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Jack Allen
The short film Jack produced in his final year at ECA has been nominated for multiple Royal Television Society Scotland awards.

After graduating from ECA, alongside continued freelance work with other ECA graduates, Jack has secured a full-time position with a creative agency working with high-end US-based film and TV clients.

Why I chose to study Film and Television - BA (Hons)

I was very clear on wanting to study film at university – but I remember finding it challenging to work out what constituted a good film course.

After much research, consisting of reading through every prospectus I could get my hands on, and thoroughly flicking through university league tables, I eventually stumbled on Edinburgh College of Art.

I was drawn to ECA’s hybrid approach to filmmaking, where theory and practical work are combined to help inform each other and all subsequent work. Many courses focussed on one or the other, but ECA’s combined approach seemed pretty sensible to me.

I then ventured up to visit ECA and Edinburgh itself. Not only was I impressed with the campus, I also distinctly remember feeling at home within the city itself. Walking around Edinburgh didn’t feel daunting or disorientating like some unreasonably huge cities might.

I was also very drawn to ECA’s close ties with The University of Edinburgh and the access to a huge variety of facilities that this connection brought. From dentistry to robotics, I saw the sheer number of departments at the wider university as the world’s best film studio; where with a bit of negotiation and a few well-worded emails you were able to secure a fantastic film location for your project.

The final decider was that the University counsellor at my school highly advised against applying to ECA as “you’ll never get in” – that little challenge was all I needed to hit the ‘Send’ button on my application.

"The fact that work created during my time at ECA was able to create ripples within the industry truly showed me the scope of the opportunities on offer at ECA."

Jack Allen

Film and Television - BA (Hons) alumnus

My time at ECA

I could have never imagined how much I would learn at ECA. When I arrived, I barely even knew what editing was and had never really shot any films with a camera (my portfolio film submission was an animation made in Source Filmmaker).

Throughout my time at ECA I was involved in such a diverse range of projects; each of them helping me to gain further confidence in my filmmaking skills. From creating a project for the NHS for an experimental treatment at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, to creating a comedy short film about the unlikely friendship that forms between a world-renowned fly killer and a fly – the sheer creative freedom available at ECA is something that I value greatly (and miss in equal amounts!)

Within Edinburgh there are also plenty of ways to get involved within the industry itself – and ECA certainly encouraged me to put my name down for as many opportunities as possible. I attended a great lecture with Oliver Stone who fast became one of my filmmaking heroes. I also worked on Britain’s Got Talent; I was a runner in the Ocean Terminal shopping centre where they were holding auditions, and I’m still very proud of the fact that I managed to convince several passers-by, who had no intentions of auditioning and were just there to shop, that they were indeed talented and should give it a go.

More than anything however, ECA gives you a chance to meet like-minded people – an opportunity to form fantastic friendships, but also incredibly valuable working relationships. The film course is a tight-knit group, and through your shared experiences of collaborating on each other’s films you develop very strong bonds that ultimately help to elevate your work to the next level.

My experiences since graduating

Leaving ECA was a bittersweet moment. The four years of the course led to me directing my graduation short film – and as soon as we called ‘cut’ on the final shot the realisation that my experience here was concluding started to dawn on me.

However, several of my student projects have continued to be a huge part of my life after university. In the January after leaving ECA, my graduation short film FLIT was nominated for a Royal Television Society Scotland award – and by July last year the film had won two more Royal Television Society awards. I never expected to receive that sort of recognition from the industry for my work – let alone my university graduation film – but the fact that work created during my time at ECA was able to create these sorts of ripples within the industry truly showed me the scope of the opportunities on offer at ECA.

I’m also continuing to work with friends I met at ECA; and we’re currently in the final stages of completing a feature length documentary (called Inter-Continental Bunker Mission) that we started making together during our time as students. We’re hoping that a few film festivals will pick up the film once we send it out to places – with any luck, giving us the chance to continue making more films down the line!

And it wasn’t just a ‘mickey mouse’ course either – only a few months later I accepted a position at a creative agency working with high-end US-based film and TV clients. I truly feel a large part of my ability to secure a job after graduation was down to my time at ECA and the diverse range of opportunities it exposed me to.

But more important than getting a job or winning some (very shiny) awards, ECA helped to further instil confidence and ambition within me. Since leaving, my career aspirations to direct feature films have only strengthened; and I think this is ultimately down to the lasting effects that my time at ECA continue to have in my life to this very day.

Alumni wisdom

Wholeheartedly embrace the creative freedom on offer – don’t shy away from trying crazy film ideas out and taking risks with your work – this is your time to experiment.

And don’t be in a rush to get a job – enjoy your time at ECA. While I may currently be working with huge names in the industry, I long for the time at ECA when I could create art for art’s sake without having to wrestle with the creatively-stifling concerns that commercial work so often entails.

Every single day since leaving ECA I’ve worked towards earning that creative freedom back – hopefully one day I’ll regain it in some form. But until then, I urge you to make the absolute most out of yours.

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