Umulkhayr had always loved film but didn’t know if working in it was an option. “I’ve been interested in films my whole life - just going to the cinema and getting to experience all the different stories,” she says. “But I come from a background where people don’t really know that these kinds of jobs exist. I couldn’t envision a future in this industry.”
Umulklhayr’s break-through into the industry came after she studied business and marketing at the University of Essex. She applied to be a film exhibition, distribution and sales (FEDS) trainee, in a scheme organised by the Independent Cinema Office, supported by ScreenSkills.
Through the scheme, she was given an eight-month placement with Film Hub Wales at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, where she was then employed for a further five months. “I’ve lived in Cardiff most of my life and I didn’t want to have to move to start my career. It’s a small town but there’s a lot of film activity. It means once you’ve got your foot in the door you can build your network easily.”
During her placement, Umuklhayr, aged 25, worked as a project coordinator in film exhibition, a role which involves working with independent cinemas, film festivals and film societies programming events about film. She was a project coordinator for the UK-wide Anim18: A Year of British Animation programme, agreeing on terms with distributors, supporting evaluation of audiences and the release of funding to partners across the country, “I liked the research aspect and getting to highlight stories which weren’t getting much attention.”
It was work which used her business and marketing background. “One of the skills I need for my job is relationship management - working with partners, thinking strategically and creatively,” she says.
She found the training particularly valuable for allowing her to learn more about the industry - “both in my day-to-day role but also in the training days that I had as part of my traineeship. I feel that has allowed me to make more of an informed decision going forward in terms of my career”.
Umulkhayr is passionate about improving diversity among film audiences as well as people working in the industry and currently works freelance in workshop facilitation on this topic. “People bring themselves to their jobs, so if we can include more people from different walks of life in creative programmes they will be drawing from different experiences.” She has run workshops for programmers on equality and diversity in film exhibition.
From Film Hub Wales, she went on to a work placement supported by the British Council and the Independent Cinema Office at Hanoi Doclab in Vietnam where her role involved coordinating a series of screenings and writing programme copy.
Her ambition is to manage a season of films herself. “I want to show people culture they haven’t been exposed to before and maybe wouldn’t have thought was their kind of thing.”
Umulkhayr’s advice for someone thinking about entering the industry is not to be put off if you haven’t studied film academically. “You just need to show you’re passionate. I’ve seen that no matter what kind of personality type you have, you can definitively find a role that suits you in the film sector.”
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