After finding herself unable to study at university, Qezz Gill worked locally to fund a short film course at Ealing Studios Met Film School. Now based in Bristol, Qezz has since been involved with an all female-led collective, created pieces of work that focus on identity and the human experience, and has been nominated as one of Rife Mag’s 30 under 30. We talked to Qezz about being self-taught, how to stay driven, and why it’s important to have fun with your practice.
Describe what you do!
I am Qezz Gill, a visual creator based in Bristol where I work towards authentic storytelling with photography, filmmaking and visual exploration. Originally from Pakistan, I take my experiences as an immigrant and an artist to redefine what it means to be an ethnic creator in the sector. Camerawork, text and design are always at the forefront of my work. I use visual art forms to create refreshing narratives based on identity and representation for magazines, broadcasting channels and social media campaigns. Through this, I have co-founded an all female-led platform called Purple Girls Collective with my best friends. It's a platform where we showcase and champion the work of underrepresented creatives, marginalised topics with unfiltered storytelling. Music, fashion, social issues, film and more.
How did you get into film-making?
Ever since I studied media in school, I knew I wanted to get into film production. I applied for uni but was met with a shock that my status in the UK as an immigrant made it financially and systemically impossible for me to go to university at the time. So in 2019, I worked two jobs in my small town to secure a short film course at Ealing Studios where I studied filmmaking at their Met Film School. That was the beginning of building my experience and skill in pre-production, scriptwriting and cinematography. I was able to work on independent short films as a runner, set designer assistant and I did lots of behind the scenes photography for passion projects.
Are there any main themes that continue throughout your work/ how would you describe your work?
Empowerment, transparency and playfulness. I was lucky enough to have a mentor at my industry placements last year and I learnt a lot about my practice. We worked on a set of values for my work and now they are the deciding factors of which projects I take on. For me, the best way to stay connected to your practice is to have a strong value system. I create to represent and redefine tired narratives. I am always exploring, developing and sharing stories of my identity, heritage and environment.
What has been a personal career highlight of yours?
One that stands out the most is a letter I wrote to my younger self for BBC Bitesize. I was cast to be part of the ‘Dear Younger Me’ project early this year. In the video, I reflect on my identity and experience in the UK so far. I wrote a letter to my younger self where I told her how impressed I am at her ability to adapt and transform. In the film, I tell myself by choosing the nickname Qezz. It doesn't mean I am rubbing away my identity, I am creating a new one. I reminded myself that identity and heritage will mean a lot to me in later years where I will learn that my Asian and Western sides can co-exist. The film is a reminder to myself about my growth, personally and professionally. I will never stop showing gratitude for my journey as a young Pakistani woman.
Tell us a little more about the collectives you're involved with, how did they come about?
I am part of an all female-led collective called Purple Girls Collective. My best friends and I co-founded it last summer after debuting our first short film with Rife Magazine, titled ‘Purple Girls’. The spoken word was written by Eleanor Hurley in 2019 and the film was created in lockdown last summer. The collaboration of makeup, music, set design and art direction was a huge motivation when creating the platform. The short is an ode to the women who raise us and is a journey of discovery and celebration of womanhood in all its forms. While the poem delves into very early examples of discrimination young women face, the main focus of the narrative is on reaffirming yourself in later life through sisterhood and friendship. The collective is a result of the film, The platform is about celebrating those without access to showcase their art and creative practice. We care about sharing real stories of those with marginalised identities and experiences.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
Right now I am working on a few exciting projects for Bristol Cultural and Creative Hubs. My most recent work soon to be exhibited is a Social Action through Art project called Outstretched Arms: Redefining young visions and breaking barriers in areas of inequality in Bristol. The photography exhibition is co-created with Young People of Bristol bringing light to the lived experience of young carers who live in areas of inequality in Bristol. We focused on their power and strength, as well as their hopes for an equitable future. The exhibition has been travelling to Southampton, Weston and is soon to be exhibited in Bristol on 19 August in Castle Park in Bristol!
Does living in Bristol aid your creativity?
Definitely, Bristol cares about the arts and any creative practice is welcomed here. Almost everyone you know has a creative side hustle in the city. The city has lots of work schemes to offer for BAME, LGBTQA+ and marginalised communities. Hubs like Rife Magazine, Rising Arts Agency, Creative Youth Network do a great job in creating opportunities for young creatives as well. It's one of the main reasons I haven't moved to London yet, I am enjoying being creative in Bristol so much. I have the independence and the right organisations here that align with my values and practice.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in photography/film?
Learn from your mistakes, show people your work, get feedback and most importantly post your work! I am proudly self-taught and I mostly learn from experience, taking advice from any photographer I meet and practising. I YouTube almost everything. I say this to pretty much anyone that is looking to start their career is to believe in your ideas and just shoot and post the themes you care about. I care about people, communities, culture and representation so I make real people and stories my subjects. You never know how much you can actually learn from messing around. Start posting your content, be playful, do whatever feels good!
How do you keep creative and inspired? Any tips for writer's block, or being stuck for ideas?
Take breaks! I know I am burning out when I feel like I have no ideas left in me. Over the years I have come to realise I care about the quality of work that I am producing and not the quantity. My form of creative self-care is to go back on the work I have done and show myself gratitude. It helps you understand your journey and sets a reminder to keep creating and sharing needed visual stories.
You can find Qezz on Instagram here!
Words: Grace Goslin