Educating Essex, Yorkshire and East End: the story of a format

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
“Full of human life, full of social issues that occur in human life”: by using this words, Andrew Mackenzie – Chief Creative Officer of Educating Essex/Yorkshire/the East End – has described the matter they have documented through the Channel Four series.

Mr Mackenzie and David Clews – Creative Director of the same programmes – have been the guests of the Harrow Conversation
held on the 16th of October at the University of Westminster, “How we made Educating the East End/Yorkshire and Essex”.

During the meeting, the two hosts have showed some clips from the mentioned series. Throughout the hour, they stated clearly that the footages have proved how the documentaries shot were more about the relationships between students and staff than they expected.
Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
Before starting the filming, there have been some steps.

First of all, the choice of the school.
It was not just a matter of the best educative system, but they wanted a team of teachers – that would have been part of the cast – respected by both students and parents.

Secondly, the permissions.

Thirdly, child psychologist had his role: he visited the families, investigate a bit in the teenagers’ lives, in their environment, to make sure that the adolescents would have been able to sustain all the business.

Afterwards, a previous period of further research.
“You really need to know the subject”, said one of them. A good preparation is vital to deal with such a fluid material.

Interviews interspersed during the scenes have been crucial, because they gave the chance to deeply know what the people really thought. “People are interested in seeing the intimate behaviour”, as one of the guest has commented.

Obviously, the technical part has played a key role.
Sixty-two cameras and seventy ambient mics have been positioned for Educating Essex.
With this equipment, a fly-on-the-wall documentary – that is a filmmaking style which catches everyday life in a discreetly way - has been possible. It is not a traditional recording – like to film a person in the room – but the director can dispose of many angles.
After the very first hours, people forgot about them and this has meant natural movements in front of the lens.

Photo Attribution: By Twofour (Channel 4 (4oD)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Educating Essex includes seven episodes run in 2011. It has set at the Passmores Academy, a secondary school in Harlow, Essex.
The programme has been broadcast on Channel 4 and David Clews received the BritishAcademy Television Craft Award (BAFTA) for it in 2012.

Subsequently, Educating Yorkshire has been aired in 2013.
It followed the same format of the precedent series, but with more episodes, including a Christmas special. Thornhill Community Academy, a secondary school in Dewsbury (West Yorkshire), is the school chosen for the shooting.

Regarding Educating the East End, the programme is currently on air –on Thursday, at 9pm. The set has been installed at the Frederick Bremer School in East London, which is a comprehensive secondary school.

The warmth of the series is the greatest appeal.

When asked whether the selective work of the Director could well be considered a sort construction of the show, David Clews has replied that a bit of construction had started since the first mic was set. However, during the edit stages, he has not reshaped too much.
The cuts were functional to the narrative.
“I tried to tell a story”, he has concluded.