Originally from Ljubljana in Slovenia, fourth-year undergraduate student, Lev Slivnik, has continued his love of cinema into his higher education by studying for the BA (Hons) Theatre and Film at QMU.
With the support and guidance of his QMU lecturers, 24-year-old Lev is eager to take every professional opportunity that has come his way, and he has certainly made the most of his time at University to develop his skills, experience and confidence, as well as his understanding of the international film festival circuit. Over the course of his studies, he co-founded the QMU Film Society - serving on its executive committee for two years; was the Slovene representative of the prestigious 27 Times Cinema project at the 2021 Venice Film Festival; and was a member of the LUX Audience Award 2023 Selection Panel. Lev’s passion for film festivals has also taken him as far as Berlinale, Cannes and San Sebastián.
During his time at QMU, Lev has received the Carnegie Scholarship. This means that, on top of his studies and his extensive extracurricular activities, he has also worked to produce and present an independent research project. With the support and guidance of his scholarship mentor, he has found his passion researching festivals and the film exhibition sector exhibitions.
We caught up with Lev to speak about why he chose to come to QMU, his experiences studying here, the benefits of winning the Carnegie Scholarship and his hopes for the future.
Why did you study at QMU and what attracted you to this course?
I chose QMU because it offered the chance to study cinema without specialising in one field, as is the practice in Slovenia. At the time, I was unsure about which field of film to work in, so a general study seemed appealing. It also allowed me to study theatre alongside film, giving me a broader range of options for creativity and work, as well as an outside perspective on film as an art form.
What's been some of your course highlights?
A big highlight was starting the QMU Film Society in my first year with some friends and running it as President and then Vice President in my second year. It was a huge learning experience for everyone. It was just international students starting the society and some of us were completely new to the concept of university societies. It has been great to watch the society grow and develop with each new committee, and I hope it continues to do so for some time to come.
I have also loved learning about the history and contemporary debates in both theatre and film. I think strong theoretical knowledge is important when creating new work. It’s important to know what’s been done before and avoid recreating other people's work and ideas.
Alongside that, it’s great to have some very supportive lecturers. They are always eager to help you, either by signposting you towards great opportunities or working hard to help you explore opportunities you find independently.
An example of this would be QMU’s Dr Stefanie Van de Peer, Senior lecturer at QMU. She organised the student accreditations for the Berlinale and Venice Film Festivals, providing us with the institutional support to attend them.
What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your time at university?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned, and I think this probably applies to all arts-focused degrees, is to use the time you are given outside university to develop new practical skills and gain experience.
It’s about the importance of starting to work in the field while you’re studying. It’s scary and sometimes it feels a little hopeless, but as long as you keep trying, you’re on the right path. Keep in mind that you’re only beginning of your career and it’s normal that you may not know a lot yet, but this enables you to leave university with some experience in the field, hopefully making the transition from student to professional easier (or at least that is my hope, I’ll see how it turns out).
Could you explain a little about the Carnegie scholarship?
The Carnegie Trust is an independent foundation that provides grants for students and researchers at Scottish institutions.
The aim of the Carnegie Vacation Scholarship is to enable undergraduate students to propose, develop and present a research project by granting them a scholarship and a mentor at their home institution. Under their supervision and with their guidance, students develop key skills in independent research. At the end of the process, the Trust organises a poster presentation for the scholarship recipients to share their work and meet one another, with the best presentations being awarded at the end.
How did you benefit from this scholarship?
The title of my project was ‘The relationship between the viewing context and viewing habits and its influence on audiences’ viewing decisions’.
The research is in a field I am really interested in, so doing this research helped broaden and deepen my knowledge and learn about the recent developments within film exhibition and access. Practically, this scholarship, allowed me to focus on my research under guidance, while also exploring and troubleshooting my own working methods.
How important was it in your university experience?
The Carnegie Scholarship helped me greatly. It allowed me to prepare for my dissertation work by expanding my knowledge in research skills and, more importantly, helped me identify what type of research and field of work I am interested in.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might benefit from the Carnegie Scholarship?
Sadly, this won’t apply for anyone eligible in 2022-23, as the Trust will not be offering the scholarship, but hopefully it helps students in the years after.
Try not to get overwhelmed by the size of the project. It seems like a lot, but keep in mind that it’s only meant to be a project for a few months. There is a supervisor who understand that it is your first independent research project and is more than ready to help you. Remember that the aim of the scholarship is for you to develop the skills and learn, not to achieve a breakthrough in your field.
What are you plans after graduation and where do you see yourself in the future?
Very short term, immediately after graduation, take a breath, relax and attend some film festivals over the summer, hopefully. After that, probably a master's course in the field of film curation, programming and exhibition. More long term, working in that same field – hopefully at festival, cinemas, in distribution or film bodies.