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Students in Focus

From classroom to career: James Hiscutt's journey to become a filmmaker

James Hiscutt has travelled across Australia pursuing his hobby-turned-job of filmmaking and production.

Growing up in Canberra, James’ foray into the industry began during his high school years at Alfred Deakin High School. His media teacher was a huge advocate for a film program at the school, championing the cause for camera equipment and a film studio for the students.

It was in that studio that James’ love for filmmaking flourished.

“He [our teacher] gave us free reign to just learn,” James says. “He’d set our assignments and give us guidance and deadlines, but in the meantime he’d give you the freedom to just let you do what you wanted.”

For the remainder of high school and college, James continued studying media, even dropping his Maths unit to study additional filmmaking units.

In 2019 – his final year of school – James entered and won the University of Canberra Creative Competition, entitling him to a 12-month study grant with the Faculty of Arts and Design.

“My submission was a short documentary on the overpopulation of sea urchins on Montague Island, which I shot during underwater training I was taking through my college’s outdoor education class,” he says.

Following a gap year in 2020, James commenced studying for a Bachelor of Film Production. In the same year, he launched his own business, James Hiscutt Films, specialising in both photography and film production.

“I started my business with a focus on capturing the mountain biking scene . I had quite a few friends in the bike scene that were doing quite well, and I was going to New Zealand to race in Crankworx [a mountain bike festival], so my friends who were also competing offered to pay me to shoot it for them,” James says.

“It was still a lot of just mucking around and getting little jobs here and there, so it was pretty slow but still fun.”

Since then, James has expanded his repertoire to include music videos and television travel shows. His passion for sport remains, and in 2022 he worked at Thredbo Ski Resort, documenting its winter season.

Amidst it all, he’s still studying at UC and loving every minute.

“I’ve learnt so much about lighting and composition during my degree – things that I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up in my general line of work,” James says.

“My tutors taught me so much about that, which is great, and they have also taught me to approach different jobs with a fresh set of eyes – it’s really elevated my cinematography.

“My studies have has also been helpful with structuring my storytelling, and learning those seemingly basic things that have nonetheless turned out to be extremely worthwhile in building a story.”

Looking ahead to the future, James wants to continue working in the industry full-time when he finishes his studies, and says he believes his love for the work will ensure a successful career.

"People say the film industry is really competitive - that may be true, but I think if you're really passionate about something, it's worth the effort. And it feels natural and easy to spend your time pursuing something you love,” he says.

“I’ve made a really good group of friends here at uni and now we just work on all of our films together – it’s more of a collaborative culture than a competitive one.”

Words by Elly Mackay, photos by Tyler Cherry.

Entries for the 2023 Creative Competition are now open, and close on 11 October. Find out more information and enter here.

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