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“I never expected to gain this much from my studies and practical experiences”

MA Film and Screen Media with Film Programming and Curating student, Riley Wong, talks about some of the experiences and opportunities she had whilst studying at Birkbeck.   

Stepping out of my comfort zone 

Many of us were influenced by the pandemic, including me. After graduating from my bachelor’s degree, I was stuck in Hong Kong and worked in a design company for a year. I liked my job, but my passion for films and dream of studying abroad was so strong that I started looking at courses and applying. When I got the offer to study film and screen media at Birkbeck, I couldn’t believe it. I knew this was a special opportunity, so I quit my job and started my journey to London.  

Why Birkbeck? 

I came to Birkbeck for several reasons. Firstly, Birkbeck is the only university I found which offers a film and screen media course with specific insight into film programming and curating. Secondly, there’s always a wide range of course-related activities and opportunities offered to film students. For example, in February, thanks to my place at Birkbeck, I found out I could join the Berlin International Film Festival as a student accreditation holder. This meant I could watch unlimited screenings and attend different masterclasses at the festival.  I had so much fun and gained valuable experience and knowledge from it. In addition to this, two months after the Berlin International Film Festival, I was honoured to be given a chance to work for Raindance Film Festival as a festival programme viewer, where I reviewed and commented on films that were submitted to their competitions.   

Work placement  

The work placement is an accredited part of the MA programme, where your tutor matches you with a suitable placement. I was initially worried that not many organisations would be interested in my profile, because I had no background with films before studying. But I didn’t give up, and nor did my tutor who was working hard to find a suitable match for me. Eventually I received an offer from UK-China Film Collab. Founded by Dr. Hiu Man Chan, UK-China Film Collab (UCFC) is an independent non-profit organisation, supporting a wide range of film-related collaborations and debates between the UK and Greater China. 

My ‘dream come true’ moment 

Supported by UCFC, I developed and organised a curatorial project in one of London’s most historic and important independent cinemas, The Prince Charles Cinema.  The programme was called “The Heroic Mission: Johnnie To Retrospective”. It featured three screenings of Hong Kong films, and conversation panels with the filmmakers and other associated experts. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. Not only did I experience how a film festival programme is curated, I also learned how it’s organised logistically from start to finish. I also got an important insight into all the different stakeholders involved in a project, and how to communicate with them. Reflecting on my time at Birkbeck, I almost find it unbelievable. I had high hopes, but I never expected to gain this much through my studies and practical experiences. I feel like the passion that brought me to London, to study films, at Birkbeck has been strengthened, and going forward, I’d like to bring more Hong Kong film culture and directors in front of a UK audience. 

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