Lights Camera Action! Students Documentary Screening Success
A group of University students have just completed three short documentary films about entertainment and hospitality in Lancaster and Morecambe. The students, all in the second year of the Culture, Media and Communication degree at Lancaster University, presented their films to an invited audience of friends and contributors at a special premier on Tuesday night, and received high praise for their efforts and film-making skills.
One of the films The Jewel in the Crown looks at the efforts to preserve Morecambe's celebrated Midland Hotel. The students brought a new perspective to the controversy surrounding the fate of this elegant building by featuring an interview with a chambermaid who worked in the hotel in its golden days while stars, like Alma Cogan and Frankie Vaughan staying there as they performed in the Morecambe summer show. The Good, the Bad and the Bouncers puts the spotlight on the bouncers that are employed in some of Lancaster's leading night clubs and examines the ways that are used to remove undesirables. The film-makers found that not all bouncers conform to the stereotype and succeeded in interviewing a female bouncer and a young trainee bouncer who explained the training they undertook both to keep fit and to avoid major confrontations. The third film, My Way, features Karaoke singing in Lancaster pubs as a source of community entertainment and personal fulfilment. While Karaoke can be just an excuse for drun
ken exhibitonism, the CMC students found a group of regular performers with real talent, who were able to explain the satisfaction they derived from winning the applause of the audience.
The film-making was supervised by the CMC documentary tutor, Bob Millington, who commented:
'In the very short time of seven weeks students have to undertake the research and learn the practical production skills to make a short film.' I was particularly impressed by the cinematic skills each group displayed and the sheer professionalism and watchability of the finished programmes. The students put a great deal of thought and effort into resolving the problems associated with their projects. In documentary you are never quite sure what your interviews are going to come up with. For instance the documentary on Midland became rather depressing because all the interviews were talking about current problems. The students realised they needed a more up-beat story about what it was like working in the hotel in its heyday. They put out an appeal on the Bay radio, which brought back immediately several replies including the story of the ex-chambermaid who used to mix the cocktails of the good and the great and who used to try on their fur coats in the cloakroom.
'This year's films were also helped tremendously by the new miniature cameras the students were using, which are so unobtrusive and very effective in shooting in the streets at night. In this way we were able to get round problems of people feeling self-conscious in front of the cameras in the Karaoke project and of getting reasonable access to bouncers in action. For some reason the club owners just wouldn't allow us inside to film and we had had to resort to filming the bouncers in the street outside their clubs and interviewing them later in a gym.'