A longtime fixture at AFTRS (over the last seven years, she has been Head of the Open Program, Head of the TV Unit, and began life at AFTRS as the Industry Program Manager), Wendy Gray also has a wealth of experience outside of Australia’s premier media education institution, working for twelve years in a variety of roles at the ABC, including work on the much loved children’s programmes The Ferals and Play School. She has also worked extensively in the online space for a number of major clients and has a long history in education. In short, Wendy Gray knows her stuff, which sees her perfectly situated to talk through AFTRS’ current line-up of online short courses, perfect in these times of lengthy home stays. And it seems that most of the upcoming courses on offer, are all film business-focused, so we decided to investigate.
Who would you recommend take these respective courses?
“Obviously, anyone who wants to be a producer has to be fully up to speed on all elements of business, so I’d recommend the two day Screen Business Essentials presented in conjunction with SPA as a great ‘short cut’ to getting your head around a range of important topics including legals, financing, copyright, distribution, and a whole bunch more. It’s great for emerging producers but also for people who may have recently moved out of positions where they’ve worked for someone else, and are now setting up on their own.
I’d suggest that anyone who is developing their own creative content would benefit from our next Short, Sharp and Immediately Useful Professional Development Seminar – Developing IP and doing It Right. So often as creatives, we are so focused on the content of our projects, and we forget to plan how we can make the most [financially] from our work. This seminar will help you work out how to protect your IP and give you some ideas on how to extend its value, so I’d suggest that writers, directors and producers would really benefit from attending.
Our two super practical short courses, which we are doing completely online now –Production Accounting Fundamentals and Budgeting Fundamentals – contain absolutely vital knowledge for producers. Also, I consider that understanding how budgets are done is absolutely vital for anyone who works in our industry – you can’t just leave it up to the production manager! When you understand how everything in your script – or series bible – will impact the schedule and therefore the budget, it will make you a better practitioner all round.”
The industry always preaches that filmmakers should know more about the business of film; is that what you’re responding to here, and why?
“Absolutely. And ‘business’ should not be a dirty word. It’s possible to be super-creative in business – and, in fact, in these challenging times for our industry, I’d say that it’s absolutely essential. You need to have the basic knowledge first: how to do a business plan, what legal agreements are important etc. The results of our 2019 Industry Skills Survey pointed us strongly in this direction. The top five things businesses told us they thought their staff needed training in was Social Media, Production Management, Business Planning, Leadership Skills and Brand Development. The top five from individuals also included Project Financing and Script and Project Development, and we have upcoming seminars on these.”
How are you responding to COVID-19 with the types of courses that you’re putting on? Were these courses introduced post-COVID-19? And why?
“We already had a number of courses that were being offered 100% online, including Writing a TV Series: Online and Podcasting Fundamentals: Online, but we have very quickly converted a number of our courses that were being offered in ‘mixed delivery’ or completely on campus to 100% online – including our Industry Certificates in Colour Grading and Script Assessment – and with great success. We have a special page that lists a lot of our online courses.”
Personally, when you were coming up, did you do courses such as these, and/or did you want these types of courses to exist, and why?
“Yes, I remember doing short courses in the business area at AFTRS twenty-plus years ago! They certainly weren’t being offered online then – and the great thing about the fact that we can offer courses online now means that people can fit them into their busy work schedules. We can also reach out right around Australia with our offerings.”
For a detailed list of AFTRS’ online courses, head to the official website.