How (and why) I decided to study writing & filmmaking

For those of you that don’t know, I am a freelance writer, filmmaker, and owner of Hearne Creative Ltd., a creative content and marketing business. I LOVE my job. It has been a difficult journey to get where I am now, and I have had to be very stubborn at times, but it’s been worth it.

This journey starts further back than I can remember, because I’m pretty sure a part of me has always been drawn to stories; as a toddler I could recite any nursery rhyme on request, and my (much smarter than me) brother couldn’t make it halfway through Humpty Dumpty. In primary school I used to tell people I wanted to be a journalist, but the answer could change to archeologist, translator, vet, musician, or princess depending on the day. For me, there was a very definite moment when I decided I would devote my career to writing and bringing stories to life, and it didn’t come until I was 17.

Not fitting in

Throughout school, I had always achieved high-middle grades. The phrase “you were so close to an A” became so commonplace that I never really aimed for anything above a B+. I was constantly moved up to the “top-set” class (where I would struggle), and then back down to the “second-from-top” set (where I was top of the class). I realise now that it’s because the majority of my classes were subjects I didn’t care about but was forced to study… but that’s a debate for another time.

“-ology”

When choosing my A Levels, I remember my Dad reciting some advice my school’s (awful) Head Master had made the parents believe, “remember, don’t study anything ending in ‘-ology’ or ‘studies’ if you want to be employable, unless it’s Biology.” Considering I wanted to study English, Psychology, and Media Studies, you can imagine how well that went down. We compromised, and I took those classes as well as a “proper subject”, Human Biology. It became abundantly clear during my first year, however, that Human Biology was by far my weakest class. I was top of my year in Media, and gained consistent E’s and U’s in Bio. This led me to a crossroads: do I struggle on with Biology and Psychology towards a stable career as a therapist, or do I continue with my passion subjects and maybe never get a job?

Is university for me?

To make matters worse, I had also grown up in the strong-mindset that I would not be going to university. Not because my parents or I thought I wasn’t good enough, but because they were afraid of me “becoming one of those graduates with no job and so much debt.” My English teacher once mentioned I would be well-suited to a career as a writer and asked about my university plans, but I shrugged it off with a laugh and a “I don’t want the debt.” It was only when I stumbled upon a student loans talk one rainy lunchtime that I realised how available university education was to me, and seriously started to consider it. Unfortunately for me, by this point it was only a few months before the UCAS deadline.

I came to the conclusion that I would not be furthering either of my initial career choices, so started applying for apprenticeships. I attended an interview at a local college for an admin apprenticeship with career prospects in secretarial work, and hated every second of it. I remember seeing myself sitting in the office, no more than 30 minutes from the town I grew up in, and having the realisation that I did not want that life for myself – I wanted to get away. In the car on the way home I told my parents I planned to start looking at universities.

The lightbulb moment

After a few weeks of looking at Psychology degrees, I let myself have a peek at an English Literature course, which led me on to English Literature and Creative Writing courses and things got really interesting. I read the class overviews with wide eyes, but came back to reality after a quick “how much does an average writer earn” search on Google. I would be a therapist, I would get a “proper job.”

Now we come to that moment, the moment where the proverbial lightbulb flashed and I realised who I wanted to be. A part of me always knew that writing and filmmaking was what I wanted, but I hadn’t let myself seriously consider it as a career up until one afternoon about a month before UCAS closing. I was watching Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010) which, without spoiling anything, has a powerful plot twist at the end. I distinctly remember silently staring at the credits started to roll, and I felt my heart break. Not because of the film itself, but because I was jealous that my name wasn’t up there as the creator of such an interesting story. In that moment I realised that if I didn’t spend my life pursuing my love of storytelling, every single time I enjoyed a film, tv show, or book, it would be ruined by the gut-wrenching realisation that I hadn’t tried to create anything just as good, even though I knew I had it in me. I realised that a decision to settle for creating nothing would be so much more painful than the fear of failure or career uncertainty.

I applied to a range of creative degree courses, this time not for a career but because I wanted to be a better storyteller. Three years later I graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University, where I was allowed to take optional extra courses in filmmaking and experimental media production. Although I’m still a little while off seeing my name in the credits on a cinema screen, I’m proud to say it was the first time I finally achieved the top grade.

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