If you had asked six-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would be a writer. I spent years scribbling down my ideas on lonely visits to my Grandma’s house, and my family would have to drag me away from my notebook and tempt me with, “do you want to watch The Parent Trap?” because I got so carried away. All I wanted to do was tell stories.
I had no idea that my excessive writing, reading and watching would become more than something to pass the time. I began studying film and media in my final two years of High School, and after one project I discovered that not only did I enjoy the process, I was actually pretty good at it.
Back in school, I thought nothing of it when people told me that the course looked easy because at that level, it was. We had a dozen other subjects to study and take exams for so of course we weren’t going to be challenged quite as much. Not only that, but we didn’t have access to the same equipment that college and university students do so we couldn’t have expanded our skills much more if we’d tried.
The workload of an average film student didn’t hit me until I entered my third year of study, and now being in my fifth year, I’ve realised just how little respect we get.
I am frequently told that my experience of student life must be easy. According to non-film students, all film students do is watch films, right? What if I told you that those of us who truly care about our work are never just watching. We’re studying, analysing, criticising, learning and finding our inspiration.
We work through the night on multiple occasions of the week to perfect a pitch package, a script or an edit. We sit in front of our computers and edit until our headaches become too much to handle. We go out and work on set at absurd times in freezing temperatures because the perfect shot is worth sacrificing comfort. We spend our own money on hiring cast and crew and sourcing props, and we plan the film from start to finish. Oh, and don’t forget we’re still going to lectures, writing essays, trying to maintain our social lives, jobs and our mental health.
What if I told you that those of us who truly care about our work are never just watching. We’re studying, analysing, criticising, learning and finding our inspiration.
I know people who have studied film and media because, like so many others, they think it’s easy. It’s a common assumption, and I suppose it makes sense that people who aren’t aware of the workload would think this, but you’re incorrect.
Do you think we would get ourselves into thousands of pounds of debt and risk never having a stable, full-time job for the sake of watching films? No. We get ourselves into debt because we are passionate. We want to create content to share with the world.
You are failing to realise the most important thing about film students: we are the future of the film industry.
One day, this generation will be responsible for all of the new releases in cinema and you may find that we are the ones responsible for creating the films that your children grow up watching. We are valuable, and we deserve respect for our work.
You have a choice in what you study and what you dedicate your time to, so do yourself the biggest favour of your life and make it something you are passionate about and something you want to wake up and do every day.
I am absolutely not saying that film is easier than other subjects, nor am I saying that every film student could study medicine and vice versa. No individual course is ever easy. What I am saying is that every single student deserves an equal level of respect. We’re all in the same boat and we need to stop comparing and putting other students down.
We are all trying to do one thing: build our future. Let’s support each other.