Tuesday, 21 February 2012

10 Things You Should Know About Being A Film Graduate

10. You're even more broke than when you were a student
Unless you're fortunate enough to have a job lined up after graduation, you're probably going to go through a spell of unemployment after finishing university.
If you're lucky, that spell doesn't last too long, because there will come times when you have to keep reminding yourself that you're not going to be getting any more student loans, grants or bursaries any more. You're going to have to start earning money pretty soon otherwise you're going to be too broke to live any more. Of course, you can apply for benefits (or welfare) but they will only help minimise your costs - they certainly won't make you any money.
As a result, in order to sustain yourself for as long as possible while you're searching for a job, you'll need to be careful with what money you do have, which is unfortunate because...

9. Everything is more expensive
As if not being in university and being unemployed isn't bad enough, suddenly everything you used to buy costs more than before.
The "Student Prices" that you were used to will be gone, so no more £1 pints on Friday nights at the Students' Union. Student Discounts will also be a thing of the past, you'll be paying full price at fast food restaurants, clothing stores and cinemas from now on.
On top of that, you've also now got to pay council tax. You may remember hearing adults complaining about it back when you were a student, and now you've got to pay it.

8. Students look a lot younger
It's nothing to do with being a filmmaker, but it's strange nonetheless.
On the occasions you do return to a student bar, you'll find a lot of people who can't be any older than 16. What are they all doing in there? Shouldn't they all be in school? Then you realise it: 1) This is what freshers look like now and 2) you're getting old.

"So, erm... how's it going? You know what, forget it."

7. Finding a stopgap job isn't easy
A lot of people graduate university with the same action plan: Get a job, any job, while you look for a job in the industry. Sounds easy, right?
Unfortunately, many people find that even getting the most universal jobs (retail, hospitality, customer service, etc.) is not an easy task. The problem is that these kind of employers are looking for staff with experience in that field. It is only natural for McDonalds to pick someone who has worked in a fast food restaurant before over someone with no experience in fast food service.
Furthermore, even the most basic jobs that don't require any experience you may struggle with. At this point in your life, your age actually counts against you in the fact that many employers would much rather employ a 16 year old high school kid who they can pay £4.80 an hour to wash dishes, as opposed to you - a 21 year old University graduate who they have to pay £6.08 an hour and will leave the moment something better comes along.

6. Finding a film job is even harder
If get think finding a stopgap job is proving hard, finding a film job will be even more challenging. Now you will be going up against tens of thousands of other new film, television and media graduates for a job in the industry. As ever, the main obstacle standing in your way will be experience. Employers are going to be looking for candidates who have practical industry experience, rather than education or theoretical knowledge.

5. You don't have an excuse to live like a tramp any more
When you're a student, it's somewhat expected (or at the least, forgiven) for you to live in less-than-perfect circumstances. After all, living in a crappy old house with no heating, living off Pot Noodles and baked beans is part of the student lifestyle.
However, once you graduate, for some reason it suddenly becomes far less acceptable to live in a dirty house. After all, you're not a student any more, which automatically means that you're a working professional with a full-time job, saving up for a house with your significant other and all those other things that adults do, right?
The reality is that the lifestyle for recent graduates is very similar to that of a student. The only difference is, you can't blame your circumstances on 9am lectures or student loans not coming though.

4. People don't take you as seriously
As a student, whenever you're running around shooting films and someone stops to ask what you're doing, you simply respond "I'm a film student and I'm shooting one of my projects." No-one tends to argue with that.
On the other hand, once you stop being a student and aren't making films for university projects any more, people tend to be far more skeptical about what you're doing. Unfortunately, it seems you can't just say "I'm making a film" because the immediate response will most often be "Why?" At that point you find yourself trying to justify exactly why you make movies at all to some random pensioner on the street who was just being nosy.

He can't wait to barrage you with questions about what you're doing.

3. No more university community/network
One thing that is easy to take for granted whilst at university is the fact that you are surrounded by other filmmakers who you can talk to about film, borrow kit from, discuss ideas with, share contacts with and help on each other's projects. But when you leave university, unless you stay in the same city you studied in and stay in touch with those still studying, you're not going to have a community of like-minded filmmakers around you any more - you're going to have to seek out other filmmakers and rebuild your network from scratch.

2. You can't use university facilities & equipment
Also, unless you planned ahead and started buying your own equipment while you were still studying, when you leave university you're not going to have much, if any, equipment at your disposal to make films with. So now, you have to start buying equipment and paying for studio space with all that money you don't have from that job you can't get. Be smart - use those student loans to buy yourself some basic gear while you're still in university. Then, once you're set up in your new graduate pad, you can start making contacts and hopefully set up a lending and borrowing system with fellow filmmakers in your area.

1. You lose your main motivation to make films
This one is a big issue. When you're at university you have to make films as part of your course. We've written in a pervious article (see #1) about how common it is for film students to only ever make films when they are for university projects. So what happens when you finish your degree and you no longer have anyone telling you to make films? Film projects don't get off the ground, or grind to a halt because there's no January deadline looming. Sadly, this is the point when a lot of former film students discover that they don't actually want to be filmmakers at all.


The Lowdown
If you really want to be a filmmaker for the rest of your life, you need to be ready for a lot of these things, especially #3, #2 and #1. It's not going to be easy when you graduate, but if you plan ahead sensibly, there's no reason why you can't go on making films and keeping your passion for filmmaking alive.

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