Kunwen discovered new filmmaking opportunities through a study exchange between Beijing and Portsmouth
When I was a child, I loved to make videos, so I decided to study film production. At Beijing Film Academy, we have different majors in Film Production. I chose the 2+2 Project, which involves spending two years in Beijing and two years in another country.
I chose this project because I wanted to experience different teaching methods and cultural backgrounds, which are really useful for my film career. Having joined a UK summer camp while I was at high school – and coming away from it with a good impression – I chose to study in the UK.
I travelled to Portsmouth before deciding to study here. During that period, I visited the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries’ Eldon Building and talked to a senior schoolmate. After seeing how nice the city and staff were, I realised that the University of Portsmouth was a really good choice for me.
Overcoming my challenges
When I moved to Portsmouth, I found it quite similar to my hometown. It’s lovely and very welcoming. Personally, I love the beach, and I really like the sea; it’s really relaxing. I can sit down beside it in the afternoons and look at it and hear the sound of it.
However, I did find Portsmouth to be far from home. Sometimes I’d get homesick because I really missed home. I got a lot of support from my personal tutor, Neil Hunt (Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Film, Media and Communication). I first met Neil at Beijing Academy before coming to the UK, then when I arrived here, he helped me.
The second challenge I found was the language. My English wasn’t very good, so I needed to improve it. The final one was making connections.
In China, I already knew people, so I’d already built networks – but coming to Portsmouth, I needed to find new connections to support my filmmaking. That’s what filmmaking is all about: teamwork.
Developing my skills through my course
I found the BA (Hons) Film Production course very practical. For example, during second year, we studied cinematography and fiction filmmaking, and for final year, we created our graduate films – finishing all shooting despite the global pandemic. We also worked with other students on other courses in the Faculty. My team and I worked with a brilliant BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design student on our graduate film's production design, and the partnership was wonderful.
As part of my final-year self-promotion module, I built a website showcasing my film showreels. It’s a fast way to get into the film industry, show my skills to companies and get to know more people.
I also found the teaching on the course different. In Beijing, the teacher will tell you directly what you have to do and give you the answers. But in Portsmouth, the teacher will allow you to take the whole process so you can get the answer on your own. I think both teaching methods are important. Studying at Portsmouth helped me to fill in the gaps of my learning.
Film Production 2021 - 'Are You Scared' trailer
Mike is a video blogger who makes his money from immoral prank videos. After swindling his neighbour into giving him his computer printer, strange things begin to happen around him. Unique messages and strange phenomena push him to the edge and revive memories of an accident for which he was responsible.
Yifan Xu (Director) | Kunwen Chen (Director of Photography) | Junmeng Hua (Writer) | Haokai Yang (Editor/Producer)
Winning an award for my film project
My final year was a lot less challenging. As part of a group, I won an award at the Making Waves Festival for a short film we made called Moon Lamp. It was the first film I made in the UK, and it was a really good experience. My role was director of photography, which helps the screenwriter expand their idea through video, building their mood and setting visually. From winning that award, we got to know many people from the industry, including the director of Making Waves Festival, staff at No. 6 Cinema, and other filmmakers from around the world.
Where to next?
After graduating with a First Class Honours, my current plan is to spend a year getting some industry experience, because you really need that with filmmaking. Then I’d like to pursue postgraduate study. If I can get back to the UK, maybe I’ll go to London Film School.
I’ve already directed in the past, done lots of short films at Beijing Academy, and have been director of photography, so I’d like to try more writing in the future.
I’ve really enjoyed my journey in film production at the University of Portsmouth. Starting here in the UK has given me another angle to know this world.
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