Producing a programme for a digital audience requires many of the same skills as any other type of programming, as young people in Bristol are discovering for themselves

A photo of the Watershed Future Producers having a meeting

Watershed delivers a diverse cultural programme of films, events, festivals, artist commissions, tours and conferences that cut across film, music, theatre, design, visual art, and the creative and technology sectors. Digital is core to what we do here, but so is the work we do as a producer – developing talent, creating spaces where people can innovate and collaborate, and playing a role in the broader creative ecology of Bristol and beyond. And whether working with digital or any other tool, the skills needed to produce programming that an audience participates in remain largely the same.

Curating a programme that engages an audience, makes them think and provokes a response is a creative endeavor. The art though is not just about having an idea; it is about getting a project from the drawing board to delivery by a deadline. It is about bringing in the money, getting the right people on board, putting the right communication strategy in place and pulling together events. Producers are not project managers – they are people with the skills and energy to bring a creative idea to reality.

Watershed’s Future Producers scheme is an example of our talent development in practice, involving a group of sixteen 18 to 25 year olds. Mentored by Watershed staff and industry professionals, the group will be working with Watershed to produce Fresh Flix, our film and cross-artform strand for kids and young people, which takes place in the autumn. As producers of the strand they will devise, manage, oversee and realise a series of events that will develop the creative talent of other young people. For the Future Producers this is an opportunity to deliver a live project for real audiences working collaboratively across artforms and platforms. Through the programme, participants will develop the skills associated with being a producer such as openness, collaboration, creativity, empathy and confidence.

This week the Future Producers pitched an idea for Fresh Flix to a panel of seven experts, including representatives from Watershed, Pervasive Media Studio, Encounters Short Film Festival, IdeasTap and TedX Youth. The brief was to come up with an idea that will enable kids and young people to explore film and/or the digital arts, promote cultural engagement and/or digital literacy and develop creativity and talent. The ideas ranged from a ‘Day of the Dead Workshop’ for kids that will draw on both traditional puppet skills and the latest in stop animation techniques, a new collaboration with Bristol’s Literature Festival that would enable young people to bring their favorite characters from books to life using illustration and film, and an interactive treasure hunt across the city that uses the latest smart phone technology. Over the next few weeks we will see which of the ideas become a reality – and then the real work of producing begins.

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