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Lights, camera, kick-off;Video and Media

Wigan rugby club is part of a project giving pupils a very hands-on way of learning about video production, reports Carolyn O'Grady

On the terraces at Wigan rugby club, one of the country's top rugby league clubs and home of the Wigan Warriors, Joanna Grimes, aged 11, of St George's Central CE primary school, is ready to interview rugby apprentice Liam Jones.

"Take one, shot one. Action!", shouts the director, also aged 11, and the camera, operated by a 10-year-old, starts to roll. Joanna begins her questions.

"What food do you eat, Liam?" "High energy food: pasta, rice, baked potatoes, no fatty food, no McDonald's and no chips," he replies.

"Does your family support you?" "Yes, it's my family who got me involved. They said rugby was a good way to make friends."

"What do you do before a match?" "Walk round the pitch; talk to the coach and go back to the pitch for a proper warm up."

A few questions and takes later, the director says "cut".

This "television crew" is taking part in a project organised by the rugby club and Wigan Education Business Partnership that allows children, mostly from primary schools, to spend a day at the club's new digital media resource centre, making a video with rugby apprentices.

"For the children it's a chance to gain some first-hand experience of television production in a real location using the latest cameras, graphics and mixing equipment," says Ian Curwen McLoughlin, a media consultant who runs the scheme.

For the club it means giving something back to the community, says chief executive Phil Clarke. "Recently we've performed well on the pitch, but not so well in the community. Projects like this will change that."

The initiative is also part of the apprentices' professional development programme and will be accredited as part of their level 3 Sport and Recreation NVQ.

Apprentice Neil Turley says: "It helps us to be more outspoken and to talk to a large group of people without being embarrassed. We learn new skills - how to put a programme together, how to set up and use a camera."

It is a busy day that begins with Ian and Tracey Morris, the club's school project manager, acting out a magazine programme in which nothing goes right. Their plea to the Year 6 children to help is a cue for a discussion on what makes a television magazine programme, who is involved and what they do.

It is followed by practice sessions in which children interview each other and the apprentices, and get a lesson in setting up and using a digital video camera and a clapperboard.

The "real" interviews with the apprentices that will form the first item of the programme are done in small teams in which everyone is assigned their role, but then take turns.

The post mortems are rigorous. "That camera's on the back of a camel," is Ian's comment on a bad case of camera wobble. Some interviewers are reluctant to look at the interviewees and there are problems with intrusive background noise. On the plus side, there are some nicely positioned shots, some good ad-libbing and one group has even made an autocue for their interviewer.

In the afternoon three groups are set different tasks. The reporting team go with the three apprentices to shoot the sequences that will make item two of the programme in various locations around the club - the changing roms, the gym, the trophy room.

The presentation team write a brief history of the club and compose some links and a wind-up (end piece), all to be recorded later. The graphics team work at the computer with Powerpoint software to create a title screen and the credits.

The day finishes frenetically. The presentation team have to record their piece. The presenters are in place on the sofa, the camera crew is poised, the audience is ready to applaud, and three children at the vision mixer are set to control the cameras and mix in pre-recorded items.

Shooting starts. It is not easy. Take follows take as presenters speak to the wrong cameras, vision mixers forget to change cameras and children chatter when sound is being recorded. After take seven, nerves are a little frayed and the presenters are wilting under the lights.

Finally Ian is satisfied. They have done a good job. They have also got a good idea about what it takes to make a short video programme. In addition, they have learned an array of skills and a lot of technical language. They leave exhausted but exhilarated.

Their teacher Vivien Birchall is pleased. "It's been fun - the children relax more and learn things better that way. It's brought out the shyest pupils, who were nervous at first but were participating fully by the end."

In a week or two, after Ian has done some editing, the school receives their video - a reminder of the day and a trigger for plenty of discussion and follow-up work.

For details contact Tracey Morris, Wigan Rugby Club, Central Park, Wigan WN1 1XF. Tel: 01942 231321

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