February 27th 2024
October 9th 2023
Head Student Team Blog: Beatrix on How my EPQ changed my life
At the start of Year 12, I began work on my EPQ, a research project worth approximately half an A-level. Initially I was unsure of how this project would benefit me, I viewed it as simply more work to do on top of my A-levels. It was safe to say that I did not find the thought of an EPQ particularly inspiring. However, fast forward 12 months and my EPQ had changed the course of my career aspirations entirely.
For an EPQ, students have a choice to either complete a 5000-word essay or an artefact which could be anything from an interpretive dance routine to a collection of poetry, and an accompanying report. As I began thinking about what to do for my EPQ, one thing was clear to me - I would NOT be doing an artefact. Artefacts were difficult to complete, they tended to be lower scoring and more work than an essay. I couldn’t fathom choosing to undertake a more complex project on top of my A- level work, especially if it was harder to get a good grade. It seemed much simpler to stick with the essay. Or so I thought.
As I was choosing the topic for my essay, I had just finished watching Dopesick, an excellent TV show about the opioid crisis in America. I thought, if I found the TV show fascinating, wouldn’t I enjoy writing about the crisis myself? I was wrong. Finding sources proved difficult and reading real life stories on how the crisis had affected families hit much harder than watching actors onscreen. My progress was slow and my EPQ began to feel like an uphill struggle.
Eventually I reached the conclusion that I just wasn’t passionate enough about the topic that I had chosen and I began to think about doing my EPQ on something else entirely. I thought back to why I had chosen the topic in the first place. The TV show had captivated me, and yet when I began to look into the subject, I could not develop the same level of interest. Then I understood - it wasn’t the topic I was so interested in, it was how the story had been told on film. At this time, I had already started to work on some scriptwriting in my spare time. I was also wondering if I could make a script into a real film? But I saw no time to do this. I had too much work between my A-levels and my EPQ, and besides, I was a film-making novice … However, the topic for my EPQ was now vacant, and hadn’t I decided to do my EPQ because of a story told on film in the first place? I decided that my interest in the Film and Television Industry was enough to drive me to complete my EPQ, even if it meant creating an artefact, something I had been adamantly against. For my EPQ I was going to create my first film.
Before I could do that, I would need to teach myself everything I could about filmmaking, from screenwriting to lighting, to sound, directing, acting, cinematography and production design. I was a novice; and I had a lot of work to do. Having had my realization shortly before the New Year, I would have to complete all this research, my artefact and an entire report in just 4 months. It was guaranteed to be difficult, but I was excited, and I had the perfect question for a beginner like me: ‘To what extent can a novice teach themselves how to independently create a short film suitable for submission to the BFI Future Film Festival?’
My research was a difficult process which involved a mountain of books, frequent Googling of filmmaking terms, attending my first film festival, repeatedly harassing filmmaking professionals for advice, and looking at so many YouTube tutorials and tech reviews that I crashed my computer twice. But it was worth it. With every new video I watched, article or book I read I was learning new skills, skills which would make me into a better filmmaker, skills that would allow me to do exactly the thing I had been waiting for: create my first film.
After extensive research, I was ready to start my first film, and I began with the script. Which I wrote, and then wrote again, then rewrote again before editing it at least 5 more times. Then came finding the actors. After pleading, bargaining and bribery I had a cast consisting of friends, friends-of-friends, both my parents, my brother, grandpa and one teacher. I was ready to start filming, a hectic, stressful process that must have aged me 3 years in the 3 hours I spent doing it, a process that I absolutely loved.
My EPQ concluded in the 16,000 word report I produced alongside my newly edited film ‘The Calloway Paintings’, a report which my poor teacher had to read all of, which documented each step of my filmmaking journey. This was something I never considered that I would choose to do, and definitely something I never imagined I would enjoy doing! In fact, at the end of this project, which has been one of the most difficult things I have completed in my life, I realised, I wanted to do more of it.
I am now in the process of applying to university courses focusing on filmmaking and the film and television industry. I have also made 7 short films since the completion of this project, with an eighth currently in editing.
This is how my EPQ changed my life.
Watch my shortfilm ‘The Calloway Paintings’
Written by Beatrix, Head Student, Year 13