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An interview with Jillian Fosten

Jillian Fosten (BA Film and Moving Image Production) dedicated her time at NUA to gain valuable creative and technical skills, but also to getting industry experience. Taking a professional approach from day one, Jillian took full advantage of the opportunities and support available to her at NUA. With that experience, she is poised to realise her ambitions in the creative industries.

Jillian Fosten

What are the advantages of studying at a specialist arts institution?

The best thing about studying here is that if you’re motivated and passionate, you have the opportunity to go as far as you want. The tools are provided and there’s space for you to consider things. At a regular University there’s not enough space. You might be in the middle of filming, but in the back of your head you’re worried about a math exam! If you know that you want to go into the arts, why would you even bother going to a four year university? The reality is that studying here is much cheaper, it’s only three years, you enter a creative arts community and you have a lot of control. It’s a no brainer.

NUA is for students who are going to work hard, who are passionate and willing to explore different art forms. If you ask for things at this University, people are willing to help. You spend three years with the faculty and they really invest time in you. And I think what makes it a real gem is that it’s a small community. For someone who is an independent worker and really motivated there isn’t a better choice.

What is next for you?

I have literally built my business and my career through the University. I’m starting a company making independent documentaries. I didn’t know how I was going to monetise what I wanted to do. All I knew was what I liked doing. I brought that to the table when I met with Sarah Steed, the Business Director, in a meeting I set up with her (and which is available to anyone who wants it). Sarah has been great. I feel like she’s a mentor. I went through my ideas with her about how to monetise my craft. She was really kind and supportive, but also realistic. She poured more ideas into the mix and helped me realise how I could actually make money doing what I love. I think she recognises the students who approach her, and she’ll bend over backwards to help them.

Where did the idea for the business come from?

Last Fall I spent time in Japan doing travel documentary work for travel companies, and that was awesome. I got the job off the back of a documentary that I made in the second year about Viking re-enactors (which was screened in Los Angeles last summer). I had really wanted my artistic voice heard in Year 2, and it wasn’t until this project that I really felt it was. It goes back to that thing about studying film in the UK – if you’re not passionate or if you’re not willing to work hard, then it is not necessarily a good option for you. It involves a lot of independent work and is most suited to people who want time to explore and need creative space.

What was your experience of applying for and winning the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprise?

At the time of submission, I hadn’t really expected to win. I knew the concept had a lot of research and development behind it, so I knew it had a chance of getting shortlisted. To have the Award is a huge privilege and I feel lucky to have the recognition. I know a lot of excellent artists who don’t have it. It impacts me in different ways. As an artist, I get to keep exploring a subject that I am invested in. As someone just kick starting her career, I now get to challenge myself by making a more substantial piece of work. I also get experience marketing my film and – possibly – distributing the film independently. It will be a fantastic learning experience that I will carry with me for years to come.

Do you think being an international student has shaped your approach to your studies?

I don’t necessarily think it’s about being American. It’s about really loving what you do. It’s not even about being good at what you do. If you love what you do, eventually you will be good at what you do. There are very few people here who are just talented. Talent is nothing without passion and the motivation to work hard. Most people are making good work because they’ve worked hard and they love what they do. It’s about learning a way of seeing.

All I knew when I started was that I really loved art and that I could learn how to do it. I had only put my toe in the water but I wasn’t committed to being an artist. I didn’t even feel comfortable calling myself an artist. Then a friend brought me the NUA prospectus and I remember feeling like, this is a different world! After I started I knew this is just the perfect place for me.

What has been your experience of living in Norwich?

Norwich is perfect for international students in the sense that it has everything that you want: cobblestone roads, cafes everywhere, it’s easy to get to the coast, it’s big enough to feel like a proper city but you don’t need a car, you can navigate it very simply, meet up with friends and be social, and you could live a really decent lifestyle for not that much money. I genuinely do think it’s a great place.

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