Here at UCA, we’re always keen to hear about what our alumni are getting up to, and how they’re forging exciting careers in the creative industries. We’ve caught up with our Film & Video Production graduate Elliott Kerrigan, who created the BBC 2 series Boy Meets Girl (the UK’s first transgender sitcom), to find out how he’s getting on in the world of writing, fourteen years since graduating from UCA.
What did you want to do when you graduated from UCA? Did you have a particular career aspiration or plan in mind?
I’ll be totally honest, when I graduated from UCA all I knew is that I wanted to write and be paid for doing it. I wanted to work as a writer for TV or film and to do work that I could be proud of. I wanted to delight the audience – that was one of my big aims. And it took a long time for it to happen. I was working in a bookshop and I read a lot, and I wrote a lot. I entered two competitions run by the BBC’s Writers Room: Laughing Stock and then the Trans Comedy Award.
In terms of a plan, I didn’t really have one. It was just to keep writing and, in my own mind, throw as many darts as I could at the dart board and see what hit the bull’s-eye. Luckily, one of those scripts hit the bull’s-eye and won the Trans Comedy Award - the script for BBC 2's Boy Meets Girl.
During my time working at the bookshop I must have looked like I was just ‘floating’ through life, but I did all of the writing in private, didn’t ever talk about it. I would just do it, then send it, and hope for the best. So when I won the Trans Comedy Award no one in my family and none of my friends had heard about it, and when I won, that was the first they heard about it.
How did you achieve the role you have now? Please tell me a little bit about your journey to get there and what you’ve learned from it.
So I entered The Trans Comedy Award competition and I was one of the winners. The two winning scripts were developed with producers, and then performed (script in hand) in front of an audience, which included BBC executives. It was a magical evening in many ways: the script seemed to have a life of its own, and seemed to work in new and surprising ways. Many lines got big laughs, but more importantly, the audience seemed to be moved by the love story. I found out a few months later that a ‘taster pilot’ would be filmed and shown at the BBC’s Salford Sitcom Showcase.
The audience filed into watch the taster pilot, and they seemed to really enjoy it. One thing I learnt that night is that the line you think is the funniest is rarely what the audience enjoys the most – so let them find their own way into the story. Audiences respond to different things, see different things.
If someone had told me that I would create a show for BBC 2 I would never have believed them. I hoped that I might get to write on a pre-existing show, but creating a show from scratch – I didn’t expect that!
If you could give your younger self (or other students nearing graduation) a piece of advice about finding a rewarding career and ‘making it’ in the creative industries after graduating, what would it be?
If I could travel back in time and tell my younger self anything, I would tell myself to relax. Don’t over analyse everything. Take time to enjoy the journey. And no matter what the job, just do it, get your foot in the door. You never know who you’re going to meet. I don’t believe the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. It should be ‘It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you’. And one more piece of advice I’d give is never give up. Great things take time.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time in terms of your professional life?
In terms of the future, I’ll just keep writing and trying to make the most of my time. I’d love to keep writing and to create another show. And I’d also love to experience ‘pilot season’ in America.
You can find out more about our Film Production course, based at our Farnham campus, here – including the industry links our students benefit from while studying with us, and the careers they go on to pursue.
To find out more about the huge variety of creative careers our alumni have embarked upon, as well as some of the exciting professional projects they’ve been part of, why not download a copy of our 2017 prospectus, where you can find out all about our portfolio of creative courses? You can also read about what our alumni have been getting up to since graduating from UCA in Creative Update, our alumni magazine.