and fusing lots of different disciplines together) so it is really important for students to stay open to new experiences and stay curious. Staff try to facilitate a space where everyone is supported, free to try new things and make some mistakes so that these mistakes can be reflected upon in order to improve and learn. The way the course is designed means that students have a lot of ownership over what they create and are supported to realise their creative visions in order to develop as confident media practitioners.

If you had to name one thing about your course that makes it distinct, what would it be?

The course is distinct in the way students have freedom to make choices about the projects they undertake during the year. Everyone is introduced to a wide range of different skills and disciplines (low budget filmmaking, PR, digital journalism for example) and then given the opportunity and space to create and explore ideas that speaks to their own interests. Once students have explored all their options they are given the chance to reassess which degree pathway might work for them once they finish the foundation year.

Why is Birmingham a good place to study?

Birmingham is an up and coming diverse city that makes the perfect place to get creative.

Why do you believe it’s important to study a degree and why might students want to study your course?

A degree, such as those undertaken in Birmingham School of Media, provides an excellent practical and theoretical grounding for a creative career. The foundation course is the first step for students in deciding what path they may want to go down. During the foundation year students try all of the major disciplines so they can find the right fit for them and upskill ready to undertake degree level study. Maybe you are the next big PR mogul or an incredible television studio manager? The chances are you will not have had the opportunity to find that out before joining us.

In the modern age access to media making technology has never been more widespread, but getting the most out of these developments, being able to adapt to the changing industry and being a thoughtful and thorough creator of media is not something that occurs without hard work. Undertaking a degree gives people the opportunity to work with experts and to think and make in new and exciting ways. Our degrees ensure that people start their careers (in whichever area they are passionate about) with not only the valuable knowledge, skills and experience people get from degrees, but have the critical thinking abilities that BCU foregrounds and the confidence to challenge the norm and make changes to the industry too.

Where will the students be based in their time here and what will their learning environment be?

For the majority of our teaching time are based in the Parkside Building. This ensures we can make the most of all the different media making facilities we have there. 

What can students do to help prepare them for the course?

Get out of your comfort zone! Everyone will arrive with a whole range of experiences of the media and of course we all have our own preferences (your individual thoughts and experience of media are valuable for us to consider), but sometimes we need to challenge ourselves to break with our habits. As you prepare to join the course have a go at engaging with types or genres of media you don’t normal engage with. For example, listen to a different radio station, try a new podcast, get your TV news from a different channel, watch a film from a different country or time period, follow some industry professionals on Instagram, visit a free art gallery etc. Start to spread your media net a bit wider because during the foundation year at BCU we will be thinking about lots of different media forms and ways of engaging audiences. 

What’s your favourite element about working at Birmingham School of Media?

My students and my colleagues. Yeah, we have all the kit and the fancy spaces (and they are great, don’t get me wrong), but it’s the people that I get to spend my time with that make all the difference to me.