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Sunderland students help put UK's 'next big quiz' in the Hot Seat

Thu 20 Dec 2012

Sunderland students have put themselves in the Hot Seat by helping to produce and film a new TV quiz show pilot for one of the North East’s top production companies.

The 45-minute pilot episode of Hot Seat, which is in development for a major UK broadcaster, was shot in the University of Sunderland’s state-of-the-art TV studios with students involved at every stage of production, from casting and rehearsals to the filming, special effects and editing. The pilot was directed by Tom Gutteridge, one of the region’s most influential TV executives, who has won numerous international awards for his directing and producing skills, including an Emmy.  Tom’s Newcastle-based production company, Standing Stone, created the format and decided to approach the university when the UK broadcaster asked them to develop the show for a possible network slot.  

Tom Gutteridge, who is Chief Executive of Standing Stone, said: “This was a perfect opportunity for a collaboration between university and industry.  Sunderland has terrific facilities and very enthusiastic students and staff, and we added some professional expertise and the format of the show.  The result was something that was virtually indistinguishable from a broadcast quality production, which is amazing for a first pilot.  The broadcaster was seriously impressed.” 

Students worked with industry experts in design, lighting and editing and acted as camera operators, sound assistants, runners, floor managers and editors to produce, what it’s hoped, will be the next big network entertainment show to capture the nation’s imagination.

Teesside-born TV presenter Kirsten O’Brien fronted the pilot, which featured contestants from across Tyne and Wear.  She said: “This was a unique joining of forces, because the students got the opportunity to do everything you would on a genuine television show and the production company came away with a top-notch pilot. You wouldn’t even know that they are students – they have been exemplary in the way they have worked.”

Jo Gutteridge, Standing Stone’s Senior Vice President of Development, said: “The students and staff were absolutely amazing and supportive. We not only had students from the University film and TV courses, but also from interior design courses, who worked with our professional scenic artists to finish the set in a matter of days.”

Tom Gutteridge added: “The great thing was that the students had the opportunity to work seamlessly alongside industry professionals, people like Richard Alderson, the senior editor from Dene Films in Newcastle, who supervised the student editors.  All the students who took part quickly gained many new skills, which can only help them once they graduate. It was a fantastic experience for all of us.”

Jason Legget, Head of Media Convergence at the University of Sunderland, said: “The University has fantastic links with key players in the industry and Standing Stone is one of the region’s very best. I think the willingness of the University to work with industry and how positive and receptive our students are, is key to why companies seek us out in the first place and work with us on a regular basis.

“As a University we are very flexible and dynamic in what we can do and when we can do it. A lot of institutions can be rigid and inflexible, so we can take advantage of that. That approach and the fact we have one of the largest TV studios in the North East is a massive bonus for us.”

The entire pilot was filmed at the David Puttnam Media Centre and produced over three weeks but actually filmed in single day.

Michael Gorse, a 19-year old broadcast media production student who worked as a production runner on the pilot even came up with ideas to change aspects of the game show in order to better suit the audience.

He added: “This has been a great experience for me and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s my first media placement but I have already been in touch with my tutors and placement coordinators about doing more work. This can only help my dream, which is to work in live TV.”

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