Case study

Masters student — Daisy Harris

To develop technical filmmaking skills and take up the opportunity to study close to MediaCity, Daisy chose to enrol onto the MA Film Production at the University of Salford

Why did you decide to pursue a postgraduate course in film?

When I was growing up, I took part in a variety of youth arts programmes, such as the West Dunbartonshire Youth Theatre and Girls Rock Glasgow. During my teens, I also worked as an actress.

The natural next step was to study a drama degree, so I chose a course at The University of Manchester, where I achieved the Meera Syal Prize for Outstanding Practical Work.

While I was doing my undergraduate course, I quickly realised that I was more interested in film than theatre, so I took as many film modules as I could and became heavily involved with the filmmaking society.

I then knew I wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career, but felt I needed more training on some of the technical aspects - so a practical Masters degree felt like a great choice.

What was the application process like?

I applied using the University of Salford's application portal, where I could send all my documentation to the one place. I had to write a personal statement, provide a reference from one of my undergraduate lecturers and create a treatment (story idea) for a film I wanted to make.

I made my treatment very audio-visual, with mood boards and playlists. I made it through to the interview stage, where I had an informal chat with two of my now-lecturers about my practice and what I hoped to achieve on the course. A week later, I received a letter saying I'd been accepted onto the course.

Why did you choose this course and institution?

I love my home, my friends and my life in Manchester, and have ambitions of working in TV drama, so I knew that being close to MediaCity could be an advantage. The MA Film Production course at Salford is based on its MediaCity campus, next door to the BBC and ITV.

How did you fund your postgraduate study?

I applied for a postgraduate loan from Student Finance England, and received their maximum grant, which covers my tuition fees with some left over for maintenance.

I worked three jobs for a few months, which was absolutely exhausting and something I wouldn't recommend doing while studying, but that's left me with a safety net of savings.

I also work a few hours a week as an English tutor, and I'm hoping to take on more students in the coming months.

Tell us a bit about the course and what it involves.

The course is a Practice as Research (PaR) Masters degree, where we're encouraged to choose a topic we're passionate about and explore it in our film work.

We are given training sessions on editing, cinematography, directing and many more subject areas. We've had sessions on both traditional and experimental filmmaking, as well as devising, working with text and sound. This all leads up to a final project.

The Masters has given me the opportunity to make films using a variety of cameras, microphones and lights, and to experiment with technology like green screen.

I've also had the opportunity to talk to those who work in the industry, and to discuss realistic, practical approaches to beginning my own career. People with experience in everything from script editing to freelance filmmaking have been able to answer my questions and give advice.

How is the course assessed?

The course is divided into three trimesters, and at the end of each we're assessed for our practical and reflective work. We can make practical work either individually or in groups, but each student must complete their own reflections on their process. The third trimester has no teaching hours, but we must instead make a final project that demonstrates the research we've done, which carries the most weight in marking.

How well connected is the university to the creative industries?

Based in MediaCity and staffed by industry professionals, Salford is in the heart of the UK’s TV and radio production. Our studios are used by broadcasting companies and there are always teams filming in the area, so students can witness and become involved with all sorts of projects. With lecturers who have connections in the industry, there are also opportunities to begin networking during your degree.

How does postgraduate life differ to that of an undergraduate?

Postgraduate life is lonelier. You're in a smaller cohort, so you might not click with anyone immediately. You may also have longer days, so it's easier to get tired or burn out. It's not as well-funded, so you'll probably have less money to live off. It doesn't feel like being a student in the same way that undergraduate study did - mostly because it's less social and harder work. I have less of a work/life balance now, but I enjoy that as I like to be busy.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of further study?

To be honest, there have been many times when I've regretted doing a Masters. Generally, that's been because of the lack of funding, and how it's meant I've had to work long hours in part-time jobs - so that's definitely something to keep in mind.

If I were to go back, I would have taken a year out to work and save up before doing this course, so that I wasn't trying to do both at once.

On one hand, it's another year of education and training, a year to build connections, which when you're entering a competitive industry can be steadying. It can, however, be frustrating - most of your undergraduate friends will be starting salaried jobs, and you'll still be on a student budget and feeling a little left behind. It's a real mixed bag, and there are days I love it and days I hate it.

What extra-curricular activities are you involved with?

I manage my own music career and volunteer as a filmmaker for the Scottish CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).

What do you hope to do when you graduate?

I’d love to work in a writers' room for a TV drama. Ultimately, I'd love to be a screenwriter. I think scripted drama is so exciting.

What tips would you give to others choosing a Masters degree?

  • Make sure you have savings or extra funding in place so you can concentrate on your degree without working long hours at the same time. If you need to, take a year out to work and save up.
  • Do your research thoroughly. Get several peoples' opinions of the course. Apply for a few - don't just say 'yes' to the first offer you get.
  • Keep in touch with your friends from your time as an undergraduate. Don't assume you can just make new friends on your course - keep those connections strong.

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