(Doug with NFTS Directing & Producing Science & Natural History student, Asihan Khang)
Doug has worked at the very peak of wildlife documentary for decades; ever since he bumped into David Attenborough in the Antarctic! He is the recipient of two Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Cinematography for Blue Planet (2001) and Planet Earth (2006). He has also received a TV BAFTA for Blue Planet and was awarded the BAFTA Scotland Craft Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film or Television in 2017.
Doug talked about some of the amazing film shoots he had been on, from living at minus 30C in the Arctic, to diving under Antarctic ice and from filming packs of killer whales attacking seals on ice flows, to swimming in tropical waters with friendly whale sharks. The masterclass covered how to get started in the industry as well and delivered many tips about directing both people and wildlife.
The masterclass was an inspiring and privileged look at how top-end science and wildlife films are made.
News crews have become a common sight over the past couple of weeks as the BBC, ITV and Sky have visited the School to cover our Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema BAFTA, which we collected at the ceremony on Sunday 18th February 2018.
BBC Senior Entertainment Reporter, Chi Chi Izundu was first to the School and interviewed NFTS alumni including Oscar winning composer, Dario Marianelli and recent Composing MA graduate, Jessica Jones who both worked on Darkest Hour.
Sky were up next and Reporter, Katerina Vittozzi interviewed Production Design MA student, Theo Boswell and Assistant Directing Diploma student, Stephanie Bradshaw about their experience of working with the Digital Effects MA students on this year’s horror style Gorefest set.
ITV visited after we collected the BAFTA and were lucky enough to interview legendary Blade Runner 2049 Director, Denis Villeneuve who was at the School to give a masterclass and they got to film the actual NFTS BAFTA itself!
It wasn't only TV that covered our exciting news. BBC Three Counties Radio also got in on the action and interviewed NFTS Director, Jon Wardle on why the NFTS was to receive such a prestigious award and why the UK is experiencing such a boom in film and television production - listen again here.
And here is the special video BAFTA created to celebrate our award plus Jon Wardle and former NFTS Director, Nik Powell's acceptance speeches:
If you would like to study at our BAFTA-winning School, sign up to one of our upcoming open days at www.nfts.co.uk/opendays
NFTS Alumnus Wins ‘Best Cinematography’ Oscar for ‘Blade Runner 2049‘
14th Time Lucky for Roger Deakins
NFTS alumnus, Roger Deakins – who has been nominated for an Oscar an incredible 14 times - finally won an Academy Award last night for ‘Best Cinematography’ for Blade Runner 2049.
Roger thanked his team in his acceptance speech saying: “I really love my job. I’ve been doing it a long time, as you can see, but one of the reasons I really love it is the people I work with, both behind the camera and in front of the camera. This is for every one of them.”
(Denis Villeneuve signing a Blade Runner 2019 poster for NFTS students)
(Roger on location in Switzerland filming his NFTS graduation film, Horse Boy)
Two more NFTS alumni were nominated for Oscars including Stuart Wilson who clocked up his fifth nomination, this time for Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the ‘Sound Mixing’ category. Hugh Welchman received his second Oscar nomination, having won an Oscar previously for short film, Peter and The Wolf. His 2018 nomination was in the ‘Animated Feature’ category for, Loving Vincent.
If you would like to follow in Roger’s footsteps, sign up for our upcoming Cinematography MA open day on the 7th March 2018 – www.nfts.co.uk/cinematography
‘Black Panther’ Exec Producer Discusses Diversity and Why ‘Different is Good’ in a Rousing NFTS Masterclass
NFTS students were treated to a special preview of highly anticipated and acclaimed “subversive” superhero movie from Marvel Studios, Black Panther followed by a masterclass with the film’s Executive Producer and Marvel Studios Vice President of Development and Production, Nate Moore.
Widely praised by critics, Black Panther is described as “a superhero with purpose” by Variety; “an African extravaganza that packs a muscular intensity and challenges as much as it exhilarates” by Empire and a “subversive and uproarious action-adventure, in which African stereotypes are upended and history is rewritten” in The Guardian.
Black Panther is the story of T’Challa, a young African prince who takes on the mantle of King and super hero, and the centuries’ old legacy that comes with it. The groundbreaking character made its first appearance in “Fantastic Four Vol. 1” Issue 52, published in 1966 and was soon firmly established as a fan favourite, crossing racial and cultural lines. The imagery of a regal African King and his super hero alter ego continued to resonate with fans over the years and in 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe welcomed T’Challa/Black Panther and introduced him to its fan base in Captain America: Civil War.
The session was hosted by journalist, Dan Jolin who began the Q&A by asking Nate what his role as Executive Producer entailed. Nate explained: “My job is to make sure the film is good from soup to nuts (from beginning to end). It’s very hands-on from selecting the director (Ryan Coogler) and writer (Joe Robert Cole) to helping hire in the production heads. If you don’t have a great crew, it’s hard to execute the vision and this movie was particularly complicated due to the detail required for the costumes and production design. We had to ride the balance between what makes a great individual movie whilst keeping to true to the Marvel universe.”
On Marvel’s recent tendency to select directors who haven’t worked on big VFX movies before like Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and The Russo brothers (Captain America: Civil War; Avengers: Infinity War), Nate said: “The tech stuff can be taught. What matters is that the director can get a performance. We look for someone who is most germane to the story in question. It’s also better sometimes to find people who haven’t done a movie like this before so you get something unique. We want filmmakers who push us as that’s when you get cool ideas.”
Nate continued: “Our approach is that the content is based on super heroes but the film can be any genre. We were going for ‘The Godfather meets James Bond’ with Black Panther whereas Spiderman: Homecoming was made in the high school genre. Audiences want something different now, which means we can push the envelope but still build on the Marvel tapestry.”
Dan asked Nate if Marvel felt a sense of responsibility in making a movie that represents such a milestone in mainstream filmmaking. Nate responded: “The truth is that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the movie as good as possible so we didn’t get much time to think about the wider context of the movie. It was only at the end of the shooting day that we had time to think that this could be something really special. It had to work so it would enable other movies to be made like it; we had to blaze a trail.”
A self-proclaimed “genuine comic nerd”, Nate felt a personal connection to many of the Marvel characters and the Black Panther character particularly ‘spoke to him’: “As a black kid seeing someone like you helps you feel acknowledged. The comics were ahead of their time in addressing issues like refugees. It’s because it’s part of the source material that Black Panther rings true. The challenge was to make the narrative propulsive and work as a piece of entertainment in its own right while addressing the social issues without forcing it.”
Nate was clear on the direction Marvel is travelling with regards to diversity: “We are absolutely looking to be as diverse as possible in front and behind the camera. Black Panther is part of a wider initiative to be more inclusive. Different is good. Ryan made sure that the crew was pretty much 50/50 male and female and I hope it’s something Hollywood takes a cue from.”
If you would like to attend masterclasses like these, why not find out about our courses at an upcoming open day - www.nfts.co.uk/opendays
This year the NFTS annual Graduation Showcase will be sponsored by the processor company Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). From CPUs and GPUs to server processors, AMD delivers the technology needed for today’s modern end-to-end digital pipeline, which requires robust workstations and servers for massive data sets, countless pixels, secure servers, and cloud-based services.
Jon Wardle, NFTS Director, says: “It’s fantastic to have AMD Studios as this year’s NFTS Graduation Showcase sponsor. Blending the art of storytelling with the latest technologies is at the heart of the School’s philosophy and our partnership with AMD is a testament to that approach.”
The graduation showcase is a series of events and screenings in February and March 2018 featuring over 80 projects spanning a wide range of genres from fiction and animation to documentary, video games, commercials and television entertainment.
The event attracts influential industry representatives from the worlds of film, TV and games who come to experience the graduation projects and meet the stars of the future. AMD is proud to come on board as this year’s graduation showcase sponsor to continue their support of the future of high tech creation.
In the previous year, NFTS Games Design and Digital Effects students and recent alumni have worked with AMD to deliver a series of Virtual Reality projects as part of the School’s Bridges to Industry scheme. The students were among the first in the UK to access AMD’s latest Radeon™ Pro WX7100 graphic cards, which are capable of developing and driving VR experiences at a high fidelity level. The student projects include interactive and immersive VR experiences using real-time rendered 3D computer graphics and an entertaining and inspiring 360˚ video project.
To find out more about the NFTS, why not sign up to one of our open days – sign up here!
Hub of World Leading Film, Television & Games School to Operate from BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow
Discretionary bursaries available for those resident in Scotland to help increase diversity and equality within Scotland’s screen and television industry and support people from underrepresented groups
The National Film and Television School (NFTS) has announced that applications are now open for courses at its new Scottish base, NFTS Scotland, which will operate from BBC Scotland’s studios in Glasgow.
The courses are specifically designed to meet the growing needs of film, television and games production companies and independent practitioners across Scotland. The NFTS is an acknowledged global leader in the provision of postgraduate, high-level, creative and technical skills for the audio-visual industries. It was recognised with the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema BAFTA at the 2018 ceremony and was the first film school to be awarded the 2018 Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.
The first round of NFTS Scotland courses, now open for applicants, launches with the brand new How Stories Work in Documentary (30 April – 4 May) course which has been specifically developed for NFTS Scotland and will be led by Peter Dale, NFTS Co-head of Documentary. The extensive experience Peter brings to prospective course applicants includes 18 years producing and directing documentaries at the BBC, becoming Head of Documentaries at Channel 4 where he commissioned filmmakers including NFTS graduates, Kim Longinotto, Nick Broomfield and Molly Dineen, and conceiving and launching More4, Channel 4’s third digital channel.
Diversity and inclusion are key priorities for NFTS Scotland and there is a joint aspiration that a third of all places in the first two years will be bursary-supported places. To that end the BBC and the Scottish Government is making a contribution to a bursary fund which will meet the costs of these places and ensure that participants will be drawn from a broad range of backgrounds.
First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon announced funding of £475,000 in her keynote speech at last year’s Edinburgh International Television Festival, to support plans for NFTS Scotland while the BBC’s contribution of premises and facilities for NFTS at Pacific Quay builds on the corporation’s additional investment of £40m a year in Scotland to provide additional and more relevant output for its audiences.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government supported this project from the start and we were delighted that we were able to help secure this prestigious asset for Scotland. We will continue to support Scotland’s screen sector which is why we also doubled funding this year for development, production and growth to £20 million. As the industry here grows, it’s crucial we have people ready to fill employers’ needs across very specific roles. It is exciting to see the first courses from NFTS Scotland open up a new route to give people from all backgrounds an opportunity to learn essential specialist skills in film and television.”
Alison Goring, Head of NFTS Scotland said: “We are very excited to be offering NFTS’s first-class training for the screen industries in Scotland, and look forward to welcoming the first course participants. NFTS Scotland is proud to contribute to skills development here, and we are working closely with industry to develop further courses across a range of creative and technical specialisms to ensure that we meet industry needs and support the amazing talent we have here. ”
Everyone at NFTS is on a high after an incredible evening at last night’s BAFTAs which took place at the Royal Albert Hall and were hosted by Joanna Lumley. Not only was the School honoured with the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema BAFTA but our students did us proud by winning their fifth consecutive British Short Animation BAFTA with Poles Apart directed by Paloma Baeza and produced by Ser En Low.
In addition, Producing MA graduate, Emily Morgan along with the film’s director and writer, Rungano Nyoni won Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer for I Am Not A Witch. And NFTS Cinematography graduate, Roger Deakins clocked up his fourth BAFTA winning the Cinematography award for Blade Runner 2049.
NFTS Director Jon Wardle and Former NFTS Director Nik Powell collected the Oustanding British Contribution to Cinema BAFTA from award-winning actress Celia Imrie. Jon delivered a powerful speech describing how for almost five decades the NFTS "has been at the forefront of developing film, television and now games makers who are not only highly valued members of the industry widely in demand, but who also have the skills, talent and social conscious to lead it." Jon paid tribute to NFTS founder Colin Young who wanted to develop a school that is dedicated to the idea that "filmmakers should be missionaries for a better way of life". Continuing, Jon said: "Colin imbued in our students not only a sense of purpose but a spirit of confidence, of fearlessness, of risk taking. And those qualities have been central to our school’s ethos ever since."
"You can see those qualities in the work our students produce at the school and you can see it in the work of the 10 students and graduates nominated for BAFTAs tonight. From Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049, to Stuart Wilson for Star Wars and Dario Marianelli for Darkest Hour through to more recent graduates such as Emily Morgan and Paloma Baeza who competed and won in the Best Debut and Short film Categories. At the NFTS our goal is to ensure that the future Roger Deakins or Emily Morgan – wherever they may come from and whatever their means – have the opportunity and support to reach their full potential.
(NFTS students celebrating the School's BAFTA win)
"But we can’t do that on our own.We are therefore hugely indebted to those who, year in and year out, continue to support the School including the DCMS, BFI, HEFCE, Creative Skillset, Channel 4, BBC, Sky, ITV, the Film Distributors Association and UK Cinema Association. As well as more than 80 annual scholarship donors, trusts and foundations. Thank you we couldn’t do it without you."
(British Short Animation BAFTA winning team of NFTS students)
(Rungano Nyoni - director and Emily Morgan, NFTS graduate and producer of I Am Not A Witch Collecting their Oustanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer BAFTA)
2018 was a record year for NFTS with ten individual BAFTA nominations for its alumni and 119 alumni credited across the nominated films. Nominations included:
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer
Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly (Producer) – Lady Macbeth (Fodhla was nominated with Writer, Alice Birch and Director, William Oldroyd)
Outstanding British Film
Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly (Producer) - Lady Macbeth (Fodhla was nominated with Writer, Alice Birch and Director, William Oldroyd)
Hugh Welchman – Loving Vincent (Hugh was nominated with Co-director, Dorota Kobiela and Producer, Ivan Mactaggart)
Dario Marianelli – Darkest Hour
Stuart Wilson – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Stuart was nominated with Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Matthew Wood)
British Short Film
Mahdi Fleifel – A Drowning Man (Mahdi was nominated with Signe Byrge Sorensen and Patrick Campbell)
Aneil Karia – Work (Aneil was nominated with Scott O’Donnell)
‘Ex-Machina’ Director Alex Garland Discusses his Anarchist Approach to Filmmaking
Oscar-nominated writer, producer and director Alex Garland talked about his ‘anarchist’ approach to filmmaking and his experience of writing for games in a masterclass with new students at the NFTS.
Alex, who became the NFTS’s first Associate Director last month, entered the film industry as a writer after his first novel, The Beach, was made into a film in the late 1990s. He has since written the screenplays for films such as 28 Days Later and Sunshine and made his directorial debut with Ex-Machina in 2014.
(Still from The Beach)
In a session hosted by NFTS director, Jon Wardle, Alex told the new first year intake that it was the experience of seeing The Beach turned into a film that made him want to work in the industry. He said: “As soon as I saw that film being made…I went to the set and thought ‘God, this is what I want’. What I saw was the collegiate aspect and I was attracted to that. Working with like-minded people is fun. The collaboration makes it enjoyable to me, novel writing is an isolated pursuit.”
It was that sense of collaboration that has stuck with Alex throughout his career and influenced what he described as his ‘anarchist’ approach to filmmaking. “There’s an old culture of film making – the cult of the director as dictator,” he continued. “That wasn’t my experience. Film making is self-evidently collaborative.”
(Still from Ex Machina)
He illustrated the point with a story from the making of Ex-Machina: “A female-appearing robot dresses herself in a white dress and walks out of the room. The white dress was chosen by the actress and the costume designer and I had no involvement in that. She walks past a painting by Klimt of a woman in a white dress, which is actually a painting of the sister of Wittgenstein (a philosopher referenced earlier in the film). I didn’t know that Michelle Day, the set decorator, had selected and hung that painting. It is a reference to the script and the costume. Rob Hardy (the Director of Photography) shot it beautifully. I was not involved at all in any of that…but when people noticed these details, I got the credit. And for one reason, on the credits it says the film was directed by me.”
Alex also talked about his experience co-writing a video game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for games company Ninja Theory, describing games as “the equal of any other medium”.
“Why wouldn’t they be? A game like Bioshock has a really beautifully constructed narrative. I’d always thought that games had this staggering latent potential.”
As well as novels, films and games, Alex has also written for TV and talked about a shift in demand in recent years towards complex, and sometimes difficult, characters and stories: “In the 70s we had Taxi Driver and now we have Breaking Bad. In both the protagonist, the hero, was morally flawed and complex. That’s hard, but not impossible, in cinema these days but TV is overtly opening its arms to that. Bring us that kind of complexity, we want it.”
Alex was speaking to new students at the NFTS part of Springboard Week, which marks the start of the new academic year at the school. Other speakers during the week included award-winning director, writer and producer Peter Kosminsky (The State; Wolf Hall), sound designer and editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now; The Godfather) and acclaimed BBC Miniseries, Three Girls director Philippa Lowethorpe and editor Una Ni Dhonghaile, who is an NFTS graduate.
Alex Garland’s new film, Annihilation, is released on Netflix later this month.
If you would like to experience masterclasses like these, sign up to one of our upcoming open days to find out more –www.nfts.co.uk/opendays
Why has the NFTS introduced a Location Management Certificate Course? "We identified that location management was a missing piece of the production jigsaw at NFTS. All departments are represented from Production Management to Assistant Directing but we’ve never had a dedicated locations department. This function has previously been undertaken by producers and production managers but by the time the graduation films come around in the summer, they have too much on their plate with getting the shoot up and running so a dedicated locations department will be an enormous help as well as a great career launch pad for budding location managers.
There is also a big demand in the industry for trained location managers. Whilst it’s a career option that is often overlooked by the industry, location managing can be very successful and rewarding. A good location manager can be very hard to come by, especially at the moment given the recent boom in productions so there are plenty of opportunities out there."
(NFTS students on location in Germany filming Good News)
How is the course structured and what will students learn? "The 12-week course is timed to overlap with NFTS graduation films by 4-5 weeks. The first 4 weeks will consist of intensive workshops seminars and visits from key industry players including heads of production and organisations such as Film London. Students will learn essential skills such as how to photograph locations well and how to present locations to a director. They will learn how to work within budgets and manage contracts and health and safety issues. In a nutshell, the course offers students really good ground up tuition and provides practical experience of scouting, prepping and shooting films."
(NFTS students filming graduation film, Wild Horses)
Who should apply? "Applicants don’t need any formal education requirements but it’s helpful to have some experience with productions or locations. We’re looking for candidates who understand how locations work within the overall pattern of filmmaking and have an idea of what the locations department does. There are also lots of good career progression opportunities; location managers often continue on to be production managers or executive producers. It opens a lot of doors as you become integrated into the whole production team. It’s also important to be able to interpret a brief and work creatively. The location manager’s work is featured on the screen; they help choose the look and feel of the film or production as a whole."
(NFTS first year film, Present, being filmed in TV show, Grand Designs' presenter, Kevin McCloud's favourite house, Jacob's Ladder)
Why study Location Management at the NFTS? "This course is unique and the School is a production power house; we’re shooting something all the time so there are many opportunities to get involved and build experience. All the production facilities and contacts are right here at the School and the Production Managers and Producers you meet here could be valuable employers in the future. We also have great support for the course from Location Management company, Salt Locations who have helped design the curriculum and will help provide work placement opportunities for the students."
What’s are the highlights of being a Location Manager? "A location manager is integral to the production. It’s a hugely responsible and key role, which makes an important contribution to the look and feel of the film and ensuring the film runs to budget. If you can’t get the right location for the right price, you’ve got a problem."
(NFTS students filming in Germany on location for graduation project, Good News)
How does the Location Manager fit into the overall team? "The location manager works hand in glove from prep to the final wrap; they are long-term players on any production. At NFTS, they will work closely with all production roles including, directors, producers, cinematographers and designers, providing all the information and support necessary for a successful location shoot from initial scout to wrap and reinstatement."
(Recent NFTS grads filming on location in Cornwall for a Bridge to Industry project for fashion brand, Jigsaw)
How did you start out? "I started 25 years ago working as an in-house runner at film and TV advertising production company, RSA Films, set up by Ridley and Tony Scott. At first, I made the tea and did photocopying but by the end I was finding locations for commercials. From there, I went freelance and combined location managing with being a 1st Assistant Director so I know exactly what goes into making any production work on location. I also had great fun working with American portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, finding locations for photoshoots for the likes of John Cleese, Judi Dench and Uma Thurman! I continue to do AD work while at NFTS on TV productions, features and commercials."
Applications are open for the Certificate Course in Location Management for Film and TV Production until the 15th March 2018 and the course starts in May 2018. For more information and to apply, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/locationmanagement
‘Poles Apart’ Directed by Paloma Baeza Wins Best Student Film
(Poles Apart trailer)
NFTS graduation film, Poles Apart, directed by Paloma Baeza and produced by Ser En Low has won a prestigious Annie Award for Best Student Film. The Annie Awards honour overall excellence in animation in a total of 36 categories from best feature, production design, character animation, and effects animation to storyboarding, writing, music, editing and voice acting, and have often been a predictor of the annual Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
(L-R: Rocio Gimenez, Art Director, Paula Gimenez, Production Designer, Paloma Baeza, Director & Ser En Low, Producer)
This is the second time that NFTS students have won an Annie Award and the fifth time NFTS graduation films have been nominated. Head Over Heels directed by Timothy Reckart won an Annie Award in 2012 and also received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film.
Poles Apart has also won the Maclaren Award for Best British Animation at the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival and received a nomination for Best British Short Animation at this year’s BAFTA Awards.
(Poles Apart Making Of Video)
About Poles Apart:
Poles Apart tells the story of an unlikely meeting between Nanuk, a tough female polar bear, and Aklak, an enthusiastic male grizzly bear, brought together by their changing habitats. The lack of food in a melting Arctic has left the solitary Nanuk desperately hungry. When the hopeful and eager Aklak crashes into Nanuk's world, she has to decide if the naive grizzly bear is her food or her friend.
Director/ Writer/ Animator – Paloma Baeza; Producer, Ser En Low; Cinematographer, Jon Muschamp; Production Designer, Paula Giménez; Production Manager, Florencia Casas; Production Co-ordinator, Sophie Halton; Editor, Zsofia Tálas; Sound Designer & Re-recording Mixer, Morgan Muse; Compser, Hollie Buhagiar; VFX Supervisor, Gillian Simpson; CG Supervisors, Ollie Brummell, Shivani Shah; Colourist & Online Editor, Alex Davis.