Class of 2020
BA (Hons) Film & TV
Discover Michelle's story as she shares her journey, passion, and challenges while pursuing her dreams in the film industry. From her early fascination with the capturing of genuine emotions and experiences through film to her decision to study Film & TV, her story encompasses determination, creativity, and personal growth. Explore her experiences studying alongside highly creative individuals, the obstacles she overcame during the pandemic, and how her career has developed since graduating.
What or who inspired you to get into Film & TV?
Film has always been a source of play and self-assurance for me. Filmmaking is where I feel most confident and secure, allowing me to freely express myself.
My earliest encounter with film was through the home videos my parents used to make. I vividly recall watching these videos, even though the moments they captured were from a time I could barely remember.
What fascinated me was the film's ability to preserve the raw authenticity of those moments - a glimpse into a specific time, a unique culture, or a significant event.
This fascination with how film could encapsulate such genuine emotions and experiences has continued to fuel my passion for the art form.
Why did you choose to study Film & TV at the University of Cumbria?
Like many others, I attended numerous open days, exploring universities across Northern Ireland, England, and Europe. My goal was to keep my options open and find an environment where I could truly thrive.
Coming from a small town in Northern Ireland, my core values revolved around community, friendships, and a deep sense of belonging. While many universities held promise, I couldn't picture myself in the bustling halls of larger city institutions.
The University of Cumbria stood out because of its unique offering. I was comforted by the close-knit community of a dedicated Arts campus, where lecturers and current students formed a supportive network. What set it apart for me was the opportunity to pioneer my own path, and to lead my creative projects.
The University of Cumbria's dedication became evident right from my interview in Belfast. The personal touch, like Steve Ogden remembering me at an open day, and the university’s assistance in moving my belongings via courier to my accommodation, exceeded all my expectations.
This blend of character, community, and opportunity became the deciding factor for me. It's why I chose the University of Cumbria.
What did you enjoy the most about your Film & TV course?
I loved being around so many highly creative individuals, each bringing their own unique skills and approaches to the table. Alongside the cross-media collaboration that bridged various courses; this experience offered valuable insights into different industries and their distinct processes.
One standout moment was in my second year, when I enrolled in the Experimental Film Art module with David Robert. This served as a pivotal point, shaping the trajectory of my degree projects. Dave provided me with an unparalleled sense of creative freedom, empowering me to navigate the narrative I was passionate to explore and develop.
What was the most difficult obstacle you overcame in your student journey?
I completed my final year at the height of the initial COVID-19 lockdown. Like countless others, I battled intense anxiety during these unprecedented times, compounded by the anxiety related to my Chinese identity.
It was during this period that I gained a profound understanding of the media's significant influence on people. Witnessing fear-mongering tactics and the spread of misinformation transform into xenophobia towards the ESEA (East and Southeast Asian) community was both eye-opening and deeply troubling. This experience was incredibly frightening for me, highlighting the importance of media literacy and responsible information dissemination in times of crisis.
This experience deeply influenced my research and determination throughout my dissertation, extending on to my Masters degree. Today, it serves as a guiding force as I navigate the terrain of my anxiety related to my British-Chinese identity in a holistic manner.
I'm not sure if I have completely overcome this challenge yet, but it's something I am continuously working on and building myself up from.
What top tips would you give to others that want to get into Film & TV?
Relax and release the pressure of needing fancy production materials for your film. Sometimes, a good shot is all you need, so shoot your shot. Gather these moments and create a montage, without worrying about weaving them into a grand narrative.
Get a disposable camera occasionally. This will force you to be intentional and selective with your shots. However, remember, once it's captured, it's time to move forward. These are vital lessons that I wish I had learned earlier in my journey.
Stay practical and proactive. You don't have to create a masterpiece right away, and you don't necessarily have to delve into the classics immediately. Remember, you have the power to shape how film enriches your life. Take control and explore at your own pace.
How was university life beyond your studies?
Initially, settling into Carlisle was a challenge for me due to my decision to travel between the UK and Europe. Making this possible was my choice of a flexible job as a Student Ambassador, smart budgeting with my student finance, and the affordability of Carlisle as a student-friendly city.
While I was deeply engaged with activities like being a part of the Students’ Union and serving as a course representative, I realised I was stretching myself thin. It wasn't until my third year that I shifted my focus inward, dedicating more time to my personal projects. During this period, I started indoor bouldering at Eden Rock, which became a significant turning point for me.
Indoor bouldering wasn't just a sport; it was a creative outlet. It required stimulating mental engagement and creative problem-solving. For almost five years now, bouldering has been my passion, a pursuit that has become an integral part of my identity. I owe this transformative experience to the fantastic team at Eden Rock, whose inclusive, welcoming, and supportive environment played a pivotal role in shaping my journey.
What did you enjoy the most about student life in Carlisle?
Discovering the charming independent cafés and shops scattered throughout the city creates the perfect cosy itinerary. And let's not forget the vibrant urban art scene curated by Blank Wall Assassins, that adds an element of insanity and creativity to the cityscape!
And although a bit unsettling at times, weaving my way through the cows of Rickerby Park!
How did the course prepare you for your future career in the working world?
The Film and TV course not only equipped me with the skills necessary to pursue a Masters degree and delve deeper into creative academia and research, but it also provided valuable lessons in creative resilience and leadership in managing my own projects. I’ve learnt how to effectively pitch my ideas to a team, hold my own when it comes to creative direction, and onboard constructive feedback – all of which is very important in any industry.
With my degree focusing on social commentary lead films, the course guided me in investigating numerous ongoing societal issues. It instilled in me a passion for championing inclusive practices both on and off screen. This invaluable experience has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of the industry, empowering me to make meaningful contributions in the field of film and television as a woman of colour.
What do you plan to do with your degree now that you’ve graduated?
There isn't a set plan! Follow what fulfils and nurtures your creativity, and don't shy away from making mistakes. Just be ready for the unexpected challenges that might come your way.
For example, I pursued a Masters degree and took breaks to prioritise my mental health. I explored various roles in freelance, public, and private sectors, aiming to discover what truly resonates with me. I even had a burn out!
However, since completing my degree, exciting opportunities have opened up for me. These experiences highlight the doors my degree has unlocked. Currently, I am employed at Two Stories, a brand and design agency in Lancaster. Here, I craft compelling social media content for a diverse range of clients, putting my skills and knowledge to practical use.
The Film and TV course not only equipped me with the skills necessary to pursue a Masters degree and delve deeper into creative academia, but it also provided valuable lessons in creative resilience and leadership in managing my own projects.