The one year NFTS Model Making Diploma is run in partnership with Mackinnon and Saunders, one of the world's leading puppet making companies. The course is now in its fourth year and has a high number of graduates enjoying roles within the competitive animation industry due to its practical, hands on approach and second to none networking opportunities. Students are provided access to a fully-equipped workshop/studio environment and collaborate closely with those in other specialisms, including Animation, Production Design, Digital Effects and Cinematography, to make several films and practical projects – with all production costs met by the School.
In this Focus on First Year blog, we talk to current Model Making student Danielle Duncan-Rosembert, who started her journey at NFTS in September 2020, to find out how she’s getting on so far!
What were you doing before applying and starting the course at NFTS?
Before applying to the NFTS I was studying Special Effects Makeup and Prosthetics for Film and Television at Bolton University. Prior to that, I studied performing arts at The BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology and Trinity Laban Dance Conservatoire.
All of the students on the Model Making for Animation course come from a variety of backgrounds and we all bring diverse skills with us.
How did you hear about the course?
I volunteered to collaborate as a prosthetic makeup artist on the NFTS ‘Gorefest’ horror film Judith directed by Marco Oliva in 2017, in which I applied a slit throat prosthetic to the lead actor. I then continued to assist on several NFTS graduation films.
Once I was approaching the end of my degree, I knew that the prestigious NFTS was the institution I wanted to attend so I could focus my studies on props and model making.
I have always had an interest in this field but coming from an under-represented group noticed a lack of diversity within the industry. Which is why during my studies I have co-founded the organisation BAFA UK (Black Association for Arts) alongside 11 others. The NFTS has been very supportive and it is great to be able form a network with creatives within the community.
BAFA UK’s aim is to provide a platform for black artists and creators to widen their networks and connect with those outside of their usual fields of work. We wish to pave a way for better representation, the increase of opportunities for career development, greater equality and support across all disciplines.
All of the co-founders have a variety of backgrounds across the arts, business, law and education, so we all bring diverse experiences to the table. Bringing solidarity to the African and Caribbean diaspora across these varied sectors, resulting in a united voice is a strong focus.
Everyone (including all communities and nationalities) can be a part of, or support, the BAFA UK movement and help change society. You can join, support and sign our open letter which is on our website bafauk.com where you will find more information about our mission statement and co-founders.
What has been your favourite project so far on the course?
That’s really tricky as we’ve had so many brilliant projects thus far, I believe it would be our Moon module. We were tasked with creating a screen accurate 1:8 scale miniature from the interior of the Sarang Lunar Base from the BAFTA winning sci-fi film Moon. We completed this mammoth project in a phenomenal five weeks and the set was complete with props and practical lighting.
We were lucky enough to have an online masterclass with the director Duncan Jones, followed by Gavin Rothery the concept designer visiting us in the workshop to see the finished set.
I learnt so many new skills during the project, I was part of a group that were tasked with the construction of the wall panels and half bulk heads, so I was able to learn about wood working, laser cutting, filling, sanding, priming and paintwork. We also learnt how to accurately measure, scribe and paint the floor sections for the model.
One of the props I was in charge of creating was the ping pong table, in which I learnt how to do brass work and silver solder for the frame, followed by creating the supporting elements.
This was our first full group collaboration and we all worked so well as a team and the model looked indistinguishable from the full size live action set. It was great to be able to collaborate with the DFX and cinematography courses and I can’t wait to see the promo sequence they create.
(You can read more about the Model Makers Moon project here: bit.ly/3gApOzu)
How is working on the course while studying from home in lockdown?
Working from home has definitely been a challenge, however the school has been fantastic in supporting our course. An additional practical module was designed specifically for us to complete at home.
We were tasked with translating a dynamic 2D drawn image into a 3D sculptured panel using a monochrome palette, whilst incorporating all sections of the original artwork. I am a huge comic book fan with a vast collection, so I was in my element for this project. I chose a panel from Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. The character has a spiral that is eating into the back of her head, so I had to try and figure out the best way to realise this image in 3D, which was a big challenge and involved great accuracy and planning. My final piece had 25 layers and a depth of 67mm.
We have had one to ones, zoom tutorials, and portfolio surgeries. Additionally, materials have been sent to us to ensure we can continue working on our stop motion animatable puppet module, which is brilliant.
How have you found studying at the NFTS in general?
The experience has been fantastic so far, having learned so many new skills. The school has boosted my confidence within areas of struggle. My problem-solving techniques have increased, and I have been pushed out of my comfort zone with quick fire turbo modules that are challenging and fun.
I feel lucky to have access to such an amazing workshop, my dream was to learn how to use a lathe (a machine tool that rotates on an axis used for cutting, sanding, drilling and more!) and now that has been ticked off my wish list and a new skill added to my belt amongst many more.
Our tutors have so much knowledge, passion and they are so helpful. Plus having the opportunity to work on real world jobs whilst studying is such great experience. We collaboratively worked on a job for a prime-time TV show only a couple of weeks into the course, which was a great example to see what will be needed from us in industry. I love being surrounded by creativity and I’m excited for what the remainder of the course will bring.
You can see loads of our Model Makers work being made over on our Instagram page (@nftsmodelmaking / @nftsfilmtv) and see some of the models come to life in our 2020 graduation film trailers here: bit.ly/3ckcvmL.
If you’re interested in joining the only UK-based model making course based in a dedicated film studio environment, start your application today and become a student enrolling this September by visiting our website: nfts.co.uk/modelmaking.
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