AFTT - Graduate Film Festival Finalist Gives Her Advice and Insight

24 Jun 2016

Graduate Film Festival Finalist gives her advice and insight.

Screenwriting, Directing and Producing graduate Michelle Nagy recently produced a film 'The Aquarium' that has been nominated for best Director, best screenplay and best young talent. Working with Director Jacobie Gray in January 2016 after becoming good friends on a previous short, the film had good success internationally, and especially in the US.

'We were happy for 'The Aquarium' to have an Australian premiere! St Kilda was an amazing festival. I spent the week with other writers/directors, producers and actors I've been working with in Sydney.' 

Last year, Michelle produced a a short film through Metroscreen/Screen NSW funding breaks for writer/director Jackson Mullane called 'Baby Boy', who she first met at IFSS (now AFTT) and they are still working together now. They also worked on 'Red Nuts' prior which won 2nd place at Tropfest.


'Collaboration is really where I started as a Producer. It's great to collaborate with friends- it's a very solid place to start and I still love working with friends whenever I can.'

After graduating from her Screenwriting, Directing and Producing course, Michelle went straight to working for Foxtel with the idea that having proper broadcast experience under her belt would help. After this, she jumped into freelancing before a producer picker her up for various Channel 9 projects like ACA as a Production Assistant.

‘I think I could quickly see how best to organise chaos fro m my time onset as a student. And how to find a solution for almost any problem.’

Michelle now works as a Production Manager on TVCs full-time. 

 ‘I never instinctively chose to Produce- I just wanted to be paid and in the industry. I did a lot of unpaid work to get there. I think it’s important to know the business side of the industry, but equally as important to know which jobs you will work on for free. I guess it's a balance.’

‘I believe in risk taking but that you should probably do some groundwork first. I’ve swept floors, done unit, PA-d and co-ordinated into the late hours of the night on no overtime.’

On her experience with AFTT (Previously IFSS)

I've also hired a lot of IFSS graduates on commercials and worked with them on films because they are special. The industry loves hard workers- what they don't know is they're usually buying very talented storytellers who are capable of getting promoted into the post world, the writing and development world, the directing world.  I usually know I can depend on them to do what is necessary to get the job done and to think independently and creatively.
The teachers and the friends I had at IFSS are very special and I still work with a lot of them.

That was the best part of the course for me- comradery and challenge in equal measures.

Michelle’s Advice 

The most important thing I’ve learnt since entering the industry is not to be demoralised for too long. You will lose money. You will go for periods without work. If you've been independent you may have to deal with being dependant again for a while. The kids who keep going are the ones that really love it, they don't get too impatient or self important.  The more confident you become- the more ready you are to be in the right place at the right time. 

My advice for current students? Leaving film school was very hard. It’s hard to let go of having fun all the time and focusing on your key passions 100% of the time. Work creeps in. Life creeps back in too. You're not in a fishbowl anymore and the world doesn't begin and end with film shoots.

 A year after having a production  job I struggled with everyday- I saw another IFSS graduate had that same job after I’d moved on. I saw that she was momentarily demoralised- she'd had a great life at film school both socially and with her films. But it only took her another year to get properly paid industry jobs and big gigs she was enjoying. Stick with your passion but know when you need some experience. The people who can’t get hired are the ones who have too much ego. The industry smells 'green' but it’s not something you need to apologise for. Be passionate, be confidant- you will get given a chance.

If I can offer any advice- try and find people you can learn from.  And know when to differentiate between very hard work and real exploitation. Don't let people treat you in a way which is demeaning but allow yourself to be pushed.

It is a very hard industry. Most people don't have the money or connections to self-fund projects. But it certainly has its highlights and moments in the sun. 

If I could go back in time I’d say yes to everything the first year out of film school (I probably did) because you need credits and references and experience. It’s like a machine  though - once it starts, you'll have that momentum and you can do your taking over the world thing !!  

Thank you Michelle and all the best on your future projects! We are very proud of all of our graduates and their wonderful achievements. 

If you are, or know of a graduate who has done great things, please do get in touch!

Find out more about studying AFTT's Screenwriting, Directing and Producing course, or Enquire Now.