RTS Bursary Student Interview: Tom Saunders

23rd May 2024


Welcome back to another instalment of our RTS Bursary student interviews!

This week we’re catching up with Tom, a second year student on our BA (Hons) Filmmaking degree. Join us as we discuss how the RTS bursary has impacted his studies, where he hopes his future career will take him, and what advice he’d give to students considering applying for this invaluable scheme.

Student Experience

Can you tell us about your experience applying for the RTS bursary and how it has impacted your studies?

After hearing about the RTS Bursary Scheme from Niamh, a fellow scholar, I applied with my good friend Amaar – the process was fairly simple, and included a cover letter, showreel and interview process. I think it’s definitely one of those things that I was needlessly nervous about. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?

What motivated you to pursue a career in TV/film, and how do you see the RTS bursary supporting your goals and aspirations?

From when I was much younger, films had always seemed super interesting, although I only considered a film career in college. I sort of fell into it during the pandemic and came to Screen and Film School with the intention of pursuing screenwriting, which quickly turned into an obsession with being in and around the set, with most of my work centring around production. The RTS have been (and still are) instrumental at expanding my professional connections and giving me a real sense of confidence – particularly with breaking into industry and developing a skillset suited for film and TV work.

In what ways do you hope to contribute to the TV/film industry in the future?

In the future, I’m hoping to develop a flexible method of working, combining multiple disciplines within the industry – focusing on smaller-budget or skeleton crew projects as both a member of the camera, grip and lighting departments. Working on projects as a technician with an Albert qualification in sustainability is also something I want to push for, meaning that the projects I take on can leave a better impact.

Can you share any projects or initiatives you are currently working on, and how the bursary has facilitated your progress?

Currently, some fellow students and I have just wrapped on a longer project – Rebirth, a short film from a collective I’m a member of: OnBright Productions. On top of working together with collaborators as a HoD (co-Gaffer), I’ve also spent this term working on prepping for Masters students’ films slated for production this May/June.

The RTS has enabled me to get myself the basics in terms of kit, and also provided a mentor in the field I want to pursue, meaning that I have a better professional understanding of the productions I’m working on.

What advice would you give to other aspiring television professionals who may be considering applying for the RTS bursary in the future?

My advice would generally be: you always get out of something what you put into it – so always put yourself out there, get your point across and start that conversation that you’re nervous about. It’s very much about trying things out and having a sense of fearlessness and a sociability. For the RTS bursary in particular, I’d say trying to include previous experience along with reasoning for what you’d do with the bursary (aspirations and future plans etc.) is a good place to start.

How do you envision leveraging the networking opportunities and connections provided by the RTS bursary to enhance your professional development in the industry?

For me, my connections are primarily used for planning my next job, hoping to land a traineeship or on-set experience. I think another major part of the networking opportunities is raising your own confidence and actually giving yourself a chance to meet industry professionals you normally would never have the chance to meet outside of the RTS events. In the future, one of these people could be the person who lands you your first professional and/or paid placement!

Can you discuss any challenges you have faced in pursuing your career goals, and how the bursary has helped mitigate or overcome these obstacles?

The bursary has allowed me to overcome the financial burden of university – the cost of travel to locations, the cost of equipment, and sometimes even living is incredibly difficult when first trying to enter the industry. Having the support network and bounce-board that the RTS offers has also allowed me to come out of my shell and put myself out there more.

What do you hope to achieve or accomplish as a result of the RTS bursary, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I hope to accomplish the simple goals of being able to support myself financially and travel the globe. Having a job where you are able to get up each day and feel genuinely excited to work is an incredible feeling! Professionally, I feel I’d like to start my NVQ in Grip with the UK Grip Guild, or alternatively find a trainee placement within the lighting department on a high-end television programme. Any development of TnT Lighting and Visual would also be a massive achievement.

Finally, can you reflect on the significance of receiving the RTS bursary and what it means to you in terms of recognition and support of your aspirations?

Simply put, the RTS bursary has made a career in industry a far more tangible goal than it had been previously. The financial element has made day-to-day living possible whilst the social and networking opportunities have enabled me to learn and study from some of the best professional names working today. The significance of receiving a scholarship like this also gives me tremendous pride and pushes me to work harder – I don’t want to waste the opportunity! In terms of aspirations, it means I’m able to better get my foot in the door of training opportunities.



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