Uni from home: Hackney filmmaker shines light on alternative student experience

PUBLISHED: 16:12 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:22 08 January 2019

Ish Norris produced and appeared in Honours in Attendance.

Ish Norris produced and appeared in Honours in Attendance.


Homerton resident Ish Norris’ debut film – Honours in Attendance – speaks up for the stay-at-home student, cut off from the joys and freedom of life on campus.

Ish Norris (right) produces and appears in Honours in Attendance alongside Daniel Eman (left) and Richard Ganly (centre).Ish Norris (right) produces and appears in Honours in Attendance alongside Daniel Eman (left) and Richard Ganly (centre).

January can be a difficult time of the year for some university students. While many of our brightest young minds will be itching for a return to their adopted towns after a festive break spent at home, it’s a different story for others.

Students who remain at home while completing their studies, for example, often find themselves cut adrift from the community of campus life.

Ish Norris, a 30-year-old film producer from Homerton, puts the plight of these students at the centre of his debut film, which is titled Honours in Attendance.

“The film is about the emotional turbulence and alienation for students that live at home,” he tells me.

A still from Honours in Attendance. Picture: Ish Norris.A still from Honours in Attendance. Picture: Ish Norris.

“Honours in Attendance gives a voice to students in this situation, who find that uni life isn’t this hedonistic experience that it’s often portrayed as – particularly in American films.

“These people have to consider work and gruelling commutes as well as attending their lectures. They are sort of like a ghost on campus, not able to engage in the student lifestyle.

“With student fees being as high as they are, people feel under huge pressure to perform; to achieve a minimum of a 2:1. I think for people who don’t necessarily have comfortable middle-class backgrounds, the experience of uni is different.”

Norris, together with script-writer and director Shyam Doonga, filmed Honours in Attendance on a vintage 16mm camera at sites around Hackney and west London. The self-funded movie cost around £10,000 to make and is the first to be released on the duo’s Blue Spectre Film company.

“The film is semi-autobiographical,” adds Norris. “Shyam’s experience of uni was precisely this initially; living at home and going to uni in London. For me being a postgrad coming to the end of my course, I’m experiencing something similar, so the film resonates with me.”

Norris’ initially studied English Literature and Linguistics at York, and his postgraduate course in Occupational Therapy at London South Bank is due to finish next month. Despite these pressing academic commitments, Norris is striving to show bigger production companies and investors exactly what Blue Spectre Film can do ahead of their next project; a neo-noir spy thriller also based in London.

“Our hope for the film is for it to become a kind of festival darling, the goal is for it to be shown on the circuit with a view to securing distribution.

“Hopefully we can show that we can make a quality alternative film on a small budget.”

Check out the trailer for Honours in Attendance here.

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