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Any master’s student will tell you, an MSc degree can be transformative but intense. In my first term, I tried not to succumb to the enormous workload of the course by focusing all my attention on my academic work. As a lone wolf testing the waters of societies, I joined Film & TV Society during the Welcome Fair as making a movie sounded pretty cool and a great way to gain new skills in editing, interviewing and camera knowledge but I didn’t really utilise my membership that much. In the first few months, I did maintain a social membership in the society by going to film screenings and pub outings but I still felt like I was missing out on my own Nolan moments…

In term three, with the academic year coming to an end and said scratch needing itching, I got on top of my work so I could help on a small project as a gaffer. Having dipped my toe into film production, the allure of the big, termly film project was too tempting to ignore. Although I had limited film crew experience, I felt like I had built up sufficient technical camera knowledge and good leadership skills, so I applied for the Director of Photography (DP) position in our term three film. 

This was a highly demanding management role that required coordination between multiple departments onset, and also the creative flexibility to bring the director’s vision to the screen. Think of it like 3D chess but the chess pieces won’t stop moving, the bishops are asking you if there needs to be more negative fill, the queen is demanding you to paint the next Mona Lisa and the king is telling you that you only have 60 seconds to get the shot. Needless to say, it was a highly demanding experience on set. You are running on adrenalin for 12 hours a day. But if you ask any film crew member, they somehow, weirdly, relish in the stress. It’s addictive. Once you feel you’re bringing that story to life, you just want to enhance that story no matter how tired or hungry you are.

My advice to all MSc students is to take that ambition and self-drive you obviously have and apply it to other aspects of your life. I never thought I would be portraying a fictional character’s internal struggle to pursue her dancing ambition while studying MSc Earthquake Engineering and Disaster Management but here I am. And better for having had the experience, even if at the last-minute. I’d say, don’t miss out on the opportunities that are right at your fingertips. And if film isn’t your calling, the Union has hundreds of other societies to choose from - so go explore! 

Written by Kieran O’Sullivan, MSc in Earthquake Engineering with Disaster Management