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Monday, 17 March 2014
Award-winning producer and director Mark Gregory has visited Bolton School to give two talks. As an Old Boy from the Class of 1977, he was delighted to be invited back to talk to the students about his career and the importance of the work he does.
Mark told the pupils that he wanted to find out their thoughts on the subjects he was speaking about and what is important to them, not just share his own views. He asked them what their understanding of ‘The Media’ was and received a varied response: television, magazines and newspapers, film, the internet. He pointed out that these are all correct, as the media is made up of the methods of communication used to find out information. He explained that the media builds a picture of the world; it is therefore important to have free and fair media. However, judgement is also required to figure out how much can be trusted.
As a specialist in television documentaries, this is a minefield with which Mark is very familiar. He believes strongly in doing investigative work: finding out about the world and telling people about it. He works in particular with current affairs, and is interested in answering a wide variety of questions about large issues that affect the world: What is happening in Ukraine? How are we governed? What’s going on in Syria, why are they killing each other? Why do they have so many guns in America?
In 2011 he directed an episode of Dispatches about ‘The Truth About Drugs in Football’, and recorded a programme about the UK riots in 2012, questioning why they happened, the involvement of teen gangs, and why people join these groups. He discussed making these two programmes in particular with the groups of pupils.
“More and more we are required to make more and more decisions in our lives about things that matter to us all,” he said. He therefore argued that people need to be aware of what is happening in the world, in order to make informed decisions.
He also showed clips from World in Action, an investigative current affairs programme which Mark himself later worked on, to give the pupils examples of ‘doorsteps’. This technique is employed when the person being investigated refuses to be interviewed about the evidence the programme has against them; the television crew and interviewer then turns up on their doorstep to conduct an impromptu interview. The ‘doorstep’ scenes picked out from World in Action were very dramatic: one interviewer was driven away from the door, and in another example the camera was punched.
“That’s reality television,” Mark said. “Not something contrived, but things that really happen in the world.”
They also highlighted one of the most important things which he has learned in his career: that there is a great pressure on the media, as there is always someone who doesn’t want the kind of broadcasts he produces and directs to be made. However he stressed the importance of continuing to make them, in order to both uncover and communicate the truth, regardless.
Mark spoke first to pupils from the Girls’ and Boys’ Divisions over lunchtime in the Arts Centre; later on in the afternoon, he gave a similar address to the Year 8 and Year 10 boys during their SPACE session. This was a great opportunity for pupils to speak to someone with experience and success in a field which is notoriously difficult to access. The girls and boys at both talks were engaged with Mark throughout, and responded readily when asked questions. They also offered up a number of thoughtful questions, both about his work specifically and a career in television more generally.
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