Becoming a Filmmaker

University changed everything

At 16 years old, I was the only other 16 year old I knew who had 20 short scripts on their computer, and was making regular comedy sketches being uploaded on a brand new website no one had heard of called YouTube, and who had attempted 2 serious short films.

Then University happened. And I did a degree I didn’t enjoy. And it was strange – I almost felt like some of my creativity had disappeared. And although I was heavily involved in my FilmSoc for the first year, I graduated as a 21 year old with pretty much the same 20 short scripts I had written at 16, with a Maths degree and no idea how to enter the sector so beloved to me – Film & TV.

One thing I really did build in University was my interests – I discovered that I really cared about social injustice. I cared about making a difference. I wanted to make a change. It’s this burning passion that, I later learnt, helped guide my ambitions as a filmmaker and how I can use the power of storytelling to do something positive in the world.

As a fresh graduate, I started working in the charity sector, and worked my way up to the role of Campaigns Manager at a social justice campaigning organisation called MADE that I was very passionate about. For 2 years, I built up my skills in digital marketing, project management, copywriting, public speaking – all kinds of things that would later help me in life, but that I did not ever realise a filmmaker would need.

Then everything changed with one film...

Whilst working full-time, I was desperate for a creative outlet. I knew people who were doing videography, but I had not met a single person who was hungry to tell stories – and that demotivated me. For 2 years I had not done anything film related, and although I was passionate about my work, I was so eager to just make films again that I jumped at the opportunity when a friend of mine, Awais Ali, told me that he wanted to enter a video competition, but he did not have a script – or a cast – or a crew – and the deadline was in exactly 1 month.

We spent every non-work minute the next month together. I practically wrote the script in the next 2 days, and we proceeded to beg our friends and families to act in the film. A few months later, we have 50,000+ views online and we are invited to New York to find out that we have won 2 awards at the competition – one by the TriBeca Film Festival.

I was screened at TriBeca yet I could never call myself a Filmmaker

If someone had asked me at 16 what my biggest goal was, I would have said to either be screened at Sundance, Cannes or TriBeca and to have my film win an award there. In 2015, that very thing happened – and I went to NYC and had a fantastic time. But I came back, and just resumed working. No one was knocking on my door with a feature film deal. I was pretty much at square one.

Things changed for me when I realised one thing – people would ask me what I did and I would always say “I’m trying to be a filmmaker”. I would then mention that I had been screened at TriBeca and people thought I was crazy. It took me a really long time to build the confidence to realise that if I didn’t believe I was a filmmaker, why would anyone else believe me. So that was that. From that moment on, nothing else had particularly happened, other than that I realised – from that day on, I was a filmmaker.

Everything changed. I left my job. I started applying for film funding. I started freelancing as a videographer. I had ups. I had downs. But I was getting closer to where I wanted to be. And I knew without a doubt, that I was a filmmaker.

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