Some useful hints and tips from our experience with running workshops:
Research, consultation and preparation
When dealing with new, complex and sensitive subjects, research is vital - make sure you are confident with your subject knowledge and make the most of specialist's time. You will need to call on your knowledge to make decisions on the spot. Learn as much about your group as possible - this will give you invaluable insights and allow you to create appropriate activities. Time spent in preparation will lead to a well organised, smooth running and enjoyable project for all.
Planning and logistics
Before the project begins there is a lot of planning to do - organising project staff and consultants, booking venues, assembling and notifying your group, arranging equipment, doing risk assessments, consent forms and so on. All these are essential and time consuming. Remember to keep the young people in mind - don't presume that they are readily available, factor in holidays, school and work. Try to keep sessions shorter than a school day, e.g. 10am - 3pm.
Short taster workshops are great for recruiting. Participants can try a variety of fun activities, generating excitement about the project and giving a chance for them and the artists to meet. Activities should not relate to the project but should be purely for fun. It helps if you take the taster session to the group wherever they regularly meet so it is easy for them to attend. Some people may seem reluctant to join in - try and encourage them but don't be pushy. Often they will find that they love the activities when they eventually try them. Without a taster session, they would be very unlikely to join the project.
Firstly, help your group to gel as they may not know each other. Create a structure for the group to work within (timescales/length of film/aims and objectives) - once they know the constraints, they are free to express themselves within them. Manage time closely by creating a script, production schedule, shot/job list and define roles/allocate tasks. Hold regular progress reviews against the schedule and ask participants to tick off tasks as they are completed. Do not rush the planning even though young people may want to dive straight in to the action with no plan. Encourage creativity, experimentation and idea development - young people tend to want to run with the first idea they have. Offer a mixture of approaches and encourage people to try different tasks and roles. Support each individual - the project could be emotionally challenging for them and it is your responsibility to look after them. Maintain a website or Blog to document the project and upload works-in progress and finished pieces.
Aim to do as much post-production as possible with the group - they should experience the full process. Do a first edit before the end of the last session so that the group can enjoy the fruits of their labour. Do any additional post-production as soon after the project as possible. Aim to create a high quality product that is true to the group - the finished piece should still feel like their work.
Hold a viewing event shortly after the completion of the workshops and invite everyone involved - this is a chance for the group to feel proud of what they have achieved and for children, parents/carers, clinicians and other professionals to view the film and meet each other in a new setting.
Conduct this throughout the project - record monitoring information and evaluation comments from the start - it is impossible to remember all the details of the project unless you record them. Do an initial survey of each participant and an equivalent final survey - comparing the two will allow you to assess each participant's 'distance travelled'. Good evaluation not only helps to justify your project but also to make adjustments during the project and to ensure that each new project benefits from the experiences of previous projects - mistakes can be avoided and good practice can be built upon.