Propellor TV Hits the Airwaves Tonight
A new TV Channel propels Itself into the airwaves On Sky Tonight.
Propellor TV takes a step into the unknown showcasing the work of independent film makers and student talent launches in Yorkshire tonight, where it can be seen on Sky 289.
Chief Executive Simon Couth says after years of planning and weeks of test transmissions, he feels "like an expectant mum." The new service will provide five hours of screen entertainment nightly, projecting the creativity and talent of unknown film and programme makers across the UK and Europe, exposing their work to a potential audience of 15 million.
"We'll be showing work that is unshackled by the horribly formulaic conventions of mainstream TV, but is made to very high standards," he says. "Audiences will also get involved and give rankings to the programmes they see, using their digital controls."
Tomorrow's big names in presenting, producing, directing, and writing for television could well find their first big break via Propeller – although they won't actually be paid anything for their work. It's expected that some of the most avid early viewers of propeller will be not only the target audience of 16-29-year-olds but also media movers and shakers scouting for the next wave of talent.
MEDIA STUDIES ROUTE
Couth is a former film studies lecturer at Grimsby College. For the last seven years the college's TV company, East Coast Media, has run its own cable channel, Channel 7, from studios at Immingham. Media students have an opportunity to broadcast their work and further their training in a proper broadcast environment.
Each year the College teaches 400 students on media courses from GNVQ upwards. Of those who go on to apply for technical or journalistic jobs in the industry, the employment rate is almost 100 per cent.
For some of the 120,000 media studies students in the dozens of courses that have sprung up around the country in the last couple of decades, the story can be very different. Some students find themselves on courses that are mostly classroom-based. Weighed down by theory, and offered very little opportunity to learn the practicalities of making programmes, they leave college lacking hands-on skills employers often seek.
At the same time, there are hundreds of highly creative film makers and talented students on more practically-based course, making innovative short films and programmes. They find that after their work has been aired once or twice at festivals, or to their peers at college, it simply gathers dust.
FINDING AN AUDIENCE
Staffed by 14 seasoned industry professionals and broadcasting out of the Immingham studios Propellor asked independent film makers and film and media students across the UK to submit work for consideration. Now these films may find an audience the filmmakers could only dream of.
Thousands of tapes and DVDs arrived at the company's Leeds offices. Eighty per cent are not of the right standard for broadcast. Of the other 20 per cent, the content is exciting and the technical standards high, but some adjustments may still have to be made, says Dawn Simpson, Director of Programming.
"Part of making something fit to broadcast is ensuring that all the legal and administrative steps have been taken," says Simpson. "This includes simply doing all the right paperwork, but also issues like avoidance of product placement, and legal clearance of any music you use."
FAST FORWARD FUNDRAISING
The new channel's initial funding is £5.2m over three years, and £3m of this is from the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward. Other funding comes from The Learning and Skills Council and The Higher Education Funding Council. Major supporters are the industry training organisation Skillset, and the UK Film Council. The UK's main broadcasting companies are advisors.
At first Propeller will show short films and longer features never before seen on TV, in a strand called Film First. Another strand, Red Carpet TV, will show the best work submitted by media students. Later news content will be added, plus programmes that will give training and employment information.
Each film will be shown five times, in a differently scheduled weekly slot over five weeks, before a new raft of programming is introduced. It's hoped that within months propeller will attract enough viewers to interest advertisers. The channel is a not-for-profit business, so any money made will be ploughed back into broadcasting new talent.
PROPELLER RAISING STANDARDS
The new channel should have a profound effect on standards in further and higher education media training courses, says Ruth Palmer of Skillset. "We've got a huge number of courses out there, with great demand for places on them.
"One of the battles we've had is to get the right advice and guidance for students, so that they choose the right course to get the right skills for the job they want. We'll be giving a kitemark to the courses which do properly meet the industry's requirements," Palmer says.
"This whole process will be helped enormously by Propeller's existence. Anyone wanting the channel to broadcast their work will have to ensure that it reaches the right standard, but if it doesn't, Propeller will send it back with explanation of the problems and guidance on how to fix them," Palmer says. "Staff and students on courses around the country will know that they won't have access to Propeller unless their work is high quality."
Presenter Keeley Donovan from Grimsby will be one of the first faces seen on propeller.
She began working with Channel 7 in Immingham when she was only 14, fronting shows like a GCSE revision programme.
After a degree course in Leicester, she did a one-year broadcast journalism course at Grimsby College. In between presenting and reporting for Propeller she works as a freelance journalist at the BBC in Hull. She says; "I think propeller's going to be really exciting.
The age group it's aimed at is open-minded about new and different ideas. It's going to be quirky and fun. But underneath that there is something serious. It won't be showing just any old film – things need to be really good."
One of the early offerings on the channel will be a film called Robert De Niro's Face , made by 23-year-old actor/producer Tom Fitzpatrick, writer and director Alper Cagatay and editor Tom Lucas. It's the 35-minute story of a young actor who takes on the mannerisms of De Niro.
The film took a week to shoot in four locations and cost £1,200. "We spent months hawking it around festivals, and in the end thought it would go nowhere. But having it taken up by Propeller is fantastic for us. I would so love to get spotted by someone in the industry."
Fitpatrick and colleagues have gone back to mainstream jobs to fund their next film project.
Liberty McKenzie, who's now 32, made a film called Fish Supper while taking an MA at Leeds Metropolitan University's School of Film Studies six years ago. Since then she's worked on other film projects, but has more recently devoted most of her time to marriage and two small children.
At a time when she's wanting to return to film making in earnest and is developing new projects, it was a great boost to hear that propeller wanted to give her earlier film a few airings.
A FISHY STORY
"I made it as a film school exercise," she says. "The idea came from walking into a fishmonger's and seeing a lobster in a crate moving around as though it was trying to escape."
Liberty's short film is the story of a woman whose life is "stuck in a box". She fantasises about what it would be like to help a lobster to escape. Liberty filmed in Whitby, and persuaded high profile actress Lynda Bellingham to play the lead "The film got shown once on YTV and at a few festivals, which wasn't bad at all," says Liberty. "We make films to be seen, and the fact that my work is going to be broadcast across the country at this point is fantastic."
From tonight propeller can be seen on Sky 289, and on February 28 the channel switches to Sky 195. For schedule details and submission information go to www.propellertv.co.uk