First-year National Film and Televison School students Gavin Struthers and Sasha Olswang are on a six-week placement at Discovery TV with a brief to come up with three-minute items to fill programming gaps.
Discovery wants alternatives to the usual solutions -adverts and promos or running the next film early. "Our job is to come up with some concepts, carry out the research and shoot and edit six to eight of these snippets," says Struthers, who is training to be a cinematographer.
Struthers, a graduate in media from Portsmouth University, set his sights on the NFTS while on a BTEC audiovisual studies course at Epsom College of Art and Design. After university, he worked for two years to earn the cash to pay the first year's fees.
Learning how to light scenes, expose film and gauge the various film stocks are among the skills he is learning. Particularly enjoyable is working closely with student directors of documentary and fiction. "It is about learning how to tell a story with a camera in a way that works for that particular story, how to break down the story and then how to film it on set," he says.
Struthers, 25, is keen on getting to grips with new technolgies for film and television production but he has little interest in Hollywood blockbusters. "I like to watch films with emotional content that is allied to interesting images," he says. He cites Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas as an example of the kind of film that appeals to him.
A film-maker's most important aims, Struthers says, should be to entertain an audience and tell a story well. "The story may not appeal to everybody but, if it is told well, it will appeal to more people than otherwise."
Struthers has been inspired by directors of photography such as Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) and Gordon Willis (The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II). Among European cinematographers, he admires Darius Khondji (Seven, Evita and Delicatessen).
Sasha Olswang plumps for Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List as one of her favourite films. "It might be because I am Jewish that the whole thing is very emotive for me. But I thought it was sensitively done, beautifully crafted and clever." She also enjoyed Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's Delicatessen.
Olswang, an English and Spanish graduate from Newcastle University specialising in film editing, says a career in film-making has always been an ambition. After graduating, she spent several years trying to break into the industry. Last year her perseverance was rewarded. Jeremy Thomas, making his directorial debut with All The Little Animals, took her on as editing assistant. "Jeremy said he gave me the break because someone had done the same for him when he was starting. I am really grateful to him." On the strength of that film, another producer suggested that Olswang register at the NFTS. Her major inspiration now is the American film editor Dede Allen.
Like Struthers, Olswang, 26, is excited by the possibilities of digital technology for film and television but has little interest in films that glory in special effects at the expense of story-telling. "A good film is ultimately about a story. And the art of good film-making is to tell the story in the best possible way by film-makers using their knowledge of things such as camera and lighting. Digital effects have a vital role, but only as a tool to convey the story, not to show how clever the technology is and how clever you are in using it."