Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies

Melania Burlacu, third-year BA Film and Television Studies

Melania Burlacu, standing in front of Highfileld's Lake in her graduation gown.

"I moved to the UK when I was 12. I didn’t speak the language properly, so film was kind of universal. Everyone can understand it. That’s what got me into it. It’s something that was there for me from the start."

Why did you choose to study Film and Television? 

"It actually started when I chose media studies as a GCSE option. I had these passionate teachers in school, who saw that I enjoyed it a lot. They were the ones who pushed me to do a BFI (British Film Institute) course with Young Film Academy in year 11. That’s how I got into film making.

I’d never looked behind the camera, I was always just watching the movie, so once I got behind the camera, I was like ‘This is it. This is what I want to do’.

As soon as year 12 came, I started applying to different universities. I found Nottingham offered film and television, so I knew this was the course. They had so many modules, so much variety. I feel like film and television is my true passion. I wanted to continue with that, waking up every day doing what I like."

What are the main skills that you’ve taken from your course?

"Project management. I also think multi-tasking, as it’s challenging. You’re in different modules all the time and they have different workloads and different reading. During my time I had to multitask and prioritise tasks, as without prioritisation you get overload and overwork.

I have a passion for film critique and textual analysis. Before my course, I always just talked about what I’d seen in film, I’d never looked at what others were writing. With the course, I understood it’s important to read about others and see how we change and develop, how we can take from the past and implement it in the present. I expanded my knowledge in reading articles and I’ve got a better understanding of the industry now – where it’s been, where it is, and where it might be in the future."

What was your favourite module? 

Each module was taught by a really amazing professor. The passion was infectious. You couldn’t not enjoy the modules!

"If I had to choose two, I’d say my second-year module ‘Interrogating Practices’ with Dr Ian Brooks, which was incredible, and ‘Video Production’ in third year by Dr Gianluca Sergi. They’re both different. In second year, I learnt about textual analysis in movies. We took just one object throughout the film and analysed it, how it helped tell the story. For Video Production, it was creating and being creative. But they kind of linked, as I enjoy the textual and creative part. Being able to do both in one course has been incredible." 

How did you choose your optional modules?

"At the start I was a bit afraid of choosing something out of my comfort zone. Because I knew film and television was definitely for me, I tried to choose as much as I could that was related to those areas.

In second year, I decided to try different things. Media communication wasn’t something I was planning on doing modules in, but reading about the modules, I thought, ‘Why not risk it?’. 

I found that taking a step out of your comfort zone works extremely well. You’ll never know about a subject if you never step up to it.

We looked into news and how they travelled around the world and it was really interesting. My passion is still film and television, but it was really interesting to learn about different options."

What’s your dissertation on?

"It was on Disney, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and how they portray and mediate caregivers and parenting.

I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have Dr Alex Simcock. She was the one who saw the passion I have for Disney. When I had the first meeting with her she was like, ‘What is your favourite movie?’. It’s Maleficent, it’s my favourite of all time, and she gave me an exercise to watch it again but from a different perspective, from a person who analyses the movie.

That’s how I realised parenting is a key factor of this film. We don’t usually have that many parental figures in Disney films. With Maleficent there’s an overflow of parenting – stepfathers, stepmothers, evil mothers, absent mothers. It was making sense to look into why and how this reflects social norms in today’s society."

I researched Disney beforehand, so I knew a bit about it, but meetings with Alex made me pinpoint the area. I realised nobody has researched this, so why shouldn’t I do it? It opened my eyes. It’s been incredible.

Any staff shout-outs?

"Dr Gianluca Sergi has been my personal tutor from day one. Being able to have him for two modules this last year has been incredible. He is so passionate, he goes far and beyond what any professor would do. He even arranged an online evening with former University of Nottingham alumni Peter Rice, who is Chairman of General Entertainment Content for The Walt Disney Company. All just for us students to get an insight into the industry and show us some of the incredible things the industry has to give. 

In another of the online talks, with Gary Rydstrom, I remember one of the questions was, ‘Can you show us your Oscar?’ and he literally put his hand out, got an Oscar and was like, ‘here you go!’. That’s going to be me soon, hopefully!"

Tell me about your time volunteering with the Digital Transformations Hub (DTH)…

"I became aware of the DTH in my second year, when I was in charge of the creative media workshops. It’s something Dr Leora Hadas has created along with students, to help develop useful and productive workshops created for and by students. I was in charge of promoting and recruiting students to teach the workshops and supervise that everything is taken care of. It's a 'Student as Change Agents' project and accredited through the Nottingham Advantage Award.

I was in discussion with Dr Hadas about borrowing equipment from DTH. That’s when I started reaching out and how I got the volunteering. I chose to do a marketing project for my online volunteering experience, as I wanted to step completely out of my comfort zone.

My experience of volunteering with DTH was learning more – I didn’t expect marketing to be so interesting! The thing I loved the most was I got to create and be creative. 

It was fulfilling as you don’t expect there to be so much work behind sharing on social media, but I was so surprised and intrigued to see how much work goes into it! It’s been great to just try things out. I think trying, even if it’s a bit scary, it’s worth it."

Do you know what career you want to go into?

"I always thought I’ll be a film director. At this point, given what’s happening around the world with the Coronavirus, I’m still exploring.

You never know, maybe there’ll be something more special to me in the future than film director. I just want to explore and experience. Maybe something will pop up and I’ll think, ‘Wow that’s amazing, maybe I’ll want to go into that’. 

Throughout the years I’ve realised, directing is a very hard job. Every choice, every object placed within each scene is a decision made. Being a director you tell the audience something. It can be something that unites people. For me, it’s more telling the story, being passionate about something and feeling it’s worth doing. 

There’s no film without a story. It’s about the emotions you get and how that story can change people’s life or help support them through a rough time. I’d like to say I’ll have a choice of making something that will actually matter."

What does ‘success’ look like to you?

"I think it’s waking up every day, doing something you love, enjoying the day you spend at work and going back to bed being fulfilled, excited for the next day. It’s fulfilment and love of the thing you do."

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