Hacking Contemporary Screen Acting: Pedagogy of “doing stuff” #uwsltas

This is the second year that Stuart Hepburn has asked me to guest lecture as part of his Contemporary Screen Acting (CSA) degree at University of the West of Scotland. CSA is different from say, a general acting qualification, because it asks the students to see beyond simply doing a vocational course in becoming an actor. It is designed by Stuart, to provide a well-round introduction to media production industry, whilst empowering students to take control of their own careers, rather than assuming that a degree in acting is enough, they learn how to put themselves out there.

They do this by learning the different crew roles of putting together films – they are not only actors, but capable of basic film making, editing, script writing, ‘reccying’ and legal side, storytelling and critical creative practice – knowing when they can do and knowing when they need to work with others.

They also get the chance to learn about how the web can be used as a device for promotion and reflective, and my role both years has been to introduce blogging and social media into the mix. This time, I’ve been given two sessions, the first (very similar to this one) I delivered a month ago and gave them a broad introduction to the context of the web and why it is important for them to care. The second session, a workshop that I kept deliberately vague would compliment what Stuart has been doing over the past month.

Little known fact about me is that I actually specialised in film making  when I was at university (and even though all my placements were with indie studios, I never really did anything with it, I ended up focusing on the production side of thing (code for being able to do anything and everything – averagely.) so it wasn’t until I was in Istanbul (and working with actual proper filmmaker Maria Gabriella Ruben from Little Star Productions) that I realised how important the skills that I picked up at university were. Being able to do and understand the roles (even if it isn’t the best that it can be) means that you can do your own ‘job’  whilst supporting others. Being able to get the narrative onto film, edited and online – whilst pleasing clients & being in ‘real-time’ and present is a tough, intense job, and it is something that is going to be expected in the future. We have these creative media tools at our fingertips, we need to harness the hell out of them.

So today, I had the students looks at two films that Little Star had made for future everything festival. The first was an interview to camera, the second was a interpretation of the interview through other means. They then were given access to cogdog’s web 2.0 storytelling wiki and given some time to sketch out a character who would be acted out by one of their team and interviewed that day. They had been asked to bring an object with them (one brought a my little pony, another a empty jar etc) and they were to construct a narrative around the object and the character.

By the end of the day they had shot footage of their interview, as well as uploaded it onto the machines for the first time, extracted audio and been given the task to produce a different, personal interpretation of piece through editing. Bearing in mind they have never edited before – and never really produced a piece of work in this way, the exercise (I think) was designed to get them to learn the technical stuff behind their industry through the act of doing, not for me to chalk-and-talk the finite points of editing software. I’m no expert, I’m just good at googling.

The footage will be uploaded next week – with 4-8 videos edited by 4 groups, all using the same base-line audio & their own interpretation of footage of a character that they created themselves. This in turn will be uploaded onto their posterous accounts (they created on week 2 with me) & submission for coursework will be addressed through the medium of tweeting the link using the hashtag #uwscsa – this is hope we’ve managed to link acting, to social media, to understanding production and back again. Hacking pedagogy.