Professional and Reflexive Practice Portfolio 2

Introduction to the Future

When I was applying to university, I was adamant that I wanted to venture into the film industry, but I had no idea where. The common dream is to become a director or a production designer; something creative that an audience can see on the screen. However, I started to discover the lesser known departments within film, such as sound design. As depicted in my previous Professional and Reflexive Practice Portfolio, I started to consider a career in this area as these were the skills that I had developed most since coming to university. As I started to learn the techniques of recording and editing sound, I began to consider the possibility of going into a career in sound design. It was after my semester one project, Project Venture, that I realised that I detested being the sound operator. I then decided that following a career into something that I did not enjoy would be a complete waste of my time, even though it had been suggested to me as a ‘foot in the door’, the fear is that I would remain there and not progress into something that I wanted to do. Within the previous portfolio I also infer that I would like to be a writer, as it has been a hobby of mine since I was younger; however, after months of deliberating various options and looking to the future for something prosperous and stable, I have decided that the correct path for me to follow is within education. Essentially, my ambition is to be a Media Studies teacher so that I can apply my skills and knowledge developed over the three years on this degree to something that I would love to do. McAlpine clarifies my thinking in regards to working in the film industry perfectly and encouraged me to follow the path that I am now looking to go on; “How ambitious and motivated are you? Are you prepared to have very little money, no holidays or new clothes and to put your job before your social life by working weekends and evenings?” (2003, p. 99).

This paper will discuss my future aspirations and how I will apply my skills and knowledge to the career that I want. It will also discuss the reasons why I have decided that the film industry is not for me. A further discussion within this paper will be a researched case study into an American independent film distribution company whose appeal centres around their democratic ethics and independence. New Day has been distributing films made with the intent of broadcasting in educational environments since 1971 and specialises in creating documentaries that possess strong messages. Each member of New Day is simultaneously a filmmaker and an educator, ranging from working in high schools, to university institutions. This case study is relevant to my career aspirations as New Day takes an approach that focuses on education and reinforces my ideas of introducing technology and media into the classroom as a more standard teaching method. Following this case study will be an analysis of my ethical standing and how I intend to make an impact in regards to political, social and cultural contexts within the education sector.

Future ambitions – Becoming an Educator

My primary ambition is to become a teacher of Media Studies and English, teaching students between the ages of eleven and eighteen. It was during the beginnings of the first semester of third year that I realised that I wanted to be a teacher; however, I feel as though I have always known this as I have loved being a part of education and continually took a shine to the power that a teacher has in that they have a lot of influence over the future generations. In regards to the reason why I do not care for the film industry anymore, my main concern is that my personality combined with my wants and needs dictate that I am perhaps not suited for the fast-paced, unstable and brutal life that the film industry provides. Finance is also a worry at the forefront of my mind and this industry does not usually provide well-paid positions for those starting out, as supported by DiMaggio; “The typical image of an indie producer is of a person strapped for cash who has to change the last of his or her quickly diminishing production budget on a credit card,” (2007, p.146). The many guest lecturers that spoke to us as a cohort confirmed my fears of having an unstable job that I would not have enough ‘passion’ to keep. Of course, I would love to work as a director, an editor, or a writer, but, unfortunately, I am not prepared to suffer for the next few years until I manage to reach a position that I am merely satisfied to settle for. I have been questioned as to why I chose a Film and Television Production degree and have now changed my mind; however, the subject that I want to teach is relevant to this course and the skills that I have developed across these three years, I believe, are essential to a teacher, as supported by Hamshaw; “Studying the media has helped me to develop a quick response to situations plus the flexibility to change something quickly when it isn’t working. (2003, p. 98). In order to achieve this ambition of becoming a teacher, I will take a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course and become a qualified teacher. However, I will take this course a year from now as I would prefer to gain some financial stability through getting a full time job in York. During this time, I plan to complete some work experience in the classroom which is essential for being accepted onto a PGCE. I have already started this process as I am emailing former teachers at the high school that I attended before university.

Utilising Current Skills for my Ambitions

As a teacher, or a tutor, of secondary school children, it is your responsibility to shape them into young adults and set them on their desired path. Without diverting them too much onto something that they don’t want to do, or have no interest in, it is key to push them as far as they can go. When I was at school, and now at university, I have been constantly pushed to the best of my abilities and I have learned that I work better under pressure. I always knew that I wanted to go to university and this drove me to work to my highest potential and I believe that by clarifying a person’s ambitions with them, a teacher is capable of guiding them and pushing them in the right direction. As inferred within the previous portfolio, I am very disciplined with the activity that I am working on, whether it is sound design, writing, or editing and this will transfer over when I am completing my PGCE and undertaking work experience within the classroom. In particular, my writing skills and disciplines will be most useful for a career in teaching as I would want to pursue the subjects English Language and Media Studies, which naturally, feature ample amounts of writing, whether it is essays or creative. As I am keen to write scripts and stories, as well as academic assignments, I believe that I would be suitable for a role in teaching within these subjects.

One of the main skills that I have developed throughout this course is communication as we are specifically required to work very closely with a group of people who might not otherwise get along or socialise with each other. Collaboration is the most important factor within a production and it is this that drives a project to success. Within a film crew, the technical and creative skills are entirely necessary for the production to achieve its potential; however, without communication and co-operation, it is impossible to work efficiently. Collaboration is a key element within education, supported by McAlpine; “Qualities needed…excellent communication skills …[and]…The ability to work as part of a team, with teachers and other professionals,” (2003, 94). Teachers are required to work together on curriculums and decide the best learning strategies for various children, as not every student can learn in the same way, whether it is due to varied learning techniques or social implications, “Some children are making less progress because of the debilitating impact of childhood poverty, poor housing and other complex social and contextual reasons.” (Dillon, 2011, p. 33). A more apparent point of communication that a teacher needs relates to the teenagers that are sitting in their classroom, waiting for an interesting learning experience. Clear communication is key here in order for a teacher’s information and instructions to be understood and followed through effectively. This degree, through working in several crews and being pushed to work with lots of different people, crew and contributors alike, has improved my communication skills and the ability to make good, quick decisions in pressured situations which is a vital skill when working in a room with up to thirty young people. Other than collaboration and communication, being at university on this particular course has developed my confidence most of all, which is absolutely crucial for being a teacher in a high school. Being capable of addressing a group of people confidently would not have been considered a plausible achievement for me before attending university; however, particularly after being the director of the second semester fiction, I feel that this is going to be especially easy for me in comparison to how quiet I was at the start of first year.

As described within the previous portfolio, I have always had an interest in writing and this will ideally suit the English PGCE that I am looking to pursue. As there are currently very little PGCEs that focus on Media Studies, the route into being an English teacher seems the most appropriate as Media and English often cross over, particularly at GCSE level. Throughout the duration of this course, my writing skills have certainly improved as I have been required to write several scripts on many occasions. For the project of the second semester of third year, as director, I suggested that I write the script due to the fact that I had plenty of ideas for it and wanted to put my writing skills up for the judgement of my peers, which has proved quite successful. I feel that my skills have developed significantly as this is the first time that I have had my writing critically analysed by peers, rather than tutors. As my peers are also my friends, they have been unafraid to tell me what they really think and have also had blossoming ideas to contribute as well. Despite the fact that I wrote the majority of the script, it has been a wholly collaborative effort to achieve something that we all like as a crew. Even now, during production, the script is changing, developing and morphing into something new as what may be written on paper, may not sound as fantastic when read aloud in context by an actor. I am always willing to take constructive criticism and I am always eager to hear other people’s ideas because it is usually more of an advantage to use them rather than to work in isolation; as evidenced by Smith-Worthington and Jefferson, “Often writing produced collaboratively is better than anything anyone could have written individually. Interdependence is necessary in today’s work environment. You are stronger when you use others’ strengths along with your own,” (2010, p. 93). Collaboration, again, is one of the main skills and requirements when considering taking a career in education. Not only is it necessary for working with colleagues in regards to curriculum and politics surrounding schools, but it is also highly useful for working with teenagers. These skills will support me when I am required to advise a student and help them progress with their writing, as well as allowing me to transfer the skills onto them so that they know how to work effectively with their peers.

As a Film and Television student, I have a lot of interest and knowledge in technology. As depicted within the first portfolio, I explain that my technical skills have improved with regards to sound operating. I found this relatively easy to pick up and get a handle of as I am quite technologically savvy and open to learning about new pieces of equipment. Alongside knowing how to use the sound mixer, I am also capable of using the editing software, AVID Media Composer, provided by the university. As described within the first portfolio, I have always been a keen editor and pride myself on being able to determine how to use a piece of software efficiently without much guidance. In this sense, I am quite logical as sound operation and design, and editing are all relatively logical skills to master. In terms of how these technical and logical skills will relate to a career in education, I am prepared to introduce a lot of technology into the classroom and incorporate it into students’ learning. At this current time, technology is regarded as quite a frightening concept to some teachers who are afraid that it will diminish the traditional methods of teaching and will make teachers obsolete, as supported by this article, written by Edward Lawless (2014) from Teacher Network on The Guardian website, “There was some anxiety in the room about what would happen to “authentic teaching”, whether online learning could really offer “meaningful activity” and “true engagement”, and if social media could provide “real interaction”.” This article speaks about a debate about technology held in The Great King’s College, London and suggests that several teaching staff are unsure about technology and social networks being used in the classrooms, whereas the students are not. As we are now in a world where some children are given an iPhone or a Kindle Fire when they are six years of age, and children are constantly surrounded by technology and social networks as they grow, it is important that this is reflected in their learning time as they will learn more efficiently with something that they are familiar with and can take home with them.

Ethical and Political Evaluation of Future Practice

With regards to how I would perform within the education sector, I have always been a strong believer in fair pay, both in terms of gender equality and in relation to working hours. It is known that teaching unions are keen to increase teachers’ pay and throughout my school career, I have experienced a few strikes that the teachers took part in, in order to get their voices heard. This type of action, I believe, is important to the function and structure of the education system; it signifies that there are teachers – who essentially shape the future generations – that are prepared to fight for their rights and each other. Where it would be appropriate to suggest that teachers should have a passion for leading children towards their dreams, no matter what, it is clear that teachers need to live in order to do their job well and cannot be on duty twenty four hours a day. Similarly, working in the film and television industry is a career that encourages the employee or freelancers to live and breathe their work, without stopping, and to work tirelessly throughout all hours in order to achieve the vision. This has been in the limelight recently after the death of a camera assistant, Sarah Jones, who was killed on set by a mattress that was hit by a train as it was laid across live tracks. Many people are taking this as a sign that those in the industry who may not be considered that high up or ‘important’ within the hierarchy are often working too hard and sacrificing themselves for a project, and their efforts are going unnoticed. There are implications and speculations that those higher up are not caring for the ‘little guys’ and are more interested in taking care of the bigger jobs within the crew and the actors. As mainstream film and television production is entirely driven by money and funding, it is suggestible that producers aim to save money anywhere that they can and will cut corners in order to get the production made so that they can achieve their ratings and stick to the designated, often unreachable time limit. This, of course, is not evidenced and may well be incorrect; however, the effort and the amount of time that company employees put into film productions is often overlooked for the sake of money or the efficiency of the project. This is not just isolated to the film industry, however. Teachers within the education sector feel as though they are overlooked and pushed too hard and strike action is often taken to get their message across. Another example of a different industry is the miners strikes of the previous century, whereby miners felt as though too much was being asked of them for not enough and they felt as though their lives were being toyed with by the ‘higher-ups’. Unhappiness runs throughout each industry as it is a task to try to keep everyone happy and where politics is involved, everyone has a different opinion. My opinion centres around fairness and acceptance and I believe that this is due to attending university. Here I have learned how to work with people of different ages, beliefs and backgrounds and where in may not agree with somebody, I am always willing to work with them to achieve something creative together. This will enable me to work well with students in a high school as they all come from different backgrounds and no one student is the same. My ability to accept people for who they are will benefit me in this career and will allow me to take students to where they want to be.

Researched Case Study of New Day Films

Being a teacher is a very important role in society as you are the one responsible for shaping the next generation. Some people teach as their first career, which is what I am looking to do and some people start a career, achieve success and then become a teacher, enabling them to pass on their experience and knowledge from the practice and skills that they have developed in their own field. New Day is an American-based production company, spread across four different states and home to over one hundred filmmaker members. The company prides itself on its democratic approach to electing its committee members, meeting once a year for four days to do so. What is most interesting about New Day is that the majority of the members are teachers and are involved in making films that are suitable for the classroom. The films that they distribute are primarily documentaries and the committee members, or The Steering, as they are known, are renowned documentary directors, cinematographers and editors. Amalie Rothschild, Julia Reichert, Jim Klein, Liane Brandon joined together in 1971 to form the independent distribution company which would pave the way for more independent filmmakers to get their films seen by their audience and therefore their message conveyed. The fact that New Day is run by filmmakers for filmmakers emphasises its independence and suggests that it is a very selective company that is very particular about what films it distributes. Its committee varies from year to year and each time they are elected by the other members within the company, promoting its democratic ethos, which in turn is reflected within the films that they distribute. New Day’s ethos circulates around the democratic running of a company and being fair to all filmmakers and people of different backgrounds. As the films that they distribute are regarded as social issue documentaries, it emphasises how they are highly suitable for educational environments.

Within New Day’s blog on the company’s website, there is post concerning the reason for having filmmakers as members who are also full time educators. It discusses the benefits of being a filmmaker and a teacher and how this separates them from other distribution companies, both Hollywood and independent. By distributing to schools and other educational institutions, film and media is incorporated more into learning environments and is becoming a more common occurrence; however, as mentioned previously within this paper, some teachers are fearful of technology taking away the traditional teaching methods and they are wary of using it. New Day’s approach to film being used as a learning tool evidences that visual guidance for students is very effective, as demonstrated in their blog post, written by Symons (2014);

“Having the skills to communicate in a visual medium is a real asset to 21st century teaching. ‘Being a filmmaker and photographer makes me think how strong visuals can be,’ comments Leena Jayaswal, associate professor at American University and maker of Crossing Lines. ‘Students tend to learn the concepts in a thorough and deeper way if there is a visual associate, whether it is a short video, a longer documentary or a still image.’”

By using media within the classroom, a teacher is able to evidence their lesson and allow the students to take in the information in their own way. As information is constantly fed to us, wherever we are, it is easy for a student to watch a video and take in the knowledge in their own time and way, as supported by a quote from Guevara-Flanagan (2014) which features within the blog post, “Teaching, especially at a community college, really gives me a great perspective on how students read and think about media, which affects the potential they see in themselves.” New Day, as a company that is committed to distributing films that are suitable for schools and educational institutions, has started a streaming service on their website, titled New Day Digital (NDD). This allows a consumer to log into the website and stream New Day’s films directly to their computer for a modest price, which makes it exceptionally easy for a teacher to access and show films to their students, as promoted by their website (2009), “Today’s students expect media to be instantly available, and with streaming through NDD, it can be – a benefit that adds substantially to the attractiveness of your institution.”  NDD is an incredibly useful and current concept, following in the footsteps of BBC iPlayer, Netflix and other such digital streaming websites. Video On Demand is becoming a more widely accepted format of watching and is gradually blurring the lines between television, film and online media and allows viewers to watch virtually anything at their disposal, whenever they please. Now, it is difficult to name a mainstream television channel that does not have an ‘on demand’ service online. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to speak the language of your students, particularly in this day and age when technology is rife and difficult to shy away from, therefore it is logical for an educational film distribution company to allow teachers the opportunity to be resourceful and up to date with technology, as supported by Cohen on New Day’s website (2009), “With New Day Digital, it’s such a simple process for students to screen films outside of class…Students can link to films from our library website and watch anywhere, anytime. This means that I can assign feature-length films the same way I would assign a book.” The fact that New Day allows teachers and students to stream outside of classroom hours adds to the academic value of the service, and in theory, would advance the engagement that a student would have with the lesson; some students are more keen to watch a film than to read a book.

What is most interesting about the members of New Day being educators as their full time job is that the careers are identifiable with each other and have strong similarities, which is one of the main reasons why I believe I am highly capable at becoming a teacher. This is evidenced by Richman-Cohen, a member of New Day, on the blog (2014), “Filmmakers and teachers are  both storytellers at their core. To be a good storyteller, I’m constantly challenged to think about ways to engage my audience, be it in a movie theater or a classroom.” The idea that as a teacher, you are a storyteller greatly appeals to me as I have a huge interest in writing and creating stories and I am constantly aware of my audience, after many lectures and seminars on the matter. As claimed in the first portfolio, in order to produce a sound piece of work, you need to understand your audience completely, otherwise you intend for failure. This has been particularly useful and important during second semester as the project that I am directing has a very specific and niche audience that communicates and shares ideas primarily online. My goal is to become a high school teacher and I think that this Film and Television Production degree has given me the tools that I need in order to achieve this, as supported by J Clements, a New Day member and high school teacher in Washington (2009), “Both professions have a lot of similarities: they are challenging, involve something new every day, and aim to make a difference in the world.” The idea of making a difference in the world is always something that I have wanted, even before teaching crossed my mind and New Day as a concept, suggests to me that I can be a full time teacher and still be involved in the independent filmmaking world because it is something that I enjoy.

Statement on the social, cultural and political impact of my ambitions

In regards to being a teacher in the future, the most obvious impact that my aspirations will have will be on the children that I teach. The dream for most teachers is to bring students to success and to show them the best of their abilities, just as my teachers did for me. Many teachers struggle with students who are not quite engaged with their lessons and are keen to skip school; however, the achievement of turning them around and getting them to realise how important education is would  be fantastic. It is this that drives a teacher; the want to be able to make students see that education is extremely useful in life and while you are a student at high school or college, the world is still your oyster. As Film and Television Production is a creative degree, and a member of the arts, I am very interested in the creativity of others. This interest in other people’s products will enable me to be a good media teacher as I will want to help the students to create their own practical pieces as part of their curriculum. After being director for the second semester of year three, I have discovered that my creativity is legitimate and understandable by other people, which in turn will allow me to help students to achieve their own creative abilities. My experience of working in a student, yet still professional film crew should prove very useful as a media teacher as I now have a better understanding of the film products that are out there on the market and I know how to make a film successfully. However, Media Studies is as much a theoretical course as it is practical. With any academic degree, there are theoretical elements to it, including Film and Television Production. Media Studies is no different, other than the content that it covers is more broad, focusing on print in magazines and online material as well. As I have spent three years learning about various theories related to film and the media, including postmodernism and the representation of gender, I will able to use the curriculum and my knowledge to teach students effectively. Being interested in film gives me an appreciation for the arts and where there are some things that indo not understand, such as contemporary art, I do have an appreciation for the time and thought that has often gone into it. One of my goals is to get students interested in the arts and show them that art is not all about being able to paint and draw, art is about the creativity that you can bring to a project and then create together with a few other people. Being proud of a group collaboration is art and being proud of what you have made is incredibly important if you want to work in an industry like the media.

It is clear that going to school is intended to give a student good grades and set them up for the beginning of their life; however, some speculation has arisen recently in regards to the more spiritual lessons that schools should be teaching, as evidenced within this article written by Moorhead from The Guardian Online (2014), “This week a report is published calling for more of what its authors say matter most – not exam results and league tables, but the spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspects of education or, in a nutshell, the “soul” of a school.” I believe that it is incredibly important for schools to teach students how to be good people, how to function socially and how to appreciate what they have in life. By teaching students about morals and cultural issues, it broadens their minds and allows them to think outside of the box, taking into account that there is more to life and education other than exams. More recently, there has been a lot of stress on exam results, each year claiming that they are getting worse and that the exams are getting too easy, when in fact by trying to solve this problem, they are making them stressful for students and discouraging them from achieving success, “Schools have to deliver on national targets, they have to deliver on national strategies for raising standards and they are regularly assessed and inspected in order to ensure they are sticking to the script,” (Dillon, 2011, p.33). Ofsted inspections are increasingly stressful for teachers and therefore students as the school could be greatly affected by the judgement. It is this that suggests why there is less of a push for the more ‘spiritual’ lessons and a more forceful drive for academic targets to be reached; however, it should not be thought that these skills are useless, “[Gary Lewis] believes the sort of skills Ofsted might regard as “soft” – sociability, personal skills – could in the long term be the very attributes a young person needs for genuine, rounded success in life,” (Moorhead, 2014). The impact of my aspirations socially would entail a push for more spiritual lessons, not so that they completely take over the academic attributes of school, nut so that students can have some kind of break from exams and can progress their own personalities.

Conclusion

Over the course of these three years I believe that I have demonstrated capability with technology and collaboration. I have proved that I am creative through my role as director in third year and have made it clear that I am able to adapt to any role given to me, such as sound designer. These skills allow me flexibility within any other working environment, as my key skill is that I am able to work well with a group of people all from different backgrounds who I may or may not get along with for whatever reason. Some people would consider it disappointing that I no longer wish to be a part of the film industry; however I see it as an opportunity to achieve something that I really want which is not necessarily related to a career. I see financial stability and a good family life surrounded by lots of friends the key to being successful. After the many guest lecturers that visited us, I decided that I do not want to live the student life forever, I want to grow up and by doing so I want to become a teacher so that I can pass on the knowledge that I have to a student who does want to become a filmmaker and I will help them achieve that.

 

Bibliography

Dillon, J., Maguire, M. (2011) Becoming a Teacher: Issues in Secondary Education. 4th Ed. Berkshire, Opern University Press.

DiMaggio, M. (2007) Screenwriting: Insider Tips and Techniques to Write for the Silver Screen. Avon, F+W Publications, Inc.

McAlpine, M. (2003) What Can I Do with a Media Studies Degree? Surrey, Trotman Publishing.

Smith-Worthington, D., Jefferson, S. (2010) Technical Writing for Success. 3rd Ed. Mason, South-Western Cengage Learning.

Lawless, E. (2014) Technology in education: if students aren’t worried, why are teachers? [Internet] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/mar/10/technology-education-students-teachers-worried [Accessed: 13th March 2014]

Moorhead, J. (2014) Call for ‘year off’ so schools can search their souls. [Internet]. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/11/spiritual-moral-social-cultural-education-schools [Accessed: 13th March 2014]

Symons, J. (2014) The Teacher-Filmmakers of New Day [Internet Blog] Available from: http://www.newday.com/blog/2014/the-teacher-filmmakers-of-new-day/ [Accessed 20th March 2014]

New Day Digital (2009) New Day Digital Homepage [Internet]. Available from: http://newday.iriseducation.org/ [Accessed 11th March 2014]

New Day Films (2009) New Day Films Homepage [Internet]. Available from: http://www.newday.com/ [Accessed 11th March 2014]