What Film Means to Me: Andre O’Garro

Our new blog series celebrates the personal meaning of the cultural and creative industries to people, from industry professionals, students and general audiences. This month, Film & Media student Andre describes his journey from a creative learner to a final year student looking to make his first steps in the world of film-making. 

Throughout my life, I always knew I was a creative learner: during school, the subjects I thrived in were Drama & Theatre, Catering, P.E, Art (I wasn’t great, but I enjoyed it), and Media. It’s not that I hated the more theoretical subjects like Geography; I just always felt more engaged when it was time to express my creativity.

My initial interest in film stemmed from choosing to study A level Media. I’ve always had an interest in watching movies, but the thought of having to produce audio-visual content as classwork initially put me off deciding to study it during school. I achieved a B at the end of the 2 years, which wasn’t surprising because it felt like I had finally found a subject I actively want to know more about, plus Media Studies is such a broad topic that there’s bound to be something to enjoy learning about. I found that, with hard work, the creative projects I feared before my A-Level journey were enjoyable and I was coping well with the difficulty of the tasks because I liked the subject.

My interest in film-making grew further when I met Neil Archer, one of my lecturers at Keele. I wasn’t studying Film Studies at this stage, but I found myself intrigued by the way he would annotate and explain the importance and meaning behind the films we were studying, which helped when I had to make a short film for another class. I decided to change my degree from single honours Media, Communication and Culture to a dual honours with Film, which has allowed me to be creative as well as write essays on films and topics that interest me such as Hollywood and European Cinema.

I started to enjoy filmmaking projects at university when I studied Documentary in my 2nd year. My group and I found it difficult because a documentary requires a different approach to a fiction film, but we managed to find a story we were passionate about. We ended up getting firsts for the project which opened a new avenue I could pursue in the future. After studying abroad in Spain for a year, I’m now preparing for my last year of university, which also means looking at options for when I graduate. At this point I’m not entirely sure what I want to get into, but I know I need some work experience in the creative industry so that’s most likely the next step, but I’m not ruling out a Masters’.  

With diversity improving in Hollywood, and the recognition of foreign cinema, it’s exciting aspiring to get into the film industry. As a young black man, I’m seeing more people who look like me starring in movies and black men and women creating films that resonate with me and my family. Their movies like Black Panther (RIP Chadwick Boseman), Selma, and If Beale Street Could Talk are actively changing the industry, making it a more welcoming arena for minority groups to have our voices heard.

The amount of young female talent on and off-screen also inspires me because it makes me feel the industry is ready to become more inclusive (Best Actress and Supporting Actress are two of my favourite categories to watch at the Oscars). I’m a long way from being able to make a feature-length film, but now that I have some experience I appreciate the hard work that goes into making a film work. When you’re watching a film you’re not just watching the final cut: you are also watching the director’s vision, acting rehearsal, the cinematographer figuring out a visual style of the project, the screenplay in full effect, and all the other departments’ tireless work. Cinema is simply a medium I enjoy consuming.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic meant cinemas had to close (which made me sad) it meant I had time to sit down and watch great movies I’ve always wanted to watch but never go around to. I might have gotten carried away with this because I ended up watching 205 films during the quarantine period, which made me realise how much the industry has changed in terms of genre popularity, attitudes towards race, gender, and sexuality, auteurs, the definition of blockbusters and how film technology has developed over time. Now that cinemas are open again, I have a lot of movies to be excited about such as The French Dispatch and Dune. Getting into the creative industries is difficult, but I don’t see why I can’t make it if I set myself goals and actively work towards them.  

by Andre O’Garro

Andre is a final year Film Studies& Media, Communications and Culture student at Keele University. Follow him on Instagram @andreogarro and on film social network Letterboxd @Andre1998