From surfer to social media content expert – Meet graduate Tom Bispham
Tom Bispham graduated from BA (Hons) Digital Media Production (now part of BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts) at Arts University Plymouth in 2022 and has since worked with a range of brands, companies and influencers, including DJ Tom Zanetti, Glastonbury Festival, MISFITS Boxing, Northcore and UN Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh.
Specialising in creating short form content for social media, marketing and advertising, Tom’s career has gone from strength to strength very quickly since graduating. He credits part of his success to the five years that he spent studying at Arts University Plymouth, beginning with an A-Level equivalent Extended Diploma at the university’s Pre-Degree campus.
We sat down with Tom Bispham to find out more about how his love of the sea influences his work, how he landed opportunities to create social media content for massively well-known brands like MISFITS Boxing, and how access to the extensive range of filmmaking equipment in our Equipment Resource Centre set him up for success.
Tom Bispham surfing
I started by working as a videographer in Plymouth nightclubs, including Pryzm, The Depo and Fever, which helped me make connections in the music industry. After working in nightclubs for a couple of months I met Tom Zanetti, a DJ, music producer, rapper and singer from Leeds. I’ve regularly created content and worked with Tom to support his social channels for over half a year since we met, which has been a great experience. Working with Tom helped me to make connections with a range of other professionals within the entertainment industries, giving me opportunities to work with a large number of mainstream artists, companies and events within a relatively short period of time.
I’ve filmed and created content in the past year at events including Tokyo World, Glastonbury, Insomnia Fest, Boardmasters and MISFITS Boxing. I’ve also worked on short social media films for leading brands like Northcore, and collaborated with Lewis Pugh, an endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans.
I definitely used my time at Arts University Plymouth to start building up a client list and line up work for after I graduated. So for example, I began filming at nightclubs in Plymouth alongside some of my professional practice modules at university. Filming people on nights out and showing the clubs in their best light was a great way to earn a bit of money and meet new people. I started filming the visiting artists, offering my services at a discounted rate and making short films for social media.
Tom Bispham at MISFITS Boxing
It didn’t take long working in nightclubs before I met Tom Zanetti, who liked my work and was looking for someone to manage his social media and video content. When I finished my degree, Tom’s manager got in touch and asked if I’d be willing to move up and live with Tom for the next six weeks so that I could capture content around the clock.
It was a big decision, to commit completely to my work like that, but I agreed and that’s when things really began to take off for me. We toured festivals across the UK and then abroad, going to Tokyo World, Boardmasters, then further afield to Ibiza, Tenerife, Greece, the Maldives and the USA.
I’ve also done some shooting for Misfits Boxing, creating vlogs and capturing content. Those events are absolutely massive, there are a lot of people who see and interact with that content online and it was really exciting to be a part of. That’s something I’d love to do more of.
I’m amazed by how quickly things have progressed. Working with Tom Zanetti has been an incredible opportunity, which has grown rapidly from doing all of the filming myself to moving into a role that involves more social media management and overseeing content creation.
I’m already in a position where I’m aiming to put together a freelance agency of my own, to build something for myself that will allow me to increase my output and share opportunities with other creatives.
L to R - Tom Zanetti and Tom Bispham
I grew up in Wembury, so the sea has been a constant in my life and I love to surf. I’m always looking for ways to connect my abilities with brands that have similar values. At one point I had an opportunity to shoot social media content for an advert for Northcore, a cool surfing brand. I worked with models, shooting their clothes and accessories in the woods and making short video content for them.
I also briefly had a chance to work with Lewis Pugh, who’s an endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans. Lewis was born in Plymouth and has a great relationship with the city, even acting as Ambassador for the new Plymouth Sound National Marine Park. I worked with Lewis capturing videos and photography at SailGP, an international sailing competition. I actually had to pull out of that project due to sickness, but I consider it to be unfinished business and would love to work with him again.
Altogether I studied at the university for five years, so you can tell that I loved it. At first I started by doing an Extended Diploma in creative media production (now called UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Creative Practice: Filmmaking & Media Production) instead of staying on at school to do A-Levels.
During that first course I did a lot of ocean videography, because I live so close to the beach and love the sea. Sharing that work online, everything I posted was getting good engagement and it made me feel like I’d really like to learn more about videography and media management, because I really enjoyed creating short-form content. When I heard about the Digital Media Production degree at Arts University Plymouth (now part of BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts) I was sold instantly.
I loved that there was so much more one-to-one support available at Arts University Plymouth than other universities. I was always able to connect with lecturers and get advice quickly if I needed it. There was always someone there for me, whereas I heard from friends at bigger unis who had to book time just to talk to their lecturers.
The university Equipment Resource Centre, where you can borrow kit like cameras and filming equipment, is also seriously underrated. There’s no charge for borrowing industry-standard equipment, so it got to the point where I was borrowing new cameras or lenses every week, honing my skills so that I could handle a really wide range of technology. There’s one particular Technical Demonstrator, Dajain Daley, who I can’t thank enough. He was always there to teach me new programmes or make recommendations about what to try next. His support really helped to ignite my passion.
I really want to take practical steps to build a creative agency for short form content. I know that I can take my work to the next level by collaborating with more motion graphic and visual artists, to give my films an added polish. But that also opens the door to work with more graphic designers, animators, screenwriters for creative narratives…
I don’t just want to increase my output, I want to pull different strands of talent together to offer an unrivalled service and to have a wider pool of collaborators to draw upon for big jobs.
Tom Bispham's work
BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts at Arts University Plymouth is a practical filmmaking course where students explore the craft and aesthetics of contemporary screen-based media, learning the skills required to design and make for film and media production. Students cover a broad range of approaches to film and media, and investigate the current and emerging techniques used in the global filmmaking industries. The course covers specialist techniques including cinematography, production design, screen direction, sound production, set-building, lighting design, editing, visual effects, social media production and experimental image-making.
Students have the opportunity to design and make films, from initial idea, to shooting and screening, all while considering their work in relation to culture, society and the wider world. There are opportunities to develop a wide range of projects beyond traditional film, including screen based installations, site-specific cinema, music video, and video art. Led by a team of filmmakers and media producers, all areas of learning are underpinned by a rigorous critical and cultural understanding of film in its many contemporary forms, setting students up to succeed in whatever specialism they choose to pursue.