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News > Foundation News > Not one, but two, careers!

Not one, but two, careers!

Hurst OJ Jess Emens (Martlet ~ 2017) spoke to the Hurst Foundation about the exciting start she has had to her career since leaving the college, in sports modelling and film production.

Did you always know you wanted to become a model or work in film production?

To be completely honest, no. I felt compelled to do a number of things in my life, and was actually quite overwhelmed with the endless options when I left Sixth Form. Hurst gave me a fantastic base in prodiving me with the opportunity to pursue so many different directions, but ultimately it was up to me to find my own path.

Did you go to university?

I went to the University of Birmingham to study a Joint Honours in English and Spanish, but I continued competitive swimming and extra-curricular drama, TV, and film activities alongside. I definitely kept multiple doors open! Birmingham was the perfect place for me; it was brilliant academically, and had a thriving sports department. It was also a key stepping stone for me in my modelling career, as whilst part of the Swimming Club there, Nike Swim contacted me to see if I would be interested in starring in their 'Flow Free' Campagin (following the story of a female swimmer, and her experience of finding freedom in the water). Of course, I said yes! It was an amazing expereince which introduced me to the world of sports modelling. I then joined a modelling agency, W Model Management, which specialises in sports. I was able to do my first few jobs whilst still at university!

What happened after you left university?

When I left Birmingham, I felt really uncertain of which path to take. I considered going into TV and News journalism, and I was also offered a graduate scheme job at a creative marketing company. At the same time, my modelling career was really picking up, and I had the chance to work with some really huge brands like The North Face, Adidas, Speedo, and Berghaus. I loved every minute of the modelling, but being on sets for photo and video shoots also opened my eyes to the world of creative production. I gained a hugely valuable insight into the production-side of the modelling industry, and was intrigued by the possibility of a career both in front of and behind the camera. I decided to take a big jump in moving to London with modelling as my base, but with a plan to gain experience and find work in the creative industry! It was quite tough at first, and I had to take on lots of jobs (modelling, babysitting, working in a café and restaurant) to pay for my rent. It felt a little like my Hurst days, being so busy and juggling so many things at once!

How did you make your way into film production?

On one of my modelling shoots for Tottenham Hotspurs, I met a producer who – after listening to me for half an hour – offered me the opportunity to be a 'Runner' on the set of an M&S Christmas commercial. That was the beginning of my journey! Since last August, I have been a production and assistant runner on some huge commercials, music videos, and short films, including for Jack Harlow and Andy Murray. I then continued making new contacts, and one job just led to the next. I have learned so much about the film industry, and never imagined the amount of different job roles out there. As a runner, you get a in-depth understanding of all the career optons, from working in camera, to lighting, arts departments, directing, and production. Working as a runner is also something you can do before going to university (in school holidays, for example). I wish I had started sooner! I've also found that my modelling and film work interlinks all the time, as I meet contacts on modelling shoots who hire me as production assistants, and vice versa. It's amazing how many opportunities you can find through chatting to people on set, being a people person, and being proactive.

What have been some of your modelling highlights?

I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have had so far, and wouldn’t change it for the world. When I was still at Hurst, I would have never believed I'd be modelling for inspiring brands like Nike and Adidas! Coming from a sporting background, I really love being able to bring real parts of my life and personality to the shoots. Many sports brands want to work with real athletes, and it's great to see the modelling industry becoming more authentic, highlighting real people and their stories. Some of my favourite shoots are the underwater ones...who knew that all those hours training in the Hurst pool would pay off in this way! I also loved travelling to Tignes for a skiwear shoot for Dare2B, and seeing my picture in the shop window on Oxford Street for Sports Direct X Everlast was a really proud moment for me. The freedom of being able to control my own timetable is really important, as I know that a 9-5 office job isn't for me. I am the director of my own life and never have to say no to an opportunity, and the hard work that I put in reaps the reward. It can be chaotic, but this lifestyle suits my personality, and I always find a way to make it work.  

Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

I am still very much at the start of my career, and this past year has really been a whirlwind of figuring things out, alongside navigating early 20s life! I'm hoping to slowly work my way up the production ladder in assisting and managing, and maybe one day I can start my own production company. Since I work as a freelance model, I am able to explore opportunities in directing and writing alongside. In this industry, everything merges into one, and you find that people often work in lots of different aspects of it. This year, I hope to finally pursue a little dream of mine to enter the acting watch this space!

Looking back on your time at Hurst, what were some of your favourite memories?

What I loved about Hurst was being able to explore all of my interests and passions at once. Though I infuriated both the drama and sports departments, always navigating a clash between athletics meets and rehearsals, I made it work. I just had to become a master of juggling numerous things at once, and Hurst was able to support everything I wanted to be involved in. The staff really went the extra mile with my timetable to make the impossible possible! I was able to do academics, music, sports, and drama, without having to choose between them. Humanities subjects were always my favourite; I loved double drama periods, where we would spend the afternoon analysing a script and bringing it to life. I loved History too, especially the heated (yet controlled) debates led my Miss Clarke. Mr Kift was also fantastic in PE, and some funny memories for me include Alexa Coker throwing up at the end of a tough 800m trial, and Toby Barker almost taking out a Gap Student with a rounders bat! I'll also never forget my boarding memories in Martlet. They were some of the best times of my life, from painting myself yellow with Tori Burns and Megan Steward (as we went to the school disco as 'bananas in pyjamas'), to ordering takeaway on a Tuesday night and receiving boyfriend advice from the older girls. Boarding really shaped the close friendships I have today, and there was always a shoulder to cry on when I needed it.   

Do you have any advice for current students at Hurst?

My advice would be to just try different things! You don't need to follow the conventional route, as we now live in a world where there are so many interesting and unique job opportunities, and ways in which you can work for yourself. You can have multiple jobs and careers! You genuinely never know what is around the corner (I certainly didn't), and you just have to trust the process. Keep exploring new options, and you will gravitate towards the things that are meant for you. Take the leap, email that person, start the blog, make your own film, create your little business idea....the opportunities are endless. Yes, uncertainty is always there, but if things don't work out, you can always try something else! As Hurst students, we are in a privileged position where we will always have our incredible education to fall back on if things don't go our way. Go out and chase your dreams!

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