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Esc Hero #21: Why I swapped London for an International Journalism MA in Cornwall

A quick note:

It is a huge pleasure to introduce Miss Zoe Graham, the writer of a brilliant film blog and one of my closest friends.

Zoe was a huge source of advice and encouragement when I was working through my own resignation earlier this year (thank you!).

Check out her blog: A Little Screening Of Life and have a read below about the exciting changes she has made this year.

1. What are you currently doing?

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I am on a train looking out over the Devon coastline having been surfing at first light and spent the morning in a radio recording studio in Falmouth… I had no idea back in March that I would end up here!

I am in living in Falmouth at the moment to study for a Masters in International Journalism, although I seem to be getting involved in all sorts of other creative projects down here.

This is partly why I decided to move down to deepest darkest Cornwall! I figured I could have a completely different, creative, ‘healthy’ year!

The potty-ness of the idea also tempted me. As did that it wasn’t going to charge me $50,000 a term – the small fee for a creative calling to do a Masters in the film industry…

2. What did you do before this?

I did brand management/marketing for LVMH for a couple of years in London, having worked for them in Paris for a year before. It was brilliant at first when I felt I was learning so much so quickly. It demanded and afforded me an intense social lifestyle in London and I just got completely swept up in the frenetic rush of the day to day. It is amazing how easy it is to slip into constant running in London and not giving yourself that much time to stop and think.

I definitely didn’t hate my job by any means. I worked with some great people and got to surround myself with wonderful and whacky creatives on projects we did. Working with these people, however, started to make me feel like I needed to go and try myself out on their side of the fence rather than the safer, corporate bubble I was in.

3. How long have you dreamt of doing what you are doing now?

I don’t think I decided to do this to follow a set dream but rather to put myself in a creative place that would allow me to find that dream!

I think my greatest dream is to be a filmmaker eventually. I have just spent 4 days on a BBC screenwriting course and am now busy writing a script to send them.

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What interested me most about the international journalism masters was what it could teach me about the world, taking me out of just ideas and the marketing bubble to being actively informed about what is seriously going on. This doesn’t come as naturally to me as the literary/creative side of life so I guess it was also a challenge.

If I want to make documentaries (I am going to Brazil next year to do one on sex tourism in the north east) and films, then I want my thought-processes to be grounded in global issues.

For ages I got paralyzed with questioning what I should do, who I should be, what my dream was etc… SO boring and self-involved, and easily happens when you haven’t found the right thing. But I’ve realized that starting with one idea and seeing where it takes you, and onto the next, works for me so hopefully I’ll get to all of them at some stage.

Life is, after all, just a series of experiences.

4. What inspired you to do it?

There was no actual ‘moment of truth’ when I decided to pack in the London 9-5-10-11… I think I knew all along with my job that it was something for the time being but not a real passion that would become a lasting career.

Perhaps the timing did have something to do with spending a couple of mind-altering weeks in Brazil over Carnival, surrounded by people who lived such a different pace of life and where any so-called London ‘priorities’ are completely turned on their head. The northeast of Brazil is, for me, one of the most beautiful places in the world, which inspires all thoughts good and creative and true… I think it just kicked me into thinking what was I going to do with myself that could actually be those things…

5. From a practical perspective, how did you plan for it?

The actual events are pretty straightforward. I quit my job in March, in time for a prolonged Easter holiday! It was a good time to hand in my notice as the company was undergoing a ‘restructure’ (lingo for sacking people… as if we are all part and parcel of this great scheme to save the mother ship, lose the dead weight- please…) and wanted to move me onto different brands – so it meant I got gardening leave! They weren’t about to start me on new brands for the sake of two months.

I quickly applied to Falmouth to do international journalism, got a place, a grant… and here I am!

6. How are you funding it?

n36802817_32659007_6217I got an Arts & Humanities Research council scholarship, which luckily covers quite a bit. I did all sorts of freelance projects to make ends meet in the interim: working with Saudi Arabian artists at the Venice Biennale, translating, teaching, working for a while at The Spectator magazine.

I still do a bit of teaching and translations to make money and for the short films and documentaries, I am trying to get funding from various sources: South West Screens, Cornish Enterprise, a couple of Welsh documentary production companies… It is amazing how there is quite a bit of money in the regions (mainly from the EU) available to fund the creative industries.

7. What was the hardest thing about making this happen?

It is hard work having more of a freelance mentality – having to be constantly look for new ideas and projects rather than having it laid on a plate for you but it’s that challenge and knowing that any day could be completely different that makes it exciting.

Quitting a job is also harder than you expect because of that feeling of letting people down, especially people who have invested in you. But I think everyone understands that you do have to do what is right for you and luckily I think I left on good terms with everyone!

8. What is the best thing about having made this happen?

As I said, just being able to get involved in so many creative and random activities! I’ve only been here for a couple of months and it could pretty much be described as the polar opposite of London life.

I live in a little cottage by the sea with 3 housemates who I met down here and who come from all over, each doing something different- illustration, curating, advertising. People have come here from such diverse backgrounds and the vibe is completely open and relaxed.

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My course is a mixture of journalism for TV and radio as well as print, so I am learning all sorts of technical skills that are fascinating. Aside from the course, there is other training available and the added advantage of having a creative hub on your doorstep so I have been learning camerawork, lighting & editing as well as meeting people involved in film down here.

I am currently working on a couple of short films.

9. What is the best advice you have received?

Michael Weise said this to me when I was asking him about his career in film and how to break into that world, when you feel that is your creative calling! He said: ‘For as long as you can, make it about the art. It should be about expanding your perception and consciousness, not trying to make money’.

10. What advice would you give to other people who want to do something similar?

My slightly dysfunctional mantra is kind of along the same lines as his: it is better to do something and get it wrong than block yourself from experiences for the sake of mind-numbing security. At least it is feeling!

I don’t think there is a straightforward answer to ‘escaping’ the city but that it comes down to being honest about whether you are actually happy.

Through all this I’ve realized, I think, that I am happiest when learning and engaging with new things even if it does mean a slightly more precarious existence!

  • karen

    I did the smae course in Falmouth 3 years ago, and was the best decision of my life!