Using video to tell human interest stories: Part 2

 

The idea of using mobile devices to tell human interest stories is not new; far from it. Since 2009, and probably earlier, the availability of smartphones has inspired journalists and publishers.

Nick Garnett, a highly respected BBC journalist, put together this excellent short video telling the brief history of #mojo.

So now you’ve decided to join the #mojo revolution, whether as a journalist or as a creator of content in some other way – what now?

The first thing you need to do is have the right equipment.

My #mojo kit consists of these basic tools:

  • an Apple iphone
  • a Rode mic and extension lead
  • a lightweight tripod (I’ve also got a selfie stick and a short tabletop tripod)
  • iMovie app
  • sound recording app
  • cloud storage to save content to once on wi-fi
  • pair of headphones to privately listen back to content/edit

You might prefer another operating system or phone (Android or Windows) but iOS and the iPhone are currently the market leaders in terms of apps and functionality.

Whatever your choice, it must allow for mobility. If it fits in a pocket or at best a small bag, it’s #mojo – if you need a trolley or someone else to carry it, then it’s not.

In this post from journalism.co.uk, several #mojo journalists share their kit ideas and images; while here in this post, Mark Egan at Purple Bridge Media highlights some of the newer apps that are expanding the editing possibilities for #mojo makers.

So now you’ve heard from some experts and you’ve got the kit…so what stories are you going to cover?

Next post: Getting started: the stories that are perfect for #mojo style story telling

 

 

Using Video to tell Human Interest Stories: Part I

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersDonald Trump’s assault on the US media has been at best unedifying; at worst a dictator-esque attempt to still and silence the free press and freedom of speech.

His bullying tactics towards individual journalists have been shameful; and his trumpeting as ‘fake news’ pretty much every legacy media organisation in the US and beyond has been difficult to bear.

This Twitter Moments sums up some of the comments and reports around the fake news saga:


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But while President Trump’s crude methods grate, his proclamation that he wants to go direct to “we, the people” instead of via traditional media outlets is not new. Organisations and businesses increasingly recognise that spending large proportions of their resources trying to earn press coverage is less attractive or cost effective than it was.

In his research paper “Local Journalism: The decline of newspapers and the rise of digital media, 2015”, Rasmus Kleis Neilsen notes:

…print, the mainstay of the newspaper business, is in decline, broadcasting has been transformed by the growth of multi-channel television, and digital media provide new ways for accessing and sharing media content that challenge the inherited business models and journalistic routines of established news media.”

Emboldened by the rising popularity of owned online media – websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al – combined with declining sales of newspapers, organisations are focusing on reaching their customers, residents or users directly.

Key to this is developing a journalistic approach to story telling, combined with learning the skills necessary. Doing so opens up the prospect of creating new audiences.

One of the most effective ways to tell stories online is through the medium of video. This past six months I’ve been on a journey to become a half-decent mobile journalist, or #mojo, which describes the skill of telling stories using smartphone video.

As an experienced senior regional journalist of 15 years experience, I’m confident I can tell a story in words. Learning to take this skill set and embrace new media opportunities is my personal quest.

You might be on the same journey, or wonder whether you have the ability, equipment or time to master the medium. Over the course of the next few weeks I will share my learning, best tips and, most importantly, advice from expert practitioners.

Why use video?

It’s the present and the future of social media. Everybody’s doing it. Video is outscoring every other media type in popularity, engagement and ‘wow’ factor across the biggest and most popular online channels.

Buzzsumo’s research into 25 million Facebook posts from 10,000 publishers shows video posts doubled in the year up to mid 2016; posts with videos had the highest average shares (rather than posts with links or images). Socialbakers research showed posts with video had the highest average reach (not paid for):
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There’s no sign of the appetite for moving images stopping any time soon.

HOW TO MAKE VIDEO ON YOUR PHONE

Despite what you might have imagined, it’s not as simple as putting your iPhone or iPad into video mode and pressing record. There’s quite a lot more to it than that…but it’s really a great place to start.

TIP 1:

Before you buy any kit, just grab your smartphone and have a go yourself. That’s the best advice I’ve received yet.
It will help you see the possibilities, the challenges and the limitations of the medium and your skills. If you have a microphone you can plug into your iPhone, do so – but don’t worry if not.

  • Interview a relative about their day in handheld ‘street video’ style.
  • Shoot some footage on a day out, capturing the mood and colour.
  • Set your smartphone up on a tripod or on a selfie stick in selfie mode and just chat away to the camera about your hobby.

Then review your footage. Notice what went well and what didn’t.

You might find you or your subject fidgets a lot. That your background was distracting. That the voices are too quiet, or the traffic noise too loud. That you were looking anywhere but into the camera. That it was boring, or too long, or out of focus.

Now you’ve made some mistakes, check out guides and advice sites about what you ‘ought’ to have done, or what improvements you could make yourself.

Have another go.

Share your videos with friends if you feel brave enough. Get some feedback.

Then watch this…tips from mojo trainer and practitioner Stephen Quinn, interviewed by Prof Paul Bradshaw, of Birmingham City University: Top tips for mojo

Stephen Quinn Mobile Journalism Tips from Paul Bradshaw on Vimeo.

Mojos require what Stephen Quinn calls a multimedia mindset or way of thinking which combines video, audio, text, graphics and stills. You think you have that mindset? Great – so now you’re ready to move onto part 2!

Part 2: Advice about what to buy 

Part 3: Telling stories using mobile video – my fledgling attempts

More to follow!

Five great data visualisation projects (and why they should inspire public sector communicators)

Taking data and making it interesting is an art form.

Amid the bustle and overload of the digital world, it can take something exceptional to turn fleeting glances into lingering looks, especially on high turnover sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Infographics – or data visualisations – are a great way to share information in a single visual hit, often jazzed up with artwork or embedded images.

Research supports an increasing focus on visual imagery, in all its forms, as a way of communicating with and engaging with online audiences:

  • Infographics are “liked” and shared on social media 3 times more than other any other type of content. (Source: mass planner.com)
  • Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without (Source: buzzsumo.com)
  • List posts and infographics generate more shares than any other content (Source: buzzsumo.com)
  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations – we are visually receptive. (Source: Levie & Lentz)

Here are five brilliant examples of world class data visualisations to inspire:

  1. How vaccinations impact on measles outbreaks (source: The Guardian) This is an evidence based visual demonstrating the impact of vaccination rates on measles infections. It provides a simulation option, to show the spread of measles from a single case.

vax-rate-and-infection-simulation

There is an associated tongue in cheek flowchart about the same issue, just in case this graphic alone fails to convince:

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2. Bloomberg’s Billionaires: a daily infographic by Bloomberg showing the 200 wealthiest billionaires in the world and their total known/estimated wealth. The daily update includes a + or – figure showing the overall wealth of the total group. When I looked on February 5 2017 their joint wealth was up $8 billion up on the previous day.

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3. Global Carbon Footprint: an infographic by Sustainable Cities Collective to illustrate carbon footprint by nation. Designed by Miller McCune. Presenting the data in this format, within a footprint shape, gives it added impact.

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4. This work of art features on a great blog showcase Dueling Data, created using Tableau by designer Adam McCann.

The Beatles: an analysis

beatles_twitter

 

5. Created by the same artist, Adam McCann, this colourful graphic is based on the TV phenomenon Game of Thrones, also using Tableau.

Game of Thrones: an analysis

 

got-stubby-image
You might have an in-house graphic designer, or freelance resources, capable of creating something close to this quality.But what if you don’t, or are trying to reduce costs, or just want to gain the skills and know-how to make your own?

Three questions that come to mind (and there may be many more) for anyone considering embarking on data viz projects from a standing start or limited skills:

  1. Is learning how to make an infographic, or data viz, going to be useful and worth the time involved?
  2. What skills do I need to do it?
  3. What could it look like?

This infographic sums up the virtues of infographics pretty neatly:

What is an Infographic?

Created by Customer Magnetism.

Assuming, then, that you agree infographics and data visualisation are positive tools, and assuming too you can’t afford to use your graphic designer or bring in specialist support for every project, you might want to check out some of the free apps and websites offering to help you get started.

Info.gram is a great entry point, especially if you’ve got a simple set of data. This weblink takes you to one of a series I created in minutes to share details of school performance on my local blog wyrelife.co.uk

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-17-31-15

Canva is another highly rated free site offering a way in to the delights of infographic creation, one which offers a huge array of templates and free-to-use photos and graphics. It also offers training. It’s possible to upgrade to a professional version at relatively low cost, which will give you the opportunity to use your corporate colours and branding.

Free data viz Tableau can appear daunting at first glance, but the level of support and training available via video tutorials and live chat make it a fantastic tool.

Creatives across public sector organisations have not been slow to cotton on to the benefits of creating easy to follow graphics and data viz to support projects – from consultations to budget plans, from informative public health advice to printable flyers for the fridge.

This example, from Barnsley Council, was created using canva.com and is a really effective way to share complex budget plans.

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(courtesy Barnsley Council Facebook page)

This example, from Bath and North East Somerset Council, shared here with kind permission, is a simple way to help residents understand changes to recycling and rubbish collection services. It can be attached to social networking sites, posted on the website and embedded or shared by email.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-21-24-23

Dozens more self-made examples abound, often created by colleagues happy to share their successes and highlight any difficulties encountered.

If you’ve got a trusted infographics designer, don’t bin them by any means. But don’t feel it’s outside your skill set or beyond you to learn how to create simple examples of your own.

It would be great to hear from anyone happy to share more examples of local councils using infographics or data visualisation – particularly those being made in-house by non specialists.

 

BBC Local Democracy reporter scheme “bundles” likely to scupper hyperlocal bids

More details of the BBC’s £8m a year plans to fund 150 “local democracy” reporters across the UK have been unveiled to community and hyperlocal publishers at an event in Birmingham.

The bad news for independent news publishers, community website owners and citizen journalists hoping for a slice of the action was that the detailed proposals seem to scupper those ambitions.

For instead of offering 150 separate contracts for each reporting post, the BBC has instead opted to “bundle up” the posts into larger zones, some stretching across adjoining counties.

Bundled contract examples

Scotland, for example, is now divided into five contract bundles; Somerset, Gloucestershire and Bath are bundled together; as are Devon and Cornwall.

The Birmingham contract bundle would be for five reporters across the whole of Birmingham and Coventry; while in the East Midlands, Nottingham and Leicester are bundled together.

The unexpected update, announced by BBC project leader Matthew Barraclough, is a positive outcome for major publishers who would welcome the prospect of publicly funded extra reporters in their newsrooms.

The session at The Mailbox, held Monday, was attended by independent publishers and community journalists from across the country, along with representatives from the Cardiff-based Centre for Community Journalism.

Also in attendance was David Higgerson, digital publishing chief for Trinity Mirror’s regional titles, and David Holdsworth, BBC’s controller of English regions.

The Local Democracy reporter scheme was first announced last May, just ahead of the BBC’s Charter renewal. It was jointly announced by the BBC and the News Media Association (NMA), which represents most of the country’s major newspapers and commercial publishers.

The BBC pledged to fund 150 separate reporters, to be employed by existing publishers in separate geographical areas.

The key points were:

  • Each reporter would be briefed to cover higher tier council meetings and news
  • The copy they produced, which would be benchmarked and subject to scrutiny, would be shared on a “pool basis” with their employer, and simultaneously with the BBC and qualifying approved local media
  • Full costs, paid by the BBC from public funds, would be £34k per reporter, including a minimum salary of £22k
  • The total cost to the BBC would be in the region of £8 million a year and would be subject to annual review.

The BBC said the scheme was designed to “sustain plurality in the local news media, drive up the quality of services and use the expertise of both the BBC and the local commercial news sector for the benefit of all audiences.”

It also said the contracts would be open to any interested parties (not just NMA members), including radio, TV, news agencies and others.

Hyperlocals still in with a shout

Matthew Abbott, communications and projects officer at the Centre for Community Journalism, said he is still optimistic about the opportunities for smaller publishers.

“It is my understanding that as long as they can partner with a bigger media organisation that can handle the employment practicalities, they can still bid for contracts; indeed, there are some hyperlocal for-profit publishers who could provide the administration themselves too. The BBC do look favourably on partnerships.”

He also added that the extensive work done by C4CJ to date had opened up access to content to smaller publishers.

“We think this is the crucial and most beneficial bit: access to the content.”

In his blog last May, immediately following the launch press release, David Holdsworth, BBC’s controller of English regions, said:

“The partnership plans represent a new commitment to local news.”

The BBC opted to partner with the NMA, which has previously actively campaigned against the BBC and its Charter, saying on its website that state funded news providers disrupt the balance of the media market, “with far reaching consequences for publishers.”

The partnership came in for criticism from some commentators including, last month, Jonathan Heawood, Chief Executive of press representative body Impress.

In a press release on December 1 he said:

“Is the Local Democracy Reporter scheme a pound of flesh which the BBC was prepared to sacrifice in order to retain the licence fee?…it is clear that the scheme effectively constitutes a form of top-slicing, whereby a sizeable chunk of the licence fee is siphoned off from the BBC and used to subsidise the operations of other news providers.”

This week Keith Harrison, editor of the Express & Star, the country’s biggest selling regional newspaper, wrote a column criticising BBC plans to invest £289 million in its highly respected World Service operation, suggesting the organisation ought to forget its international ambitions and instead support local media.

He said:

“Attempts to transform publishers into digital businesses are hampered by the Beeb’s huge – and, again, incredibly expensive – online presence.

“At a time when the regional press is under serious threat, both from commercial pressures and punitive privacy legislation, it jars that we are able to spend £289m expanding a service, however laudable, overseas, while watching historic newspaper titles struggle at home.

“So as we set sail into a bold new year, how about a bit of tax-payer funded help for ‘independent and impartial’ journalism here in the UK?”

Well, here it comes, Keith…in the form of the two Local Democracy reporter bundles, one covering Wolverhampton and the Black Country (three reporters) and one for Shropshire (two reporters).

Those zones are of course currently covered by the Express and Star and its sister paper Shropshire Star, both owned by independent publisher Midland News Association.

In total the two contracts are worth £170,000 of taxpayer funds annually (or, if it bids, that’s £1.7m to Midland News Association over the BBC’s 10 year Charter period.)

I trained as a journalist at the Midland News Association’s NCTJ training school in Wolverhampton, and worked at the Bridgnorth Journal, Shropshire Star and Express & Star for five years. Both newspapers continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to their communities.

They also continue to invest in scrutiny and investigations, keeping a constant eye on developments in health and local government.

I’d love to see them given a helping hand to employ more journalists, if only to replace some of those that they’ve made redundant in the past two years.

Recent Companies House records show the company’s financial position for 2015 (report dated January 2, 2016):

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-22-04-01

It would make sense then for the MNA to bid for the relevant contracts, thus adding a ‘free’ five-strong local government reporting team to their newsrooms.

The BBC hopes the scheme will come on stream by the middle of this year, added Matthew Barraclough on Monday.

The Twitter Moments below rounds up live tweets around the consultation event.

Twitter Moments: Local Democracy Reporter Scheme update

 

 

 

When people come before headlines

For the second time in a month, I find myself emotionally involved with a family I set out to write a story about. I’m at risk of coming out of both experiences with neither professional kudos or cash in the bank.

I reckon this equals a double-double fail for a freelance journalist.

But you know what? I don’t mind. I really don’t. I have learned and gained so much from both encounters that headlines and cheques seem irrelevant.

I’ve shed tears and felt a deep connection for both families at the heart of these stories, which have moved me immeasureably.

I’ve been empowered and uplifted by the amazing spirit people manage to summon up in the face of the most awful adversity.

Let me start with a story which came to my notice via a Facebook post. It led me to the door of a woman in Sutton Coldfield.

Introducing myself as an occasional freelance journalist and nice person, she initially rebuffed me.

But the next day, after an endorsement from a mutual friend and a Google search to check I was who I said I was, we spoke by phone and arranged to meet.

It was quickly evident this was a story of national interest. This amazing woman had been the victim of a terribly violent attack, which also almost claimed the life of her then unborn baby. Aspects of her story had made her a tabloid target. The story had been widely reported in the national media at the time, and she had been approached many times to share her story.

She had never spoken publicly, until now.

I was privileged to hear her story, which she relayed to me in harrowing detail, and I was desperately keen to do anything I could to help.

What happened next was that I slipped, unthinkingly, into my alternative role as a media manager.

I make my living at the moment doing PR work with various organisations, advising and managing their public face and reputation. I do so while harbouring ambitions to somehow bring together this experience with my previous identity as a journalist to create some new multi-faceted role as a content creator-cum-writer-cum-videographer. I’m taking a part time Masters in online, multi-platform media for this very reason, to add digital skills to 15 years daily regional experience.

So before I knew it I had become PR advisor Jane, offering advice about how to best tell the story and who to, and how to make an impact with her campaign.

Later I approached a much more seasoned hack for advice about what to do with the story. She was certain it would have national traction and possibly international syndication if the woman was prepared to talk about the more sensational aspects of her story, and she offered to take the story off my hands, giving me a decent cut of any fees earned.

The conversation nagged at me for hours afterwards. I had just spent an afternoon talking to a strong, spirited, but desperately vulnerable, woman who had been through a horrific ordeal. She had only agreed to speak to me on the grounds that she would not discuss particular aspects of her story. She trusted me to guide her, when she had every reason never to trust anyone again.

I was pretty certain that in the hands of a skilled tabloid journalist she might reveal more than she was ultimately comfortable with. I was also certain that with the guidance of this particular experienced freelance I could command decent fees for myself for the subject of the story too – at a time when she was raising funds for an emergency service that saved her. She’d be a cover story in Take A Break! and a double page feature in the Daily Mail – and who knows what else.

After speaking to the woman and sharing these thoughts with her, she asked me to write the story and deal with it myself (and definitely not speak to the Daily Mail or Take A Break!)

I wrote a news article, which she was happy to read. She asked for no amendments. With her agreement, I approached contacts at two national papers, a radio show and a TV magazine show.

But a leaked story earlier in the week, via a friend of the victim’s facebook post, made it a difficult sell. The basics of the story were now “out there”, freely accessible – if lacking totally the woman’s perspective or quotes.

So the hours I’d invested visiting, interviewing, writing, amending and teeing up media outlets were, in effect, voluntary and free.

But to be honest I became so emotionally invested in such a short time that the goal now switched to getting the story told as well as possible, even at the risk of coming out of the experience with nothing – neither professional kudos and bylines, or cash in the bank account.

Which is crazy, right?

But it turns out I’ve got a bit of form.

Last month I picked up another Facebook post from a family about their difficulties selling their shared ownership flat and the subsequent impact on their lives.

They had a beautiful young son with severe, life-limiting disabilities. They urgently wanted to move out of their second floor flat to somewhere they could easily access with his wheelchair and breathing and feeding paraphernalia.

It turned out that a major housing company was involved; for nine months they had told the family there was nothing they could do to help.

I felt strongly that though they had no legal contractual obligation to help the family, they might be open to helping them on moral grounds.

I spent several hours with the family one afternoon and made a video which captured their difficulties getting their son in and out of his home. This was a medium that told their story in a way far superior to words, showing mum struggling up and down four flights of stairs with toddler, life saving equipment and feeding tubes.

The video I created was a really honest reflection of their plight. I included a fair  statement from the housing company in which they offered to help the family market their property but said they could do nothing else, nor were legally obliged to.

I shared the finished video with the family and gave permission for them to show it to the housing company before it went public.

The next morning, on the verge of promoting the story to contacts at local newspapers and  TV, the family called to say they had been asked to meet the housing company’s chief executive.

They didn’t expect anything to come of it, but asked me to hold off for a couple of days.

No problem, of course…and as it turned out the video I’d made had worked its magic.

When company directors viewed it they recognised the potentially negative impact on their hard earned reputation as a caring organisation – and immediately offered to step in and buy the property outright, thus freeing the family from the ties that bound them.

The family were ecstatic. I couldn’t help but shed a tear when the young mum rang to let me know, barely able to speak because of her emotion. I had, she said, made her year and ended nine months of hell.

But the story was a dead duck. The company had asked, and the family had agreed, that the video and story would go nowhere now the issue had been resolved.

I could have ignored them – although it would, I’m sure, have been ethically wrong on all counts to put out a story featuring a disabled two year old against his family’s wishes.

I could have rewritten the story and reshaped the video to reflect the company’s positive action – but while the firm had agreed, belatedly, to ‘do the right thing’, they didn’t want to be seen to have done so, fearful of the precedent it might set.

So it seems I’ve got a lot to learn about being a freelance journalist with any type of business nous; I’m sure there is a way of combining integrity and commercial sense, isn’t there? All advice happily taken!

In the meantime, I’ll happily settle for being what I hope is a decent human being with a story telling skill.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to hire a sensitive writer with empathy, I’m here!

Contact me via Twitter: @janerockhouse

UPDATE: The first story highlighted above made it into the national media after all, including a national exclusive and articles in a range of other media. I’m still working closely with the victim – and remain happy to do so. They say what comes around, goes around…eventually.

University head’s sudden departure for ‘personal reasons’

The following news story written by me appeared first on Birmingham Eastside, Friday October 14, and was picked up by the Birmingham Mail and other local media:

The sudden resignation of Birmingham City University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Cliff Allan, announced in an brief email, (Friday 14 October) came as a shock to staff.

During his near four-year tenure Vice Chancellor Professor Cliff Allan has overseen the transformation of Birmingham City University and its surroundings in Eastside into a hub for education, creativity and technological excellence.

During the same period, however, the university has fallen down the national rankings, as listed in the Complete University Guide. This year it has fallen to 95th, from a previous position in 2012 of 66th.

Prof Allan has led the plans for an expanded City Centre Campus, including the extension of the Curzon Building into an impressive multi media facility housing some 3,000 students and staff including Business, English, Law and Social Sciences, as well as a new library, teaching and IT space and other student facilities.

It also featured the restoration of the Victorian pub The Eagle and Ball, providing a unique home to the Students’ Union.

Professor Allan has also overseen the start of work on the new Birmingham Conservatoire, the first new build of its type in the UK since 1987.

The finished building near Millennium Point will provide state-of-the-art performance space and acoustical quality. It will comprise five performance venues, including a public concert hall with the capacity for 400 seats and a full orchestra, plus a recital hall at 150 seats and smaller experimental music space, organ and jazz rooms. There are also plans for more than 70 music practice rooms of various sizes.

Professor Allan said, when building work started in 2015:

“These state-of-the-art facilities offer current and prospective students’ unrivalled teaching provision. During its long history our world renowned Birmingham Conservatoire has earned an international reputation for the excellence of its music teaching, research and performances.

“It provides us with a glorious opportunity to build on our proud history and continue to develop world-class music facilities for future generations.”

Professor Allan took up the role of Vice-Chancellor in December 2012, continuing a long career in Higher Education.

He studied and lectured in Politics and International Relations, and then spent a number of years in Africa working for non-governmental organisations and development agencies, with a particular interest in education programmes.

His move back to the Higher Education sector came with a role at the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council which subsequently merged with the Universities Funding Council to form the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) where Professor Allan was Head of Teaching and Learning Policy until 2000, developing strategies to support learning and teaching, widen participation and improve graduate employability.

His next move saw him spend three years at Teesside University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Development), before his move to Sheffield Hallam University where he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor, responsible for the development of the University’s corporate strategy, academic portfolio and international strategy, overseeing the management of HR, Marketing, Student and Learning Services, and Facilities and Estates.

Taking up the reins in the short term is associate member of the BCU Board of Governors, Professor Graham Henderson.

 

He was the Vice-Chancellor of Teesside University from 2003 until his retirement in May 2015. He had previously worked for a number of other higher education institutions across North-East England.

Professor Henderson was awarded the CBE in 2011 for his outstanding services to higher education. He was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire in 2012.

In addition to his role as Board member of a number of University companies, Graham is a member of a number of Higher Education and Leadership boards, advisory groups and networks. He is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute (CCMI). Graham is also a Trustee of the Captain Cook Birthplace Trust and a Patron of Community Campus.

10th Black International Film Festival breaks down barriers in Birmingham

The following news story appeared first on Birmingham Eastside and was picked up by a range of local media:

Birmingham hosts the 10th Black International Film Festival this month, giving audiences a chance to celebrate stand-out work created by film-makers and actors of colour from the city and around the world.

The festival, running from October 17 to October 29 at venues around the city, is crammed with film premieres, online showings and short movies from new and established writers and directors.

The star studded Movie, Video and Screen Awards (MViSAs), hosted by prominent black actor Wil Johnson and Emmerdale star Fiona Wade (Priya Sharma), will be the finale of the fortnight long festival.

Sheryl Miller, Festival Director, said it was a wonderful opportunity for Birmingham audiences to support talent from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and communities.

“Our ambition is to celebrate film making and to particularly support artists of colour to reach a wider audience. The festival is for everyone, from all backgrounds, and we hope to attract audiences from across the city and beyond.

“We want to show people of colour in roles which are broader than the lens applied by mainstream Hollywood, where black people are typically cast as gangster, thug, slave or sassy best friend.”

The programme of online and live movies, documentaries, workshops and Q&A sessions are themed ‘Life Imitates Art…In All Its Colours’.

“The films focus on telling different stories that are about or connected to people’s real lives. The story is the key. We want to push the boundaries and support artists who want to share the stories of their lives,” adds Sheryl.

“So, for example, we show a very powerful film called The Pass, which explores LGBT issues against a backdrop of football. We also introduce a wonderful selection of short films exploring all sorts of issues from dementia to identity to cross-cultural relationships.

“One of the many short films made for the festival is by a young actor, Theo Johnson, from Handsworth, which explores the impact of a single knife crime and how far reaching the consequences of one act can be.”

Selected festival highlights include:

  • Nathan East: For The Record, by Chris Gero, which gives a behind the scenes look at the life of one of the most influential and revered bass guitar players in modern music, with tributes from the likes of Lionel Richie and Eric Clapton (Oct 24, Crescent Theatre, Brindley Place)
  • The Pass, starring Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene, in which two young Academy footballers share an excited kiss – and its impact reverberates through the next decade of their lives in an industry where image is everything. (Oct 26, Everyman in The Mailbox)
  • Everything But A Man, by Nnegest Likke, in which a successful career woman has a life changing romance with a mystery man from another culture whose radical lifestyle differences shake up her world and challenge her perspective on love and what it means to be a strong woman. (Oct 27, Crescent Theatre)

The full programme and ticket booking information can be viewed at the festival website.

The lack of opportunities for and prominence of people of colour in the film industry has been well documented in recent months.

In a foreword to the festival programme, the organisers write: “A recent study by the British Film Institute found that almost 60% of British films made in the past 10 years featured no named black characters, and just 13% cast a black actor in a leading role.

“A study of 1,172 UK films found that just 15 black actors had played more than one leading role in the past decade.

“And despite the exodus of black actors and filmmakers to the US, things aren’t much better there.

“Racial minorities had 12.9% of the lead roles in the top 163 films examined in the 2016 Hollywood Diversity report, despite making up almost 40% of the nation’s population.

“The argument made by film companies used to be that people of colour didn’t come out to watch films, or that the masses wouldn’t come out to watch people of colour. Well, both of those theories have been disproven at the box office, so what’s the excuse now?”

The 2016 Oscars were blighted by protests about the Academy’s failure to nominate any black actors or film makers in any of the key categories.

The accusations that the awards were a ‘whitewash’ resonated with many in the US, with prominent black actors and directors boycotting the awards ceremony in protest.

You can read the statistics behind the outcry in The Economist

The finale of the festival fortnight is the MViSAs, the Movie, Video and Screen Awards, taking place at the International Convention Centre (ICC) on Saturday October 29. The gala night features performances from Omar, Donaeo and Wayne Marshall.

For more information and to book tickets visit www.biffestival.co.uk or tweet to @biffestival #iluvmvisas