Working on the film was new and exciting for most of us. However, working on a project for such a long time also came with its own challenges of various sorts.
Challenging circumstances: studying, working and doing a film
Students at Work is a film about students studying at the university and preparing for the working world whilst already working in order to fund their studies or to improve their CVs. The film team itself was equally familiar with the themes that are discussed throughout the film. Fears of finding a job after university, career prospects more generally and financial worries weren't themes that were outside our experience as students. The photo on the right hand side - showing a student's email inbox full of Careers Service emails - documents how present the discourse of work and finding a job is in students' lives. In this respect, our background and experience as students impacted on how we presented the plot of the film. The topic of work never was something that was outside our own experience as students. Yet, for some of us who had part-time jobs alongside our studies, it was more present than for others. In this respect, finding the additional time for an extracurricular activity was sometimes a challenge. Acknowledging the fact that producing a film is work, the Reinvention Centre kindly provided the film team with a small symbolic remuneration for all its efforts. Whilst we could somehow organise ourselves, it is important to be mindful of the fact that it is increasingly difficult for students to be part of extracurricular activities if they work alongside their studies. In the recruiting period for the film, there were some students who would have wished to be a more active part of the film but could finally not contribute to it due to time constraints.
The fact that some of us were doing part time jobs alongside their university degrees was not only a difficulty that we needed to work around in order to find the time for meetings and filming but at the same time opened up opportunities for scenes of work which we wanted to document visually. In this respect, our places of work as well as our friends' - call centres, catering etc. - were at the same time ideal settings for filming to which we could gain access for filming more easily.
Challenging our skills: making friends with camera and microphone
Whilst the preceding film Universities PLC? was written and researched by students, the filming itself had been carried out by professionals, for Students at Work we did all the filming ourselves. We thus had a steep learning curve as none of us had experience in working with a camera and all the equipment before. In spring 2006 we had two days of film training with Mark Scriven from Moonstorm Productions. Learning how to look through the lens, getting the light right and the sound were all important steps in our becoming filmers. Yet, for the most part we developed our skills in filming by doing it. The moments of uncharged batteries, recordings without sound and the big furry microphone being omnipresent in the screen by mistake will not be forgotten. Our professional background not being filmmaking alone can certainly be traced in the final film itself.
Even the most technophobic of us had a go with the camera and did some filming and interviewing. However, after a while a division of labour naturally emerged within the film team with some of us developing further their camera skills throughout the production of the film and others focussing on interviewing and research. Finally, in all of these steps team-work was key. As part of this process members of the film team were mentoring each other in filming and interviewing skills.
A student's university email inbox: The omnipresence of future career prospects and fears in students' lives
Marcus and Lucy setting up the camera.