£21,000 in Debt, Unemployed, Homeless and Making Films

So perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic,  it’s a lot better than it sounds. I don’t have a job, I’m quite happy about that. I am homeless, but I do have a van so I have a place to rest my weary head at the end of the day. The £21,000 is only a number and I did at least get a degree in return.

But after having graduated this year with a first, aside from the three years grace, I’m starting to wonder what it was that I actually paid for. My prospects of entering into the film ‘industry’ are about the same as without my piece of paper. I can go and be somebody’s bitch and make tea for a few years until I finally get a chance to have a little more responsibility. Even then I’m only going to be working on other people’s projects that I probably won’t care about.

With this in mind I decided to take a different approach to the tricky situation that I’m sure many people my age are beginning to find themselves in. Namely I’m not a media student anymore and so probably will have to start taking my filmmaking to a professional level, or give up and go work full time in an office.

It was quite quickly that I realised perhaps I don’t have to do either of these things. So, fresh out of university instead of working hard on my CV and show reel and approaching potential tea drinkers who happen to work in film, I went and lived in an 18-tonne lorry and travelled the country selling fruit all summer. At the end of which, now with a little cash in my pocket, I bought a van. Which I converted into a camper and drove to Bristol.

Great, you might say, you’ve avoided the precarious situation of paying rent and so you don’t have to get a full-time job, therefore leaving you with loads of free time to make films. Half the battle is over – so long as I’m inspired let the filmmaking commence. However, it’s difficult to make great cinema when your entire living space isn’t even twice the size of a double mattress. So I need a space to work. Something like a bedroom… it’s starting to sound like I’m going to have to get a job. Sacrificing valuable filmmaking time, making coffee for people.

Then I found it. Artist’s studio space, I filled in an application and Bob’s your uncle, for the princely sum of £45 a month, I now rent a 150 square foot space in an ex-warehouse. Now I have power, toilets, space to think, film, rehearse actors, store my props and edit. Plus not having ordinary things such as a living room, or television, I forever find myself at work, which slowly but surely is increasing my productivity.

The rent’s so cheap I should be able to support myself on only a couple of hours work a week, giving me loads of time to get on with my own films. Should I at some point feel like dipping my toes into the world of professional film work, which I invariably will try, I’ll be able to do it much more on my terms and will have the time to really find the role I want rather than having to take the first thing that comes along because I have to pay the bills.

For somebody who is interested first and foremost in being creative and creating their own ideas, rather than having a job and making money, this feels like the logical step. If you want to make money and be successful you don’t become a filmmaker. Taking money out of the equation as much as possible on this level is such an advantage. Homeless or not, an artist’s studio space is an affordable way to give you a base for your filmmaking. Most cities have them and yes they really are that cheap.

In my case I can now work on my own ideas, in my own way, free from the constraints of a commercial industry. I’m shooting two films next week, 60-second shorts ‘Cake’ and ‘The Button’ on a budget of £0, and the best thing is I’m only making tea for myself.