Film Student Survival Guide 0



Work on as many of your classmates’ films as you can. Don’t just work with your own group of friends. You never know which of your classmates will get you work in the future. Work with people from other courses – the Art & Design faculty gives you access to Graphic Designers, Advertisers, and Illustrators.


Do more than the bare minimum. If you only finish the projects that you are set by your tutors, your showreel will be much weaker than that of the students who use every last minute to work on something new. Make sure to give your assignments the time they need but keep working on your own projects and experiments throughout your degree.

Challenge yourself

Your grades for first year do not count towards your final degree mark. Great! You can spend first year getting drunk and really knuckle down in second year. NOPE! The reason your first year marks don’t carry through to your final year is to free you from worrying about grades so you can really push yourself and not hold back due to fear of failing. Try everything. Do things that you think you might not be good enough for yet. It may work out better than you expect but even if everything goes wrong, you will learn a lot and your next project will be better for it.

Don’t specialize too early

You may start first year sure that you want to direct, to be a camera operator or to work in the sound department but don’t hold onto these inclinations too tightly. You will get a chance to work in every different role throughout working on your projects. You might find your interests change as you learn more. And if you want to be a director, you need to know as much as you can about EVERYTHING so that you can communicate effectively with every department working on your film.

Learn to analyse film

Don’t just watch films for entertainment. Watch films that fall outside your usual taste. Watch good films and try to figure out what made it good. What choices did the director make and how did they affect the final film? Watch bad movies and write about how you would make them better. Rewatch your favourite films and analyse their structure. Keep a notebook handy whenever you watch something.

Reading list

Start reading now. Not all of the books on your reading list will be used directly in your lessons but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to read them. There is far more to learn about filmmaking than can be taught in your three year degree and you will have to be proactive with your own learning to fill in these gaps. Start with the topics that interest you most. Want to be a director? Read Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies. Want to be an Editor? Read Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye. Don’t restrict yourself to the reading list. Ask your tutors for recommendations.


Learn how to give and receive constructive feedback. “I don’t like it” isn’t good enough. If you can suggest practical ways to improve someone’s film they will appreciate it. Listening to your classmates and tutors will help you to improve yours.


Learn how to write reflective analysis. Look at the work you have done. See what went well and what went wrong. How can you avoid past mistakes? How can you take your strengths to the next level? What areas do you need more practice in? Considering these questions will help you to develop as a filmmaker.

Don’t buy equipment

You’ve paid your fees to have access to an excellent range of equipment from the University. If you buy your own equipment now it will be three years out of date once you graduate. Save your money until then – when you no longer have access to free equipment.  Investing in the production values of your films is a better way to spend your money during your degree. Location hire, costumes, set dressing, actor fees.


Look for paid video work outside of the course. Volunteer to help with charitable organisations. Go to industry events. Learn how to network as a professional.


BONUS TIP – Learn to drive

Seriously! It is possible to get work in the film & television industries without being able to drive, but having your own transport dramatically increases the number of jobs you can apply for.