Discover how our Learning and Access team has been connecting with audiences through social media
Published on Friday 17 July 2020
Move over Steven Spielberg!
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+; many of us have finally caught that film we’ve always wanted to watch or binged on box sets since lockdown started. Others, like our colleagues at Glasgow Museums, have decided to don a director’s cap and actually dip their toe in the world of movie-making. While we’ve yet to discover the next Steven Spielberg our Learning and Access (L&A) team have been delighting social media audiences with their short films, so we decided to find out a little more.
In this behind the scenes look at Glasgow Museums we discover how they continue to deliver culture during lockdown. We spoke to: Clare Gray, Learning and Access Curator, Oliver Braid, Learning Assistant, Shona Young, Learning Assistant, Anna Lehr, Learning and Access Curator (Schools), Caroline Austin, Learning Assistant and Laura MacDonald, Learning Assistant.
How has the Glasgow Museums team embraced the opportunities social media offer?
Clare: As part of the Glasgow Life charity, we’re committed to bringing meaning to people’s lives through culture. We know people are keen to continue accessing the museums they love, albeit in a different way.
Our venues have been closed since March. It’s hard when you think of majestic buildings like Kelvingrove with no one inside marvelling at the treasures on show. Throughout this entire experience we’ve recited the mantra, ‘if people can’t come to us, then we’ll go to them’.
Since March we have welcomed thousands more followers on social media thanks to the creativity and adaptability of colleagues who are working remotely. The L&A team work on all kinds of activities and workshops when museums are open, so it seemed natural they could produce engaging video content for social media too. Some people had tried making short films before, for others it was a giant step outside their comfort zone. After a lot of asking ‘How do you do this?’ and discovering thing as we go they have really excelled.
Have you made short films before, what was the first film you made for Glasgow Museums’ social media during lockdown?
Oliver: I’m a learning assistant at Scotland Street Museum and while I’m rubbish at things like Miss Crabbit, our Victorian teacher’s lessons on athematic and handwriting I love anything creative, so yes I’ve made short films before, but never for Glasgow Museums.
I began with the idea of creating one video to represent each museum. I made a ‘pilot’ to test things like lighting and duration and it turned out so well it became my first contribution. Visitors to Kelvingrove have a real affinity with Sir Roger the elephant, and this got me thinking. I took the traditional milk bottle elephant craft and re-presented it so our audience could create their own.
I’ve now made nine mini-artefacts and videos, one from each of our museums, so our audience can make a mini-museum of their very own while our real-life museums are closed. Designing and making some of the artefacts came very easily and some were much harder. I’m currently making one for GoMA, it’s proved quite tricky, I think it’s going to be the most elaborate, but our audience have had plenty experience now so I’m sure they’ll rise to the challenge. When all ten mini-artefacts are ready I am planning to make a final video installing the collection into a museum made of two 16” pizza boxes.
Shona: I had never made any sort of video, never mind one for public consumption on the Glasgow Museums’ social channels! I began playing about with a few ideas on my phone, but it didn’t translate as well as I wanted. After reading reviews of different movie-making apps I opted for Power Director and started discovering what was possible.
The next challenge was making a stable tripod. Having tried a few ram shackled options, I cobbled together an equally precarious, homemade one. But it did the job! Once I started filming I realised all the mess in the room had to be pushed to one side, I have three children and I didn’t want to share that with anyone! During filming I took over the living room for a few days. The amount of space and organisation required was more than I had foreseen. I’ve made two videos, mini skateboards and mini subways and I’m chuffed with what I’ve achieved, even if I say so myself.
Laura: I produced a series of posts called ‘Tearoom Treats’, linking simple child-friendly recipes with the Mackintosh tearooms store at Kelvin Hall. We explained how to make an edible rose out of fondant icing and because there were a lot of steps, it lent itself to video.
I’m currently living on my own so I had no one to film me and I don’t have any fancy video equipment. I ended up propping my iPad in between egg cartons and boxes of icing sugar. I prepped some Blue Peter style ‘things I made earlier’ to save time, rehearsed what I was going to say, checked that the camera on my iPad was at the correct angle and I went for it. Unfortunately I’d accidentally put my camera into time-lapse mode and the resulting video looked like something more akin to a Benny Hill chase sketch. Suffice to say it didn’t make it on to social. I did download the iMovie app and managed to work out how to slow the film down so it looked better, so that’s something I may use in future should the occasion arise.
Now you’ve gained a little experience are you pushing yourself to learn new techniques, what have you discovered?
Caroline: I made one of the first videos to be posted. It was early on in lockdown, when we had no idea it would last as long as it has. I thought, I am up for it, let’s just do it and see how it goes. At first I involved my sons Jack (3) and Harvey (2), but that was pandemonium. The next day I waited until their afternoon nap and got my husband to film me step-by-step as I explained how to make music shakers using rice and recycled materials like plastic bottles. In true Blue Peter fashion I had already made a few prototypes to have on hand as examples of ‘one I did earlier’.
Since then we’ve been working on the GoMA blog at home, making our famous Saturday Art clubs accessible for online audiences with clear images and step-by-step instructions.
I’ve just completed subtitling training with Stagetext and have made short videos with subtitles. I’m now in the process of subtitling the 'Artist Talks' section of the blog.
Shona: After making a few videos I realised it was illegal to use the music on the app on our digital platform, due to copyright. Undeterred, I used my sons phone to play non-copyrighted music, while I used my phone beside it to record the video. I was pleased I found a solution.
I’m now working on videos featuring more sophisticated text and transitions and I’m trying out filming from all sorts of different angles. I’ve also just started a course on making podcasts, we’ll see where that leads.
Where should a novice start?
Caroline: I’m a novice! My advice would be, the only way to learn is by just giving it a go.
Anna: My top tip would be to start when you have a decent amount of time, otherwise you will rush things and get frustrated. It took me nearly a week to write, rehearse, shoot and edit a 6 minute film. There was a lot of cursing involved as props kept collapsing, my fingers were in the frame, the timing wasn't right...filming content can be very unforgiving, I was keen for it to look good. Have fun with it though; people appreciate you are doing your best and an occasional slip up shows you are human. Don't follow every instruction to the letter, try out different things. It took me a while to find the app that was right for me; go with your intuition.
In the museums I did a lot of live storytelling and I wanted to see if that could be translated into film. I used shadow puppets and we got there in the end, but one thing I’ve discovered is that if you record visuals and audio separately it helps improve the quality. Not easy when you’re used to doing both at once!
Oliver: People think editing is going to be complicated, it isn’t. Imagine a picture collage. Most editing apps function like that, there’s a lot of cutting and pasting and moving around. When it comes to shooting footage everything can be improvised with household objects. Lockdown is the perfect moment for ‘amateurs’ to have a go, by repurposing what is already around you. And Google or a YouTube tutorial is my go-to for any technical question I need resolved, everything is there.
Have you roped anyone else in to help you?
Anna: My partner! He had to hold backdrops and provide sound effects.
Oliver: Always, I’m always roping people in to help with my ideas. I had a great time working with the other L&As on the Victorian School videos. At home I keep trying to get my cat Margaret a cameo role, but we haven’t selected the paw-fect part for her yet.
Shona: To start my twelve year old twins showed me what to do. I found it daunting at the beginning and was relieved to receive their help. They are also very good critics!
Do you think you will continue making movies after lockdown, how do you see them fitting into Glasgow Museums future plans?
Anna: Absolutely. I was very self-conscious at first whether I would be able create anything at all. The fact I produced SOMETHING that made it on to Kelvingrove’s Facebook page is enough encouragement for me. We’ve been ‘behind’ with digital and lockdown sent us all on a huge learning curve. The positive public responses and continuing lockdown measures means increased digital content is here to stay. And it should. It’s a brilliant way to reach audiences that cannot, for whatever reason, come to our museums.
Right now I’m creating digital content for schools and hope to follow this up with ‘virtual visits’ once we are allowed back inside our museums. I have to say I feel a bit more confident in all things digital.
Laura: Some LAs have produced amazing content, I hope it will carry on. They’re a great way to draw in people who’ve never stepped inside our museums before, hopefully it will entice them to come along and engage with our informal programme, but I’m not sure movie-making is for me.
Shona: I definitely see myself continuing, developing and producing more video content. Three months ago I’d have considered myself a technophobe who knew very little about editing. Now I can create and post short films. I’m proud of that journey.
The first hurdle was the highest, the thought of making a movie seemed overwhelming, but being forced into a surreal working environment proved to be a great motivator. I’m pleased I persevered, I have a few more skills under my belt and feel better equipped to deal with an ever changing landscape. Sharing ideas online and having such a supportive team was energising and gave me confidence. My tenacity has paid off. My kids have seen me grow and that’s got to be beneficial to all of us.
What’s been your favourite post?
Oliver: I love the ‘Toddler Time’ music videos featuring Scottish nursery rhymes, they’re quite different from the ones I grew up with in England. Three Craws is particularly catchy.
Anna: The mini-museum posts, which recreated miniature versions of iconic Glasgow Museums’ exhibits, like Billy Connolly's banana boots, were my favourite.
Caroline: I particularly enjoyed learning how to recreate Joseph Crawhall watercolours. I think I’ll steal some of these techniques for my next video!
What has the response been like?
Oliver: It’s a joy to see people’s responses to our posts. We knew the Mackintosh video would be popular because Mackintosh always is. Curator Alison Brown wrote and perfectly delivered the script. The St Mungo mini-museum ‘Angel Musician Stained Glass’ post was more surprising, because it isn’t a particularly well known object. I developed the well-known technique of making latticed dough glazed with melted boiled sweets, but encouraged people to elaborate with their own creations. Both videos have had over 6,000 views, which is quite something.
What have you missed most during lockdown?
Anna: SWIMMING!! And a real cappuccino, with milk foam, served in a proper cup.
Oliver: Without wanting to sound like an outrageous misanthrope I have to admit I haven’t really missed too much. I like activities like reading, writing and making things so I mostly spend a lot of time at home anyway. In the lead up to lockdown most of my friends joked about how it wouldn’t really make much difference to me and this was fairly true. I’ve used the time gained in not commuting to do lots of new museum work and some exercise, cat-entertainment, reading, writing and proper cooking. I’ve basically told you what I’m going to miss most about lockdown instead!
Laura: I’ve missed seeing people, family, friends, colleagues, oh and my husband! He got stuck up north when lockdown happened. I’ve been really lucky though in that my colleagues have been super supportive. We have a weekly video catch up and then we also do an online pub quiz on a Tuesday night, last week we came 66 out of 252 teams.
Shona: Humans! I like sharing spaces with real people and enjoy the energy a group can bring.