Olivia Wilkinson

What was your background before doing your master's?MA Film student, Olivia Wilkinson

Prior to doing my master's, I graduated with a BA in Media Arts from St. Mary’s Twickenham, where I learnt all about media, web design and filmmaking. In order to afford my MA, I had to work for a year to save up for rent, tuition, and other living costs. I worked three jobs simultaneously throughout my gap year, one job as a receptionist, one as a barmaid, and another as a waitress.

What encouraged you to study at postgraduate level?

I left my undergraduate studies feeling happy with the progress I had made regarding my filmmaking knowledge and abilities. But I knew there was a lot more I needed to learn before I could enter the industry. I didn’t know anything about roles on-set within larger scale productions, equipment, or on-set etiquette. I was on a completely amateur level and I really wanted to enhance my abilities. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy study also, I always took a disliking to school & college, but university had a different working atmosphere of dedication and respect which enabled me to enjoy learning.

Why did you choose to study at ENU?

I had previously studied in London which was fantastic, and I loved every second. But after 4 years in the big city, there are certain things you begin to miss about living somewhere more intimate. I wanted to be able to afford more than just my living costs, and soon, the charm of the attractions began to wear off. I then noticed most of the London universities charged way beyond my means, so I started to look elsewhere and found that Edinburgh Napier had a directing course. The course had received great reviews, had promising testimonies from graduates, and had modules that filled in all the gaps in my knowledge, such as Collaborative Techniques and Creative Practice, with the added bonus of the chance to learn about screenwriting. Upon being invited for an interview, instead of doing it over Skype, I headed up to Scotland in person to take myself on a mini-break to see how I felt about my potential new home - I fell in love instantly and it’s not hard to see why.

How did you hear about the course?

I primarily conducted my research on the “Which?” website. This helped me find a course that was right for me, as opposed to what a university league table believes is right for me.

What are your favourite parts of the course?

Highlights for me were the Collaborative Techniques shoots, where our tutors, alongside other industry professionals, would attend shoots and observe us as we shot a scene and give critique on our on-set decorum and skill. These shoots introduced me to the role of Assistant Director, a career route I am now pursuing. I felt this module gave us the foundation of knowledge we needed in order to pursue our independent filmmaking in Creative Practice - this being another one of my favourite aspects of the course. Other highlights would include the Critical Film Study, which introduced me to aspects of cinema I hadn’t experienced before, yet I now take a thorough interest in Neorealist Italian and French New Wave cinema.

How did you find the transition between undergraduate studies/work to doing your master's?

I was so excited to start my MA and move to a new city that I didn’t have any real issues with the transition. The time between my courses had allowed me to study and research filmmaking so I was more than ready to take the next step. The transition was easy, and it was helped by the fact that no question was a stupid one, and the tutors understood there were some students who knew more than others. We were all treated with respect and made to feel of equal experience - if I put my hand up to ask a question, I would be treated with respect, no matter the question, and this is definitely a commendable attribute of the course.

What have you been doing since you completed your master's?

After the course, I got into contact with a professional Assistant Director that I had met through the course and had a meeting with him about the next steps to take. I still hoped to become a director but wanted to take the Assistant Director route there. He advised me to start as a runner and build my way up, to get myself on a website named Film Bang, and to email everyone of relevance who was listed with my CV. Most of my emails were ignored but I finally got a response about a commercial film shoot, asking if I would like to come along and be a runner for the day. The shoot went well, and the production company I worked for then went on to hire me as a production assistant on a temporary contract during their particularly busy time of year. I absolutely loved the role of production assistant, however it was predominantly a pre-production role as opposed to on-set, so I kept on pursuing the role of floor runner. I then received an email from a producer of a BBC children’s TV show, who asked if I would like to become a floor runner under the Screenskills Assistant Director Traineeship. This was a fantastic opportunity, as it meant I would be sent working opportunities by Screenskills until 2022.

I have also taken the skills and interests I adopted from Critical Film Study and began reviewing films on a new Instagram account. It’s not something I receive money for or use to advertise, but it’s a great creative outlet and it feels great when I receive messages about films I’ve recommended that have given people something to enjoy during lockdown.

Would you recommend the course? 

I would definitely recommend this course for those who want to enhance their filmmaking skills and build upon their showreels. We were given many opportunities, including the chance to use Screen Academy equipment to complete our 10 minute graduation films. This meant I left my MA with a healthy portfolio of work. What’s more, this course has given me confidence in my own abilities and moulded me into someone who is more career conscious, focussed on building upon my strengths and learning from my mistakes. This course has also enhanced my understanding of the filmmaking process, giving me a greater appreciation for the film industry and other creative industries alike.

I would recommend this course most of all however, because I had so much fun. I made great friends, got to work with genuinely talented individuals and amazing equipment, and take a year focusing on doing what I love most. I miss it terribly, and I wish I could do it all over again.

What advice would you give to anyone considering this course?

I would advise you to enter the course as if you love everything, but know nothing - wipe the slate clean, and come in as an open book. I say this because it’s very easy to assume knowledge because you made a film in your undergraduate, or have had experience in the industry, and if you were to then learn something that conflicts with what you already believe, you may limit yourself in your learning experience. I would also advise you to take any opportunity that comes your way. Any extra lectures in other courses (such as the chance to sit in on an Acting BA class), or online modules provided by external learning platforms such as Screenskills or BAFTA, take it, as you never know who you might meet or what you might learn - & let’s be honest, MA’s aren’t cheap, so if there’s something you can get extra for free, take it while you can. My final and arguably the most important advice I can give; socialise. Make an avid effort socialise with your year group (including the Screenwriters) as you will all be working so closely together, you don’t want to be distant strangers to one another. Go to the pub, have movie nights, get coffee, have lunch together - make the most of being a student while you can!

Follow Liv on Instagram liv.filmnreview