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MA Media students unite in isolation for production

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Published on 16 July 2020

MA Media productions
MA Media productions

After just starting their MA Media (Film and Television) degree in January this year, the students were not only hit by the coronavirus lockdown, but they were also tasked with producing films as part of their course.  

 With students isolating back at home in England, Ireland and Wales, there was a huge geographical challenge for the three groups to use the digital equipment at their disposal, but all the productions have been praised by their academics for their creativity and professionalism.  

 Gary Stubbs, Programme Leader for MA Media Production (Film & Television), explained: “When the university went into lockdown the students had only been here for around three months and as with most programmes we took everything online, but as the lockdown continued it became clear that I would need to find a way for the students to complete modules and undertake a larger group production module with equipment they had available such as mobile phones, digital SLR cameras.  

“So, my problem was how do we form three production groups with students living in multiple locations across England, Ireland and Wales during a lockdown and how will they all work collaboratively and most importantly creatively through the process.  

“Our MA is very industry-focused so my immediate thought was how is the industry working during the lockdown, after some research and speaking to some industry contacts I decided to use ITV’s Isolation stories as a blueprint to how we could work.   

“Although the ease in the lockdown has helped over the last couple of weeks it has still been a very challenging but innovative time for the students. Just last week one of the groups shot from 9am to 9pm interactively via Zoom with the writer in Wales, editor in Ireland, director in Sunderland and the camera operator (who is also one of our undergraduate Screen Performance students) sharing the camera screen live, filming at her home location following the director’s instructions.”  

Gary added: “This has been a difficult time, but the students have done extremely well to do what they have done, and I’m immensely proud of all their efforts.”  

Zoe Danielle Heslop, Programme Student Rep and Avid editor on one of the films, said: “Producing a film for our Masters degree was a very challenging experience during lockdown, but it was also an endeavour that required us to come together as a team more than ever.      “Working remotely was something we had never anticipated when we started our MA adventures in January, and the thought of doing so was initially a huge panic.      “When talking about my own experiences of lockdown film making, it was particularly demanding as I was 200 miles away working remotely as the editor throughout the project. But, with the hard work and determination shown by my production team and the unprecedented support from our tutors, we managed to pull together and accomplish the task at hand. Overall, we managed to turn our sorrows in to success, and our trepidations in to triumph - I couldn’t be more proud of the MA students and tutors on the Film and TV Production course.”  

The productions have now been virtually screened across the University’s Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries, and will also be submitted to film festivals targeted at young filmmakers later this year. This includes the Royal Television Society, where Sunderland students have enjoyed huge success in the past, collecting dozens of awards.