The BISC prides itself on promoting a spirit of inclusion and diversity on its campus. The Castle Herald recently interviewed first-year student Nick Isaacs, the star of a recent award-winning short film on his struggles for acceptance and the fears associated with standing apart from the crowd.
Nick, 19, has been an out gay man since the age of 17 and was performing as a drag queen for seven months prior to joining the BISC. He deferred for a year before starting his first-year studies and worked as a street performer, reading tarot cards and performing palm-readings as his drag alter-ego, Harlotte Webbs.
“Harlotte is still Nick, but with more confidence,” says Nick. “The first few days at university can sometimes be awkward and often people make assumptions about your sexuality without really speaking to you, so I decided to attend the fall term’s scarfing ceremony as Harlotte and break the ice properly.”
When asked how this went, Nick recalls, “There were a few jaw-drops at first, which I suppose was to be expected, but overall the reaction from students and faculty was extremely positive.”
Standing well over six-feet, even without her heels, Harlotte Webbs would have surely been difficult to ignore, but Nick’s transformation does not happen instantaneously. “My makeup and nails can take over an hour,” says Nick. “If you factor in my hair and dress on top of that, that probably takes another hour as well.”
Nick, as Harlotte, is the star of a three-minute short film called Dragoon, made by students from the BISC’s FILM 104 class. Filmed entirely on their mobile phones, and shot on location on the Castle estate, the film begins in greyscale, but then bursts into colour as Nick makes the transformation into Harlotte Webbs. Screened last December as part of the Crossing the Screen International Film Festival in Eastbourne, the film won the prize for best student short, joining a list of winners which included big budget films from Romania, Mexico, South Africa, and Finland.
“We don’t teach practical film at the Castle, so the students have no access to equipment or facilities, but I thought I’d give it a go, and set the students to the task,” said an amazed Dr. Robert Hyland, the BISC’s FILM 104 professor. “I didn’t know our films were in competition, let alone getting an award!”
This bold spirit of adventure is something that resonates with Nick, who is grateful to the BISC for allowing him to fulfil a life-long dream of studying in Europe. “I had given up on post-secondary education and it was only through sheer chance while working a factory job that I came across a link to the BISC website,” he says, “Clicking on that link has changed my life forever! Herstmonceux Castle, and the opportunities I have had here has reignited a belief that there are plenty more adventures and better things out there for me - all I need to do is look.”
Watch Dragoon below, shot and edited by a team of first-year BISC students including Nicholas Isaacs, Harriet Wright, Amelia Cockerham, Daisy Boyle, Cassie McMeekan and Gabrielle Oei.