At Wessex Archaeology, we're passionate about accessible heritage interpretation. Two of our fantastic staff members, Emma Carter and Sophie Clarke, recently undertook some specialised TV presenter training, supported by funding from the Culture Heritage Recovery Fund, and shared the experience with us. Here's Emma to tell us more...
"Stepping off the eerily empty tube and enduring a short, but uninviting walk along a dual carriage way, palisaded by the huddled backs of new developments and high-rises, the location for our TV presenting course felt very ‘London.’ But as soon as we crossed the bridge over the River Lea and our feet landed on the cobbled streets of Three Mill Island, it felt like we were on a film set and in effect we were!
3 Mills Studios is the biggest film and television studio in London and it’s where Sophie and I were honoured to have the opportunity to undertake a four-day TV presenter training course from Aspire.
The location of the studios is magnificent, the island oozes history. Historic mills are the architectural and industrial focus of Three Mill Island, with The House Mill, a Grade 1 listed 18th Century tidal mill on the left as you enter and the iconic Clock Mill on the right making our first impression of Three Mills Studios a real feast for the eyes.
Noted in records as early as the Doomsday Book, the island had a reputation for providing some of the finest flour in Stratford until the mill owners diversified in the 17th century and shifted from milling to distilling, in fact the oast houses or hop kilns form an iconic part of the island’s character to this day.
Once through security and into the main courtyard, the feeling of movie magic intensified as a lady in a powdered wig, panniers and trainers sashayed past me and a group of tall bearded Russian Orthodox Priests held their bibles and I-Phones with equal reverence. They were extras filming the next season of The Great (huzzah!) and providing the soundtrack to this surreal moment, an opera singer, hidden from view, could be heard unleashing baroque tones.
So now we’ve set the scene, here’s Sophie with a detailed breakdown of our training!"
Our Wessex Archaeology presenters, Emma (left) and Sophie (right)
"We were introduced to Sean Macintosh, experienced actor; television presenter and our trainer for the next four days.
I began by introducing myself and my role at Wessex Archaeology followed by Emma (located in the Sheffield Office). The other people on the course were fascinated by our work and we provided a lively insight into the archaeological process. As we discussed our backgrounds and desired outcomes, Sean observed our communication style and body language. He explained how important it is to be yourself and keep your energy and passion alive whilst presenting- after all the camera takes away about 80% of your on screen energy.
In the afternoon we began filming against the green screen and talking about a subject of personal interest. This warmed up our relationship with the camera and by watching it back, we were able to gain insightful critiques of our delivery. Sean went on to challenge us further by throwing random topics at us whilst on camera. These exercises were so useful to see how we coped under pressure, how we communicate and how we concentrated our presentation skills.
The following day we began using the teleprompter, this was a really interesting form of presenting; the text was set up on an iPad and reflected off the camera lens, so that you read it whilst staring straight into the camera. This made it much easier to prevent awkward silences but mean you were at risk of losing your energy and body language by focusing on the text.
By Wednesday we were onto earpieces, this to me was by far the most entertaining but difficult experience. Whilst being filmed, Sean would give instructions to an imaginary studio team replicating a real-life setup, the instructions also included when the presenter had change camera and when to wrap up the segment. As a presenter we had to learn quickly how to filter which instructions were relevant whilst being lively, articulate and engaging.
On the final day we were all ready for our first experience of filming outside in the public with a microphone. In some ways this made it easier as it didn’t feel so focused on you. In other ways it made it harder as we had to master walking and talking. It may sound easy but this made me do very strange things. Automatically my feet started tip-toeing in between each step and it took me several attempts to try and get them to stop. Sean explained that the cause of my tip-toeing was a by-product of how our body tries to unleash nervous energy. Eventually I managed to get control of my animated feet and successfully shot two scenes for the showreel.
This course provided a wealth of information within the world of television presenting. It is definitely much harder than it looks and a huge amount of skill and practice is required. Emma and I really enjoyed it and feel much more confident when looking for areas to consider when presenting. We were provided with a showreel of our work at the end of the course and cannot wait to start putting our new skills to work. We would like to thank Wessex Archaeology very much for such a fantastic opportunity."