From Stoke-on-Trent to James Bond Spectre

Graduate Natalie Cooke profile imageIt may sound a little cheesy, but graduating with a BA (Hons) in Media (Film) Production was a bit of a life changer. To me the most important and most valuable skill I gained and developed on my time on the course was my confidence. Before I joined, I was a shy 18 year old from Stoke, who was too scared to even present in front of a small group. I thought I would never be brave or confident enough to be successful in the film industry. It seemed totally out of reach and I thought it would always be one of those dream jobs (like my 5 year old “I want to be a rockstar” dream job!) But the course develops not only your practical and technical skills, but it also develops you as a person and gives you those valuable life skills. Without them, I don’t think I’d be where I am today – I graduated two years ago and I’m currently working in the production team on a Hollywood blockbuster at one of the biggest visual effects houses in the UK.

The one thing the course really teaches you is how you can and will succeed with the right amount of effort and determination. You learn quickly that what you put into it, you’ll get out. As well as learning new and valuable skills, it ultimately changes your attitude and worth ethic. If you don’t put in the effort, it will show. It’s hard work but it prepares you for what you’ll be expected to do once you graduate.

Right from the very start, the lecturers encouraged you to interact with companies and professionals. Networking is vital in the film industry, so learning to do this with the help and encouragement of the university is a huge benefit. As the course has such a high success rate, speaking to (and eventually becoming friends with!) ex-graduates really helped me. Realising that it’s not a pipe dream, and that this is a career path that is achievable, made me more determined than ever to push for what I wanted to achieve.

The determination and drive that you pick up from being on the course will always stick with you, as even when I began working at Double Negative as a Runner, I didn’t just sit back and wait for people to come to me. I made sure I networked, meeting people at every opportunity and being enthusiastic for every task I was set. This attitude was spotted, and it led to me quickly moving up the ladder. Within a few weeks, I joined the production team on Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation, and I haven’t looked back since.

Teamwork is vital in this industry, and early on, the course emphasizes this. Being an asset to a team is much harder than just being part of one, and the course definitely teaches you how to be successful in a team. Being thrown in at the deep end in your first few weeks is daunting at the time but so valuable. You’ve only known these people for a week, you’re in a new location and you’re learning completely new skills. You come together and work out your skills quickly to ensure you get the best results, and learning this early on ensures that you’re working together efficiently – a skill that’s been invaluable in the workplace.

Communication is a major part of my role in the production team as every day I have to talk to, give instructions, relay messages to my 12 production team members, an array of international clients and over 100 visual effects artists currently working on the new James Bond film Spectre. Being able to communicate clearly and efficiently and being able to play my role in the team is key to making everything run smoothly, on time and to the expected high standard.

I’m on an exciting road in production and one that I am looking forward to seeing where it will lead me. I’m still beginning my career but I’m thankful for everything that the course has taught me: Never give up. Work hard. Be eager to learn as much as you can, whenever you can. Don’t be scared to ask questions. Be enthusiastic about any task. Be a team player, but don’t be scared to take charge. And most importantly, enjoy it!


Natalie Cooke

BA (Hons) Media (Film) Production 2010-2013

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