Friday 28 February 2014
Ravinder Basra is Executive Producer of Mile End Films – Queen Mary’s in-house film production unit, which gives students valuable work experience whilst creating short films for a range of clients. Mile End Films recently worked with director Danny Boyle’s award-winning Shuffle Festival on a new exhibition, ‘Workhouse to Our House’. She talks about the work of Mile End Films and the opportunities for students.
Mile End Films prides itself on giving students real practical experience in film production. Can you tell us a little bit more about why that’s important?
Production Tutor Athena Mandis from the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film is the Director of Mile End Films and launched it over four years ago. She felt strongly that production is about connections and it’s tough to get into the industry.
Mile End Films collaborated with Danny Boyle’s award-winning Shuffle Festival, to put on a programme of evening events between Saturday 22 and Friday 28 February at St Clement’s, the former psychiatric hospital in Mile End. How did you get involved?
I was working with Bowhaven, a local community centre that provides a safe haven for mentally ill people. I was sitting with the trustees and one of them - a very young spirit of 85 - asked me where I lived. I said I’d bought my first flat in Bow, and went on to talk about my obsession with St Clement’s Hospital and how I wanted to shoot a horror film there.
She simply replied, “You’re in luck – speak to Kate McTiernan,” and it went from there. I said the right thing at the right time! I like working with the Shuffle team as they embody Danny Boyle’s spirit – creativity, high values and not caring about hierarchy. The team are lots of fun.
Student Mitchell Harris is hosting a debate on the ‘Never Had it Generation’ as part of the Shuffle programme. What does that phrase mean exactly? What are some of the key issues that you think will be raised?
I am not sure how the phrase was coined but it must come out of the expression ‘they’ve never had it so good’. The ‘Never Had It Generation’ could otherwise be known as ‘Generation Y’, the demographic cohort following Generation X. Commentators use birth dates ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.
The debate will bring up all kinds of concerns for young people: employment, pensions, the greed of previous generations – for example, being unable to pay London rents. Will this generation ever be able to buy a car, let alone a house? All the things their parents took for granted.
With the economy starting to grow again, what reasons do you think the current generation of under 25s have to be optimistic?
Well hopefully this generation will focus on community, rather than the individualism some of my generation focused on.
I also think that, for students interested in working in media and film, the way this industry is changing means people will have more opportunity to go out and make a film, create a drama series and put it on Netflix!
What can students do to enhance their career prospects? Have you had any really great success stories with Mile End Films?
Mile End Films provides a platform where students can train to a high level under our supervision. Having a mentor is really important. I had one at the BBC and he’s still my mentor today.
Mitch Harris has been with me for one and a half years, and in that time, he has – at the age of just 20 – edited a feature film. Carla Steinberg is another undergraduate at Mile End Films. She’s been responsible for researching the exhibition at St Clement’s. During Summer Shuffle last year she created an exhibition out of old shoes that became a real talking point at the Festival. It got her noticed by the Shuffle team who requested she work with them on ‘Workhouse to Our House’. Last year Carla worked for Arte TV and did an amazing job assisting the producers with a piece about the David Bowie retrospective at the V&A.
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