Inspiring Reigatian: Claire Furner
Social media guru, Claire Furner (RGS 2006-2008), has managed to combine her love of film with work, securing the role of Social Media Lead for the British Film Institute (BFI).
Briefly describe your journey from RGS to your current role?
My journey since RGS has been pretty squiggly! I studied Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick. Whilst at university, I became involved in a number of societies and theatre productions, often within a marketing capacity. I found that I particularly enjoyed utilising social media in these campaigns which, at the time, was still very new. After graduating, I pursued this further, working in agencies and managing social media campaigns for brands ranging from Wagamama to Johnnie Walker.
Alongside this, I indulged my geeky side, volunteering for a Harry Potter fansite. MuggleNet gave me endless opportunities to attend premieres and press junkets, often interviewing filmmakers and actors; a particular highlight was interviewing Eddie Redmayne in Dumbledore’s office at the Warner Bros Studio Tour.
This exposure to the world of film led to my relatively recent pivot into the film and entertainment industry, where I am now the Social Media Lead for the British Film Institute (BFI).
What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
Making the move into film has been a surprisingly lengthy endeavour that I’m really proud I persisted with. After some initial conversations with people in film, it became clear to me that, despite my experience in social media and marketing, there were gaps in my knowledge. I knew I couldn’t develop these in my role as an Account Manager and took the plunge to go freelance, here in the UK and (briefly) in New Zealand. During this time, a Digital Marketing Assistant role for the BFI London Film Festival came up. It was a significant drop in pay and seniority but I figured it would be worth it to get a foot in the door. It certainly worked out, as I’m still here over two years later, in a more senior position and am the most fulfilled I’ve ever been in work.
What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome thus far?
Coming out as queer. It took me the best part of 12 years to accept this part of myself and the process is still ongoing. I really hope that journey is easier for young people today.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
Collaborating with my colleagues, who are some of the most interesting, passionate and talented people I’ve ever worked with – even if they do sometimes put my film viewing habits to shame! It also helps that I really believe in the work we do across the visual arts industries, from maintaining one of the world’s largest film and television archives to funding new filmmakers; feeling this way about your organisation is invaluable during stressful or busy times!
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
I’ve actually found the best mentors to be people you never expected so I try to stay open! That said, the Amazing If team is brilliant. I listen to the podcast, have watched its TEDtalk and am currently working through its latest book; having that team on hand in-person for career support would be pretty great!
If you were castaway on a desert island, which luxury item would you want with you and why?
A helicopter so I could escape! But if I had to stay, then probably something to listen to my favourite weekly podcasts on.
What more could be done in your industry to make your workplace more diverse, equitable and inclusive?
The actions can seem endless, especially when you consider the intersectionality within marginalised groups, but I think the first step we can all take is to acknowledge our own role in improving the status quo. The media and arts industries often preach acceptance but we can be as resistant to change as any other industry. We all need to stay informed, listen and hold each other accountable in pushing for change.