BFI Film Academy 10: Billy Currid

Billy Currid is one of the participants on our tenth BFI Film Academy (2021). Having finished the film shoot, we asked him about his experience of the course…

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had that moment of complete and utter panic where you think “oh my goodness why am I studying film, I have no idea where to go or what to do! What am I gonna do at uni, how can I afford to live…what if I…ooh…aah…help!”

Trust me, it happens to the best of us. I was in this state around August 2021 when I saw a flashy advert on Instagram about the BFI Film Academy. I was excited that, by applying, I’d be able to spread my wings and try new things, maybe gain some extra film knowledge. I was not prepared for just HOW MUCH the Film Academy has allowed me to do that. And more. I don’t think I’m gonna be returning to that state of panic any time soon.

Film Shoot Day 1

Getting the train early in the morning is usually accompanied by that churning feeling of tiredness and the sense that you really, simply, just can’t be bothered. Not today though, I was bothered. Because today I was on my way to start shooting a short film; a train journey has never felt so exciting.

I started off on lighting. Connie and I had to scope out the space, consult with Megan (the director for the day) and position our lighting gear, with the help of freelance filmmaker Judith Chan (a star, by the way). Up until this point it had been interesting to experiment with lighting gear, but now, putting it into practice, it was more interesting. We had to consider the directions, intensity, positioning, brightness, and it was super satisfying to look through the camera and say “ahh… that looks great.”

I moved onto sound, and I realised I had a particular knack for holding a boom microphone for much longer than I thought I could, which I could’ve only discovered by actually holding a boom mic on a film set (thanks HOME). It was honestly such a surreal experience using all kinds of professional equipment, holding the mic above professional actors, everyone doing their respective professional jobs… and it was our FIRST time. The experience we gained by being exposed to all of this and left to our devices can’t be summarised in a paragraph – it was fantastic.

Film Shoot Day 2

I woke up even earlier, much earlier in fact. I’m usually the kind to sleep in, the kind to cherish sleep, the kind to roll over and catch a few extra z’s, so I think it’s a good indication of just how eager I was to do it all again.

I got on set and was told I’d be directing for the first half of the day. My excitement that I’d already felt in the morning had just multiplied by 10,000. I got to speak with the actors and get their thoughts and feelings about the script, to the camera crew about positioning the camera, to the lighting crew about lighting arrangements – it made me very, very happy. I felt like all my years of wondering about film were being put to use. Again, it’s a new high I don’t think I can put into words, so I think it goes without saying that if you are like me (dying to have a shot at film and not had the chance to), this is genuinely the best option.

We also did Zoom sessions each week on a Wednesday – they spanned wide areas of filmmaking and film history that I hadn’t come into contact with before such as the history and evolution of cinema, the complexities of film regulation, the process of film programming, the evolution of British cinema – I feel like a bit of a connoisseur coming out of this.

We saw the production of our short film, right from scraps from newspapers all the way to the finished result – we did it ALL. I don’t know many young people that would be able to say that. It all felt like a family. I’ve never been in such a welcoming environment where every single one of us, staff included, can laugh and chat with each other, as well as work collaboratively and challenge ourselves to create something fantastic. It’s just the best.

So, that has been my experience with HOME’s BFI Film Academy. If I haven’t sold it to you, it’s because I can’t put it into words.