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Another Way…

I have known I would make films, write, travel, and observe people while sipping coffee in coffee shops since I was 7. In my child-like mind, leading a creative life was the only way I could escape the reality of 1980s Poland. I began my artistic venture by packing my little plastic bag, which my mum brought from one of her trips to East Germany. Crossing the East German border was never easy. I did it once, and even thinking about it terrifies me. My minimalistic travel bag included my writing essentials and a passport, which I created from scratch. Throughout the years, that romantic and uncompromised creative life vision has helped me stay on my artistic path through thick and thin. 

My journey to becoming an artist began with studying acting for a year, followed by a foundation certificate in documentary filmmaking and a two-year foundation degree in new media. I spent four years believing I was getting the proper training to enter the film/TV industry. Instead of staying on for yet another year to complete my undergraduate degree, I decided to go straight to work. In reality, I knew I wasn’t learning that much. We had almost nonpractical sessions, virtually no access to equipment, and no idea how the industry really worked. Being taught by working professionals is vital in the creative and arts industry as they will tell you how things get done, not how they think it should be done. As for me, the only way I knew how to learn was by doing. I quickly began developing my projects and dreaming big. Little did I know how the industry was set up, and even less did I know how elitist and unequal the British film & TV industry was. But I wouldn’t have been so confident and fearless if I had known. When things got tough, I tried to dream up other things I could do with my life, but the substitute dreams never materialised or gained momentum. So, I kept doing what I’m good at: I kept on pushing regardless. I entered the industry on the brink of the digital revolution. Everything was new and fresh and had never been done before. I followed all the advice, read books, articles and blogs, and watched videos of how others were making films. I believed I was doing everything others who “made it” did. For me, “making it” means earning enough money from my creative work to support myself, my family, and my lifestyle. Unfortunately, “pushing” and “doing everything advised” for years hasn’t done much to move my career further up the ladder. The Internet was flooded with trade websites offering freelance jobs, and for some people, it worked, but to me, the process felt overwhelming. Applying for freelance jobs online wasn’t only time-consuming but also came with a tone of rejection, fuelling my anxiety and hindering my creativity while causing a creative block. My most recent and the most prolonged creative impasse came after the short film I produced didn’t even get to one film festival (not that I tried festivals for that long as all the money I had saved went towards the production). I focused on writing to protect my fragile creative self as I couldn’t face yet another failed film project. Writing offered me the creative security I needed at that time. That phase made me realise I desperately needed a change, as I couldn’t continue doing the same “right” things for much longer. I decided to do something entirely different to gain perspective and some distance between myself and my creativity. I thought that working at the museum would offer what I was looking for. Did the job help me get unstacked? No, no, no, quite the opposite, but that is another story. However, the job’s toxic and dysfunctional work environment, combined with the lockdowns, shifted my perspective regarding earning money and the creative job market. It’s not something I gave much consideration to before.

During the lockdowns, I read a lot of blogs and books about finances and financial independence, opening my eyes to investments and financial independence ideas. By the third lockdown, which I began with contracting COVID-19, I knew changes were coming. I was going back to higher education. Unlike in many other European countries, universities are expensive in the UK, but luckily, they are not as insanely unaffordable as in the US. Since I have residency in the UK (since Brexit, the EU nationals have to apply for residency), I was eligible for a student loan, which covered my course fee; the rest of the student finance was my security blanket in case I was to leave my job. I already had a foundation degree and only needed a top-up year before applying for an MA. I figured out that having an MA would give me enough confidence to do what I wanted to do creatively and help me find a job that wasn’t customer service related (a classic example of a creative being stuck in a soul-sucking low-pay customer service job, while trying to figure out what is next for them).

As of this writing, I can support myself, my creativity, and my projects, but not through creative jobs only (luckily, no more museum jobs for me). At first, the idea that I needed to work other jobs unrelated to my heart’s desire made me feel disheartened. However, the more I have been learning about the creative industry, its inequality, underappreciation of creative work, and commercial and institutional underpayment for creative services (as if those services weren’t as vital as accountants, lawyers, teachers, etc.), the more powerful and liberating having other jobs and being able to make a leaving made me feel. Combining that with financial literacy has been genuinely invigorating.

Going back to higher education for a top-up year so late in life (I was the oldest in my BA year) was going against the current as I didn’t change the subject of my studies, and I was getting into debt to pay for those studies, which some financial gurus advise against.

I graduated with a BA in Theatre and Film (First Class Honours, very excited about that) in July 2022. Then, I opted to study public art instead of filmmaking or writing since I wanted to expand my understanding of art, my artistic practice and what I wanted to do with the rest of my creative life. MA in Public Art and Performance (graduating in December 2023 with a Distinction) was incredibly formative for me as an artist. Helping me realise that my “unfocused” and “scattered” brain has always been focusing on multidisciplinary projects and was very much focused, not unfocused. But my biggest takeaway from those two years of studying was that creative ideas could dictate the format, not the other way around. I want to run my creative practice by allowing concepts to develop without setting a restraining format around them. Simply Another Way, then I used to.

What can you, my dear reader, expect in this space from now on?

I have no idea, but I’m letting my creativity lead the way for a change. Of course, I’ll be writing, but only when I have something to say and share, which is already part of my Another Way commitment to myself, my creativity, my future sanity, and good mental health.

Welcome to Another Way… stage of my creative life. 

I’m so glad you are joining me on this unpredictable journey.

Filed under: Another Way

About the Author

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Magda Olchawska is an award-winning independent filmmaker, writer and screenwriter. She writes not only about making films and writing but also about financially independent and sustainable lifestyle. Her current projects include Ecotopia Universe and School Runs.


  1. Hello Magda, I hope you can remember me, I am writing another novel and it’s a complete change from what I usually write. I have reached a point in the story, near the end, and it has been troubling me how to approach it. I have just read your post and the bit where you say– ‘that creative ideas could dictate the format, not the other way around,’ is just so appropriate. It’s as though you were reading my mind and have finalised my thinking for me. Thank you! I will take another look at my work and view it differently now.

    • Magda Olchawska

      Hi Daniel, So lovely to hear from you. Of course, I remember you. I look out for your posts on FB, but it is hard to find anything there. I’m so happy you are still writing. Very curious about your new book. I’m glad I was able to help you with my writing in some way. For me, this new mindset has been truly life-changing.
      Keep me updated on your progress, please.

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