An incredible 17 National Film and Television School alumni are credited on Aardman’s highly anticipated prehistoric comedy adventure, Early Man, which is released in the UK on Friday 26th January 2018.
Early Man is directed by NFTS alumnus and four-time Academy Award® -winning director Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit during his time at the School. Shot in Aardman’s distinctive style, the film will take audiences on an extraordinary journey into an exciting new world unleashing an unforgettable tribe of unique and funny new characters voiced by an all-star British cast including Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne and Maisie Williams.
In addition to Nick Park, NFTS Directing Animation MA graduates credited on the film include Senior Storyboard Artist, Richard Phelan; Supervising Sound Editor, Adrian Rhodes; Sound Recordist, Danny Hambrook; Animator, Gareth Love and Assistant Animator, Suraya Raja who graduated from the Directing Animation MA in February 2017.
Graduates credited from the NFTS Character Animation Certificate course, which is delivered in partnership with Aardman, include: Animators – Raul G Eguia, Marie Lechevallier, Emanuel Nevado, Maria Moreira Castro, Maria Ribas, Laura Tofarides; Assistant Animators - Alex Crowley, Hywel Roberts, Adam M. Watts and CG Animators - Lian Mattson, Marta Arisa Clotet.
If you are interested in following in our graduates’ footsteps, sign up to one of our upcoming open days – the general open day takes place on Saturday 10th February and there is a dedicated Animation open day on the 27th April 2018 – more at www.nfts.co.uk/opendays
Applications for the NFTS Directing Animation MA are open until the 5th July 2018 (the two year MA course starts in January 2019) – for more information and to apply, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/animation
16 NFTS DFX Credits on BAFTA 2018 Nominated Films!
In addition to a record 10 individual BAFTA nominations for NFTS alumni and 126 alumni credits in this year’s EE British Academy Film Awards, there are a stunning 16 NFTS Digital Effects alumni credits across eight of the nominated films. That means over 10% of our Digital Effects graduates worked on 2018 BAFTA nominated films, which is a fantastic achievement for the course, which was set up in 2005. Credits include:
Thomas Phillips Howard, Animator
The Last Jedi
Adam Arnot, Compositor ILM; Jake Ferris, Layout Artist ILM; Shivani Shah, Layout Artist ILM; Dan Snape, Compositing Supervisor ILM; Kathleen Squire, Scanning Coordinator
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Dillan Nicholls, Lead Compositor
David Sheldon, Compositor; Luke Hardisty, Digital Compositor; Carl Thompson, Digital Lab Operator
Beauty and the Beast
Ruochen Wang, Compositor; Nicholas Zissimos, Compositor
Andy Quinn, VFX Supervisor
Film Stars don’t Die in Liverpool
Andrew Scattergood, Digital Intermediate Operator
Victoria and Abdul
Sara Buxton, Assistant Colourist; Dillan Nicholls, Lead Compositor
If you are interested in following in our DFX graduates’ footsteps, there is a general open day coming up on the 10th February and a dedicated Digital Effects and Games Design open day on the 16th May 2018 – sign up at www.nfts.co.uk/dfx The application deadline for the Digital Effects MA is the 5th July 2018 and the two year course starts in January 2019 – apply at www.nfts.co.uk/dfx
NFTS Appoints Oscar Nominee Alex Garland as Associate Director
The National Film and Television School (NFTS) announces that Oscar and multi-BAFTA nominated writer, producer and director, Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later) has been appointed as the School’s first Associate Director.
(Still from 28 Days Later)
Alex is best known for his novel, The Beach and his Oscar nominated screenplay for Ex Machina, which he also directed and which won an Oscar for ‘Best Visual Effects’. He has written screenplays for films including 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go and is directing and writing the forthcoming thriller, Annihilation, which stars Natalie Portman.
(Still from Ex Machina)
In his role as Associate Director, Alex will play a key role as a creative figurehead for the School, supporting the Director both internally with key creative decisions and externally in inspiring students. He will serve a term of two years. Key responsibilities will include:
· To act as a role model and creative figurehead for the NFTS student body
· To contribute to student learning through masterclasses and special events
· To act as an ambassador for the School to promote its achievements and to enhance its profile both nationally and internationally
(Still from Never Let Me Go)
Alex Garland says: “It’s a great honour to be appointed as the National Film and Television School’s first Associate Director. I am a huge fan of the School, its achievements and unique focus on practical, career focussed learning across the widest available spectrum of film, TV and games disciplines. I look forward to being a part of the NFTS and working with the next generation of talent.”
Jon Wardle, NFTS Director says: “Since my appointment as NFTS director in August 2017, I’ve focussed on creating the best possible environment at the School to enable our film, television and games students to thrive and fulfil their potential. Adding to this, I think it’s important that the School has eminent creative people at its helm in prominent leadership positions, which is why I and the Board developed the idea of appointing Associate Directors. Alex is our first appointment of two and we are thrilled that he has accepted and will start in January 2018. He is an excellent fit for the role thanks to his commitment to and achievement within the film, television and games industries.”
Over a hundred animation schools across the globe were considered and the top 25 were picked based on their academic reputation, admission selectivity, depth and breadth of the programme, value and location. The list aims to help students find the School that is the best fit for them.
(Annushka Naanayakkara and team picking up the 2017 Short Animation BAFTA)
2017 was a memorable year for the NFTS Directing Animation MA department. Not only did its students win the British Short Animation BAFTA for the fourth year in a row with NFTS graduation film, A Love Story, directed and co-written by Anushka Naanayakkara, there were also big wins at The Edinburgh Film Festival (Poles Apart directed by Paloma Baeza won the Maclaren Award for Best Short Animation), CILECT (A Love Story won Best Short Animation) and Rhode Island Film Festival (Poles Apart won Best Short Animation).
(Behind the scenes of NFTS graduation film, Tête-à-Tête directed by Natasha Tonkin)
In addition, NFTS graduation film, Tête-à-Tête directed by Natasha Tonkin was selected for 2017 Annecy Film Festival and Poles Apart has received a nomination in the Annie Awards, which takes place in February 2018.
(Still from A Grand Day Out directed by NFTS alumnus, Nick Park)
NFTS Directing Animation alumni credits include Oscar winning Nick Park (Creator of Wallace & Gromit), BAFTA winning Mark Baker(Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom), Emmy award-winning Benjamin Sanders (Nickelodeon’s Peter Rabbit), Oscar nominated Sharon Colman (How to Train Your Dragon), BAFTA winning Daisy Jacobs (Bigger Picture), BAFTA winning Nina Gantz(Edmond) and Stephen Warne (Kubo and the Two Strings; My Life As A Courgette). There are also no fewer than 14 NFTS alumni credits on the highly anticipated, upcoming Early Man directed by Nick Park.
Applications for the NFTS Directing Animation MA close on the 5th July 2018 (the two year MA course starts in January 2019) – for more information and to apply, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/animation
The programme takes place on the 12th and 13th January 2018 at Ciné Lumière in London and centres around three coming of age feature films as well as a selection of some of the best recent European shorts curated by a group of young people led by Nicolas.
Are The Kids Alright is part of a series of film programmes curated by finalist students from the NFTS MA in Film Studies, Programming and Curation , led by Sandra Hebron. The season comprises eight exhibition projects running until January 2018. They range from themed programmes and national cinema seasons to expanded cinema and online initiatives.
What is the inspiration behind your graduation project?
Nicolas: “I have nurtured two main interests during my MA in Film Programming and Curation: Film literacy and European cinema. I think these interests come from my personal assessment that both are not supported enough in the UK. The lack of film tuition in schools delays the exposure of British students to foreign-language films, and partly explains why it is so hard for the films to then perform well in UK cinemas. The tense political climate the UK is going through will not help European films get released; the UK film industry might even be withdrawn from European funding schemes.
In reaction to this, my intention was to bring those elements together and shape an event that would both expose teenagers to European cinema, and have a wide reach. With support from the Alec Reed Academy in Ealing, I have been running workshops with a small group of teenagers, and we have programmed two shorts sessions that will screen at the event. These shorts, all European, have toured in international festivals in the past couple of years. In addition to these two shorts programmes, three feature films will screen, each portraying teenage life in a unique way.”
Which films have you selected and why?
Nicolas: “The programme is voluntarily eclectic and aims to provide the audience with a sense of what European cinema has recently produced. The short films selected are very diverse and will be revealed on December 15th on social networks and on the website.”
“The Latvian film Mother, I Love You will open the event. This touching coming-of-age drama, winner of the Grand Prize of the Generation Plus section of the Berlinale, follows 12 year-old Raimond through his rather unstable everyday life, punctuated by minor crimes and a rocky relationship with his mother. Director Janis Nords delivers a strong social commentary about growing up in Latvia. This is a rare screening of a film that has not been released in the UK.”
“The second film from French animator and film director Sylvain Chomet, L’illusioniste, is one of the great French animated films of this century. Adapted from an original script of Jacques Tati, the film portrays an ageing illusionist suffering from the disappearance of music-halls and moving to London full of hope. He will encounter Alice in a Scottish pub, a young lady that will impact his future. It is a melancholic film, essentially about growing up and discovering, with fascination, a new form of art.”
“The event will close with a special screening of Sami Blood, a powerful Swedish drama that won the Lux Prize at the European Parliament last November. It tells the story of 14 year-old Ella-Marja, belonging to the Sami community, mostly present in the North of Scandinavia. Director Amanda Kernell talks about exclusion, minorities, and acceptance in 1930s Scandinavia, and, as we understand that we have not achieved much since in regard to these topics, her film also comments about us today.”
How can I book?
Tickets can be booked at a reduced fee of £5 per screening at the following link:
‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Producer Describes How Making The Movie Was “The Best Experience In The World!”
With one of the most highly anticipated films coming out this weekend, NFTS students were thrilled to be treated to a masterclass with the Producer of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ram Bergman (Brick; Looper). According to a roundup of reviews on the BBC website, the critics are “in raptures” using words like "rousing", "thrilling" and "addictively bold” to describe the film.
The session was hosted by director, screenwriter and Empire’s Contributing Editor, Nev Pierce, who opened by asking Ram what it was like to work on one of the biggest franchises of all time. Ram reflected back to his childhood where he grew up in Israel and was 8 or 9 when the first Star Wars movie came out: “It was the first time I realised what you can do in movies. A whole new world opened up for me. That was the period that got me interested in making movies.”
On how the opportunity came about, Ram explained, “Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy approached Rian (Rian Johnson is Star Wars: The Last Jedi director and Ram’s long-time collaborator) and asked him to direct episode 8 before JJ had even started filming episode 7. He was shocked! He then called me. We had never made a big studio movie or a studio movie, period. We wanted to make sure we would have a good experience but we were so excited and thought we’ve got to do this! Three and a half years later, I can honestly say we had the best experience in the world.”
According to Ram, Disney and Kathy gave them as much freedom as they wanted in making the film: “It felt like we were making a Rian movie. We got complete freedom and I cannot speak more highly of the experience. There was really no difference between making this film and our movie, Brick. Apart from the budget and the scope, the day to day process felt intimate and just like the indie filmmaking process we were used to.”
Nev asked Ram what kind of challenges he faced in making the film. Ram replied: “There were 125 sets, which is a lot! With a 100 day shoot, that meant more than one set a day and some of the sets were huge! We took over the whole of Pinewood and that still wasn’t enough space for us. But we had a phenomenal crew. I really appreciated the craftsmanship of every department from the art department to the creature department. From construction to VFX, we were working with the best people in the business, which was hugely rewarding.”
Ram and Rian brought in DoP, Steve Yedlin and Editor, Bob Ducsay. The rest of the crew were either hired by Rian and Ram or had already worked on Star Wars. Ram continued: “It’s part of my job as Producer to create an environment that’s best for the movie and to make sure everyone works together in the best way. I like to work with people who have a point of view and are not afraid to share it. People who push you rather than simply implementing the director’s vision ultimately lead to a better result.”
One of the students asked Ram about making his first feature with Rian, Brick. Ram said: “Rian was trying to make Brick for seven years but hadn’t managed to get anywhere with it. I read the script and said the way he was trying to make it was wrong. He was going after the wrong budget level. The seven years meant he knew every detail of the movie so by the time we shot it, he had a clear vision and was very prepared.”
Nev asked Ram how he chooses who to work with. Ram explained: “As I progressed in my career, I decided I only wanted to work with talented people who are good human beings, which is a rare combination in our industry. Rian is a truly good human being and a unique filmmaker. If I just work with Rian for the rest of my left, I’ll be happy. There’s no ego, it’s purely about the work.”
On working with editor, Bob Ducsay, Ram said: “Bob played an integral part in Star Wars. He is a guy with great energy and is not afraid to give his point of view. So much is about dynamics, to know when and how to say, we should do it this way.”
Nev wrapped up the session by asking Ram to give the students some advice for their future careers. Ram pondered and then said: “All I know is hard work pays off. You need a vision of what you want to be doing and then you need to figure out how to get there. Be committed to your vision. Connecting the dots isn’t as hard as committing to what to do.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out in cinemas from today.
Huge congratulations to NFTS alumni Emily Morgan and Carol Salter who won prestigious BIFA awards at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards.
Emily won in the ‘Breakthrough Producer’ category for her work on Film4-backed satire, I Am Not A Witch, which is about an 8-year-old girl who is convicted of being a witch. In addition to Emily winning Breakthrough Producer, the film’s director, Rungano Nyoni won both the ‘Best Director’ prize and the ‘Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director’.
(Still from I Am Not a Witch)
NFTS Editing MA graduate, Carol Salter won ‘Best Documentary’ for her film, Almost Heaven, about a trainee mortician working in one of China’s largest funeral homes.
Gods Own Country, directed by Francis Lee, took the top prize on the night, winning ‘Best British Independent Film’ as well as ‘Best Debut Screenwriter’ for Francis and Best Actor for Josh O'Connor (the film had already won ‘Best Sound’ in the BIFA Craft Categories).
Lady Macbeth, directed by William Oldroyd and produced by NFTS alumna, Fohla Cronin O’Reilly who was also nominated in the ‘Breakthrough Producer’ category, added to its ‘Best Cinematography’ and ‘Best Costume Design’ Craft Awards with ‘Best Screenplay’ (Alice Birch), ‘Best Actress’ (Florence Pugh) and ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ (Naomi Ackie).
Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin took the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Award for Simon Russell Beale and had already won Craft Awards for ‘Best Production Design’, ‘Best Makeup’ and ‘Best Casting’ and NFTS alumnus, Pete Lambert was nominated for ‘Best Editing’.
Oscar Nominated, BAFTA Winning Writer-Director Armando Iannucci Discusses Stalin, Satire and Where to Draw the Line!
The oft-described ‘King of Satire’, Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning writer-director, Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It; Veep; In The Loop), delivered an insightful masterclass to NFTS students along with NFTS alumnus and tutor, BIFA nominated, Pete Lambert (The Twilight Saga: New Moon; X&Y) who edited The Death of Stalin, Armando’s latest film.
The Q&A was hosted by NFTS Director, Jon Wardle following a screening of the critically acclaimed film, which is described in Peter Bradshaw’s 5-star review in The Guardian as a “brilliant horror-satire”. The Death of Stalin has also been nominated for 13 British Independent Film Awards, including ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Director’, ‘Best Screenplay’ and ‘Best Editing’ and took home awards for 'Best Supporting Actor' for Simon Russell Beale, ‘Best Production Design’, ‘Best Makeup’ and ‘Best Casting’ .
Armando opened the masterclass by saying he had been thinking of doing something on dictators for some time and had considered all the ‘greats’ from Mao to Mussolini! The Death of Stalin was adapted by Armando, David Schneider and Ian Martin from the French graphic novel series by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin.
Pete explained he got the editing job after receiving an email from the film’s Post Production Supervisor and as soon as he saw the words, ‘Iannucci, Simon Russell Beale and Stalin’, he jumped at the chance. On working with new people, Armando said: “It’s nice to work with people you’ve already worked with but there’s a danger you don’t move on if you don’t have new faces. I find people by asking around if I have seen something I like or I ask for recommendations.”
Many of the scenes in the film involve complex, often slap stick sequences and Armando prepared for those by arranging a robust rehearsal period a few weeks before the shoot with the full cast. He explained: “We worked out the blocking and comedy timing for the big scenes; if you have all those conversations on set, it’s very expensive!”
The decision to let the cast use their own accents or choose accents, such as Jason Isaacs plumping for a Yorkshire brogue for Soviet Army Officer, Zhukov, was made right from the start. Many movies about Stalin feature actors using Russian accents and Armando describes this as “unrealistic. The characters from this period all had different dialects.”
There are many dialogue heavy scenes in The Death of Stalin and Pete explained how he finds these more complex to edit than action scenes. Armando praised Pete’s work: “The first time I saw the assembly put together by Pete, I was bowled over. The pacing of the scene where the committee members vote ‘unanimously’ on a series of decisions and move through Michael Palin’s monologue is brilliantly done.” On how Pete and Armando worked together on the editing, Armando said: “I don’t want to see anything until it’s done. Occasionally Pete sent me a query about shooting an extra continuity scene but I’m not into watching stuff straight back. During the shoot, we are constantly rewriting so by the end of it, I’m tired and want to clear my head so I’m ready for the next day and sharp on set.”
Pete continued: “I spent most of my time on getting the tone right and focussing on balancing the horrific against the funny.”
One of the students asked Armando’s view on author and scriptwriter, John O’Farrell’s assertion that satire ‘serves the powerful and helps normalise politicians with extreme views.’ Armando replied: “You’re on a hiding to nothing if you think anything you write will change anything” and referred to a quote from comedian, Peter Cook who founded The Establishment Club in 1961 and said it was to be a satirical venue modelled on “those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.”
Another question came in about improvisation. Armando said there wasn’t much improvisation in The Death of Stalin but “if something is funny, we’ll go with it. With anything collaborative, you have to dump your ego at the cloakroom. Story Is key – you have to ask, is this funny and interesting and does it keep developing? Once you’ve locked that all in, I’m all in favour of trying things so long as it doesn’t change the story.”
And on where to draw the line with offensiveness in comedy, Armando said: “There’s no hard and fast rule. You can get away with more if the joke is really good. I do also think, what’s wrong with being offended? People should be able to defend their beliefs. We’ve lost the sense of engaging people who disagree with us – it isn’t healthy. Not to say we should be as offensive as possible for the sake of it, that’s lazy.”
Armando’s next project, David Copperfield, is casting now and due to shoot next summer. The Death of Stalin is showing in UK cinemas now and due for release in the US in March 2018.
NFTS Model Making Course Leader Reveals What it was like Working as Prop Maker on Star Wars: The Last Jedi
“The scale on a production like this is epic!”
Not only are there a fantastic nine NFTS alumni credited on the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but our very own Model Making for Animation Diploma course leader, John Lee was Prop Maker on the film. We caught up with him to find out what it was like making props for one of the most talked about films of the year.
(NFTS alumni credits include: Production Sound Mixer, Stuart Wilson; Boom Operator, Tom Fennell; Compositing Supervisor, Dan Snape; Compositor, Adam Arnot; Location Coordinator, Caterina Boselli; Stand-By Art Director, Huw Arthur; Concept Designer, Kim Frederiksen; Concept Artist, Tim Browning and Junior Set Designer, Paul Savulescu.)
What was it like working as prop maker on Star Wars: The Last Jedi ?
John: “It was fantastic; we all had to keep pinching ourselves at the time! By the time we started on The Last Jedi, I had already done Rogue One, so I knew what I was letting myself into. I worked with a large team of prop makers at Pinewood Studios, under the supervision of Jamie Wilkinson (Prop Master) and Mark Rocca (Head of Department, Prop Making). At times, there were up to 60 of us working on everything from weapons, hand props, and set decoration, which is where my speciality lies. The scale on a production like this is epic! The main difference of course is that everything is full size rather than in miniature, so there are scale challenges, plus the sheer size and weight of the objects all has to be taken into consideration. The whole process takes months, so the very long hours tend to have an effect, so it’s all about trying to pace yourself.”
What kind of props were you making and did you face any particular challenges making them?
(Rian Johnson directs Daisy Ridley in a scene from Star Wars: The Last Jedi standing in front of one of the large scale props John made for the film.)
John: “I was concentrating on set decoration, so I worked closely with the Art Department. Most of the items and sets I worked on were full size and part of the sets rather than hand props which generally have much more engineered elements. I’m no engineer, and in any case, the department has specialists who did an amazing job in that area. The main challenges are always time based, as there is always a rush for everything. Each department on a film of this size follows the shooting schedule from main and second units, so depending on where they are shooting, or whether they are on location, that dictates our workflow.”
What kind of materials/ techniques did you use and are you teaching your students any of these on the NFTS Model Making Diploma?
(NFTS Model Making for Animation Diploma students at work)
John: “The interesting thing about model making and prop making is that you are using the same transferrable skills all the time, so the kind of techniques I’m teaching here will be transferable, so should the students go onto working on bigger film projects, they will have put into practice the basics. The main difference is scale. Often, it is not necessary to put the same level of detail into a prop on Star Wars, as it’s going to be a few feet from camera as part of a large cockpit or set, and in any case, the audience should be looking at the actors and not the props. On the stop frame model sets here at The NFTS, we have to show all the detail, because the set is a scale miniature, and the end result will be blown up onto the big screen, so the level of detail has to be in there and made to a very high standard. The kind of materials we are using are pretty much the same – Acrylics, MDF, etc.
Can you reveal any behind the scenes prop making secrets?
Ha…! Not really…..! We have to respect the NDA’s which we all sign when we sign up to a film such as The Last Jedi, however, I will say that you always have to think two steps ahead, and generally expect the unexpected, because the very nature of the film making process is that it is fluid throughout the build process, and directors change their mind! So it always good to be able to offer an alternative Plan B should this arise. The other thing is try to get some sleep as you’ll need it!
14 NFTS Alumni Credited in The Braddies 2017: The Guardian’s Film Critic Peter Bradshaw’s Films of the Year
The Guardian’s film critic, Peter Bradshaw has once again presented his shortlist of the year’s movies, directors, actors, writers and screenplays he considers most awards-worthy and we are proud to announce that a fabulous 14 NFTS alumni are credited. Additionally, Destination Unknown directed by NFTS Directing Documentary tutor, Claire Fergusson is included in Peter’s ‘Best Documentary’ list.
Film of the Year:
The Death of Stalin: Editor, Peter Lambert; Graphic Designer, Louise Begbie
Blade Runner 2049: DoP, Roger Deakins
I Am Not a Witch: Producer, Emily Morgan; Associate Producer/Location Manager, Gabriel Gauchet; Composer, Matthew James Kelly; Supervising Sound Editor, Maiken Hansen; Sound Effects Editor, Ania Przygoda; Dialogue Editors, Raoul Brand and Jens Rosenlund Petersen
Whitney: Can I Be Me: Writer/Producer/Co-Director, Nick Broomfield; Cinematographer, Sam Mitchell
Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049
Urszula Pontikos for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool