How I Gave Up Physics To Study Multimedia

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

I studied Maths, Physics and Geography for my A-levels at high school. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life but I always felt that I was more of a science person than a creative person. After high school I took a year out and went travelling around Australia but before I left I secured a place to study Physics at The University of Nottingham when I got back.

My dad is Australian so I have plenty of family out there and I spent half my time living with my uncle Neil in Sydney. Neil is a freelance art director for TV commercials and he spent the entire time I was with him telling me I was a people person and he didn’t understand why I was going back to England to study Physics.

The fact that he worked on TV commercials obviously had an influence on me. I heard all about the projects he was working on and he paid me for a few days as a runner, sitting in a van picking up props from all over Sydney, then helping him out on set during the pre-production days (I never made it on set for a shoot day).

Other than that bit of art department experience, I think I had some more subtle experiences in Australia which started my shift from Physics to Media.

Neil didn’t have a big collection of videos but the ones he had were classics. While I was staying at his place, I managed to watch movies like Blade Runner, North By Northwest and Psycho.

My uncle’s girlfriend at the time was working as the wardrobe assistant on Mission Impossible II, which was filming in Sydney. I think this was the first time I had met someone who had worked on a proper film and spending so much time with her got me used to the idea that working on a movie wasn’t a completely unrealistic ambition.

Neil isn’t a techie person really, but while I was out there he was talking about buying a computer and wanted me to help him pick something. All the guys he worked with were all using Macs so that’s what he was after. I’d never used a Mac before and knew very little about them but after reading a couple of brochures and going to a dealer, I’d been suckered in to the marketing. We never got a computer for Neil but when I got back to England and I needed to buy a computer to take to university, I managed to convince myself and my parents I needed a Mac.

So after 14 months in Australia, I flew back to England and headed off to Nottingham to start my Physics degree.

I really enjoyed the idea of studying Physics and found most of the lectures interesting. I got pretty good marks on some of the essays I had to write. The problem was that most of it needed pretty hardcore maths. I had done Maths at A-level but got a lower mark than everyone thought I should and I struggled with some of the more abstract parts of it. When the lecturers at university were working through maths problems on the board, I could follow them but my understanding wasn’t deep enough and I really struggled when I had to work things through myself.

I struggled through the first term, didn’t do very well in my exams and things only got harder in the second term.

In between my lectures I started to mess around with the very first version of iMovie that came with my Mac. There was a film club at Nottingham University which had a miniDV camera to hire. My flatmates and I borrowed the camera a few times and made some stupid videos in our flat. After the first couple of videos I managed to get hold of a dodgy copy of the first version of Final Cut Pro to try and take the videos to the next level.

When I got my exam results after Christmas, I realised that if I wanted to keep doing Physics I was probably going to have to retake the first year. I thought about it and decided I wasn’t that interested in Physics. My tutor told me that if I wanted to apply to another university course it would look better if I hadn’t dropped out half way through the year so I hung around for the rest of the year, messing around with Final Cut Pro and helping my girlfriend revise for her Cuban history exams rather than my optics exam.

I wasn’t the only one to drop out of Physics. Helen, one of my friends from the course, had already dropped out and decided to sign up for the Multimedia Production Degree at Nottingham Trent. I liked the idea of studying Multimedia, I enjoyed being in Nottingham and that’s where my girlfriend was studying so I decided to join Helen at Nottingham Trent.