Celebrating Start Up Slam!

The second week of Start Up Slam was, dare we say it, even better than the first! As always, Ideas Test were on hand to document the whole thing. If you missed out what went on during Week One, you can read that blog post here: The Start of Start Up Slam. Week Two saw workshops led by dancers, puppet makers, printers and producers – five fun-filled days of creativity and chaos!

DAY SIX 

For most people, Monday mornings get off to a slow start but that certainly was not the case for Start Up Slam! With the advent of an Introduction to film workshop, led by Gordon Lamont, and a few new arrivals to the group, energy levels were high for the start of the second week. With No.34 closed to the public on Mondays, the cohort more or less had run of the entire building and certainly made full use of the space. Excited at the prospect of the day ahead, the workshop kicked off with unfiltered enthusiasm.

To start off, it was time to deconstruct the ideas behind film. Using an assortment of images, the group were asked to use the visual stimuli to invent their a story based on the picture. The session was being supported by Idea Test’s Kyra Cross, who explained how lots of memorable scenes in films are often strikingly visual. From there, Gordon, an experience producer, encouraged each of them to pitch their idea to him, in the most concise, persuading way possible. He offered feedback after each pitch, teaching helpful terminology such as the acronym WT, meaning working title.

After a short break, it was time for the practical activities to begin. Gordon started by delegating roles to the group, asking who wanted to act, operate the camera, be the sound technician and so on. Kyra rehearsed with the actors, while Gordon explained the technical aspects of each departments. From the Ideas Test office next door, shouts of “Camera, sound, slate and action!” could be heard as the group started to rehearse their entrances. Gordon, as director, would comment on each take, explaining how the group cohesively could improve, while Kyra was in charge of cueing the actors. As the morning session continued, a few takes were lost to laughter (as is often the case with even Hollywood blockbusters!), but the more they practised, the more professional they became.

Young people learning to use filming equipment
Photo credit Frances Chiverton

Gordon was on hand to provide plenty of useful guidance, explaining for example how the different takes could be utilised in the post production part, by taking the audio from one take and stitching it to another shot of the same scene, perhaps from a different angle. By working with a shot list, Gordon was then able to explain how you can record scenes out of order, for example by shooting the final scene just before lunch. Gordon’s reasoning behind this is that the room and equipment were all set up ready to shoot, leaving the afternoon free for the group to move about outside of the Chevron Room.

Over the lunch break, Gordon then spoke a bit more about the pricing of equipment used within filming and took questions from the group about his career and about film making in general. There were insightful questions on wages, on broadcasting, about freelancing and much more – an inquisitive group to say the least!

After lunch, it was straight back to filming and more lessons were learnt as the afternoon progressed. From understanding about the importance of saying lines even when you might be off camera, to the different types of shot, it’s clear that the whole group would be leaving the workshop with a wealth of new knowledge. In between takes, Gordon also explained moving from shooting interior shots to recording the exterior shots and how the relationship between actors, directors and the rest of the crew is fundamental to ensuring the best results. The remaining hour or so of the session was spent filming the final few exterior shots before Kyra gave a presentation on her role at Ideas Test as Audience Development Assistant. Full of highly humorous video clips, Kyra’s talk received rapturous applause, as did Gordon for leading such an exciting workshop.

Watching a screening on a projector
Photo credit Frances Chiverton

DAY SEVEN 

The puppet-making day started with Russell, the leader of the workshop and partner of Strangeface, handed each of the Start Up Slam participants an egg. Not a literal egg, we were quick to learn but a mouldable egg of material which the faces of the puppets could be made from. The nose was the starting point of the puppet, with Russell always on hand to offer his expert advice. When asked how he got into puppet making, Russell told the group how he got into the art form from making masks. A big part of creating a great puppet is making one that people like to look at and by the close of the session, there were a whole host of puppets produced.

A heat gun and puppet head
Photo credit Cassandra Gibbs

Continuing with the construction, after the nose was finished it was time to move onto the rest of the facial features, the chin, the ears, everything to give the puppet a bit of personality. Once the faces started to take form, it was time to address the rest of the body. Russell explained how to make the joints for the limbs. Some of the group picked up the skills incredibly quickly, so fast in fact that they were able to make Russell some extra joints in order to demonstrate with when it came to bringing the puppets to life.

Demonstration of puppet making

Just before lunch, Russell walked group through how to use Worbla, which is thermoplastic material that, under the influence of heat, becomes malleable and can be moulded around what, for all intents and purposes, is the skeleton of the puppet. Perhaps the workshop where both the risk and reward were the highest – the group were using heat guns that reached pretty substantial temperatures. Russell expertly demonstrated how to use the Worbla under the heat, so that the adhesive, activated by heat, becomes effective. Using small patches to slowly build up the flesh-like exterior, each piece of Worbla was heated up, moulded onto the puppet and then a bit of water was patted on top to help smooth it over.

Though time was against the group, everyone managed to make an incredibly impressive puppet (although some of them seemed a little more monstrous than others). Decoration was the final element and it was the part of the workshop where the puppets finally gained their own personalities. From world leader lookalikes to gender fluid creations, the puppets instantly started inspire the imagination and Russell explained how half the fun is thinking up what their story is but, more importantly, discovering their voice. With the puppet making process having so many parts to it, there was no scheduled job talk from an Ideas Test staff member but Russell did offer lots of career advice about the types of traits he looks for when hiring through Strangeface. It was invaluable information that should set all of Start Up Slam in good stead for the future.

DAY EIGHT 

After a mostly seated day yesterday, it was time to get up and moving with an urban dance workshop. It was led by Stephen, who is an alumni of Laine Theatre Arts and an experienced professional dancer, now working as a dance teacher. The workshop started with the group naming as many dance styles they could – which was a lot. From there, Stephen asked them if they could describe the definition of urban dance before moving onto a (very thorough!) warm up. A good warm up is important for all styles of dance, so that the muscles do not pull or tear when performing movements. Hopeful cries of “Is that the warm up finished?!” sounded as the music stopped but after a quick breather, the group got stuck straight into learning some wave-style movements. Connected in semi-circle by their hands, the wave would pass from one end to the other as they learnt how to shift the wave from just their arms through to their body and back up.

Group learning the wave dance move
Photo credit Kyra Cross

Apart from a slightly despairing “Did you dab?” from Stephen, from the very start he was incredibly impressed with how quickly the group picked up the intricate hand tuting. Stephen used his wealth of experience to walk them through the movements slowly at first, before practising double time with the music. The group really worked together, counting one another through the counts of 8, before deciding to name each of the movements in an attempt to get them right. The group were nothing if not determined; an underrated dance skill perhaps but an important one that the group had in abundance!

After a pit stop for oranges, brownies and a quick delve into the bowl of sweets that goes down well every week, it was back to the tuting but this time with a collaborative aspect. The group were paired up and worked used one arm each to act as one functioning body.  The challenge is to perform the moves as sharply and as in sync as possible, in order to give the illusion that it’s just one person dancing. Then it was time to start learning some other dance phrases, including traditional locking movements such as the roll up and the Uncle Sam. With other moves having names such as the Scooby Doo, there was unsurprisingly much amusement and theme tune singing to accompany the dancing.

Group learning hand tuting
Photo credit Kyra Cross

In the afternoon, the group worked towards creating their own music video, incorporating all of the moves they had spent the morning learning. Choreographed to RAYE’s The Line, it was a productive afternoon rehearsing and recording their own Start Up Slam music video. Stephen, who had starred in multiple dance videos during his professional days, showed a few clips of these videos to the group and explained a bit about the process of filming them. The group then showed Stephen some Youtube videos of dance styles they are interested in. They were particularly inspired by a robotic version of the running man in a Japanese music video, which they then incorporated into their final  routine.

The group asked Stephen lots of questions, which led in to the video created by Jade, the Programme Assistant at Ideas Test. The video explained how she progressed from being an intern to her current role, which sparked a discussion about internships. Interested to learn more, Frances then explained how she actually interned at Turner Contemporary’s learning department.

DAY NINE 

It was a slightly less energetic workshop that took place on the penultimate day of Start Up Slam, but still one that required the group’s creative talents. Led by Xtina Lamb, a regular workshop leader here at No34, the plan for the session was to design and print their own designs on to t-shirts and tote bags. The morning was dedicated to drawing their designs, dreaming up all manner of alphabetical, geometrical and creative symbols. They were tasked with drawing an abstract image using just one shape such as a square or a triangle. They then had to use their drawings to create a stencil which they would later learn how to screen print.

To print their designs, they first had to transfer their drawing onto the printable plastic and then use craft knives to score the edges in order to cut through the card. The trick to this was ensuring that the frame was sized correctly around the design. They were making frames for their drawings, so that when it came to printing their designs, the ink would only be printed on the areas they wanted the design to be applied. After engraving the stencil and finishing the frame, it was time to attach the two together. By pulling the stencil taught and ensuring the shiny side of the plastic faced upwards, the group worked on creating their very own screen ready to print with. A lot of close work and concentration was required in this workshop but the group adapted well. Xtina made light work of the cutting and sticking and made her way around the group offering support and encouragement whenever needed.

Assortment of screen prints
Photo credit Kyra Cross

Then it was time to recycle the discarded parts of the frame to create their squeegees. Covering one end with thick tape, to signify which part of the squeegee will be dipped into the ink, the squeegees were then already the perfect size for the matching design. After lunch it was time to start the printing on t–shirts and canvas bags. The group were so impressed by each other’s designs, that they would swap and share stencils to create their screen printed designs. While some opted for repeat motifs, others went for the minimalist approach, but all of their final products were incredibly professional-looking. So much so that Kyra, our Audience Development Assistant, was jealous she couldn’t buy any of them!

Photo credit Kyra Cross

There was, unsurprisingly, a few items made in honour of their favourite bands – a nice follow on from the merchandise talk by Kevin Grist in Week 1 of Start Up Slam. With neon colours, block colours and then the more muted grey, white and black to choose from, the final printed designs were a real mix of expression and personality. As the sun started to emerge by the afternoon, it was time to use a couple of hair dryers to dry the printed ink off before Frances, the Youth Programme Manager, gave her talk about her role here at Ideas Test. As the organiser of the entire programme, it was really interesting for the group to hear just how much works goes into what has been a super creative, fun two weeks. It not only gave the group a real appreciation of how much organisation and preparation goes on behind the scenes of all the incredible workshops, but too provided an understanding of how communication and networking all feed in to the Youth Programme as a whole.

The group, now fully familiar with No.34’s somewhat unique layout, were on hand to help tidy up as the workshop came to an end, ahead of their final day of Start Up Slam on Friday. It won’t be their last time dropping in to No.34 though we hope, as Frances gave them an extensive run down of all the fantastic events coming up with Ideas Test over the upcoming months.

DAY TEN

The final day of Start Up Slam seemed to arrive before we knew it and it was time for the final workshop of the week. Led by James Walsh, it was the second dance workshop of the programme, this time fusing street dance and contemporary. It’s a new innovative style that is making moves in the dance world and certainly got our Start Up Slam group moving too. With a busy day ahead, including a mini awards ceremony for friends and family to prepare for, the dance workshop kicked off on time with plenty of enthusiasm from the entire cohort. Whether it was the Friday feeling, the prospect of showing their families what they’d achieved or the promise of pizza for lunch, the energy in No34 was certainly flying high. James managed to utilise the energy well and fed it into the choreography.

Photo credit Kyra Cross

As the group had a quick break with ice lollies, James offered them the chance to ask questions. They asked how long he’d been dancing for, and he explained that he started with the traditional styles such as ballet and jazz but then he moved onto street dance as he got older and hasn’t looked back since. They also wanted to know the types of people James has worked with James then asked the group to try and describe or define contemporary. The style, James informed them, is fluid and meaningful. To create the fusion element of the workshop, the group had to master both the fluidity of contemporary with the sharpness and precision of hip-hop.

Then after, nine days of waiting for it, it was time for pizza, perhaps the real highlight of the day (if not the week!) The group used this time to practise their presentations ahead of their family coming to see all the amazing work they achieved over the programme. Just after 2pm, family members started arriving at No34, taking in all the amazing art work that was on display. Then it was time for the Start Up Slammers to present a taster of all the ten workshops they had tried over the week.

Photo credit Kyra Cross

Taking it in turn to present, they also showed the film they created during Gordon’s workshop and their music video from the Urban and Hip Hop workshop. Both generated “appreciative murmurs”, as did the pieces of work each member created and it was clear from their clarity that the group’s confidence has grown as the days have gone by. It was a fantastic celebratory event that finished with a presentation of a certificate to each participant and a fun group photo to commemorate the day!

A massive thanks and congratulations go all who participated in Start Up Slam and we hope to see you at future events here at No34!