Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Student profile: Jenny Rands

Third year CATF student Jenny Rands gives an account of her work experience..

What on earth are you doing in that photo??

The photograph was taken at Robert Allsopps' Workshop (this picture sums up what work experience is all are ask to do the most weird and wonderful things!) The photo shows myself trying on a Crocodile costume which had come back to the workshop for alterations....they needed someone to put it on to see the problem...I was apparently the right size for it....

Where are you/have you been working? 

I'm currently working at the Royal Opera House (in Covent Garden) as a Front of House usher. Since January 2011 I have worked at the Royal National Theatre (within the Paint Frame), within the Props Departments at the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and with the English National Opera, smaller companies I've worked for have been Robert Allsopps and Associates (Costume Props Company), Russell Beck Studio (Props / Scenic company for Theatre / Exhibitions etc), Factory Settings (Set Construction Company) and at the Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop (The Royal Opera House's new production workshop based in Purfleet, Essex).

How long were you there?

Take the English National Opera for example... My first encounter with them was on the 31st January 2011. I completed 4 weeks work experience with them. I then went onto work for various other companies (Robert Allsopps, The National Theatre and the ROH) I decided to ask to go back in I was surrounded by the world of ENO props for another month. After this I was told to sort out my tax reference number as they were going to employ me! Unfortunately summer was very quiet but I went back in October to work on the production of Eugene Onegin.

What productions did you work on?

[In addition to all the other placements], throughout my time with the English National Opera I have worked on producing and maintaining props for their Opera productions - Lucrezia Borgia, Parsifal, The Mikado, Return of Ulysses, The Damnation of Faust, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Simon Boccanegra, Two Boys (all within the 2010/2011 season) and Eugene Onegin (an opera within the 2011/2012 season).

What kind of things did you do?

There were a variety of projects ("no two days were the same"). Techniques within the projects to produce a numerous amount of props would be welding, upholstering, different painting techniques, moulding, casting, vacuum forming...seriously the list goes on.....

What did you get out of it?

Invaluable experience, new skills and techniques used in the industry that would not necessarily be introduced within the University environment and contacts :)

What you think of the work placement aspect of doing the course?

It is the best aspect since sliced bread. There's nothing more important then getting a taste of the 'real world'. You could be an amazing sculptor, welder, painter or glue sticker but if you stay in the safe surroundings of University nobody will know how amazing you are. The saying it's not what you know, it's who you an alarming but very true saying within the Creative industry today. So my advice would be to get out there as much as you can until the tax man comes knocking!!

And it sounds like the tax man will soon be knocking.  Being offered work by the English National Opera on the basis of Jenny's performance on work placement bodes very well for UCA's Creative Arts for Theatre and Film graduates!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Student Profiles: Miriam Abou-Shehada

Third year student Miriam Abou-Shehada answers some questions about her work experience at PropShop Modelmakers in Pinewood Studios, Bucks.

Here is Miriam (second from the left) with fellow workers, and some of her work:

How long were you there?  1 month and 3 months in the Summer

What did you work on?

‘Wrath of the Titans’ 2012
‘47 Ronin’ 2012
‘Dark Shadows’ 2012
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ 2012
‘Jack the Giant Killer’ 2012
‘Snow White and the Huntsman’
‘World War Z’ 2014
‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ 2011
‘Bond 23 - Skyfall’ 2012
McCains Chips advert – ‘Chip Perfection’ 2011 (see below)

What did you do on that project?  LOTS of Resin, foam Casting, Silicon moulding, scenic painting, spray painting, polystyrene sculpting, sanding, filling, gluing, polishing, basic workshop maintaining and making lots of Tea!

What did you get out of it?  The possibility of a Job once I have graduated. Experience in the industry; quick methods, making things I had never made before, using tools I had never used before. An insight into how things are actually made in films and being there to experience first hand. Going on sets of a film especially is exciting, especially when you see that scene in the cinema after it’s finished. Learning about being freelance, how to be on production of a film, how much props cost to make, the skills needed in order to be successful in this industry.

What do you think of the work placement aspect of doing the course?


Well done Miriam.  With the possibility of a job for the taking when you complete this year, it sounds like it has been more than worth the effort!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Student Profile: Lara Hatley on work experience

Third year Creative Arts for Theatre and Film student Lara Hatley has had a busy time on work experience recently. 

Where?  Factory Settings Ltd. - a scenic fabrication company.

How long?  I did my full 12 weeks there then continued with them throughout summer, overall I spent 6 months working there.

What did you work on?  Numerous projects for theatres, to exhibitions at the V&A as well as travelling exhibitions and plays. 

What did you do?  On each project I undertook a variety of tasks. Whilst there I learnt carpentry and how to make a variety of flats, furniture etc. I also did a lot of painting and scenic painting of the sets and props. I also learnt metal work, leaning how to weld metal together, grind and clean metals and how to contruct metal frames. I also made a stained glass window as well as numerous different props. 

What did you get out of it?  The techniques and methods I picked up from the workers at factory settings were invaluable. Working there enabled me to read technical drawings and apply what i had read into a prop or set. I had never even thought about doing metal work and absolutly loved it and want to do more metal work in the future. I also got to visit theatres to set up the props and sets as well as getting to go "behind the scenes" at the V&A which was a really good experience.  Probably the most valuable thing I got from the work experience was the pace things were made. I could make things so quickly by using the correct techniques, and I saw sets being built in a day whereas in the uni environment you get a much longer deadline.

I personally think that the work experience aspect of the course is the most important part of the 3 years. Not only does it make you more independent as a person having to find the work etc., but it is an experience that readies you for what is to come once the course is over. 
 Lara has also  been working on the set of the new film Magwitch, from Viola Films.  

The film is conceived as a prequel to Charle Dickens' 'Great Expectations'.  Here are some photos of work in progress.

The film will receive its world premiere on 11th February 2012 in Rochester Cathedral.  Follow Viola Films on Twitter here.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sets, Scenes and Environments: Tintoretto

Tintoretto (1518-94) was a 16th century Venetian painter.  His work is often classed as mannerist because of his stylisation and his use of acute depths of space, but contains many elements of the Baroque - particularly the drama of light and shade.  

His paintings are often on a colossal scale.

Here is the abstract for a Masters thesis by Van Khanh Pham, which discusses Tintoretto as a stage and costume designer:

Tintoretto, one of the great Venetian masters of the sixteenth century, is renowned for his compositional innovations. The painter also worked as a stage and costume designer for the Compagnie della Calza. As a result, he selected and combined elements of other disciplines in his pictures. This thesis focuses on the fusion of the arts in Tintoretto's imagery. A comprehensive analysis of this interdisciplinary aspect reveals the subtlety of Tintoretto's creative mind. The challenge is to discover Tintoretto as a stage designer who conceived pictures as theatrical performances. Instead of the traditional preparatory sketch, he built a miniature stage in order to visualize the scene in tangible forms existing in light and space. The design of the setting, the gestural choreography of his personages and the distribution of lighting were analysed and then translated into painted illusion. With this unusual methodology, Tintoretto invented forceful mise-en-scenes which induce the spectator to perceive the imaginary as real. A substantial knowledge of stagecraft also enabled him to bring to vibrant life the dramatic episodes of the Bible on canvas. Through such artfully constructed theatrical illusion, Tintoretto not only re-creates a vision for his audience, but above all, conveys the depth of his spiritual experience.

The full text of the dissertation can be read by following the link to the pdf here.

Sets, Scenes and Environments: Aki Kaurismaki's 'The Match Factory Girl

Here are some stills from one of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's wonderful films, 'The Match Factory Girl'.  Like most of Kaurismaki's films, it focuses on an outsider - here a woman, Iris, who is isolated and unhappy.  She works in a match factory, and lives with her parents.  Kaurismaki's mise-en-scene is richly coloured and composed.

Bleak browns, blues and greys infuse daily life - the flowered patterns are cheap, old and autumnal, but they suggest the possibility of hope.  Iris' pink headband tying back her greasy hair is an assertive note, perhaps an expression of her strength and individuality.

Iris meets a man.  The pink that was confined to her hairband finds full expression in the dress she buys for her date - colour enters her life.

The protagonist's bleak life is turned around when she falls pregnant after the one-night stand.  There is the possibility of a new life, and she prepares to meet her lover to tell him the news.  He brutally rejects her.  Note the baby-clothes colours and bottle of pop with a straw, and how the change in her hair subtly suggests her feelings.

The drama unfolds into a tale of revenge, told with great black humour. Poison is involved.

Here is the compelling opening scene of a match factory production line:

There's an excellent article on Kaurismaki on the Senses of Cinema website here.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The God Delusion

I've been watching the God Delusion with Richard Dawkins on 4OD (channel 4)... Its really interesting. I think it touches on a lot of subjects raised in our lectures including identity/ideology and how our perceptions on religion and our faith in things and people can be affected by our cultural and social backgrounds... anyway here's the link!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sets, Scenes and Environments: Gary McCann's designs for Grimm Tales

Here is British theatre designer Gary McCann's set for 'Grimm Tales', Carol-Ann Duffy's version of the classic tales adapted by Rachel O'Riordan in Manchester, 2009.

There is a wonderful magic realism about the set - inside and outside are seamlessly blended.  Notice the relative sizes of the chairs - the chair at the back appears to fill much more of the space than the chair at the front - telling us that the one-point perspective is highly exaggerated. For an account of how this distorted space worked with the actors, there's review from the Independent newspaper here.

Gary McCann's excellent website (with more images of the Grimm Tales) can be seen here.