How to ace your final project and seamlessly move into industry

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah
6 min readJun 6, 2024

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In less than three months you’re likely to graduate. The last months of learning have tried to gear you up for two main things.

  • Producing industry-type work
  • Demonstrating a work flow that is recognised in industry.

Both matter.

You can create the best doc ever, but if you can’t demonstrate how you went about it in a systemic way to convince your potential employee at your interview, you may fall short.

Also people who show a systemic way of working, alongside humility, more often produce good work, because they invite feedback.

The whole point about feedback is making your work better. In industry, if you can’t manage feedback, you may find yourself short.

So what do you do when you’ve got a project?

Often you’ll want to factor in a number of meetings with your exec/ boss/ supervisor spaced around a lengthy time for you to show sufficient progress. On news programmes, that can be three times in the day.

For docs, depending on their turnaround, say three months, that can be every 2/3 week.

Firstly what’s the idea? Here’s one from a former student of mine, who became a brilliant journalist.

Her idea was how US newspapers covered the economic issues in Brexit

Note, the question is easy to understand. In academia this would be her Research Question.

How US newspapers covered the economic issues in Brexit, means the period of 2016. Having a date means the research is confined to a period.

What about newspapers? Does she mean all US newspaper because there are hundreds. She clarifies in her feedback. Top national newspapers, like New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian US. The Guardian is not a US paper. It’s British but it has a US bureau which she clarifies.

Showing this mind map to an editor/ boss/ supervision shows him/ her what you’re considering. It also helps them help you by making suggestions.

Note it’s bold, big, easy to read, not a lot of texts and easy to follow. Anyone shown something like this will understand immediately.

What next?

We considered angles who should be in the doc/ articles? Who will have something to say? Who have you read about that says something relevant?

Amongst her possibilities are:

  1. Tom Kennedy ( editor video ) Washington Post
  2. A journalist from New York Post
  3. A journalist from Financial Times
  4. A journalist from The Guardian
  5. An authority on Brexit and the economy from a university
  6. council for foreign relations/ Chatham House
  7. …. and much more

The format to consider is if you’re doing a 15min prog, you’ll want around 5–7 different people from participants, experts ( academic) independent bodies, vested interests etc.

Once you’ve agreed on those involved, you need to speak to then before hand. Here the student contacts and speaks to Tom Kennedy from the Washington Post. This is called a pre-interview. By writing down what Tom says, you can guage its importance which means when it comes to actually interview him you know what to ask.

The bits highlighted in black (below) were significant to the questions being asked.

Here’s a copy of the transcript of several interviews below including Tom Kennedy

What’s next?

Once you’ve got an idea what people are saying you can begin to form a structure. Here’s where you may want to speak to your editor/ boss/ supervisor for feedback.

You know what the structure is. You should by now know what a TV doc template looks like.

They look like this or this or this

We’ve made a pre-shoot script, which will become the shoot script. You can see where Tom’s clips we found interesting earlier on have been inserted below. You can play with this structure so that by the time you go to interview you have a good idea of what you’ll get.

Here’s a real sample below of another former student who’s a famous journalist today. You can see where adjustments have bee made to make the work better

And then it’s tidied up and your ready to shoot.

The script allows you to ask the very questions you asked in your pre-interview to get the best from the film.

Sometimes on location the questions change, an interview might not turn up etc, but if you’ve done enough planning you’ll be ahead of your work.

This is what an employer is looking for. If you can’t demonstrate that, then some introspection may be required.

Remember this whole process takes 3 months so working with your editor/boss/ supervisor, you’ll work backwards to agree on two major pinch points where you’ll want to show your work. Your last contact is around viewing your film before air/ submission etc.

This is Natalie going though script surgery. She’s now a video journalist at the BBC, and Tamer who graduated to become BBC Correspondent, before becoming a reporter and doc maker for Al Jazeera. I made a film of Natalie and colleagues finishing their projects here #Student You.

That pre-shoot provides a template to film, and replicate. Of course when filming new ideas may arise; somebody might drop out, something entirely new may emerge, but the point is if you’ve done enough preparation so the integrity of your film will hold. You’ll cut down the amount of work done in the edit. That’s how on Reportage, and other programmes like Panorama, a report can be turned around in less than a week.

Side by side, you can see the progression. With revisions to the pre-shoot script, you’re ready to start filming.

On the shoot, there will be changes that will lead to changes to the script, which through the production process becomes the edit script and then the final transcript. So far you’ve prepped the Interviews and the story, and parts of the location.

And that’s how you make your work professional enough for industry as two industry pros commented on below

NB. Marcus Ryder, (@marcusryder) former Head of Current Affairs in Scotland, who led an array of programmes including Panorama leaves this tweet, ff by @writersroompublishin.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah, presenting at Apple, is featured in The Documentary Handbook.

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Dr David Dunkley Gyimah

Creative Technologist & Associate Professor. International Award Winner Cinema journalist. Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled Top Writer,