NFTS Students Unwrap Christmas in August!

Amidst the scorching heat of August 2023, a miraculous transformation unfolded at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) as the spirit of Christmas descended way ahead of schedule! 

With temperatures soaring outdoors during the height of summer, the collaborative efforts of NFTS's TV Entertainment and Production Design students turned the School into a festive hive of activity, bringing to life a children's TV show titled Bongo's Big Adventure. With a cast and crew of over 70 people, shooting across seven days in multiple locations, this immense production boasted singing, dancing and the introduction of an endearing puppet character called Bongo, with the aim of reinforcing positive approaches to handling mental health challenges in children. 

The NFTS student team gather together for the Bongo's Big Adventure production

NFTS Production Design and TV Entertainment students on Bongo's Big Adventure set.

As with any shoot, the ambitious project was not without its hurdles. Challenges ranged from constructing a life size set offering complete 360-degree coverage to conjuring snow in the midst of summer, finding a spot for Bongo’s puppeteer so they couldn’t be seen on camera and keeping cast cool on set while wearing thick Christmas jumpers! 

Undeterred, NFTS students poured their creativity and dedication into overcoming these obstacles, culminating in a spectacle as perfect as finding the ideal gift under the Christmas tree. 

The conce

The concept art behind the set.

For Matthieu Levy, a Production Design student involved in this magical undertaking, witnessing the snowy set come to life was nothing short of a gratifying experience. “Seeing the set come to life was a rewarding experience, and the end result was worth the work.”

Reflecting on the experience, TV Entertainment student Matt Branston said: The project was on an immense scale, especially for a department that had never really done anything like this. We shot a full 13-page fiction screenplay, filled with slapstick elements, practical effects, 8 main cast members, and five 2-3 minute long music videos, one of which had a full troupe of dancers! There was a sincere sense of community on set, and the people behind the camera genuinely cared about one another. When crew members said it was one of the most fun projects they'd ever been on, it made the whole thing worth it by itself.”

Bongo the puppet

Bongo the puppet.

Matt continues: “Any shoot is full of challenges, but on a really fundamental level, Bongo is about knowing you're not alone, knowing that you always have people on your side, and being able to trust people with your emotions. We made Bongo for kids, and for people struggling, and the feedback we've had, from the sound mixer's nephew repeating lines based on one scene he's seen, to industry figures saying they wish their kids had seen it, has shown that television needs programmes like this.” 

Armstrong's Bakery on the film set.

Mr Buns' Bakery.

Bongo's Big Adventure promises to deliver a heart-warming tale that encapsulates the true essence of Christmas. “Bongo really makes the point that a lesson doesn't mean boredom, love doesn't mean soppiness, and that kids deserve to be treated with respect and have something made which treats them like intelligent humans. As heard from our course co-ordinator, who worked on Teletubbies, ‘kids deserve kids TV.’ I hope we lived up to that. I think we did.” 

Bongo’s Big Adventure will premiere exclusively to key figures from the industry as part of the NFTS Graduate Showcase which takes place in February 2024. 

Explore our courses and join the creative journey at the NFTS! MA applications open in January 2024.

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