In their final year, as with many programs at Ryerson, Media Production (aka RTA) students get together to complete a practicum project. We sat down and chatted with team members and actors, Reid Nielsen and Michael Pugacewicz, about their RTA practicum project, a video series, called Let’s Go Learn Stuff.
Tell us about Let’s Go Learn Stuff!
Michael: Professor Science and Doctor Thought are two Bill Nye-esque scientist that are teaching two younger kids, Becca and Tony. We have done 2 seasons now, 10 episodes total, at about 2 minutes each. The first season that we have is about nutrition and eating healthy and the other season is about the environment.
Reid: The format is really open to education so we’re hoping that there’s a lot of different opportunities for people to come in and we want to air it between TV shows, so like on CBC or TVO kids. That’s where we’re hoping to take it and if it doesn’t go there, we’re hoping to bring it online somewhere.
How was the length of each episode (just 2 minutes) a challenge?
Both: Terribly challenging!
Michael: In this day and age, [children’s] attention span is so short so we have to keep things fun, light and exciting. That’s what we did: we kept it very high energy. There are a lot of gags, lots of jokes, lots of visuals. Writing the episodes was very tough because we always kept coming back to episodes we still hadn’t shot at the same time as we were shooting other episodes. It was really tough sticking to that format.
Reid: We tried to give every episode one major take away so even though all these things are going to happen, after the two minutes are done, kids should know what, for example, calories mean. We touch on all these little things but hopefully they get a rounded idea of a concept.
How did this idea initially develop?
Michael: The characters were put in place at the beginning of pretty our [first year] in RTA school year [in first year]. Me, Reid, and our friend Anthony got together early on and we had this project for a class where we had to make a video on a certain topic we were given about technology in the media age. We had to think of a way to make it exciting and coming from a creative aspect, and we decided to go full out. Reid and I made up these teacher characters who taught Anthony, a kid who didn’t want any of what was going on but had to sit through it. We made our video and people enjoyed it and from that point on we’ve been bringing these characters back throughout the years. That was the idea from the start, keeping the characters and seeing what we could do with that aspect.
Where does each episode take place?
Reid: We want to be nonstop moving, we want the audience to not even have time to laugh before we’re already onto the next part. Most episodes start out in the studio and then there will be some inciting incident and we’ll be like, “Let’s go look at this thing!” so we [disappear] to something like a bee farm. Usually we come back to the studio and conclude.
Michael: It was pretty chaotic, we pretty much filmed the whole month with just a few days break throughout the week. The funny thing was we would go to these locations and only have to film like 15-30 seconds but it would take the whole day.
How is your team dynamic?
Michael: We’re so happy with the team that we have. I couldn’t dream of having another team because everyone is always so happy-go-lucky, we could always talk to each other and figure things out.
Reid: And we’re good about letting each other have moments [to themselves].
What advice would you give to students who want to pursue similar projects?
Reid: The biggest thing is focusing on what’s actually happening rather than focusing on how to capture it. A lot of people focus on the lighting aspect, the camera has to be great, everything has to be perfect – but if what you’re capturing isn’t that exciting, then none of it matters. Editing is a marathon, production is a sprint.
Finally, what was the biggest learning experience?
Michael: Seeing how much work goes into all this because a heck ton of work went into it.
Reid: The skills that you have are so minimal in comparison to the person that you are. Being a friendly person to get along with is sometimes more important than the skills you have.
For more information, visit Let’s Go Learn Stuff‘s website and check them out on Instagram @LetsGoLearnStuff, and Twitter, @GoLearn_Stuff, and on Facebook for updates and further details on screening events.