Graduate Stories: Life after CFS with Alkez Rhule

1) What were you doing before applying to CFS?

Before applying to CFS I was living in Australia. I knew I wanted to work in film, but I also felt like I needed more life experience before I embarked on that journey. I had always wanted to live overseas and the opportunity to do so was there, so I booked an Airbnb for 2 weeks and went with my last £200 in my pocket. It was…an experience to say the least haha. But I learned a lot about life, and myself. When I came back I applied to CFS and the rest is history.

2) Where are you currently working / what are you currently working on?

I currently work as an in-house Production Accountant at a company called Windfall Films. We do a lot of documentaries for companies like National Geographic. I have a background in finance, so I applied for a “corporate finance job” at their parent company, with the intention of finding a way to move into one of their production companies at some point. One of my career goals is to work on the business side of producing, so I figured that using the experience I already had could be a way in. Working on Windfall’s finances allowed me to build relationships with the Head of Production and all the Production Managers. This meant that when they needed a full time in-house production accountant, I was the person they considered because half the job is managing those relations and I already had them in place. I’ve been in the role for half a year now and so far so good.

3) What does your day to day consist of?

A lot of my day to day is managing production budgets and costs. I work directly with the production managers to make sure we’re on track and that the information we’re looking at is accurate. Half of my time is spent on reporting, getting invoices paid and managing payroll etc. While the other half is less straightforward, I attend to the day to day variables that come with managing a production. This means that no two days are ever the same, but that’s what makes it interesting!

4) How did studying at CFS prepare you for the industry?

CFS constantly pushed me out of my comfort zones. I was encouraged to watch, analyse, and work on all types of projects. Over time I became more adept at finding aspects that interested me in every type of production. I feel that working like this really helped prepare me for the industry because the reality is you most likely won’t be able to work solely on the projects you really like. The luxury of choice is afforded to few, so being able to engage in a vast range of work gives you a greater chance to succeed.

5) What advice would you give to an aspiring CFS student?

I would give 2 pieces of advice.

The first is don’t be constrained by conventional thinking. It’s easy to get trapped in the idea that things need to be done in a certain way that society or the industry have predefined, and that that’s the only way your goals can be achieved. I don’t believe in that personally. I find it limiting. What if there’s a path that no one’s seen, or discovered, or even thought to try? There’s nothing wrong with the traditional path. But the industry is hard to break into, and there’s a lot of people trying to do it. You can wait in line hoping your turn will come and maybe it will, but for most of us, if we really want to make it then we need to create that opening for ourselves. Don’t just look at what something is, but what it could be.

The second is don’t think you’re above anything or anyone. Even if it’s not a production you’re interested in, always put your best foot forward, especially in film school. Thinking that something is beneath you affects your work ethic, and people notice that. Word of mouth is everything, and a bad attitude will follow you. What’s more, you do yourself a disservice by not taking the opportunity to further hone your skills. And to be honest, it’s just rude. If you put in the effort to help make something that someone else wants to make, they might just do the same for you in the future.

6) If you could only watch one thing for the rest of your life, which film or TV box set would you pick?  

I thought about this for a while, and the answer I came to is a Japanese anime called Haikyu. It’s about a high school volleyball club. It’s a very simple and straightforward premise, but it’s one of the few things I would consider to be a masterclass in writing. There are a number of characters yet it somehow manages to nail down the concepts of character arcs and pacing for all of them. It perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to play sports in a way that no other piece of art I’ve seen has managed to do. Also, it is deeply philosophical, a great reflection of the Japanese culture it originates from. Some moments are so profound, while others are just straight up entertaining, so it is something I often go back to.