On the red carpet: attending the Oscars for student media work

IT IS not the sort of invitation you turn down. The Number three in the BBC Peter Salmon – the incoming Director General (Northern Branch) – wants you to come to the Barbican in London to see and celebrate the best student TV and film work at the Royal Television Society Student Awards, writes John Mair

I was a judge for three years, so I appreciate how much work has gone into getting it this far. Just by the judges. By the students even more: 304 entrants from colleges and universities all over the United Kingdom and Eire. Just 60 have been short listed, and just eight will get that coveted piece of Perspex.  In TV, it is an Oscar – just forty or so a year presented to a wide range of makers, teccies, etc.  You do well to get one. I did.

Winning an RTS is a chance for a student to provide a rocket boost to their career in the media. First, they have to make a film or similar.  Then submit it.  Submissions vary from the dire to the superb. I was a judge for three years, and the fast forward button was often my best friend.

Stand-up comedian, Jack Whitehall

Stand-up comedian, Jack Whitehall

The winners all displayed three essential qualities: a good story, well told, and made in a beautiful or unusual way. Whatever the category – fiction, factual, entertainment or animation – they all had those ‘X Factors’. The short list is below; many of the entrants, especially at post graduate level from the great and good film and television schools of the nation.

But they did not win every time.  Students from the University of Cumbria, Birmingham City University, and Goldsmiths’ College were among the winners. But it did seem to help if you were enrolled at the NFTS and had a double barrelled unpronounceable, preferably middle European name.

But whatever the names, the quality was good. Very good. Well written, well acted, well shot and, most importantly, well edited pieces. The whole shebang was compered by a 20-year-old star in the making.  Jack Whitehall is a by-product of ‘Big Brother’s Big Mouth’ fame. His language made Russell Brand look like a nun, with  some good jokes amongst the profanity.

Try to enter next year and try to get to the Awards. They’re preceded by master classes by the likes of Andy ‘The Queen’ Harries (a Coventry Conversationalist of the past) and Jon Plowman, a BBC comedy legend/mogul.

I saw him in action. The man who brought French and Saunders, The Vicar of Dibley, The Office, the League of Gentlemen and much more to our screens is worth an hour of anybody’s time .Three of his bon mots stick in my mind. “Comedy is about characters, not jokes”, “If you read a script through and it feels like a sitcom, then it is,” and on getting in to telly, “If you want to do it, then you probably will.” What’s more, he was actually funny…


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