Life after LFA: Insights From Former Filmmaking Student Bence Berkes

20 June 2023

Aspiring filmmakers beginning their journey and embarking on a career in the industry require serious determination and vision. This is something LFA alumni and Filmmaking graduate Bence Berkes has in spades. 

Bence began his filmmaking studies with LFA and graduated in 2018, he also completed an MA at Anglia Ruskin University before going on to secure countless First Assistant Director and Director roles within the Hungarian film industry.

Now, four years post LFA graduation, having been propelled into the world of filmmaking, we wanted the latest on all things Bence. Delving into what the future holds and talking about everything from life at LFA to working on big productions.

How would you describe your journey into filmmaking?

My filmmaking journey wasn’t a traditional one and didn’t begin until my late teens. Before then I had been a keen footballer but, in the summer of 2014, I worked in Italy as an entertainer for campsites and hotels and it changed my outlook completely. This opportunity to work with new people and perform on stage every day was something I found myself enjoying. I knew then that I wanted to be an actor. I was successful in being accepted into an acting school in Budapest and by the autumn of that same year classes had begun. It was a fantastic place for young and aspiring actors, and it enabled me to act in some Hungarian films, but I slowly began to realise what I loved was being the other side of the camera.

That’s when my filmmaking journey began and after completing my high school studies, I knew I had to continue to develop my directing skills.

Bence Berkes Filmmaking Diploma Graduate

What was working behind the camera like?

I appreciated the importance of editing and cinematography and how this told the narrative, but I also knew (having been a former actor) the significant role being able to communicate your creative vision to all involved played. Often, I would find directors from the university were unable to instruct and talk to their actors effectively, but I knew what I would have wanted to hear when I was in that position. This gave me a unique perspective and has helped me with my directing journey. Especially when I was working on Keresztanyu (Godmother) a Primetime tv series on RTL Hungary, which was my first Official work as a paid director for a tv series.

How did you find transitioning from being a student to the world of work?

After completing both my Filmmaking Diploma and MA degrees, at LFA and then Anglia Ruskin University, I returned to LFA to undertake a role, initially as an Admission Coordinator, before then becoming a Technical and Postproduction Coordinator, which felt more in line with my interests.

What made you return to LFA?

When I was a student at LFA I always felt supported. My ideas, feelings and thoughts were always heard and valued. LFA remain to be a student-focused learning environment, which was a crucial aspect for me. I look back fondly at my time at LFA and knew that one day I would want to teach and nurture up-and-coming students in the same way I had been. I voiced this and was subsequently offered the role of Admissions Coordinator while completing my MA studies. I loved this opportunity and the team but knew this sector wasn’t my calling, which led me to the role of Technical and Postproduction Coordinator.

What did the role of Technical and Postproduction Coordinator teach you?

This was an opportunity to put the last two years of my degree into practice, teaching students the importance of understanding all that goes into filmmaking and experiencing a hands-on role in the process.

What else did you learn during your time at LFA, as both a student and member of staff?

My time at LFA, especially as a student, taught me to appreciate the different personalities I will encounter in the industry and how to manage them. It’s given me a new understanding of how to resolve stressful and tricky situations, which is invaluable knowledge.

Do you feel LFA prepared you for entering the film industry and workplace?

I think LFA prepares you for the realities of working in filmmaking, you experience real, hands-on, in-the-field moments and see the entire process from script writing and pitching through to pre and postproduction. It feels like a real and accurate model for what you’re likely to experience.

Bence Berkes Filmmaking Diploma Graduate

What did life look like after graduating from your MA?

I finished my studies in 2020, then I began working on short films and an online series. It was a great time, spent building connections and learning from doing. I was also asked to produce a low-budget feature film in London, which was my first big and paid opportunity, in January 2020. Filming was to commence in June, and we were in the process of gathering our crew and then COVID hit. I also filmed Elvtársak (Comrades) a short film in Hungary in 2020 but didn’t complete the post-production until 2021.

How did COVID impact or change your filmmaking journey?

I returned to Hungary and continued to write short films, in the hopes that post-COVID it could become something. The Hungarian restrictions eased sooner than in other places, which meant filming could resume in the summer of 2020. So, I reached out to a friend that knew a particular producer showrunner, who was looking for AEDs, and subsequently was asked to join the team.

This was a lifeline and enabled me to survive COVID and I couldn’t wait to jump back into film projects.

Bence Berkes Filmmaking Diploma Graduate

Which of these film projects stands out to you most?

I would have to say the A Király (King) series. I was the First Assistant Director, and it was the biggest production I have ever worked on. It was a huge story to tell to a Hungarian audience, one that’s based on a famous Hungarian singer’s life, he was essentially our Freddie Mercury before passing away in 2001. A nation was waiting for its release, and it was amazing to be part of something so monumental and positively received.

I felt appreciated for my hard work, not only by friends, family and co-workers but by the public too.

Bence Berkes Filmmaking Diploma Graduate

What’s next for you?

It’s an exciting time, as we’re gathering the crew for the third season of an upcoming series called Mellékhatás (Side Effects). This will begin later this month and will be a project with around 80 to 90 filming days from September to December.

Finally, what advice would you give to your younger self starting their journey at LFA?

Listen to your tutors more. When I look back, I don’t think I absorbed or listened to my tutors enough and I would love to retake their classes with the knowledge I now have. So, pay attention and make the most of it while you’re exposed to so many knowledgeable and skilled industry professionals.

It was fantastic to chat with Bence and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about a fantastic LFA alumni and their filmmaking journey. We wish Bence the best of luck with his next filmmaking endeavour and can’t wait to see what’s next for him…