Education and screen culture combine for Sian

Sian Michell says she is working in her dream job, but wants to do it bigger and better.

For Sian, a senior lecturer in Film Studies at SAE institute and film festival director, Monash gave her the confidence to back herself in her career.

Here is her profile…

Sian Michell.

Name: Sian Michell

Course: Bachelor of Performing Arts (Major in Film and TV Studies), Doctor of Philosophy (Film Studies)

Campus: Caulfield/Clayton

Year graduated: 2012

Current position: Senior Lecturer/Film Festival Director

What was it like breaking into the industry? Was it more ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’?

I guess I’m not in the traditional industry in ‘film/screen industry’ terms – i.e. I’m not a filmmaker or screen creative. Perhaps screen culture and education industry is a better way to phrase it. So for me it wasn’t about who I know to start a festival or get work in tertiary education. It’s definitely a ‘what I know’ to get a start and then extending on that knowledge and making connections/building relationships with others to build on that start and keep moving forward. Besides studying film and visual culture, I’ve also done further study in arts management and the cultural industries, so I’ve been able to apply the skills I’ve learned in all these qualifications to my educator role, as well as to establish a film festival.

What is a ‘day in the life’ of your current role?

Each and every day there is significant time in front of a computer. Checking emails from students, sending emails A LOT, researching and developing educational resources, research into something film related (a filmmaker or film usually), looking at film submissions, online meetings and sometimes getting out and meeting people like filmmakers and other screen culture people (that’s a good day!).

What was a key lesson you learnt at Monash that translated into your current work?

Having confidence with what I do. Specifically though, it would be the confidence that comes from the ability to think critically and creatively, which is what I’ve learned in my time at Monash. Perhaps another way to think about it is the confidence to back yourself when you’ve made a decision even though you may cop some criticism or negativity. That doesn’t mean being stubborn or inflexible, but trusting that you’ve explored an idea, problem, approach and know you’ve made the right choice.

If you could go back and do your degree again, is there anything you’d change? Subject choice? Time management? Internships?

Easy! Time management hands down. I remember throughout my time in undergrad and postgrad there were definitely distractions that meant I didn’t always use my time effectively with my learning. Subsequently, this meant submitting work I know could have been better and that I would have been more proud of.

What skill (or skills) would you recommend students touch up on before getting into the industry?

I think perhaps one of the key skills is good communication. Perhaps it’s a bit of a cliche answer, but anytime I’ve dealt with student concerns its always an issue with communication – someone hasn’t communicated something or someone has assumed something else and, of course, misunderstandings occur. You can’t really avoid working with other people, so having excellent communication skills will help with more productive, rewarding and creative projects in the end. This is particularly so when you have time sensitive tasks and deadlines and are relying on others to complete aspects of a project. If there are issues and concerns, they need to be communicated sooner rather than later.

When you were little, what was your dream job?

I wanted to be a librarian when I was super little. I used to get so excited going to our local library and getting books to read and films to watch. Imagine being there all the time as a job! Brilliant.

What is your dream job now?

I’m kind of doing it, but I want to do it bigger and better. Being a part of the Australian screen culture industries and working at the intersection of education and culture, which I’m doing now. It would be great to have a bit more time for research and writing with more outward facing outcomes, but that’s pretty easily attainable with what I do.

Who do you look up to most in the industry?

At the moment, Sue Maslin, most recently known for producing The Dressmaker. However, her career goes back much earlier than this, of course; for example, as a founder of WIFT Victoria and more recently her involvement with the Natalie Miller Fellowship. Her industry work and her writing/talking around women in the screen industries is extensive, and the way in which she does it thoughtful, measured and with that sense of confidence I mentioned above. She is a real champion for women in positions of leadership and being able to take on any role they want to.

Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow alumni?

For sure! In fact, three of my festival team are Monash alumni. So we keep in touch all the time for festival business, but that also inevitably leads to social stuff too – wine meetings are a fav’ of mine, talking about films, attending other festivals, collaborating on bits and pieces. I’ve also kept in touch with some other film studies postgrads who now lecture at Monash too.

Do you follow any sports teams?

Not really, although I like to check in with Barcelona in the soccer on occasion. This was after an awesome night watching them play Madrid on TV in a bar with locals in Barcelona a few years ago. The vibe was amazing, so I have fond memories of that.

What’s your coffee order?

Soy flat white, one sugar, preferably in a mug.