Playing Out

Back in August three roads closed to traffic in Kings Heath to allow kids (and willing adults!) to ‘play out’.  It’s something associated with a bygone era – all of those street games that were so much a part of our grandparents’ childhoods.  A new initiative, called ‘Playing Out’ is trying to create spaces for children to rediscover the art of play – and with it give them opportunities to meet neighbours, form new friendships and to gain a sense of belonging within their own neighbourhoods.

I filmed the event in August for a short promotional film.  There is now a large network of people – residents, play organisations, artists – beavering away to make sure that there will be plenty more events like this.  The film aims to give others inspiration to get their streets closed.  If you are interested then go to www.playingout.net or contact Louise Palfreyman – details at the end of the film.

Discover Dance!

I was a keen little dancer as a kid – ballet, tap, stage dancing.  A precocious little ball of energy, clad in pink lycra with hair in a tight, tight bun and face caked in blue eyeshadow on the stage of Aldridge Youth Theatre.  I loved it, and always get a tingle when I see others experiencing the liberation of leaping about, the point when they are given permission to let go of inhibitions and discover how joyous dance can be.

So how wonderful was it to document a project that encourages dance in the middle of lessons?  Yes, that’s right.  Dance in English.  Dance in Maths.  Dance in French!  And for that to be coupled with seeing professional dancers perform in the middle of your classroom?  To have the opportunity to go on a trip to see a live contemporary dance show?  Tingly.

‘Discover Dance’, a project developed by DanceXchange and Dance4, brings live professional dance to the classroom and uses dance to engage pupils in learning key subjects in a creative, exciting way.  It’s hard to visualise how dance can be relevant to learning about algebra, but as you can see from the film, this works.  Pupils use their bodies to explore concepts and ideas that may not make so much sense on paper.  It’s fun, and so, so liberating to push the desks to one side.  Pupils also have the opportunity to attend a live dance performance, to make connections between what they have learnt in school and the world of professional dance performance in professional venues.  Inspiring stuff.

I’ve been documenting the pilot project in two schools.  The short documentary is now doing the rounds of schools to encourage other schools to participate in developing the project further and bring this wonderful scheme to others.  I think it’s a great idea.  See for yourself.

Discover Dance from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

I’ve worked with the fabulous staff at DanceXchange before – their creativity, vision and commitment to advocate for dance as an art form is wonderful to be around.  Jane Ralls, DanceXchange’s Dance Development Director also provided me with this wonderful reference.

“Rachel Gillies is a wonderful community film-maker, demonstrating real ability to make people feel at ease with her presence and obtain exciting and relevant footage. As the film-maker for our Discover Dance project in 2013, she had a warm and friendly manner and was exceptionally flexible in approach. She did a excellent job of editing the material that she captured to create a snappy advocacy film for us to promote the project – and its already been used on numerous occasions. She would be a real asset to any education/community project – either to help document and evaluate work or to help with promotion.”

If you are a teacher and want to learn more then do contact DanceXchange (in the West Midlands) or Dance4 (in the East Midlands).  Teachers and pupils were raving about the project – I’m excited to see how it develops!

Health Visitor promotional film

One of the wonderful things of being a film maker rooted in my local community is seeing people who I have worked with or filmed in the day to day. Yesterday I went swimming and saw someone who I had last seen when I filmed her on a bug hunt! Today I was chuffed to bump into (and film!) two women I had met about three years ago when they were attending a breastfeeding support group! Not only are their daughters growing up big and bright and happy, one has a younger sibling and the other will have one imminently!

Unfortunately they had not seen the final film which promoted Health Visitor Services. So, if you are one of the two wonderfully obliging women who have allowed me to put the camera in your faces on more than one occasion, this is for you!  Thank you!

Health Visitor Film Part 1 from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Health Visitor Film Part 2 from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Importing AVCHD MTS footage to Final Cut Pro

I’m NO expert when it comes to the technical side of film-making, but I do, when required spend a fair bit of time on Google, sifting through discussion forums to find a solution to whatever problem I’m faced with. Recently I bought a Canon XA-10 camera to replace my trusty and well-loved Canon XL2 (which I’m on the cusp of selling but I’m still thinking that it’s a fantastic camera and could be brilliant in some circumstances, despite being SD.  If you’re interested in buying then get in touch).

When I got it home and started playing I realised that the MTS format I wanted to film in wasn’t immediately compatible with Final Cut Pro 7.  Rather frustrated that I couldn’t scoot through the footage on Preview (much like a .mov file when imported), I started looking through forums.  No, I didn’t cave in and open a bottle of wine.  Yes, it was tempting.

So (and this is just my limited experience so far), you DON’T need to pay to download expensive software.  Just change the import settings to one of the Apple ProRes 422 settings (use Proxy or LT for small file sizes, the normal Apple ProRes 422 setting for quite large, or HQ for the best quality) and import the MTS files through the Log and Transfer window.  It allows you to view clips in real time and decide what to import.  I’ve been able to edit with no problems, my first edit has been sent in this morning and I’m really happy with it.  There’s more information on the workflow in the FCP 7 handbook.

Editing

The reason I put this up is because it looks as though two companies, PavTube and BroSoft have hijacked all of the discussion threads to sell their software.  I may be missing a trick here.  Maybe I imagined that I converted my footage without any other software or plugins.  Maybe the software creates a better workflow.  Maybe the conversion results in better looking or sounding footage.  Maybe these companies are ripping people off.

Anyhow, I hope that this is of some use.  As I say, I’m no tech-head so I’m not wanting to get into a prolonged debate.  This works for me at the moment, it may work for others.  This post may save you some money.  Read around, decide what works for you…

‘Looking After’ children in care

Life can be stressful enough for children and young people within the care system without being passed from pillar to post when it comes to healthcare.  The Looked After Children’s Nursing Service provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for health screening and support.

I worked with pupils at Firsbrook School in Quinton to produce a short animation to illustrate what happens at an annual check up.  The young people, themselves classed as ‘Looked After Children’, worked with their Art teacher, Richard Upton and myself to create the animation.  This involved discussing their own apprehensions and experiences of accessing health care and advice.  This formed the basis of the script which we developed into a stop frame animation, using characters the group developed themselves.

AnimationThe young people are given annual check ups by a specialist team of nurses, and they also have the opportunity to discuss health issues with a specialist paediatrician.  This means that their physical and mental health can be monitored and managed, and support can be offered where needed.  Files are kept in one place and the young person will usually see the same person each year.

This animation formed part of a further film, based on interviews with nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants within the Looked After Children’s Health Team.  This explains in some details what children and young people can expect.

Daisy Hale, Elliot Sturman did a sterling acting job undergoing a mock check, and Jennifer Smith did a fantastic turn as a Social Worker (maybe a new career beckons?).  Huge thanks to everyone within the team was brave enough to go in front of the camera!  Thanks also to everyone at Firsbrook for making me feel so welcome – staff and pupils alike.

Got your attention?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which is hotly debated and widely misunderstood.  Where is the line between a ‘spirited’ or ‘badly behaved’ child and a child suffering from ADHD?  How can you tell?  Fortunately in Birmingham there is a service to which children can be referred in order to try and determine exactly that.

I was commissioned by Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust to develop a short film to outline what the ADHD Nurse Led Service does and to explain to parents, carers, school staff and school nurses how referrals can be made and how the assessment is conducted.

ADHD referral

1,000 DVDs were produced back in January (yes, I am incredibly behind in my blogging!), which are now being circulated in schools.  This is an important tool in aiding understanding of the condition and compliments the awareness-raising that the ADHD Nurse Led Service is already doing.

The film was produced in close collaboration with the ADHD team – Kim, Chris and Mel.  However, the real star of the show is Scrabble, Kim’s Springer Spaniel, who showed real professionalism in demonstrating some of the key symptoms of ADHD!

If you would like a copy of the film, or want to know more about the service then head to the service website for more information.

Monoxide Mole investigates

Over the past year there have been a number of really sad stories in the news about people dying as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  The tragedy of all of these incidents is that they are so easily preventable through a knowledge of the possible dangers and by getting appliances checked by a qualified and registered engineer.

In a bid to educate people on the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, the Gas Safety Trust funded Moseley Community Development Trust to work with local pupils at Park Hill Primary School to help spread the message.  Phil Beardmore, an expert on home energy issues (one of the many hats he wears!) developed a training session to teach adults working on the project what Carbon Monoxide is, what can make it hazardous, the signs of poisoning and how it can be prevented.

Gas Safety Project

This was a unique project as it was pupils themselves that took the lead on creating an advertising campaign.  I worked alongside the wonderfully talented and creative Sandra Taylor (formerly of the rather marvellous Playtrain organisation) to help the group develop their ideas, find creative ways of expressing what was quite a complex subject (especially for Key Stage 2 pupils!), and then to realise their vision through drama, narration, film and animation.

The result is a fun, informative film, developed and created by the pupils themselves which is now being shown in homes across Moseley.  The pupils learned new skills over the course of the project, but more importantly really took the message of Gas Safety on board.  1,000 DVDs have been produced to make sure that the message is spread far and wide, and the information is now available online on the Moseley CDT website.

Thanks to Sandra for all of her hard work co-ordinating the project, to Phil for his excellent training and support, to all the supportive staff at Park Hill, to Tony Thapar at Moseley CDT and to Ben Lister for his excellent work on the edit. Above all, well done to the pupils who put so much effort in and made the project such a giggle!

I’m back!

IMAG0056

It’s almost a year since I last updated the blog (If you read my last post then you will have some idea why.  Little Bean is now a big, crawling all over the place Big Bean who goes by the name of Adam – or Adamdamdamdam if you ask him).

I’m now working part time and I’m fortunate enough to be working on a really interesting and diverse range of projects.  Some of them are a continuation of work I was doing before Maternity Leave, most of them are completely new projects I’m working on.

I’d like to say a big thank you to all of the people that I’ve worked with that have been willing to be flexible as I juggle being a new Mum with my freelance work.  What I feared would be a really stressful period has been really enjoyable!

A new member of the crew

Within a matter of days I’ll be welcoming the latest member of the crew on board… ‘Little Bean’ as our as yet unborn offspring has come to be known, will be joining James and I sometime in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll be somewhat distracted from work for a bit!

My Maternity Leave is now underway (no really, it is!), and I am officially on leave until September. However, do get in touch through the usual channels with questions and job offers as I’ll gradually be returning to work, albeit on a part time basis.

About a week to go?

I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has wished me well and supported me throughout my pregnancy (especially those who have happily lugged film equipment round for me!). I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some new projects with a fresh perspective when I return!

2011 – The Year in Review

This year has been a pretty shoddy year for blogging. Thankfully that’s because it’s been a fantastic year of increasingly ambitious, interesting film projects with wonderful people. This blogpost is a bit of a round-up with some thank yous thrown in!

2011 montage

Pool of Memories

One of the most exciting and rewarding projects has been finally getting the ‘Pool of Memories’ project underway. After months and months of plotting and planning our funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, ‘Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ were able to throw ourselves into implementing an extensive and exciting programme of oral history interviews about the swimming baths and its 104 year history. I’ve been working in schools around Balsall Heath and Moseley to bring History to life for local pupils through using our interactive Virtual Tour website and Pool of Memories archive, then guiding groups through filming their own oral history interviews with members of the public. The response has been wonderful and it’s been difficult to keep a check on my enthusiasm in order for us to actually get the projects done!  Here is a taster of what we’ve been up to in the six projects completed so far!


What’s Wrong With Wolverhampton?

There was also no shortage of enthusiasm, or talent, from students at Mediacove who I worked with at the start of the year to create a documentary ‘Wolverhampton in Focus’ which investigated the claim by a Lonely Planet article that Wolverhampton was amongst the worst cities in the world!  Needless to say we uncovered a huge amount of positive stuff going on.  The documentary was a springboard for a live streamed debate, where the group took charge of finding panelists, chairing the discussion and filming the whole thing in the Mediacove studio.  I thought it was a fantastic template for empowering and innovative media work, but don’t take my word for it… here’s the Behind the Scenes film where the group talk about how the experience has changed their lives.  More information on the Mediacove blog

Young people making films

As the cuts to youth projects began to bite I spent some time with young people at Fox Hollies Forum in Acocks Green producing a short film with them to highlight the need for good quality, safe youth provision in their neighbourhood.  The group did a fantastic job of making their case and the film formed part of a wider campaign of lobbying and demonstrations that certainly puts any notion of apathetic young people to rest!

Meanwhile pupils in and around Billesley took part in a range of fun after-school clubs organised by the lovely crew over at Balsall Heath’s very own Round Midnight.  I led a range of film-making workshops which saw Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils getting to grips with using camera equipment and exploring how they can create their own short films.  I also joined the gang at Round Midnight to help pupils document arts activities happening at King Edward VI Girls Grammar School in Handsworth.

Promoting health

2011 has also been a year of promoting some important areas of the NHS, specifically services aimed at supporting children and families.  The year began with a whopping 10,000 DVDs of my Health Visitor film going into production to be distributed to new parents across Birmingham.  As I type there are a further 1,000 copies of a film about the referral process for children with suspected ADHD in production.  A third film aimed at young people and carers outlines the health services provided through the ‘Looked After Children’s Health Team’ for children and young people in the care system in Birmingham and will go into production shortly.  That project involved working with pupils at Firsbrook School in Quinton to create a short animation – loads of fun and my first animation!

A day in the woods

One of the most fun parts of my job is the opportunity to delve into other people’s worlds.  I was really lucky to be able to join a group of three and four year olds in Moorcroft Woods as they explored the woodland through the use of stories, crafts and their own observations.  The ‘Forest School’ supported by the Wildlife Trust and run through Rowley View Nursery School is all about getting kids out of the classroom and giving them opportunity to get muddy and let their imaginations run wild.  The response from the kids was absolutely wonderful to see and it’s hoped that more schools will grasp the opportunity to get involved in similar schemes off the back of the short promotional film we produced.

Film training

Finally I made a couple of trips down to London to deliver film-making workshops to the lovely folks at Friends of the Earth.  This is one of my favourite bits of work as it’s always hugely amusing to see what adults get up to when they’re given free rein to play with a camera!  I’ll leave you with a short film produced in one short hour long session – it shows you what can be created in a short space of time, as well as giving you some tips for your own film-making!

Huge thanks to all of the organisations I’ve worked with over the past year and all who have assisted in bringing some great stories and projects to light! Happy film-making for 2011!