As a part-time MA Filmmaking student, what surprised me most when I started was the amount of independence and creative freedom given to me and my course mates.
You are expected to be in charge of your own success at masters level and to manage your time and objectives as efficiently as possible. This freedom allows for a much wider scope of creativity.
You are granted a certain amount of trust in your creativity and the projects you produce are entirely self-conceived and self-managed. Your tutors become more like mentors and your course mates become your industry peers. It is easy to get lost in your own creativity, as contact time with tutors is a few hours a week (more if you’re full time) – but those few hours are enough to keep you grounded and to help rein in and hone your craft, and sometimes help relieve you of a creative drought. If you are struggling with any of your projects, tutors are regularly available via phone, e-mail or drop-in.
So, what do I actually do? Perhaps the most frustrating thing about doing a masters is that no two student journeys are actually the same. We have set dates for reviews and progress monitoring, yet as our projects are all completely different, it is often the case that our day-to-day student experience is also very different. My course is taught with Filmmakers and Photographers mixed, which provides invaluable perspectives from across the mediums. We are given the opportunity to expand past our usual research methods and introduce each other to new artists and inspirations. It is always good to expand your knowledge across the arts and my course has definitely given me the opportunity to do that.
I spend most of my days writing my screenplay drafts and mocking up mood boards for when I begin to film my short film. I learnt fairly early on (during my undergraduate final year in fact) that when doing a practical project, which relies so heavily on other people to complete (cast / crew etc.) that 99% of the time will be spent doing admin. You are your own producer, your own receptionist and your own administrator.
You’re thirty people at once when you’re making a short film independently. And it is hard, but the results are worth it. When you’re presenting your progress during a group critique and you realise how much you have actually worked on this one project, it feels really great and is just enough motivation to keep going and working harder. And the insight other students share on your work is fantastic. You also get the chance to see what everyone else is working on and give your thoughts and opinions to them. There is a very safe and open discussion aspect to these sessions which are invaluable to your creative student journey.
When in uni, we often have working artists visiting to do a guest talk, and to introduce us to their practice and way of working. These artists can range from filmmakers, photographers, writers…just about any artist. Yet, no matter how different their work is to yours you will always leave learning something new, which you can apply to your own work. If I could give you any advice it would be to take advantage of everything university offers you as you never know where you could find value and sudden inspiration.