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Filmmaker John Clark on the ScreenSkills programmes that helped develop his career

Sep 1, 2022

This content was submitted by John Clark

My name is John Clark. I was born in Essex, but I’m currently based in Cambridgeshire. After completing my TV and Film degree at South Essex College, I fell into unemployment, until finally obtaining my first professional credit as a writer and director on my BFI-Funded debut short drama, Snapshot. I was approached to help develop this film loosely based on my unemployment experiences, following the success of my self-produced candid, introspective short documentaries about my life and living with Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD), one in particular – called Asperger’s: And What Of It? – which garnered the recognition of The National Autistic Society.

Have you benefited from any ScreenSkills support so far?

I applied for 104 Films’ “Step Up to first time feature filmmaking for disabled directors and producers”, because I felt ready for the networking and insightful knowledge, fortunately successfully gaining a place after a first refusal. I’ve also recently been granted a ScreenSkills bursary that was used to purchase a new computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse in order to aid my writing and directing aspirations, with further desires to undertake any editing vacancies, using a powerful enough machine to handle the footage. Amongst this, I’ve also completed the free e-learning courses which I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone else.

What effect has this support had on your career so far?

As an Autistic individual, the film industry has been somewhat of a struggle for myself when it comes to applying for various opportunities, as well as networking. The tools, courses I’ve been successful for, and resources on ScreenSkills has given me that extra confidence to continue to persevere towards writing and directing, both separately and simultaneously, project depending of course. The additional inclusivity has also helped tremendously with my previous social anxieties, following the plethora of previous e-mails and phone calls of rejections.

What is the proudest moment or achievement of your career so far?

So far (and hopefully for a very long time!) my proudest achievement to date is completing my first writer and directorial BFI-Funded Short Drama, Snapshot. Up to that point, it had taken me eight years from graduating university to reach there. The fact that it had to take the irony of opening up more and telling my story of unemployment struggles to reach that point is something I’ll never forget, alongside the whole incredible developmental experience, even having to wade through the pandemic! If anything, that additional time proved to be an advantage. Constantly chopping and changing the story right up until the edit is (to me) a fascinating process.

If you could give advice to someone interested in pursuing your job role or a career in the screen industries more generally, what would you say?

Persevere, and through networking (online or otherwise), build a great creative team that reaches as far and as wide as possible. Take advantage of the free; knowledge, insight and resources that are out there, and if you’re lucky enough to afford some of the more expensive courses, take them. Something of a cliché, but I genuinely never thought I’d ever get my foot in the door of the film industry, having tried endlessly for so long! But one yes, will beat the thousands of no’s, and as long as you never lose hope of striving for that path (whatever role or career you’re gunning for), then I’m sure you’ll eventually succeed.

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