Simon realises his dream of becoming a filmmaker at UWTSD


19.03.2019

Having spent the last 25 years thinking his dream of becoming a filmmaker was over, postgraduate student, Simon Howlett is finally realising his potential having embarked on the MRes Adventure Filmmaking course at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) in Carmarthen.

Simon Howlett

Picture taken by Michèle Wright

“It’s a journey that started in Farnham 25 years ago when I was a Film student at what was then the art college,” says Simon.  “I loved making films and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of creating work with my fellow students during what was a very creative time.  After graduating, I moved to Soho where I worked as in a post-production house on Dean Street - which was very exciting.   To begin with, I really loved it, but after a while I became disillusioned by the lifestyle and started to think about taking a different direction.”

Despite being offered a promotion within a top London-based production house and even after being given the opportunity to work alongside a top documentary film maker, Simon decided that at that particular time in his life, the film industry wasn’t for him.  Instead, he took a very different route and went to work at an inner-city school in London to run their work experience programme. 

“During that time, I gave up on my film-making aspirations – even though I’d been making films for years before that, before even going to college.  I gave it all up,” continues Simon.

He went on to work with young people within a range of different companies and even developed his own training, mentoring and coaching programmes for learners - but the call to make films was still there. 

“After living in London and then Bristol, I moved to West Wales to the village of Pumpsaint and to in a bid to get to know people, I started working as a tour guide at the Dolaucothi Gold Mines,” adds Simon.  “Whilst I was there, my colleagues and I decided we should make a film – as a joke – based on our manager’s amazing handlebar moustache!  He looked as though he was from a 1930’s Oxford or Cambridge rowing team and that look, coupled with the stunning cinematic backdrop of the Gold Mines, inspired us to set about making the film. 

“So I decided to write a script for what became a silent movie – full of the clichés and stereotypes of the genre – and we had this amazing conversion of talent.  In one and a half days - at the end of the season once the mines were closed - we made this film. 

“I spent the next couple of weeks editing and I thought that would be it – the end of the process.  We held a premiere of the complete film, which we called Fool’s Gold - a Dolaucothi Love Story at the Coach House in Pumpsaint and thought no more about it, it had just been some great fun.  But as a laugh, we put the film into a few film competitions and ended up qualifying for the BAFTA Cymru annual awards!  The film didn’t win but we had some great encouragement from Kelvin Guy at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival and decided to submit it into the Welsh International Film Festival – and the film that started as a joke, won! We started submitting Fool’s Gold into international film festivals and it started winning across the world.  We ended up being a finalist in 13 film festivals and won eight awards in various competitions – from India to the United States.  It was amazing – and all of a sudden, the thoughts and dreams that I had about making films 25 years ago were now surfacing once again.  At the same time, I had a passion for coaching and mentoring and a desire to help other people realise their aspirations and their creative visions – and that’s when I thought about going back to University."

“I’d been talking to Kelvin Guy, Founder and Director of the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, who told me that he was starting a Film Studies degree at UWTSD and he really made me realise that I wanted to return to education - and after a series of interviews, I started my MRes in October.”

The MRes Adventure Filmmaking course is a unique programme that utilises the landscapes of West Wales as well as the wide range of outdoor pursuits that take place in the region. The course also offers students incredible opportunities to capture footage of extreme sports, sea life, wild life, coastal and mountainous terrains, with input throughout the course of the degree from professionals working in these fields.

Students are introduced to the core production and postproduction skills required to produce adventure-based film and media content. The course also includes expeditions and live projects - in addition to formal classes - allowing students to experience working in a wide range of environments and areas.  It was a combination of these opportunities as well as the chance to collaborate with fellow students that excited Simon.

“I now really want to make films,” continues Simon enthusiastically.  “I have a plan to make a number of films including a feature film over the next ten years – with each one building onto the next film – in terms of crew, contacts, distribution, reputation and so on.  I’ve been carrying some of these ideas around in my head for the last 25 years – notebooks of ideas that I’ve kept and I’m now re-developing these ideas and everything seems to be coming to fruition.

“After starting at UWTSD and meeting the lecturers and fellow students, the ideas are really starting to spark and come together.  My desire is also to work with the undergraduate students; to collaborate with them and to see them develop because the one thing that’s stayed with me from my work experience days is the fact that opportunity is often a big barrier to realising your aspirations.  Bringing these two elements together – the creative aspirations that I have but also my desire to help, promote, nurture and encourage others to follow their creative dreams – has resulted in bringing me to this moment and that’s what’s now starting to happen now that I’ve started my course at UWTSD.”

For more information on the Masters in Research (MRes) in Adventure Filmmaking at UWTSD, please go to:  https://www.uwtsd.ac.uk/mres-adventure-filmmaking/

Fool's Gold Poster

Further Information

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communications and PR Officer on 01267 676908 / 07449 998476 sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk