Film production at Westminster University of London

Hello, Lukas, it is very nice to talk with you for a little bit about your stud­ies, so tell me how did you choose to study film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion? What was your main motiv­a­tion exactly select­ing University of Westminster?

Well I star­ted out in the theatre when I was 12 by learn­ing the craft of act­ing. I was very lucky to be taught by a Professional Theatre Director Jonas Daraškevičius and in the two final years of being in my Drama Studio “Vaidyba” I under­stood that I did not want to aban­don what I learned in being cre­at­ive and artistic so I decided to pro­ceed onto Films and Television. I did not con­tinue in theatre because Film is a broader medium and I always had a big pas­sion for cam­era visuals.

Creative indus­tries as well as the film industry are con­sidered to be pre­cari­ous and very com­pet­it­ive fields, what do you think about it?

Mostly all pro­fes­sions are com­pet­it­ive and always the best people win and achieve. It all depends on how much work you put in in devel­op­ing your­self in your pro­fes­sion. In the Film industry you have to con­stantly live and breathe film, make films your life and then you will end up in one place or another. Even though it might be quite stress­ful to get a good job at first but it’s not your usual rat race, 8 hour work day pro­fes­sion and that is par­tic­u­larly appeal­ing to me.

Regarding your dis­cip­line con­tent, how is it organ­ized, can you tell us more about it?

We are con­stantly given assign­ments. Even when we are fin­ish­ing one film we need to start work­ing on another. We usu­ally go to the University 4–5 times a week and there have been times that we edited over the week­ends. We are con­stantly work­ing and think­ing and that is really bene­fi­cial and devel­ops us a lot. But that is what is good about edu­ca­tion you are con­stantly being pushed for­ward, no time to hold your­self back.

Comparing film pro­duc­tion stud­ies and prac­tices to other coun­tries, do you think it is more bene­fi­cial choose to study in UK than any other country?

I was talk­ing to a MA in dir­ect­ing gradu­ate who stud­ied her BA in America and she said that you have more free­dom in cre­at­ing any con­tent that you like in the UK and more unortho­dox ideas are wel­comed and accep­ted. Then again there are a lot of down to earth reas­ons for choos­ing UK like not need­ing a visa, or a work per­mit. That applies to all of the EU coun­tries, but then again I was the most pro­fi­cient in English of all my second lan­guages and this pro­fes­sion requires a lot of communication.

How would you relate your study exper­i­ence with real­ity, do you think you will be able to use skills you gained to you career opportunities?

We are taught a lot about the whole pro­duc­tion pro­cess of film mak­ing. We have to pre­pare all the pro­duc­tion papers, pitch our ideas to the tutors. We also have tech­nical work­shops with film equip­ment. What we learn is very real and when you apply for a job pos­i­tion you can say with con­fid­ence: Yes, I know how to do that and that.

There are some pro­fes­sion­als in the film industry who claim what it is more bene­fi­cial just to go and work in the industry instead of tak­ing three years course. What is your opin­ion about that?

Doing a Course in film means that you can ded­ic­ate 3 years of your life into devel­op­ing your­self as a very com­pet­it­ive and edu­cated film per­son. And also you have 3 years to try and make all of your most inter­est­ing and excit­ing ideas come to life, there is a lot of room for error and advice. You will not have that in a ser­i­ous work­ing envir­on­ment. For instance, my course mate was work­ing in the industry for 3 years and she had been on big film shoots, but she choose to come to the course just because she felt that she was not learn­ing enough on sets.

We would like to ask about draw­backs of your study related exper­i­ence, do you have any cri­ti­cism, opin­ion about how some things could be changed in the course? What would it be?

Well one of the hard­est things is that every­body wants to have big roles instantl. And you have to put up quite a bit of a fight to be a dir­ector or pro­du­cer on a pro­ject. It is pretty calm in the first year, but later on in the second and espe­cially third year when the most import­ant films are being made people who don’t get the roles lose interest and the will to work. It is quite a per­sonal thing and not every­body is doing so. All in all, I think that it is hard but also fair that you already have to learn how to inspire oth­ers and make them believe in you. But I am very sat­is­fied with my course at the University of Westminster. It has a very good repu­ta­tion all across Europe, one recent stu­dent film “The Miserables” was nom­in­ated for an Academy Award in the inter­na­tional stu­dent cat­egory in Hollywood.

Do you think the fees of the courses in UK are worth its qual­ity and con­tent? What is your opin­ion about a recent increase to 9000 per year for BA?

It very much depends on your course. If you are doing a the­or­et­ical course where you have lec­tures only for 14–21 hours a week like busi­ness or account­ing it is quite a lot of money to spend on just com­ing in to sit down, listen to your tutor, get assign­ments and use the University’s lib­rary. In my Course at the University of Westminster you really get your money’s worth because of all the film equip­ment that you can take out to do your films, you get pro­fes­sional edit­ing suites which you can use 247 and also the pro­fes­sion­als that come from the industry to share their exper­i­ences and give good advice. So if your course can offer you more than just the basics it is very worth it. And don’t be so frightened about the tuition fee rise; UK has a very gen­er­ous loan sys­tem aimed at help­ing you get an education.

Tell us a little bit about the pro­jects, prac­tices you work with at the moment, why do you like/​do not like it?

In the first semester we got down to the basics of mak­ing films and stor­ies, but in very chal­len­ging ways. In the example for the first exer­cise we had to do a silent film only with 12 shots and a con­tinu­ous flow of action. All these basic exer­cises really built up our know­ledge of film­ing, edit­ing, scriptwrit­ing and now we pro­ceed into the second semester where we have to do actual doc­u­ment­ar­ies, Multi– cam­era TV shows and dra­mas. Also we will have our first short fea­ture films made at the end of this year from the scripts we wrote in the first semester. I like it because you have to work a lot on pre-​production and post-​production not just film or dir­ect­ing. Sometimes you don’t get the roles that you want but then again it is always good to learn a new position.

What kind of film are you inter­ested in? Do you famil­i­ar­ize your­self with any par­tic­u­lar style, his­tor­ical period of cinema?

In am inter­ested in Dramas and human rela­tions, the tra­gi­com­ed­ies and absurdit­ies of human life. It all comes from theatre. I am still devel­op­ing and search­ing for new and ori­ginal film styles. I do study the his­tory of Cinema and there is a lot to learn from old films in terms of ana­lys­ing them crit­ic­ally. I like the early French new wave films (1959−1965) for what they stand for, but I fol­low con­tem­por­ary films more.

What would you sug­gest other young cre­at­ive, con­sid­er­ing to study film industry related courses in UK? Any tips, mis­takes bet­ter not to be done?

Definitely try and go to the open day events at the Universities that you choose. Then you really get a sense of what the University is like. Also it is very good to put some research into what have the films of course that you are apply­ing for won in film fest­ivals. That really shows off the qual­ity of the course. And for the courses that require a port­fo­lio don’t get off put by that, even if you don’t have very good qual­ity mater­ial or con­tent you can still per­suade your inter­viewer with your strong desire to be a film maker.

What about the area you live, does it have fas­cin­at­ing film scene, inde­pend­ent cinema insti­tutes, etc?

I live in London and there are a lot of cinemas around as well as a lot of unortho­dox ways to go and see films, you can join secret film soci­et­ies where you get a short notice before a screen­ing and you have to show up dressed them­at­ic­ally accord­ing to the film that will be shown. There are also rooftop cinemas and so on. The best thing of London’s film scene is the British Film Institute, where you can go and see a lot of vari­ous films from cur­rent and past peri­ods, get to Q&A with film dir­ect­ors and learn a lot from them. The most fas­cin­at­ing film going exper­i­ence for me was the London Film Festival where many inter­na­tional films were shown for the first time and you can learn about the upcom­ing tal­ents in the world as well.

Thank you for your time, we really appre­ci­ate it!

Interested to share your positive/​negative opin­ion about stud­ies? Contact us artpit.​london@​gmail.​com. You can write anonym­ously as well.

Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
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Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
Gintare Zitkeviciute is Art Pit’s thinker and doer. In her work practise, she values lean approach, creativity and quick decisions. She doesn't like working with random people and thinks that a team is a heart of successful project. For that reason, she carefully picks people she works with on everyday basis. She is mostly interested in innovatio... Read further >
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