Two powerful players in TV and print media returned to QE for a second year to share their industry expertise and inspire the next generation of journalists, directors and producers. Tania Alexander, co-creator of Gogglebox – the reality TV phenomenon that starred former QE student Scarlett Moffatt, who attended the college between 2007 and 2009 – delivered a TV production workshop to a mix of Film Studies, Media Studies, and Creative Media students. Phil Alexander, an award-winning editor, broadcaster, presenter and producer, well known for his work as editor-in-chief of rock publication and global music platform Kerrang!, also worked with QE’s students as part of the interactive training day arranged by course leader Jodie Freeman.
Phil and Tania, who launched independent, multi-media production company Echo Velvet last year, impressed on students the importance of self-belief, passion, hard work and determination. Tania, who is behind some big name shows in the UK, including Undercover Boss, The Games, Shipwrecked and Seven Days, and has worked with global stars such as Oasis, the Spice Girls, and Nirvana, told QE students: ‘We’re here because we believe in people like you – you’re the next generation of talent and if you want to make a name for yourselves in the industry then there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, as long as you believe in yourself and have passion.’
With a career in the industry spanning 35 years, Tania emphasised the importance of making a good first impression, highlighting the success of another former QE student, Tommy Turnbull, a producer and director who now works at Echo Velvet. ‘Tommy wrote to me in 2011 while he was at Northumbria University asking for work experience. He ended up working with us for a few weeks and did a great job, making a lasting impression. Two years later, we were looking for runners and we employed him on Gogglebox, where he stayed for eight years, working his way up to senior producer and was named Broadcast Magazine’s Hot Shot Talent of the Year, before joining us as a senior producer/director at Echo Velvet.’
Ensuring talented people from all over the UK get an opportunity to access the industry has a huge impact, and it is something that Tania feels is important to champion. It was Tommy Turnbull, a QE student between 2007 and 2009, who encouraged friend Scarlett Moffatt to audition for Gogglebox. She went on to be crowned Queen of the Jungle on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here in 2016 and forge a successful and varied career in television. Tania encouraged students: ‘Be prepared to hone your craft, demonstrate your ambition and creativity with passion and enthusiasm and don’t stop believing in yourself and what it is that you want to do.’
During the visit, Phil, former Global Creative Director of Kerrang! magazine, Mercury Music Prize judge and Echo Velvet’s Creative Director, helped students look at ways to apply traditional ‘magazine craft’ to the modern world. Addressing the room of 16 to 18-year-old students, he said: ‘You have lived through a bizarre convergence of media – you’re not part of a generation who consume print or even watch television – but what still really matters is someone’s ability to make something that others engage with. The delivery mechanisms may have changed, but you still want good content and that must be made and delivered.’
First year Creative Media Practice student Charlie Dawson, from Darlington, said: ‘This experience has been an excellent insight into the multiple opportunities the media industries have to offer. It has been so interesting listening to the experiences Tania and Phil have shared and the fascinating people they have worked with.’ A Level Media and Film Studies student Katie Chadwick, from Richmond, added: ‘Through the workshop I was able to learn transferable skills and meet some of the biggest names in the media industries, which has been so valuable.’