Column: What are you Studying?


Working part-time in customer service, I spend a lot of my week conversing with relative strangers. And despite all the retail memes and my dramatic, drawn-out ‘I can’t wait to get out of here’s’, I actually don’t mind the industry in which I work. It puts money in my pocket and gives me a taste of the eclectic personalities I will be meeting in the ‘real’ world.

The one downside, however, is the narrative path my conversations tend to take once I mention my status as a university student. It begins with a cheerful ‘Oh, good for you! What are you studying?’. However, this optimism quickly dissipates once I reply with ‘Film Studies’. Welcome to the ‘Five Step Reaction to my Studying Film’, a tiresome process that almost always leaves me feeling like crap.

Stage One Genuine Intrigue: As mentioned previously, this initial stage involves the Asker’s cheerful optimism, though usually at the fact that I’m working AND studying at the same time. Because, you know, young adults these days are so awful and don’t know the value of hard work and drink too much coffee and sleep too much and don’t sleep enough…The Asker will also usually try and crowbar in their own achievements, just for good measure. Lazy Millennial.

Stage Two ‘Oh’: The title of this stage just about sums it up. When I counter their Genuine Intrigue with ‘I study film’, the Asker will usually stop mid-motion, stare at me with mouth agape, and then struggle to breathe through their medical grade shock to offer a dismal ‘oh’. It’s as if I have just informed them that I have leprosy and they don’t want to run away out of fear of looking rude. Too late, ‘oh’ is a one syllable way to make someone feel ‘defective’.

Stage Three Attempted Intrigue: Similar to Stage One, although the Asker’s optimism has very much drained away, and is being covered up an off-brand substitute. Typical questions at this time are, ‘What are you going to do with that?’, or, ‘Do you have a backup plan?’ A) I’m studying film, what do you think I’m going to do with that, become a neurosurgeon? and B) Of course I have a backup plan. I think, subconsciously, everybody does. But that doesn’t mean I want to talk about it. Stage Three is one big backhander. The Asker is giving you their attention, but only so they can point out the holes in your aspirations.

Stage Four HOLLYWOOD: Without a doubt my favourite stage of the process. After subtly undermining your confidence, the Asker will attempt to build you up again by suggesting you move to the US, where they have heard that ‘the film industry is booming’. The US film industry has been booming since time immemorial, and Australian cinema holds its own anyway. And do you really, truly think that I haven’t considered moving overseas? I’ve heard that to move overseas you need a lot of money, but I guess that’s just a rumour.

Stage Five My Condolences: ‘Good Luck’. That’s what the Asker will leave you. I suppose I do have leprosy, and this way, the Asker can now run away before they catch your hopelessness.

Like I said, I don’t mind talking to people, and some Askers are genuinely encouraging. They don’t pretend it’s going to be an easy road, but they also don’t act like I won’t be able to handle it.

I know it’s going to be a tough few years, but I’m absolutely positive there are heavier burdens to bear.

I love film, and it makes me happy. Just don’t make me doubt myself, I need to focus on cracking the US industry before it takes off. They haven’t already done a romantic comedy between a businessman and a prostitute, have they?


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