VIDEO: FPJS End of Term – 22 July 2015


Like most projects I end up getting involved with, I’m not sure quite how it ended up happening, but somewhere along the line someone must said: “That Andrew Burdett. He knows how to hold a camera. He can do it.”.

And so, to mark the end of this year’s Leavers’ Assembly at Furze Platt Junior School, I was commissioned to produce a silly video featuring as many of the staff members as possible. Anna, the Deputy Head at FPJS, and I came up with a basic idea for the film, although it changed quite substantially in the two weeks that followed.

In our first week of filming, precisely no filming took place. Various meetings, school trips, play rehearsals and open evenings meant it was not practical to get any worthwhile number of people in a room together at the same time. Even the next Monday, when a notice on the staffroom whiteboard had requested ALL staff attend, resulted in only a couple of people turning up. I was worried that I may have ended up biting off more than I could chew with this project — not because of any technical difficulties with what was being aimed for, but rather the unwillingness I suspected in some staff to cooperate.

To my relief, after waiting for ten minutes or so, Anna came to explain that a good number of staff members were happy to participate and indeed were expecting to get involved, but that the filming would need to wait until 4:00pm due to a number of other commitments that afternoon.

Sure enough, as the clock in the hall read five-to, the first people began to arrive.

Thanks to Headteacher Mike Wallace’s impressive collection of fancy-dress items, we created a rave scene on the staging blocks in the hall, set to Fatboy Slim and Riva Starr’s Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat. It wasn’t my first choice of music (I thought the assembly would need a more upbeat, feelgood song to go out on), but the original plan hadn’t been for it to be the sole music track anyway.

We spent forty-five minutes shooting a number of different steps and routines with the staff; all the while, the film building up in my mind. To ensure the dancing matched the beat, we pumped the track through the hall’s PA speakers, also aiding my mental idea of how the film would go.

Inspired partly by a Year 6 teacher’s suggestion the week before, I thought it would be good to get the Head Boy and Head Girl, Sean and Martha, somehow involved. Therefore, I recorded a shot as if they were peering in through a gap in the curtain, and later in the week filmed the necessary cutaways and dialogue shots to make this flow. They were sworn to secrecy so the film would be a complete surprise on the day of the assembly.

The final scene I filmed was in fact the first, with the ladies from the office brilliantly cueing the music. I discussed a few ideas with them, but they took to it straight away: we recorded a couple of takes only (ultimately using the second one, but using sound from the first to compensate for Jo Tanner’s otherwise inaudible whisper “Do you think they’ve gone now?”). A bit of incidental music from Mr Bean’s Holiday covered the establishing shot – a smooth pan of which I’m disproportionately proud! – before the video gets going.

Other than my TV director uncle, who came to stay last night, no one had seen it before it went up on the big screen today. Twenty minutes before the assembly began, Anna became extremely worried when YouTube (on which the video was hosted) was unavailable and had, mysteriously, been blocked overnight. Strangely, Mike’s netbook could access it, but it wasn’t powerful enough to be relied upon to play it smoothly. Solving the crisis, I ran home to get a copy on a USB stick, also collecting a laptop on which I could test it as the assembly was by now well underway. Fortunately, everything was fully ready to go by the time the moment came.

I believe it served its purpose, with much laughter from pupils, parents, and teachers. One unexpected result of the music’s strong beat was the fact that many of the children couldn’t help but clap along! I hope no staff member was too embarrassed by their involvement — certainly, it helped me enormously that virtually everyone entered fully into the spirit of it. I am grateful for the opportunity to have made this video: a fun reminder of my marvellous year at FPJS.

TOMORROW: Andrew Burdett recounts his year at the Junior School.


Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.