Over the last couple of years, The University of Edinburgh have turned an ugly car park into a gleaming white cube, where they house some of their biggest brains, and Stephanie Brickman of Development & Alumni gave me a day to make three web films about it. This is one of them. I only got to play with the effervescent Professor Mike Fourman for an hour, so I thought the best thing to do would be to go walkabout and let him show us his new building.
It struck me some time ago that children who have grown up in the last decade have a more intuitive grasp of image making and new media than the rest of us, so I was delighted when the Trustees of Belhaven Hill, a prep school in East Lothian, agreed with my suggestion that we could make a more interesting portrait of the school if we saw it through the childrens' eyes.
I brought in the gifted documentary maker, Tracey Fearnehough, who specialises in working with children and over eight months we worked with the pupils in year one to make a 15 minute film, of which this is the title sequence. It was conceived and written by the children themselves, and realised with the help of Tracey, award wining animator Christina Ertze and editor Ling Lee.
I've made three promos for educational establishments over the last year, and this one, for QVS, the only boarding school in Scotland for the children of serving members of the Armed Forces, was the first.
I had hoped to get the kids to make their own films but for various reasons this didn't happen, so the programme is more of a traditional observational documentary than it might have been.
That said, the school were great, gave me complete access and allowed me to show aspects of the every day life of the kids and staff that most clients would have been very reluctant to include. I think the finished film is the stronger for it and this clip is just one example.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of making this promo for Edinburgh University was working with four students to help them make their own, one minute autobiographical films about their time there.
I originally briefed about a dozen students but only four lasted the course and this, by a law student whose name I'm ashamed to admit I've forgotten was one of my favourites. While we had some great contributors, from novelists Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith to the venerable statesman Tam Dalziel, I think it was the student films that swung the CASE jury sufficiently to grant the project a Silver Award.
I've made three films about very different educational establishments over the last 18 months, but they've had one thing in common. Every time I've presented the rough cut, the client has said, "It's great, we love it, don't change a thing!" (which is not my usual experience...)
The most recent one was for Belhaven Hill, a prep school in East Lothian where the Governors and Headmaster went with my suggestion that the children should make their own film, so I brought in documentary maker Tracey Fernehough who specialises in working with children to act as their guide and mentor. We filmed for almost a year and ended up making a pair of portraits - Amo Amas Amat which is my film, and Amamus Amatis Amant, which the kids made themselves with help from Tracey and Animator Cristina Ertze. The premiere was at The National Gallery of Scotland which has a wonderful Theatre and a good time was had by all...
I spent 6 months in 2006 working with Colin Cameron of Lion TV as Writer/Producer/Director on a promo for the campaign to raise £350 million for Edinburgh University. Launched in October last year, the Alumni & Development Team had raised £200 million by August 2007, and the film had won a Silver at the CASE awards in the USA, where it was described as "richly layered, compelling, well integrated...an outstanding example of case stating via fundraising video".
What made it more interesting was that the University embraced my suggestion that we invite some students to make their own one minute films as part of the project and included three of them in the final programme. As the judges said, it was 'a particularly gutsy move' and it's an idea I've developed further in more recent projects.
I'll upload a clip in due course, but if you want to see the whole programme, please drop me a line.