St. Basils BIG Birmingham SleepOut

A few of our Master’s students were given the fantastic opportunity to work with St. Basils to produce a film of their Birmingham Big SleepOut event.

St. Basils work with young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and the aim of the film was to help raise awareness of the work St. Basils does across the Midlands, as well as the event itself to encourage more people to take part in the future. We caught up with MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism student and Production Manager for the project, Laura Sanders, to find out more about the project.

St. Basils sleepout blog

How did the opportunity to work with St. Basils arise?

St Basils have commissioned students and other freelance groups in the past to document their 'Big Sleepout'. We heard about the opportunity through our tutor Diane Kemp, who got in touch with the charity to initially set up a meeting with their team. After that, I was elected Production Manager by the team and took over as the point of contact from then.

What was the brief for the film?

We were asked by the team at St Basils to create a mini-documentary styled video for their YouTube channel, which aimed to promote the event as a fun experience which helped a good cause. St Basil's were adamant that we reflected on the fundraiser and not on homelessness. However, we still needed to include some context to the charity so we had to do this without drawing the attention away from the Sleepout too much. Ellie Jones, Head of Communications at St Basil's was extremely impressed with how we delivered to the very last word of the brief when they received the final edit of our mini-documentary and gave us some great feedback:

Just want to say again how pleased we all are with the film you produced for us of BIG Birmingham SleepOut! You really did a brilliant job, followed the brief to the letter and produced exactly what we wanted! 

Can you tell us more about the team behind the video?

There were seven of us in total: four MA Media Production students and three MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism students. We all integrated our roles on the evening, but loosely speaking we had the following roles:

Production Manager/Journalist: me
Assistant Production Manager/Journalist: Jessica Quinlan
Director/Camera Operator: Tobijah Ijahman
Camera Operators/Interviewers: Manuel Del Solar, Teresa Conceicao, Natasa Korfiotou and Chloe Schemanoff
Editors: Jessica Quinlan & Chloe Schemanoff

What did your role as Production Manager involve?

My role as production manager involved being the key point of contact between the team and St Basils. This involved regular communication with the team at St Basils in terms of our progress, calls to action for contributors and anything the team needed during the production down to every last detail. 

I was responsible for sourcing, researching and arranging interviews with contributors in the lead up to the event, where the team and I shot a series of pre-interviews to build context about St Basils and the Sleepout. On the evening, I was the point of contact for the team and the contributors I had arranged on the night to come and speak to the team. I had to make sure I knew what everybody on the team was doing and be across everything at all times, often having to re-arrange contributors' interviews at last minute and step in with any changes in plans. I held production meetings each week leading up to the event and also created a call sheet for every member of the team with the shoot schedule, risk assessment, emergency contacts and facilities available to ensure the team were safe and feeling supported at all times. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping up in to this role as it has provided me with an invaluable experience and insight in to television production.

What was your highlight of the project?

The highlight of the project for me was the evening of the Sleepout itself. For weeks, the team and I had been anticipating the event and preparing for it, so it was great when we finally got to the night with two cars full of camera equipment and about four layers of clothing on. It was great to meet the staff and participants and get caught up in the excitement as we witnessed some fabulous designs for shelters - including a beach!! Some of the contributors we had interviewed in the lead up recognised us and came and said hello to us. Everybody was really keen to get involved and have a laugh as they gave us "the grand tour" of their shelters for our video. It was a great atmosphere to be in and I felt honoured we could be there to document it for St Basils. Amongst that, it was great to meet Zain Rizvi, who spoke to us about why he had been doing this for 20 years! So a mixture of the serious side and the fun of the evening was felt on the night and I really enjoyed capturing it, as did the rest of the team.

St. Basils sleepout blog- ZainI couldn't have asked for a better team of people to work with. I've made some great new friends through this and also some great contacts with the local businesses and other contributors we have interviewed in the process, who now continue to follow us and support us on social media when we post updates of us progressing through our Master’s degrees. Overall, it has been such a big learning curve and St Basils have been a fantastic charity to work with.

Did you learn any skills that you can apply to your studies or career goals? 

Absolutely! I had previously done an internship with ITV working as a researcher and digital archiver in a production team, so having everything I had already witnessed from the production managers I worked for gave me a head start, but it's quite different being the one in charge and it has really given me a grasp of what this industry is all about. 

Coming from a journalism background, I have also learnt lots about the behind-the-camera/production side through this project. I've learnt more technical things such as operating cameras and sound equipment as well as soft skills such as managing a team, overcoming conflicts and dealing with difficult situations and communicating with contributors in a professional manner. My confidence with speaking to lots of new people, which can be intimidating sometimes, has also really been strengthened by my role in this project. I have also refined my interviewing skills more through this, as have the rest of the team, who have found that this project has given them the chance to put everything they are learning in their MA's to practice.

Most of all, I've learnt just how much I love this work and I am striving now more than ever to progress in to my career in journalism.

Head over to YouTube to see the full video.