Current employer: Aletalk Productions Ltd.
Current job title: Director
Current location: Plymouth
“I genuinely loved the whole experience... It gave me the confidence to go out and do the things I love; it gave me the time to find out what those things were, it gave me the connections that made it possible to turn what I love into a business.”
Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.
William: We've been growing both personally as well as a company. We started creating videos and gaining practical experience whilst at University, which gave us some idea of what to expect and was also the beginning of our video production portfolio. Since we left, we have continued to learn through new experiences. We started our company shortly after graduation and there's a lot to learn initially; we were lucky enough to have good contacts at the University, which helped.
Ben: Whilst setting up Aletalk Productions we also started the Plymouth Film Festival just after graduating; having spent three years in Plymouth, meeting so many people with a passion for film, we felt as though the city was crying out for a festival and we held the first edition in 2014. It was so well received that we decided to continue to grow the event and, having just completed our third successful event in May, we're now looking forward to planning our 2017 Festival.
Has your career path changed since graduation?
William: Not really, although as we progress as a company we are evolving. We started out doing a lot of work for corporate clients, and now we are moving into TV production too which is really exciting. The bulk of what we do is still quite similar to when we started, but that was only three years ago, and we still really enjoy it all.
Ben: I think with starting any business you have to be prepared to undertake almost every task required to keep the business operating. We often find ourselves carrying out web design, accountancy, marketing, and a whole host of other necessary roles; but this certainly hasn't detracted from the enjoyment we get from our primary focus of creating great video content, and we've definitely learnt a huge amount.
What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?
In the early days of starting our business it was really tough; in fact, for the first two years it was. We didn't have enough work so we took part-time jobs, but our perseverance eventually paid off. We were making a lot of mistakes in terms of marketing and were learning as we went along. We're definitely still learning, but we're in a much more comfortable position now.
What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?
Well, it's been pretty short so far and hopefully the best is yet to come, but we have had some great opportunities afforded us – a lot of them because of our alumni connections to the University. Joining the biological sciences field trip to film in Spain was good fun; so was shooting the Plymouth Raiders basketball games. Our passion still lies in narrative film, so getting the opportunity to be creative on a job is always awesome. We've done a couple of films for Devon and Cornwall Police which were a lot of fun to work on. We also started the Plymouth Film Festival which wouldn't have been possible if not for the position we are in and it's great fun running that.
What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?
William: It's hard to say really, because I think we have ended up in a good position – whether by luck or judgement is open for discussion. But we have learnt a lot of lessons from our mistakes. If I could go back and not make them, some of the tougher lessons I've learnt over the last few years would also be lost, and they are often the most valuable lessons. However, that being said, I wish we had known more about marketing when we set out; it's a skillset that every freelancer or business owner needs and we really overlooked it for a long time.
Ben: As Will mentioned, it's really difficult to say and there's a lot of value in learning from your mistakes. I think I may have attempted to gain more advice from the outset – we went into our business knowing very little about starting a company and with the right advice I think we may have been able to fast-forward our growth by overcoming some of the mistakes we were making.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?
William: The same advice I would give to anyone looking to get into any line of work: make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you love what you do then you'll never work a day in your life. Don't do it for the money. Put yourself out there and just make films. You need a showreel if you are going to freelance, and while you're at university it's a great opportunity to get on with creating one without being crushed under responsibilities and bills.
Ben: I'd say be proactive; it's a really competitive industry so making the effort to seek out opportunities to create content for clients and work with industry professionals whilst studying is a great way to kick-start your portfolio and create connections that may lead to paid work down the line.
How did studying at Plymouth help you?
It gave me the confidence to go out and do the things I love; it gave me the time to find out what those things were, it gave me the connections that made it possible to turn what I love into a business, and the graduate connections helped us through the difficult early years.
What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?
I genuinely loved the whole experience. As a mature student it gave me a whole new outlook on life and I couldn't recommend it enough. The freedom of returning to study from full-time work wasn't wasted on me and I got involved with as much of university life as I could: the sports and socials were great. In terms of the course, I guess I really enjoyed the film modules most, and winning the Royal Television Society Award was a surprise highlight.
Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?
Yes to all. We work regularly with the University through PUMA, which was started by one of our lecturers, Phil Ellis. This of course means we often bump into our course lecturers and even other graduates from our course who now work at the University. Running the film festival has also kept us in touch with John Sealey who returns each year to join the judges’ panel; he consistently impressed us while we studied with his encyclopaedic knowledge and passion for all things film, so we were delighted that he was happy to be involved. Naturally, we have also kept in touch with some of our course mates too.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?
Absolutely, there's a lot to love about Plymouth. Besides the location and night life, the University itself has a lot going on outside of the courses. I think you have to choose an area of study that you will enjoy, but Plymouth really does a great job supporting alumni. We wouldn't be where we are now had it not been for the continued support of the University.
Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?
William: I'm not sure there's much more advice that I can give that wouldn't just be rehashing clichés, and I'm sure there are plenty of more qualified people out there to listen to anyway. But if you're still here, well... then just enjoy your time at university, and don't worry if you don't know what you want to do yet: the most interesting people I know still haven't figured that out.
Ben: I'd just say make sure you make the most of the whole university experience: it's filled with opportunities to pursue your interests and discover what you're passionate about whilst not having to worry about financial constraints.
Inspired by this story?
Want to find similar alumni?
If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are currently doing, please visit the art, design, media and performance interest area.