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Posted 12.05.17

Award-winning film grad tours Bangladesh with celebrity chef for BBC documentary

By Kat Peberdy
BA (Hons) Film graduate Tom Kirkman is carving a path of success in the world of television, following his time with the BBC filming The Chronicles of Nadiya.

We spoke to Tom about his experience studying at the college, from Pre-Degree to graduation, and his advice for any aspiring camera operators.

What was it like studying film at the college?

I had never expected anyone to let me study for a degree. I was home educated through secondary school which was amazing for me, I then went on to college and got two D’s in Maths and English because I thought I had to study something academic. So I was excited to get on the course after showing the lecturers some of my creative work. Spending time with the lecturers was so inspiring, they let me play around with all my weird ideas that I think a lot of other places wouldn’t have let me do.

You started on a Pre-Degree course, then studied BA (Hons) Film at the college and have now gone on to work in television production - can you tell us about what it was like to move from education to the workplace?

I started by handing out a lot of CV’s and contacting all the production companies I could find, I wasn’t having much success but eventually, I got one small job and started making a network.

"Tom is an inspirational filmmaker. Whilst a student here he successfully managed to balance his experimental film work, with a super glossy commercial film practice working for a range of clients. We are very proud to see him working in his chosen field, and he continues to inspire our current students, who have a chance to see his work."

– Lucy Leake, Programme Leader BA (Hons) Film

The crew for Chronicles of Nadiya were looking for a camera assistant, and I was recommended to them. When they contacted me to check my availability I jumped at the chance to travel to Bangladesh for the filming! It was absolutely amazing, I thought I was just going to be changing lenses and carrying tripods, and then when we got out there I ended up operating the 2nd camera so I had the opportunity to do a lot of filming.

What’s it like travelling with the film crew and Nadiya?

It’s great! It’s hard, and it’s very long hours. Nadiya is very down to earth though and she’s very funny - with her it was just like travelling with a friend.

I love travelling and have always wanted to travel as much as possible with work, so this was a brilliant job for me.

Nadiya Hussain, photographed by Tom Kirkman

Where else have you travelled?

I recently filmed the Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup Series, working with a couple of teams travelling all around Europe - including Switzerland and Italy. I’ve clocked up 40,000 miles in my car over the last year driving around the UK filming. I’ve had the opportunity to explore bits of the country I didn’t even know existed!

Any highlights from your career so far?

This year I was nominated for the Royal Television Society’s Flying Futures Talent award. I got to get dressed up to attend a posh awards evening, and it was amazing to get recognition for my work in my first year of filming in television.

“I definitely credit my time at the college for a big part of being able to make my passion work as a career.”

– Tom Kirkman, BA (Hons) Film graduate

What have you got coming up?

Coming up - I don’t know how much I’m allowed to tell you! For the past few months, I've been working on a big new studio based cooking show at the moment which has all been really exciting.

Because I’m freelance, one minute it can look like I’ve got the week off and then the next minute I’ll be working on three different shows. I’m very lucky to be in the position where I’m very busy In a job I love.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in working in television or film?

Creating the best possible images that tell the story in the right way is important, but this job is so much about fitting into your team and about the relationship you have with the contributors and the rest of the crew. Making beautiful work is an essential part of the project but teamwork is vital, people need to feel comfortable with you to make the work really stand out.

Try to work with people that you admire, who are craftsmen, and watch them. Watch how they work and soak it all up.