Ben Cotgrove graduated from QACI in 2010 after achieving his IB Diploma and developing a signature creative identity in Design and Film.
Recently Ben provided his story and responded to some common questions from prospective students and their families who want to know more about the QACI experience.
My name is Ben Cotgrove and I work in the film industry as a cinematographer.
I was attending lower high school in Bundaberg when I first heard about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. My mother saw an advertisement for the Queensland Academies in the local paper and spoke to me about applying. It meant uprooting our family but my parents have always put education first. They strongly believed that relocating to Brisbane for me to study the IB Diploma at the Queensland Academies would set me up for a smooth transition into tertiary study upon graduating high school. It was with their support that I was afforded the opportunity to study the IB Diploma.
I was originally accepted into the Queensland Academies Science, Math and Technology Campus (QASMT) as it was my belief and intention that I would pursue a career in a scientific field. However, after a year at QASMT I realised I was unsatisfied with such a strong focus on science subjects with no creative outlet. Thankfully with the support of the staff at the Queensland Academies, I was given the opportunity to transfer to the Creative Industries Campus. I have always had a passion for the creative arts, particularly photography and music.
At QACI I was introduced to film studies for the first time and I was immediately transfixed.
QACI propelled me onto the career path I’m on today and the IB Diploma was invaluable in teaching me a love of education and a love of learning. Without the IB Diploma I most probably would not have pursued study past the limits of my undergraduate degree. It is my further study through the Graduate Diploma of Cinematography at Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) that I credit with transitioning me from student to professional.
My experience at the Queensland Academies absolutely influenced my decision to follow a career path in the arts, specifically within the film industry.
Upon graduating from the IB Diploma I was accepted into the Queensland College of Art, within Griffith Film School, to study a Bachelor of Film and Screen Media Production. Following my undergraduate degree, I went on to complete a Graduate Diploma of Cinematography at the prestigious AFTRS in Sydney before returning to Brisbane to commence a Masters in Film Production.
What I loved most about the IB was its focus on immersing students in a range of subjects and disciplines. Its strong focus on an international community through languages, arts and sciences guided me to study subjects I may never have previously considered in traditional educational environments.
Studying a second language as well as being immersed in arts subjects and science subjects simultaneously helped me to develop a deep understanding of various disciplines and a respect for new opinions and points of view. For me, cinematography is a visual craft that is so heavily intertwined with technology that it’s imperative that I can balance elements of science and art. Therefore, I’m extremely grateful that I could study both science and art subjects while at QACI.
Without a doubt, Extended Essay (EE) was my first insight into the processes and potential of high level academic writing. These same skills and hunger for information is something I’m experiencing again now within my Masters as I work towards the completion of an exegesis.
Creative, Activity and Service (CAS) gave me the opportunity to use my skills in a tangible way to make a greater impact on the community around me. This taught me to be comfortable with donating my time and skills to causes and projects that I felt mattered or aligned themselves with what I wanted to see more of in the film industry. Whether this be in the form or on-screen representation, supporting creatives that I felt were making a real difference or being able to actively work with people who could push me further as a creative. This is now an integral part of how I work and conduct myself within the industry.
I think the most important thing I learned from the transition to higher education and a career is that you need to take time to enjoy your secondary education experience. It’s so easy to get caught up with grades, achieving and stressing about how you will get into a certain university course that you forget to experiment, have fun, and take in the opportunities afforded to you at a school like the Queensland Academies.
It’s hard to understand this within the bubble of secondary education, but even without the right results, there is always an open pathway to get where you want to go. So many of my friends and colleagues who received their first preferences for university quickly realised it wasn’t what they wanted to do and it totally derailed their career trajectory. IB offers you the opportunity, through CAS, EE and TOK, to explore topics outside of traditional subjects and should be used to explore career avenues and opportunities you may not have considered.
No matter what happens, enjoy your time at QACI because you will meet incredible people and create incredible memories that will last a lifetime.