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“Will we be seeing you in Hollywood?”

Samuel studies film script at the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy
Photo (detail): © private

Samuel, 24, is in the second year of a degree course in film and media, with a special focus on film script, at the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy. In our Survival Kit for Studies series, he tells us how he deals with imposter syndrome – and that nothing happens without team cooperation on his course

The biggest cliché about your degree course – and what’s true about it:

There are two main clichés: you’ll never earn decent money with a degree in that subject, and that everything is incredibly “hip”. That’s not absolutely wrong, but it’s viewed with humour. At any rate, both ideas are responsible for a variety of memes in our campus WhatsApp group. With high-profile universities, many people think they’re really exclusive and it’s difficult to get in. But it isn’t just a straightforward matter of asking: are you good enough for the film academy, or are you someone who knows for certain that they want to specialise in “film scripts”.
What’s your normal daily routine?

There aren’t many normal days at the film academy, so there isn’t much of a routine either. When I have lectures, I’m mostly at uni from nine to five. After that I meet up with students from my course to talk about projects. During the project phase I have to organise my own time. But I try and keep to the same rhythm.
What could you have done without?

Of course there are some courses that aren’t as important for my specialism, for instance production, media law or history of film. The worst thing is that these courses are often timetabled on a Saturday as well. I don’t always pay full attention in the lectures either, preferring to work on my script during that time. That does mean I’m missing out on the opportunity to understand every last detail.
What day at university will you never forget?

In our introductory workshop we were immediately split up into groups, and we were supposed to prepare presentations. It was completely crazy, because on that very first day I met people who thought like I did, were creative and enthusiastic, and everyone wanted to show what they could do. It was also extremely warm for October, and I thought it was lovely that we were able to sit outside on the grass and start this degree with all the others.
What would you do differently if you could start your studies all over again?

I completed four projects in the first year: one script and three films. I was very focused on ensuring that these assignments turned out good and impressive, and are looking immaculate by the time they are finished. But I didn’t pay attention to artistic expression and self-realisation. At the end of the day all the projects work really well, but I didn’t have a strong personal connection with them. That was a shame.

I think the pressure and the feeling that I had to impress my fellow students overwhelmed me. Because of that I forgot about doing things I thought were cool and that make me happy. Hopefully I’ll make up for that now in my second year.
What regularly drove you to despair?

There’s a concept called imposter syndrome. People think they aren’t really capable of anything, but that they have successfully convinced everyone else that the opposite is true. I think that can happen to you easily, for instance if you attend a very high-profile university. You see how talented all the people around you are, but you don’t know what their tricks are.

For my part, I know precisely what I can and can’t do, but when someone else presents a cool project, it makes me think: he can do everything. But in time you come to realise – wow, those guys are just as bad as me.
What was often a lifesaver for you?

Working with other students on my course. The degree’s heavily based on teamwork – and that includes film scripts. We all have to advise each other. That made me notice that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. With my skills I can support people who need help specifically in that area. A positive atmosphere is encouraged within our group. That usually sets people at ease. For me that serves as a kind of reality check.
What did you eat on the last day of the month, when did you have to save money?

We have restaurants in which we can spend tokens. I always eat there. They have good food, even if there’s always a bit less on the plate than you need to feel full. Saving is something you have to think about all the time, especially if you’ve gone over budget with your project, or if you have to pay for a project yourself.

Maybe I’ll be good enough for a crime drama like Tatort one day!

What question do you always hear at family gatherings?

So will we be seeing you in Hollywood? It’s really unnerving, because it reminds you that that’s very unlikely. But maybe I’ll be good enough for a crime drama like Tatort one day.
Where might you be found when you’re not at university?

All I do is commute between university and my flat, if I’m not travelling to another city to visit friends. In Ludwigsburg there’s a bar called Flint, which is almost becoming an alternative living room for the film academy. People go into Stuttgart from time to time as well. Other than that I write at home or in one of the cafés here. There are a few nice ones. I write at uni. In fact I spend all day writing.
What was the highest price you’ve paid for a good grade?

I had to use a crib sheet in an exam for the first time. Admittedly it wasn’t even particularly risky. I would probably even have passed without it. But grades aren’t that relevant for us anyway. There are a few lecturers who will give the entire course top marks because they can’t be bothered to grade them in detail.
University also means learning for life. What have you taken with you from your studies to prepare you for the future?

Discussions with others on my course have really helped my understanding of the creative skills and of film-making. In the four or five years that my degree took in total, I have been able to concentrate fully on my art and my creativity. That has shown me that you’ve always got to work on your things, whether it’s writing, drawing or something else. Furthermore I can show my projects to like-minded people who are also good friends, and talk to them about it.
Now for something topical: you’re off to the Berlinale this year. What do you find you the most exciting aspect of that, and what are you looking forward to most?

I’ve never been there before, which I’m a bit embarrassed about. It’s an internationally recognised film festival, so of course I should go there. I’ll try to see as many films as possible. It’s sure to be a great, action-packed experience. My social batteries are likely to be running on empty after that. But I am looking forward to it.

“Survival Kit for Studies”

Where in Germany can one study well? How can you live well as a student? And how do you survive the first student council party and the questions at family gatherings?

Students from different disciplines talk about their experiences at universities in Germany, their everyday life – and what sometimes drives them to despair.