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Image from a film set with Kitty McMurdo
At Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Kitty McMurdo-Schad had the opportunity to explore her passion for film with invaluable guidance and support from her tutors and peers.

Now after graduating amid a pandemic and winning the Clason-Harvie bursary and Helen A. Rose bequest, Kitty continues to challenge her film making skills in her new position as Assistant Producer at an Edinburgh-based production company.

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

I chose to study at ECA because I grew up in Edinburgh admiring the ECA degree show and the standard of work, from film and beyond, that I saw there every year. There was always such a variety in fiction, documentary and experimental work produced from the Film and Television BA (Hons) course that really excited me.

Before university, I worked for a year in London at a small production house, shooting e-commerce and fashion lookbooks. Whilst this gave me a fantastic grounding in production and my way around a camera, I knew I wanted to allow myself to explore the more artistic side to film.

Knowing I wanted to do a practical film course in an art school environment was quite a niche requirement, and ECA really appealed to me because it ticked all of those boxes! The small class sizes and one-on-one teaching it offered was also a huge bonus. All that plus working in Scotland, in the centre of the capital, was why I chose to study here.

Work by Kitty McMurdo-Schad
Work by Kitty McMurdo-Schad

My time at ECA

I can confidently say the best thing about the Film and TV course was the collaboration and closeness with which I worked with both course mates and tutors. Throughout the degree, students are required to crew large film sets for fourth-year graduation films, and as you progress through the course you step into higher positions on set until you’re crewing up your own film with your peers.

I really appreciated this approach as it felt like a great progression in responsibility and really allows you to experiment in different departments and genres. Encouraging all of the year groups to work together on large fourth-year shoots was an invaluable lesson not only in set etiquette but networking and professionalism.

As well as working with so many talented people on films throughout my degree - not just Film & TV students, but animation, costume and music students too - I was also pushed to explore my own narrative voice and style by the fantastic tutors and visiting speakers we had. This came to the fore in our final year when we were developing our grad films. The sessions with filmmakers Morag McKinnon and Holger Mohaupt were invaluable to the development of my films, as well as challenging me to question my intentions as an artist and storyteller.

I also found writing my dissertation a very rewarding experience. It was an opportunity to research and explore an area that I had always had an interest in but not taken the time to learn about – psychoanalytical feminist theory – and apply it to film. I had a great supervisor whose interests lined up with my themes, and chatting with them and doing my own personal reading was educational and enlightening.

As my degree came to an end, lockdown began and we tried to continue working online. The guidance and support of tutors like Tracey Fearnehough, Lili Sandelin and Eiko Emmerslenben was key in the development of my work and I feel lucky that I had access to such talented people and their advice.

As a result of my fourth-year portfolio submission, I was awarded the Clason-Harvie bursary and Helen A. Rose bequest, which was a real honour. The money from the awards helped me fund submitting my graduation film to festivals - something I am incredibly grateful for.

"As well as working with so many talented people on films throughout my degree I was also pushed to explore my own narrative voice and style by the fantastic tutors and visiting speakers we had."

Kitty McMurdo-Schad

Film & Television - BA (Hons) alumna

My experiences since graduating

Graduating amid a global pandemic was a daunting experience and one that no one knew how to deal with. I felt extremely fortunate that I had managed to shoot my grad film, a short documentary, before lockdown began, so I spent a lot of time editing that. This was a lifeline in a time that felt like film production had ground to a halt and any possibility of work after graduation was an impossible one.

My plan after graduation was to try and work freelance, hoping to work in camera, production and editing. However, lockdown put a slight dampener on that, so I applied for a position at an Edinburgh-based production company, Heehaw, as a production assistant. The position has turned out to be an exciting and ever-evolving one, and after soon being promoted to an assistant producer I have barely had time to take a breath. My time shooting, producing and editing student shorts meant that starting the job, I already had a solid grounding in the production process. I think this made the move into the position smoother and helped me keep my head above water going into a fast-paced, production environment.

Since leaving ECA, my biggest achievement has been continuing to work in the industry  - something that at times, felt unattainable. I’m also so proud that I finished my film, the process of which immersed me in my family history and inspired me to continue to strive to make films.

My advice for new and current students

Just throw yourself into everything you do. Even if you’re unsure whether or not you’ll succeed, give it a go – you’ll learn something from the process, regardless of how well you think you did, or how you were graded!

There is no point in comparing yourself to anyone else either – sure, you can look up to someone and their body of work, but ultimately, you’re the only one who can create the work that you want to make.

Also, fourth years: make the most of the time you have with your tutors. They’re fantastic professionals, working in your industry so they’re valuable friends and colleagues to have!

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