Nigel Sandridge and Erato Kallini

Students & Alumni. Film Production.

Sand and Erato working at a kitchen table (Photo by Luey Northern)

Erato and Sand are graduates of ARU’s MA Film and Television Production course and together formed the company NoMargins Media, working with artists and creatives on a range of projects.

What did you study at ARU, and what have you been up to since graduating?

Erato: I’m a director and editor, and everything now really! I did BA Film Studies at ARU, then the Masters in Film and TV Production. I came from Greece through a Foundation Year organisation, and did film studies, which is more theoretical. But thankfully there were still some practical modules, stuff that I could make. I always tried to make music videos if I could, and I still learned a lot. Then the Master’s course was mostly all practical. I was supposed to graduate in May 2020, but because of COVID-19 I ended up graduating in 2021.

Sand: I am Nigel Sandridge. They call me “Sensei Sand”. I’m a director too. Or Co-Director! We run a company called NoMargins Media. We work with artists and creatives. We do photography. We do directing. We build sets. Sound design. We do a lot of stuff! I took the Master’s course on film and television, and I also did the Master’s in business at ARU. I think I was about one and a half courses ahead of Erato – I graduated a year before her.

If you weren’t on the course together, how did you meet?

Sand: We’ve got the wildest story. Technically, we'd known each other in passing for three years. I used to date a girl who lived in the same area as Erato in Greece. They were both in the same community - musicians and creatives and dancers. We’d probably bumped into each other a lot and never seen each other. We ended up meeting in Cambridge.

Erato: When I was on the course, I remember they showed us a portrait documentary someone had made on Sand, and everyone that was on the course with him was like “Oh, he’s so cool.” Then we ended up meeting, and I thought “Ok, let’s see how cool he really is.” Then we found out the story about Greece! And we both wanted to make music videos so that cemented it.

Sand: Before the course I was a photographer and journalist, and when I submitted my application some of the photos that I used were actually of Erato’s friends who lived in the same city in Greece. So I got into film school off of her friends!

Hartlii - 1Callaway. Official Music Video by NoMargins Media.

What kind of clients do you work with as No Margins Media?

Sand: We have a lot of clients. We’ve casually worked with so many people we don’t even think about it anymore. It’s got to the point where we’re kind of jaded about it, which is awesome! I remember we used to sneak into festivals to get the chance to work with people, and now everybody we know is a musician or an artist. We’ll watch tv and see our friends, and that’s great.

We work with anybody, predominantly musicians, but any type of creative. We were at a wrestling event yesterday – my homeboy’s a professional wrestler, and he wants to get some clothes made by us and some other stuff done.

Do you have a lot of contacts back in the States and Greece too?

Sand: Not really. I think we established more just in real life, going out and meeting people, and that kind of diversified us into having contacts in different places in the world. It was the ability to just network on your own accord, find that room for yourself. My friends from Chicago aren’t necessarily film people, so it's not like a pocket I can just go and get back into. Since we already were both out of our realms, why not just create an atmosphere that works for us? You know what they say: “Build it and they will come.”

Erato: I mostly know dancers back in Greece. That’s how I realised I wanted to do music videos, because of filming their dance covers. I was really enjoying the process and the more I did it, the more I developed.

Erato Kallini
EratΩ (Photo: Liam Maxwell)

Where and what did you study before ARU?

Sand: I didn't study before ARU because I was in the military. I spent seven years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs specialist. I did mass communications with them. I did journalism, videos, public work with different types of people in different sectors on high and low levels. On top of that, I was a base photographer. I travelled to 17 countries shooting and making stuff – that was where I gained my experience, and also where I realised I liked working with musicians. Meeting people in the military who wanted to be musicians. I was like “We both don’t want to be here. Let’s get out of here and make some videos.”

Erato: I was just in school. I did the foundation year in Greece. My school was called the Experimental School of Thessaloniki - that's the city I'm from. In Greece, only schools that are targeted towards arts really do film. I think in my last couple of years we didn't even do music or painting or anything that we used to at least do once a week before that. So it was really not helping me in that way, but I did stuff outside. It's not like foundation years in the UK where you can actually do your course pretty much right from the start.

Did you always know that you would go to university and if not, what changed your mind?

Sand: I never thought I would go to school. I joined the military as an attempt at never going to school. I initially had no intentions to ever get a degree because I just wasn't a school-based person. So when I went out and did stuff with the military and met a lot of people, and just learned a lot more about life, I also realised more what I wanted to do. Originally I was supposed to go to a Uni in America and I didn't do it because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had no idea who I was as a person, so I had to actually have some life experience first to make that decision, and make sure it was something I liked so I didn't get stuck in a job I wouldn't like.

Erato: My parents are both academics, both linguists. They have PhDs and they actually met in Cambridge, which is one of the reasons that I really wanted to study there. I always knew I'd go to uni and I always knew I was going to do something artistic. I just didn't know what. I chose film studies at first because it kind of encompassed everything I liked - music, painting, filming. I went straight into the Master’s after I finished my BA, which really helped develop my skills.

Sensei Sand
Sensei Sand (Photo: Tom Briggs-Davies)

What inspired you to get involved with film and TV production in the first place?

Sand:  One day I was just sitting at home watching music videos, thinking “OK, I don't like movies that much, but I know I love music videos. I love working with artists and stuff.” I got really into this guy named Hiro Murai. I just like his colourscapes, and the shots that he picked. And I wanted to emulate something like that. It was like surrealism in the way that he shot. He’s my David Lynch. That’s what I aspire to make – that one step different in how stuff is perceived in the world we create in our videos.

Erato: I made my first “music video” when I was maybe 13 or 14 in Windows Movie Maker using only gifs. I kept making videos just for me, and I would try to match everything to the song – the beats, the movement, whatever I could do with the gifs. Then a couple of years after that I met my dancer friends and started filming their covers. It was mostly K-Pop covers, and K-Pop music videos are crazy. The production, the budget, the way they’re stylised is so aesthetically pleasing to me, and that’s what really inspired my style. My goal with music videos is to visualise the music as best I can with everything – the melody, the words, the beats. I just want it to be as satisfying to watch as possible.

What’s the most valuable thing you took away from the course?

Sand: Learning how to be collaborative. Since I did such different stuff to my whole class, I kind of felt lone-wolfish about it. I didn’t know how to work with anybody. I remember one day one of my coursemates looked at one of my pieces and said “You make really good stuff, but you never work with anybody.” I thought about it, and I didn’t. I was shooting and editing and doing sound and doing the lights. I was carrying all the gear home by myself, and I lived in Bury St Edmunds. I had to go two hours on a train with all this gear!

I had to learn to make friends and be connected, and work with people who weren’t necessarily the same type of person. I think that helped a lot because when you go on a film set, every group of people is so specific. If you learn how to talk to everybody, you can learn how to function really well and keep everyone happy. I got my first film job from one of my friends on the course, and that made me decide that I wanted to be on sets. Teamwork, I think, is the most important thing.

Erato: I was going to say exactly that. Teamwork. Especially during the Master’s, which was so practical, you literally couldn’t do everything by yourself. Thankfully the years in my BA before that prepped me, because I knew how to talk to people already. But I didn’t know how to talk to them as a director, and that’s what the Master’s really helped with. We had the TV module where we had to go into the studio every week and make a show. I had to direct a lot, and it really, really helped because you figure out your way of directing as well. We also worked with some actors from drama, performing arts, and music courses.

Sand: It was always about making sure it was something they could use as well. Maybe a piece they’re doing for their final project. It just helps across the board, because it’s hard to get students to take time from their own course.

Erato: For one module I wanted to make a music video. I had an idea, and I had a song. Then my lecturer said “Maybe you should try and find a music student that has a song and needs a music video.” I knew another Greek girl, Dorothea Papadaki, who was studying music, and I made a music video for her. It was definitely a learning experience because it was so different from any other type of music I’d done before.

Tae Hawfa - No DAP. Official Music Video by NoMargins Media.

Sand: Doing the Master’s was a super learning curve, especially leaving the culture of the military for another one. But I was lucky enough to be involved in a course where people were really helpful. Cathy Elliott was such a great tutor because even though I wasn’t necessarily on the same level as the other kids, I never felt like I didn’t have a direction.

At first I just wanted to do lights and mind my business, but one day a kid didn't show up to class and Cathy really fought for me to be the director. I don't know why. But when I sat there and was like “Cut here. Do this. Do that”, I realised I could just control that room and thought “Oh! This is what I'm supposed to be doing this whole time!”

Erato:  Cathy was just amazing with us. She inspired me, and really believed in me as a director. We also had someone that didn't show up to class that was supposed to direct and I had to do it. Cathy told me that I should keep doing this. I really appreciated her for believing in us.

Which aspects of the course most helped your career development, and why?

Sand: I got the opportunity to go to the Sheffield Doc Fest through the school because it had some free passes. That was very, very important. NoMargins exists only because I went to that festival and realised I didn’t want to do any of what they were trying to tell me to do!

Everybody does documentaries. Your whole class does documentaries, and everybody does shorts and works on TV. And you meet these people there who are desperate to make it in TV. I remember saying “Oh, I want to make music videos AND I want to do TV shows, and I want to do this and that.” They would look at me and say “You’re not supposed to do all that.” I remember saying “But why? Isn’t that what we’re doing this for?”

But I didn’t have proof of concept, so when I came back the next year I made sure I had everything I was supposed to have, and could confidently say this stuff. I didn’t just have my uni projects - I’d done this on the side, and this and this, and I’m working on this right now. That’s kind of the flow we carry in life now. We never go in a room and feel bad, because we have something on our plate that’s very important and it’s art and it’s beautiful and it’s on our own terms. We get to decide what we are and aren’t going to do. If we want to make wrestler clothes, we make wrestler clothes.

Erato: We need a wrestling scene in a music video!

For me, I had to do my major project during COVID, most of it, and I had such grandiose plans for it too. Music videos for this band that had a kind of sci-fi concept. It was not going to happen like I imagined it. I wanted a big crowd, like a concert but I only had four people! I wanted to make three music videos, and only ended up making two. But thankfully the concept allowed me to just put people in masks!

Some people in my class just compiled stock footage and made their own thing from that. But I was like “No. I have to do this. As long as it takes, I'll do it”. And I'm really glad I did, though it didn't come out as great as I had hoped.

Sand: They still love it on Youtube though.

Erato: Yeah. There were a lot of filming days. A lot of issues came up. People couldn't make it. People wearing the wrong clothes. And I just had to make masks for everyone. But I definitely learned a lot from that experience about how to work under circumstances like that. I do hope I don't have to do it again though!

Sand: One of the biggest compliments that we get a lot is “You guys don’t make music videos, you make movies.” And that’s the point. We went to film school! This is the real thing. We build sets. We’ve got production. This stuff is possible if you come into it with the mindset of wanting to create with other people who are just as passionate, and I think that helps elevate it.

We’ve been really good about finding that creative influence outside of the school. It’s hard to find when you leave uni, but we turned our friends into film people. They can work in Tesco all day then be the best actor or the world’s finest lighting guy. I think that’s an important thing to teach people. Going into a course like this, you’ve got to romanticise your life a bit. You’ve got to turn it into art and pull from what’s around you. It’s very easy to get disheartened in a field like this if you don’t know how to keep the inspiration alive long enough to make it.

Marlonhil x Mustaq Ali - DOOM. Directed by NoMargins Media.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Erato: Don't stress so much. Especially for uni, you're gonna be fine. The stress doesn’t help anything, is what I’ve learned. Especially while doing more and more shoots and seeing what it's like to be in that environment with artists everywhere. You’ve got to be prepared for things to go wrong.

Sand: I would say to be fluid with it. Understanding it won't all go right. You go on any set, especially in uni because you've never done a set before, and if one thing's off the set’s pretty much done for the day. But the goal is to get it done, to attempt to make something. You can't stress. You’ve got to keep the energy high. You’ve got to just be fluid.

We have so many shoots where something goes wrong. We hate to say it out loud, but sometimes you can't avoid that. “You can't be upset by it right now. You’ve got to just do it, because that's what you came here for us to do.” You can't freak out, because you also control the temperature of everybody else around you and anything like that will create a little bit of disbelief in what they can do, and take away from their skills and abilities.

Erato: If you - as a director - keep an open mind, everyone else will be like “OK, it's not the end of the world. We got this.”

Sand: You’ve literally got to just be a parent. Your parents struggle through a lot of stuff that they never show in front of you. They just deal with it.

What was your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge?

Erato: I really enjoyed how quiet, calm and just compressed Cambridge is. Especially when I used to live on Mill Road. I would just go out and see everyone I know on the street. There was a real sense of community in Cambridge. Like a neighbourhood. I do miss being there.

Sand: Yeah, it was a nice space to be in. Especially visually. I’d never seen a place like that anywhere in the world. I didn't know what England was. I just thought there were going to be top hats and cobblestone roads. Cambridge kind of had some of that vibe. So just being able to experience such a different culture and a lifestyle where it was still compact enough to just take it all in, I enjoyed that a lot. I think I got to learn a lot about my own approaches to stuff through just being somewhere so different.

Erato and Sand choosing colour samples in store
Colour shopping for artist Luey Northern's music video (Photo: Luey Northern)

What projects are you currently working on, both at work and outside?

Sand: Everything! Everything’s inside and outside of work as well. We’re doing so much stuff it’s uncomfortable, but it’s fly. We live in Manchester now. We’ve got fifteen music videos. We’re making a costume for a gaming company in the next couple of months for their mascot character. We did a collaborative collection with a clothing brand, and this gaming company really liked them. We went down this whole arc – for two weeks we were like fashion designers. Every fashion event and all this other weird stuff. It was like “We make videos! We’re not supposed to be this deep!”

We just dropped a video with an artist that we’re building right now. We do a lot of building of up and coming artists. We have a studio we work with here in Manchester that we’re going to get more artists from. Bigger name artists who come here from places like the States to collaborate with local artists.

We’ve been running events too, so we can get more creatives in the room. It’s not just about the media people anymore, but the fact that all these creatives leave school and have nowhere to go. We’re very big on putting people in rooms to be able to talk to other creators like we did, and get to meet people. Because sometimes you only get to meet film guys, but you don’t meet the guy who makes clothes who could be a costume designer for you, or the guy who does photography that could run lights for you, or the audio engineer who could come and clean your sound up. We’re just very into building that scene. We’re busy every day. We’ve even got a film in an art exhibition.

Erato: One that we filmed while we were still in Cambridge.

Sand: We’re doing an album package for an artist. We conceptualised this whole album for him, and we’re packaging that into video clips, and everything that comes with that.

Erato: Yeah, that’s a big project. I think that’s probably the biggest project we’ve got going on right now.

Sand: And we might make wrestler clothes!

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