S'warm launches very soon so we caught up with Kirstie Swain, who is in charge of documenting NYT's most ambitious project yet...
Full name/age/job title
Kirstie Swain/26/DigiS’warm Project Manager
Please give us an overview of your average day
As DigiS'warm Project Manager, I look after the all the video elements for S’warm, the National Youth Theatre’s biggest project to date. It involves 500 NYT members in a five-day performance and it’s all in the name of the humble honey bee. I’m in charge of producing a “Making Of…” documentary and a film capturing the live performances.
The first thing I do when I get to the office is check my emails. After I’ve done that, then I’ll write a list of things I need to do that day. At the moment, we’re in pre-production for DigiS’warm, so that that involves being the first point of contact for the film production company we’re working with; writing filming briefs; creating filming schedules and monitoring budgets; recruiting the young film-makers and photographers who will help us make the film; coordinating the press launch; keeping an eye on the NYT social networking channels like Twitter and Facebook to make sure as many people as possible know about DigiS’warm; and recceing filming locations.
When we go into production in August, I’ll be acting as a kind of line producer for the 25 young filmmakers and photographers as they work with the production company to produce the film. It’ll be my job to make sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there, and what they’re supposed to be doing.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
That it’s all about bees. It’s not – a lot of it is about video.
What is the hardest thing about your role?
The deadlines. However, I happen to love a deadline. With DigiS’warm, there’s one epic deadline we have to contend with, and it comes right at the end of the project: the film screening. It’s effectively the culmination of the entire thing – the embodiment of my job. Because we’re filming from the Wednesday to the Sunday of the film screening, then effectively, we’ll be showing the film before we’ve finished filming. It’s that tight. We have an overnight edit on the Saturday to make sure we get it done in time, so that’s going to be a long evening.
When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?
I knew I wanted to work in the media. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that was the industry I wanted to be in. I had a few strange jobs along the way (a waitress, a barmaid, a quality controller for a vegetable freezing company) but I also did a lot of work experience too, including a stint as a presenter at Radio Borders on a magazine for young people. I also did placements at the Berwickshire News, BBC Scotland and Moray Firth Radio too.
At university, I studied English Literature and Language at Glasgow University where I got involved in the student TV and radio stations. In hindsight, I probably spent a bit too much time prepping my weekly radio show “Special K” instead of revising for my finals. After I graduated, I spent about a year as a junior reporter on a weekly newspaper, then starting working as a runner for a production company in a place called Stanley. I eventually worked my way up to Producer, writing and producing videos for people like Scottish Government, the Metropolitan Police, and Scottish and Southern Energy. I did a postgraduate course in Screenwriting while I was there too, and since then, writing has become really big part of my life.
I went freelance at the start of the year to give myself a bit more time to write. Since then, I’ve worked on some really interesting projects, including a website for BBC4 and a social networking site for young creatives … and now NYT. At the moment I’ve got the best of both worlds: I’m working as DigiS’warm Project Manager by day, and by night I write scripts, magazine articles and develop my blog (www.youngswain.co.uk). Being a freelancer means you don’t always know where you’re going to be working next, but you meet so many different people, and develop so many new skills – it’s a really interesting way to live.
What can you do to get a head start?
Do as much as you can. Work experience is a good way to go about it, but if you can’t do that, then just start doing it anyway. If you want to be a writer, write, if you want to be a producer, produce. If you want to be an actor, act. It’s that simple. Just do it.
Could you describe the creative element to your job?
Digiswarm is all about producing a narrative: we’re telling the story of S’warm: behind the scenes and the public journey that everyone will see. Creatively, it’s about capturing that story and making sure it all fits together coherently, and that means making sure that’s been communicated to the production company and to the young DigiS’warm creatives too.
What’s one thing do you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
I wish I’d known how much tea I was going to have to make for other people. If I had known, I would have invented a fake illness that prevented me from touching teabags.
Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?
Obviously, IdeasTap. Channel 4 Talent is a good resource because it runs opportunities across a range of disciplines: writing, producing, filmmaking. If you’re a potential scribe then BBC Writersroom keeps you up to date. BBC Film Network is really useful too. Central Station is a good platform for artists and musicians.