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How I got to where I am: from pharmacist to filmmaker

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Curiosity, Filming, How I got to where I am, Technology

I was five when I made my first film, just simple shapes projected on to a wall, but to me it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with moving images. I wanted to go to art school or become an architect, but my parents pushed me to the sciences.

I studied pharmacy at university in Lisbon but decided it wasn’t for me. I have always loved experimenting, so set up a photographic dark room at university to explore ideas. It was this that helped me get my first job at a newspaper.

High adrenaline

I set up a dark room and supported the photographers, developing prints for them and also wrote a review about film and the arts. It was a buzzy atmosphere and I loved it, but the work was unpaid so I had to move on.

I made a great leap in the dark and started work in the dealing room of a bank. I knew nothing about it but I enjoyed maths and solving problems. It was high adrenaline and I had to be fast at calculations.

Solving puzzles

In the early 1990s a personal computer arrived but sat forlorn in a corner. No one knew much about it or how to use it. I’ve always been attracted to new things, so I made another leap in the dark. I decided to learn coding at night school. I then began life as a developer, creating software to support the dealing room.

It was a great place to grow and learn. And the coders were the only people in the bank allowed to wear jeans! I challenged myself to create programs that were free of bugs first time round. It was like the puzzles I loved as a child.

I then moved to Mozambique. I was born there but had to leave as a refugee during the civil war. The bank had sent me there to set up its IT department. I was the first person to have internet in the country. It was a crazy time. I enjoyed training the local people but did myself out of a job because my students became better than me!

Six months became 15 years

I had a dream about living in the UK and, as chance would have it, a friend invited me to stay in London. I started an MBA here because I wanted to learn how IT connected with an organisation’s strategy. Half way through the course I saw a job as a business analyst at Parliament, applied and got the job. I thought it would last six months. Fifteen years later I’m still here!

One of the best jobs I had was to research and analyse tech ideas to make Parliament work better, from fingerprint recognition to projected keyboards for people with arthritis. My proudest moment is when my recommendation to create films about Parliament was approved.

The need for digital skills

I proposed it because I thought how do we explain to people the marvellous, historic work being done here? Only film can really capture the faces and stories behind the scenes. I bought a camera and made films at night and weekends with my own money.

A Digital Democracy Commission report then recommended that digital skills, especially audio-visual, should be increased across Parliament. I started to teach others these skills and came up with the idea of a film school, which started this year.

Film School – everyone’s welcome

Students who take part learn to plan, storyboard, shoot and edit. They join a community of practice and can share knowledge and experiences and get support. It’s still embryonic, but the idea is that we can pool our films and build an archive that can be reused.

I’m excited about the ideas the students are bringing to life. They learn by doing. We are moving from talking head interviews to succinct, powerful stories that can touch hearts, changing how people feel about Parliament.

A short film done well (with the right subject) can capture what a long document may never be able to convey. It’s not only impactful but more efficient.

Anyone working at Parliament can apply, all that’s needed is a passion for film and a story to tell.

Read more posts on the career paths of PDS staff

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