Considering postgrad? It’s about the people you meet

2023 AFTRS Master of Arts Screen: Producing graduate Denis Curnow shares how meeting like-minded people propelled his passion and career in the film industry.
2023 AFTRS Master of Arts Screen: Producing graduates, L-R: Neisha Dallamora and Denis Curnow. Photo: Flore Vallery-Radot. A black and white photo of Neisha and Denis on set, posing at the camera while holding walkie talkies.

After finishing his Bachelor studies in Melbourne, Denis Curnow found himself at the crossroads of either doing a postgraduate in law, or pursuing his interest in the film industry.

‘I was introduced to various people in the film industry through my auntie, Sarah Curnow, and they spoke passionately about the people that you meet at film school – that’s what made me really excited about [the prospect],’ Curnow tells ArtsHub.

‘My cohort at AFTRS [Australian Film Television and Radio School] was pretty small, but it was people from all walks of life, and some have become my best friends now – people who may be decades older than me and with such rich backgrounds.’

Known for helping screen and audio creators fast-track their careers, AFTRS‘ Master of Arts Screen provided Curnow with a breadth of professional opportunities and, through his peers, he was able to take on co-producing and assisting roles on several short films during his studies.

‘We also had an external producer come in and watch us give our pitches for our films at the end of the semester,’ Curnow adds.

He was introduced to Jungle Entertainment, where he now works as an Executive Assistant, through AFTRS alumni, producer Charles Olsen. ‘I have loved my time there so far,’ says Curnow. ‘They’re really ambitious about the future and also invested in my development as a screen practitioner. It’s a very supportive environment.’

AFTRS will be hosting Postgrad Info Nights on campus on 2 July and online on 3 July. This info session is a wonderful opportunity to meet the teaching staff, and was what prompted Curnow to commit to the course.

‘I remember sitting in on the virtual open-day session (it was during COVID) and hearing Lyn Norfor, Head of Producing at the time, speak about how creative the role of the producer is and being the custodian of the story throughout its whole journey – from conception all the way to distribution. That really spoke to me as I was fascinated by every aspect of filmmaking and wanted to be involved at all stages.’

Curnow adds that studying at AFTRS created a huge shift in his life and career. ‘If you were comparing me before the course to now – it’s just day and night. I started to learn just how much I didn’t know… It’s hard to pick out the one or two biggest lessons, because really everything that I’m doing now is something that I first got exposed to at AFTRS.’

This richness of content and learnings means that people considering applying for the course should be prepared to really commit. As Australia’s screen and audio school, AFTRS welcomes students from all over the country and offers some short courses and post graduate degrees online for flexible study. The Master of Arts Screen, however, is two years in person, full-time, and Curnow advises, ‘It’s all-consuming, but you really get out what you put in.

‘My other advice is to not be afraid to reach out to people for a chat. In my experience, people have been so generous with their time and really happy to help,’ concludes Curnow.

Join AFTRS Postgrad Info Nights in person on Tuesday 2 July or online Wednesday 3 July to experience AFTRS’ unique, forward-looking approach to practice-based learning and research.

Register for Postgrad Info Nights here. AFTRS applications open on 17 June.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_