Encounters is the UK’s leading short film, animation and virtual reality festival. In September, NFTS Head of Model Making John Lee headed to Bristol to spend a day showcasing the stunning work created by the School’s model making students, some of which featured in two films screened during the six day festival. John also co-hosted a Masterclass, discussing his unique one-year diploma course which teaches professional skills, how to use workshop equipment and how to collaborate successfully with fellow students within the NFTS.

John has headed up the Model Making department since its inception two years ago and is currently guiding his third cohort of students. His extensive list of film credits include ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Moon’ and ‘Star Wars - Episode: 8 The Last Jedi.’

Explaining how important collaboration with other students is at the NFTS, John commented:

“Two of the NFTS films screened at Encounters this year, ‘Almost There’ directed by Nelly Michenaud, and ‘Heatwave’ directed by Fokion Xenos, feature a mixture of puppets and model set pieces, which my students created whilst working with the incredibly talented NFTS Production Design students. Quite how we managed to make all these models amazes me, considering I had a small group of 10 model makers in my first year, and the films are completely different stylistically. It just goes to show what is achievable when everyone is working well together and have the same goals in mind. That’s what is so unique about my work here at the NFTS. The collaboration and passion for the craft of Model Making and Animation is addictive!”

John Lee with Model Making graduates Lisa Ott and Thanos Kantzavelos

John also shared stories from his career working in animated features, touching on ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, ‘Frankenweenie’, and ‘Isle of Dogs’.  Afterwards, John introduced graduate model maker Lisa Ott, who spoke to Encounters attendees about her experiences on the Model Making course and gave an illustrated presentation of the work she has been commissioned to do since leaving the NFTS in 2018.  

Lisa has secured a wide variety of projects with Model Making course partners Mackinnon and Saunders, one of the world’s leading puppet making companies. These include the iconic Bee Award and brass plaque prizes which will be given out at the UK’s largest animation festival; Manchester Animation Festival which takes place from 10-14 November 2019.

Lisa has also worked as a lead puppet maker and set builder on several other projects including an immersive theatre production of Frankenstein by Tea Break Theatre, a stop-motion animated music video for Bonesaw by Ghostmane, and a stop-motion Short called HOME by Anita Bruvere for the Jewish Film Festival.