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10 Minutes, 10 Questions with archivist William Fowler

We talked to the BFI Film Archivist about getting started in the industry and nerding out about vampire films!

1. What did you want to be when you were 16?

As a child, I always wanted to work in museums as they really captivated my imagination. But I had become quite confused and uncertain about things by my late teens. I liked creative subjects but also maths! It took a bit of time to figure things out.

2. What do you do now?

I work in the film archive at the BFI, collecting, cataloguing and sometimes screening films. I focus on artist and independent, alternative cinema.

3. What do you like most about your work?

Getting to discover these unusual films and often meeting the people that made them is pretty special! Cinema and moving image-making is so much more wide-ranging than we think, even historically speaking.

4. What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do?

Watching films and thinking about what you like is really important. Developing an interest and enthusiasm will really help you when meeting people who work in the field and will also develop your confidence. It's a very specialist area and so getting broader but related experience first will probably be necessary.

You might want to first write about film, try out organising a screening and look into other cultural film jobs first, like working on a film festival. Or perhaps come from the other side and look into other types of archives and cultural centres. This might be a way of addressing a political concern you have. Most archives have open days and these are a good opportunity to learn. You can find more information on the London Screen Archives website.

5. How would your friends describe you in three words?

Enthusiastic, busy, friendly. At least I hope they might think I was friendly. They are my friends, after all.

6. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and became very unhappy in my twenties. I had to find a way to talk about it and to get help, but I found this very difficult. Gradually I was able to do this more and more and I was able to make changes in my life. I actually think being unhappy and getting help has led me to where I am now. I wasn't always very confident and still struggle with that at times.

7. What are you most proud of?

I think maintaining a hunger and interest in life and in films and music. I love talking about strange vampire films and weird music with people. I'm proud of that because it makes me feel good about who I am and how I get on with people. Some people might say I'm a nerd of course!

8. What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?

I only have one kidney! The other one was removed when I was nine months old and I have this long scar on the side of my body that has grown-up with me, stretching as I've grown taller and older. It looks like a shark has tried to bite me in two.

9. What do you know now that you would tell your younger self?

You're right to like and obsess over all this weird stuff and being super-nerdy will actually get you somewhere. Keep it up! Also, the people in charge are often just the ones that are good at sounding important - remember that.

10. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you take with you?

Hmm, a guitar to play around on, a book - it almost doesn't matter what, just something to read and think about - and a spoon that belonged to my mum before she met my dad.