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Getting Into University

What's it like to study... Film

Nick Rowland studied a BA in Film Production at The Arts University College at Bournemouth (AUCB)

Everyone loves films, right? We have all grown up in front of the silver screen and we all become captivated by the excitement and escapism it offers.

There is a slightly surreal quality to the cinema experience; you walk into an unlit cave and sit next to strangers in total darkness and silence. Then, when the forty-foot high screen lights up, suddenly we lose ourselves in the beautiful imagery, the rich sound design and truthful acting that leaves us feeling different, changed from when we started. The alchemy of film is certainly potent.

Film-making to me is a magic that we don’t always see, but we feel. For me it is about love, hate, regret and everything else in between. It examines the tranquility of the fractured, energetic character and the manic nature of the quiet moment. Cinema is an observer of life and the human condition, and I feel it is true what Michael Caine said, “you don’t go to the cinema to see the stars, you go to see yourself projected in the stars.”

It is hardly surprising that many people, with time, grow dissatisfied with simply going to the cinema, just watching movies, just eating popcorn. Instead the creative urges become hard to resist. We begin to watch movies and think about how we would have done it. We start to look at our own life, our own thoughts and experiences; wondering what they would look like projected 40 feet high. Film offers us a chance to share our own unique take on the world around us. Sounds exciting right? Who would not want to become a filmmaker?

The real question is why should a budding filmmaker go to film school? You can buy all the camera and editing software you need easily in this age where even your mobile phone shoots in HD. Why spend almost ten thousand pounds a year at film school when all the A-Z guides to film-making are on Amazon?

When I think back to where I was before film school and compare it with today, the difference is huge. I knew nothing about what went into making a great film or how the industry worked. It was the AUCB film school that opened my eyes to the possibilities of film; it encouraged me to think about storytelling and the language of film. The greatest advantage from joining the course was that I got to meet and work with many other talented and like-minded filmmakers, who have gone on to become great collaborators and close friends to this day.

What type of person should become a film student? Well, to quote Danny Boyle, 'to be a filmmaker, you have to be relentless. You have to be psychotic in your desire to do something and keep working. People always like the easy route. You can’t, you have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different to stand out.'

Do not join a film school unless you are prepared for relentless hard work, you enjoy collaboration and team work, you listen to others and communicate well, you have a hunger to learn and a passion for storytelling.

The course at AUCB is structured to mirror the real film industry and all students are trained accordingly. Our tutors are all still actively working in the industry, which leads to up-to-date knowledge and the luxury of having many big-name guest lecture visits. The biggest attraction to me when I first joined was the fact that at AUCB the films were all shot using real super 16mm film, none of this DSLR or video stuff. Putting aside that shooting on film is really cool and screams production value, it is also a great educational tool. As students we are always working to a limited amount of film stock, which encourages good on set discipline and rehearsals so no celluloid is wasted.

You will find that the AUCB film school is aimed towards practical work and filmmaking rather than academic writing, though you can expect units that cover film history and theory that contextualize your practical work. In your first year you are treated to an introduction to all the fundamentals of filmmaking, experiencing every department of the industry through short exercises and workshops. At the end of the first year you must choose an area of production to specialize in for the rest of your time on the course. The options are: Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Production Design, Directing and Producing. From this point onwards the year group act as a mini film industry working on projects together. There are commonly nine directors selected for each year group and thus usually nine films made in each unit. Each area is highly specialized so an editing student will naturally have a very different learning experience to someone in the cinematography department for example.

In your final year you create your graduation film, a short film that you work on all year before it gets screened at the British Film Institute in London. You can make anything you like from a sci-fi to a drama. In my case I wrote and directed a film called Dancing in the Ashes, a historic drama set in Eastern Europe during WWII about a young Jewish ballerina. There is no better feeling than seeing a film you have made get projected in such a famous theatre- it is a very exciting way to graduate. Once completed, you film is submitted to film festivals all over the world to hopefully get noticed by a wider audience.

My film education at AUCB has been vital for my career and has led to me gaining a place at the National Film and Television School to do an MA in directing fiction. I believe I simply would not have been offered this opportunity had I gone to any other undergraduate film school. I would recommend the AUCB to anyone who was serious about starting a career in the film industry.