Bree Sigsworth Pryce, Course Leader, Diplomas.

Bree Sigsworth Pryce began working at AFTRS in 2013 after a stint at TAFE. The education specialist has helped build a framework for the school’s new Diploma courses, designed to be less entry-level and more focused on practical skills than those offered previously.

The new diplomas (one semester) and advanced diplomas (two) are a direct response to the findings of the industry skills survey commissioned by the school and released last year. 

Survey participants asked for “shorter courses that were very skills targeted,” says Sigsworth Pryce. 

The diploma in camera fundamentals is gone, replaced by a diploma in camera. “The new one has a very specific focus on developing skills in the shooter-producer role.” 

The old editing diploma, an entry-level introduction to AVID and editing theory, has been replaced with a one designed to give students the brass-tacks skills to become working assistant editors.

“It doesn’t have the theory in it, because we think that [the] people who are choosing this course are up to date with the theory of editing and perhaps have already been editing on Premiere Pro. They really want to come [to AFTRS] to get very skilled in using an AVID. So there’s more cutting in this Diploma than there was in the old one.”

AFTRS is also offering a brand new course in production management. Designing the diploma, AFTRS sought out the advice of production accounting company Moneypenny for some pointers to weave into two lessons in the production management course. 

“Through that conversation it became really apparent that it was much bigger than just the two lessons, and so then we decided that a diploma [in production accounting] was appropriate. And Moneypenny have been involved now for the whole development, and they will be involved in the delivery as well.”

That diploma will begin in the second half of the year via the school’s mid-year intake (applications open April 3).  

Advanced diplomas such as Production Sound offer placements for students in the second semester, while the one-semester, sixteen-week diplomas offer none. 

“The advanced diplomas cover a wider skills section, whereas the diplomas are a little more niche in terms of their skills,” says Sigsworth Pryce. “In terms of entry, you don’t need to have completed a diploma to complete an advanced diploma.”

Advanced and standard diplomas each require around seven and a half hours a week in terms of contact hours, with students expected to spend double that working on projects or doing homework in their own time. 

Diploma courses are held after-hours or online – or a combination of both. 

“If it’s an on-campus course it’ll be 6-9 pm a couple of nights a week, or it might be a full Saturday. It depends how much is on-campus and how much is online. A lot of our courses are blended: they might be predominantly online but students still come in for a couple of weekend workshops.”

“The courses are designed for industry, so we don’t want people to find them inconvenient to do. So we’ve tried to put the courses in a time-slot that allows them to maintain their position in the industry while upskilling.”

Another new offering in 2017 is the Advanced Diploma in Script Editing and Development, taught online (with a couple of weekend workshops) by Matthew Dabner, writer of The Square, and Gina Roncoli, whose credits include Out of the Blue and My Place.

 “We have a feature film writing course and a TV writing course, so in the first semester they’re working with some of our grad cert. screenwriting students. In the second semester our script editing students will work closely with our [Advanced Diploma] writing students. So it’ll give them a real experience not just in giving notes, but [in] working with writers and helping writers through that process.”

AFTRS has been been in discussions with industry figures to come in as guest lecturers, Sigsworth Pryce says.

“We’ve seen that in the last two years when we’ve run the screenwriting in series TV [course]. We get industry people to come in and listen to pitches from students. And students have been able to make those connections and [have] been invited to writers’ rooms. That’s a really good way AFTRS has been able to use its connections with industry.”

The mid-year intake courses include the Diploma in Production Accounting, Diploma in Camera, Diploma in Grading, Diploma in Editing and Diploma in Production Management. Applications open April 3.

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