Fine Art (MA)
After completing both a BA and Masters in Fine Art, as well as a PGCE (PCET) in Further Education, Matthew went into teaching. But after showcasing his digital art skills online, Matthew was offered the opportunity to work in the film industry, landing his big break as a Concept Modeller on The Batman, before moving to Paramount Pictures to work as a Concept Artist on the two latest Mission: Impossible movies.
“University for me was always on the cards. But when I finished A-levels, it was more of a decision of what to study, because although I was interested in the sciences, I was really passionate about art and design. I thought that a science subject would offer more stability, but in the end, I decided to study what I loved, and I’m so glad that I did.
I did look around other universities, but I found the campuses uninspiring. That was the best thing about BCU for me, the Margaret Street building. It is such an inspiring place, and I could really picture myself studying there. I chose Fine Art as it gave me the freedom to try lots of different things, so I could find what I enjoyed most. However, I didn’t do too well in my A-Levels and didn’t get the grades I wanted. Thankfully, BCU were willing to focus more on the performance in my interview, rather than my grades, and they gave me a chance.
I ended up being at BCU for a long time! Obviously, I studied Fine Art as an undergraduate, but I returned to continue studying the subject at Masters level too. I then decided to take my skills into teaching, so I then did a PGCE Cert in Further Education, before going on to teach in both further and higher education.
I started off teaching Fine Art and Photography at a local college, before becoming the Course Leader in Interactive Media. But then I decided to try something new, and became a Digital Artist and Illustrator for Games Workshop, which then gave me the skills to teach Game Art at the University of Worcester, before becoming a Lecturer in Creative Digital Skills at Coventry University.
After uploading snippets of my art and illustration online, I was invited to work on a new Mark Wahlberg film called ‘The Six Billion Dollar Man’, but after a few months, production was stopped and I assumed that was the end of my film career. But then I got asked to work on a Netflix series called ‘Cursed’, and then a series of commercials.
I was still working at Coventry University when I got offered the opportunity to work on The Batman, and I couldn’t say no. After I’d finished on that, along came the chance to work at Paramount Pictures as a Concept Artist for both Mission: Impossible 7 and 8. I never really expected to work in film, and I always thought that it would be a temporary thing. But then I got more and more offers, to the point that it became a very real full-time job for me.
One of the best aspects of my role is designing the visual elements of the film. This is all done during pre-production. Once my designs have been approved, they are then passed on to other departments who go on to physically constructing them ready for filming.
Finding work in the film industry is a lot about your portfolio and previous work as opposed to your formal qualifications. But my time at BCU provided me with the time to learn a skill set that I have been able to use in both my teaching and film career. Just having that time to really focus on learning all kinds of different skills has benefitted me in my career, as I use many of them on a daily basis.
The film industry works in a totally different way to other industries. Many jobs aren’t advertised, and you mostly get hired based on recommendations and word of mouth. In a lot of cases, it can be very much just about being in the right place at the right time. I am essentially self-employed, so when a project ends, it is my responsibility to find another project to work on. It’s all about relationships, as I have to contact art directors and others in the industry to find out about other work I could get involved in. It’s all about networking.
I didn’t know anyone in the film industry just a few years ago, but after putting my work online and getting myself out there, I now have connections across the sector. But trying to find film work can be really difficult too. A lot of the industry is based primarily in London, and as I don’t live in London, it can be difficult to get a foot in the door as it can be a closed community. But having that knowledge about how to break in to the industry is vital. It really is all about knowing how to market and network yourself very well. Almost all of my work has come from Facebook or Linkedin, so it’s really important to build a social media presence to be able to get that kind of online exposure.
I get bored quite easily, but so far, film has managed to sustain my interest. However, it can be very work intensive. I am hoping to work in the film industry for as long as I can, really. But in the long-term, I would consider going back into education to be able to share my experiences and skills.
I always take pride in the work that I do, but since graduating, I’m actually most proud of the moments I get to go into local schools and colleges, and even back to BCU, and share what working in the film industry is like, and how they can do it too. If it wasn't for me sharing some work online, I never would have worked in this profession. I feel like there's a lot of people out there that have got the talent, but they just don't ever get that big break or get the chance to show the right people. So I always try and make the time for those events, to be able to speak to young people and students. It is so rewarding a few years later when I receive an email saying that my advice really helped them.
My advice to current students is to research the industry that you want to go into. When I did the research, I found out that I really needed to update my skill set. When I was doing my Bachelor's degree, I spent a lot of time doing traditional drawing and painting. But when I did research around working as a designer, I realised that a lot of the industry had transferred over to the digital side of things, which is why I then did my Masters degree. I focused my time during that year on learning the digital side of things, which was probably the most important year of my entire career so far, because if I hadn’t had done that, I wouldn’t be getting the jobs that I’m doing now. So my Masters was an investment and it’s definitely helped me get to where I am now. It’s important to see education as a real investment for the future.”