I’m probably not what most people think a new filmmaker looks like.
I’m in my forties, I’m female, I’m working class and I’m originally from a part of the country where no one really makes films (you go into tourism or agriculture). If you had to guess what I do for a living, you might plump for Teacher, Vet or Bank Clerk.
But I am a filmmaker, because Raindance, a sackload of self discipline, a year of hard work and a ‘no-plan-B’ attitude has made it possible.
After a twenty year career in Marketing, I realised that I was miserable in my job. I loved the people and the regular pay, but every day I went to work, I was becoming a little less creative. I loved to write, and I had a dozen stories in my head that I needed to tell, but writing technical material for a living had left me exhausted and meant I had almost no ‘juice’ left for what I really wanted to write.
Becoming a writer
At evenings and weekends, I’d cobbled together a feature film script of sorts, and that had made me happy. It wasn’t very good, but I’d enjoyed it. I’d also read some screenwriting books and that was a fun way of pretending to myself that I was a screenwriter and not a technical writer – which was clearly much cooler.
But obviously, I couldn’t really get into the film industry and earn a living.
In July 2016 I quit my job and enrolled in the Raindance MA programme as a full time, one year student to study screenwriting.
Work colleagues told me I was ‘bold’ (read ‘stupid’), others told me I was ‘brave’ (read ‘irresponsible’), and friends said, ‘hell yeah’. Best of all, my other half was 100% on board. So I was set.
But I had doubts. I was about to spend my life savings, ditch a pretty successful career and potentially jeopardise my reputation as a responsible wage-earning adult for this MA in Film.
Could I even do a Masters degree? I graduated Uni the first time around in the 1990s. What if I couldn’t hack it now? It was also going to be an independent learning experience, with no set curriculum. I liked the idea of designing my own course, but what the hell did I know about filmmaking? And who would be in my learning cohort? Would they have tonnes of filmmaking experience? How could I possibly hold my own, amongst them?
Then on day one of the course, I knew it was going to be OK.
Starting the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree
My cohort was a mix of ages and experiences. There was also a mix of disciplines; writers, directors, producers. Some had made films. Some hadn’t. We all had different goals and a different journey to make; but we were in this together – which bonded us.
And then there was our course leader. He was a working screenwriter. He listened to all our hopes…our potential… and he took us seriously. And it sounds stupid to say this – because obviously he would – but that was brilliant for someone like me, who had had doubts. Someone who actually did this for a living believed in us and would help us. He explained the process, the stages we’d need to complete, how we’d be assessed and I came out of that first session feeling like a screenwriter, because I was being lead through this process by a practitioner, not a lecturer.
We were then assigned a Personal Advisor, to be a guide through the academic process, and Mentor – an expert in our particular discipline, who we could speak to regularly about our craft. Both of whom were also working in the film industry. We had six assignments to complete over the course, and I’d opted to base those assignments around developing my feature script. I didn’t know why it was bad or how to make it any better, but I would and I did. And I got my MA.
Becoming a filmmaker
Aside from developing a learning contract based around what I personally needed to learn about screenwriting, and then doing all that learning and developing my script – three other amazing things happened during my MA. I had access to all of Raindance’s public courses, so I learned about Directing, Producing, FX, Genres and actually shooting a film (all of which I think make me a better screenwriter, and appreciative of the other roles in filmmaking), I got to go to Cannes, which was fantastic, crazy, brilliant and massively educational (as well enabling me to start building my network of industry contacts) and I got asked to be a script editor on a fellow student’s film. He also asked me to be his AD during production.
So now I’ve worked hands-on on a film, I have my first IMDB film credit, an MA in Film and a feature film script ready to be pitched.
I won’t lie. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. There were emotional ups and downs and the year-long schedule was full on (most people do it part time over two years – and I can see why), but the support I got from the working film industry professionals who delivered the programme, the course registrar, my fellow Raindancers and my family and friends means that I’m now a screenwriter. I’m now a filmmaker. And I’ve now got a paying job in the film industry to help me develop my contacts, experience and reputation in this new career.
Doing the Raindance MA in film changed my life. It was my way in to being a filmmaker; it might be yours too.