The way I ended up studying at ARU was a little cheeky really. I was working for a not for profit with recently released ex-offenders, and one of them had a script for a short film called The Crack that we wanted to shoot. At the time ARU were offering grants and community assistance for these kind of projects, so I applied to use the University’s camera equipment. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our timelines matched up and so I wondered: ‘how else could get I my hands on the equipment?’ Next thing you know I’m enrolling on a film degree as a mature student.
While it was a strange way to start a degree, it turns out it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve always been someone who has an idea and then just does it. But while studying I was forced to stand back and plan and think about everything more. It meant I learnt things about filmmaking that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. A year into the course and The Crack was already in full production. Only now I didn’t just have equipment, I had a small army of fellow film students to help and the full backing and support of ARU as well.
I guess university is what you make of it. Kids I met on the course went from fellow students to friends to directors and producers at my film company Hammer & Tongs. Film is proving a great way to reach out to people who might otherwise struggle to talk about their experiences, and without ARU there’s no way that we could’ve made the film and got the ball rolling. We even won ARU competitions like The Big Pitch that helped fund our first production and to this day still work out of the University’s Startup Lab; using it as a base to host workshops and meet new talent. In the end ARU hasn’t just been a place to learn, it’s been a place to make.
Realistically If it weren’t for this rather interesting way of ending up on a course then there’s no way I’d have gone to university. For one I’m getting on a bit, but above that I’m dyslexic, and I’ve always thought that meant academic things weren’t really an option for me. Turns out I was wrong, as with the help of ARU and student services, not only am I studying a degree but I’ve written a whole screenplay as well. If you’d have told me that a few years ago I’d have called you a liar.
Now when I meet young kids and ex-offenders who’ve got their own reasons for not doing well at school or not thinking they can study, I can say look at me – I did it, why can’t you? The whole experience has been completely transformative.