21 June 2015

Burlesque - The Graded Unit

Let me explain the Graded Unit. 

First rule about Graded Unit, you don’t talk about graded unit.
It takes over your life. 
It takes over all other classes.

It’s a personal project of your own choosing, that needs to fit into one of six categories, dictated from the college.  Each student gets four, twenty-minute mentoring sessions to discuss their ideas and progress on their project.  Each meeting the student is awarded points on their progress.  It’s a bit like a game show because you need to get the maximum amounts of points as once the meeting is over any points you didn’t achieve are lost.  The points are converted into a percentage and that dictates whether you leave with an A, B or C final grade for the year.  You must juggle this project and its deadlines while still handing in the work for all other classes.

The meetings are held at three-week intervals and when I said you get twenty minutes, I mean there’s a timer ticking away just to add to the anxiety of it.  The whole year had to attend a seminar to get an explanation of the points system.  You were actively encouraged to pay close attention to the marking schedule when planning and producing the work.  One lecturer said, “we know already who won’t pull their socks up”, meaning they knew which students wouldn’t be able to step it up a gear for the graded unit, which is totally self directed.

Students had staggered start dates and I was one of the last group so I had 5 weeks to think of a project and my mind went blank.  I knew I wasn’t going to complete second year and I just wanted to make my life as easy as possible.  I was into week four and still had nothing lined up.

Then I went to a Burlesque show with some friends.  I never usually take my camera to events, as it’s so heavy.  It’s also usually really dark and my off camera flash skills wasn’t the greatest.  I arrived a bit early, the dancers came on stage for a rehearsal and I took my camera out just to confirm to myself that yes it was too dark and I wasn’t going to get anything worth keeping.  Just as I put the camera up to my face someone spotted me and starting asking questions.  Did I have permission to take photographs?  I explained I was a student and without a flash I’d get nothing of any interest, which I sort of knew before it left my bag.  Turned out the guy that was chatting to me was the tour manager!  Oops.  He said he tried to get someone to volunteer to take photographs but had no luck.  He said the tour was back next month.  I was trying to dig myself out of my awkward hole and said if he wanted I could put a notice up in the college to see if anyone was interested.  Then he said, "you could come back'.  And, there you have it, that’s how my project was born.

I started doing my research and printed out images from the internet that I wanted to try out.  I was crapping myself about the actual event because I’ve never really learnt anything about using my off camera flash, so I booked a course.  I really thought I’d done so much work and that I would get a fair amount of points.  I was back on IV antibiotics again and my head was a bit up my arse with remembering things and I missed my first mentoring session.  I was not popular. 

I explained the situation and how my medication exhausts me and managed to re arrange my meeting, but this is something they don’t usually do and I felt my card had been marked.  I got four points for my first meeting and was totally deflated.  I needed 51 points just to pass with a C.  I was okay with that, I just wanted a pass but was beginning to think I wouldn’t get there. 

My mentor said I would need to photograph some other shows and not just the Burlesque.  I couldn’t understand at that point why I needed to do more.  He suggested 3-4 other shows and here’s me thinking I was going to make this as easy as possible.  By the next meeting he said do 3-4 other shows.  I was a bit annoyed and said 3-4 you mentioned the first time around or 3-4 plus the 3-4 you said at the first meeting.  He was a bit pissed off with me, but I think there wasn’t really a clear understanding of my situation.  I didn’t get the whole SQA rules (Scottish Qualifications Authority) on how things were marked.

I stressed over the 3 weeks after my second meeting and really thought if I go back for my third meeting and he’s not pleased I may as well give up.  I had barely done anything for my three other classes.  I think I had the attitude that if this graded unit was going nowhere then doing the work for the other classes was pointless.

By my third meeting I’d done so much work.  I’d listened to all the suggestions and I ticked all the boxes.  I pulled my socks up and thought “I’ve got this”!  I also managed to put my project across in a way that fitted the initial brief and he understood how it all fitted together.  He was very impressed and I got a hefty slice of points, which made up for my last two meetings.  By my third meeting I had my C pass in the net.  All I had to do now was complete all other classes, edit all my photos and return to my final meeting with an example of how I was going to present my work.  More points were up for grabs and I really went from strength to strength.  My final meeting was great and he seemed really impressed with how I managed to put everything together.

I eventually walked away with an A for the final year, which I was really proud of.  I know a lot of people probably got an A too, but I felt it was even more important for me as I really got next to no points in those first two meetings.  I really did pull my bloody socks up.  


I hope you all like the photos.  I was utterly exhausted getting these and it was a real struggle I'll tell you, because I basically had to bird watch with my camera and take the shot when the dancers stood in a certain place on the stage when the lighting guy had lit them up well.  This all had to be done at the same time, while they were moving.  I was constantly changing settings on my camera.  Thanks to my lovely tall friend Lisa for making sure I didn't fall off my stool.  I want to thank Burgerking for the best whopper with cheese I ever tasted at 11pm and finally a big congratulations to Betty D'Light who I didn't know at the time was expecting her very own Royal Baby.