We recently welcomed our eighth group of Oxford University academics for our workshop Talking Heads & TV Talent. The training, led by our Development Producer Hannah Veale, helps participants navigate the TV production industry.
The group came from a diverse range of fields ranging from English literature to anthropology and Middle Eastern economics. All were keen to build their understanding of the television production industry and explore how to reach out to factual producers.
Demystifying factual television
For the uninitiated the TV production system is notoriously difficult to navigate. Understanding the many structures, hierarchies and job titles makes it difficult to know who to approach. People involved in the production process all have crucial roles, but with differing levels of editorial input.
Academics are often approached by television producers looking for a contribution, but without a clear understanding of the process, an expert can feel uncomfortable taking part, unsure about how their appearance will be edited.
This lack of transparency on both sides is keeping potentially excellent and engaging presenters off our screens, and preventing research from finding an audience outside of academia. We created our TV training workshop to bridge this divide.
What we cover
Every University term, ten early career researchers come to our studios near Oxford for a half-day workshop. We take participants through the factual television production process, from original idea to delivery to the broadcaster, and deconstruct the editorial chain of command. We share intelligence on what television commissioners are looking for, how to effectively pitch an idea to a production company, and how to adapt academic research for a television audience.
For those interested in contributing to programmes but not necessarily originating them, we provide training on how to give a great interview. This covers everything from advice on phrasing and the art of a great ‘sound bite,’ to tips on clothing and delivery.
Academics have the opportunity to practice what they learn in a brief interview in our purpose-built studio, while their peers watch via video link in the next room. They then get to take the results with them at the end of the session to use as part of a ‘showreel.’
The editing process
We make a point of taking participants through the editing process with a real-time edit of one of the interviews. We show how the narrative is developed for a television audience, creating sound bites, cutaway images and music, for the true television documentary effect. This insight gives them a useful perspective for developing their interview techniques.
The benefits of the training go beyond the techniques learned on the day. Every participant becomes part of a roster of academics that are willing to contribute to future television productions and who have an understanding of how factual production works. This basic expertise can save a producer significant time and money across all stages of production.
Since we began the training, many academics have come back to us with great ideas. If we think a proposal will appeal to broadcasters, we help with developing the pitch. We are currently in production for an online series about medical technology, which will soon appear on the Oxford Digital Media YouTube channel.
“Our researchers have found their time with Hannah Veale at Oxford Digital Media to be invaluable, providing them with an excellent introduction to the world of commissioning and TV media. They especially appreciated Hannah’s enthusiasm and professionalism, and how her friendly and approachable nature made doing a filmed interview for the first time less daunting than it might otherwise have been.” John Miles, Humanities Training Officer, Humanities Division, University of Oxford
To find out more about our TV training for academics, contact Hannah Veale – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01865 241007.