Our credits tell the story.

NFTS Grads Compete in London Film Festival ‘First Feature Competition’

The Sutherland Award Recognises the Most Original & Imaginative Directorial Debut

(Still from I Am Not A Witch

The selection for this year’s London Film Festival has been announced and we are very proud to announce that two films with NFTS graduate involvement are competing in the ‘First Feature Competition’. Beast directed by Michael Pearce and I Am Not a Witch, produced by Emily Morgan are competing for The Sutherland Award, which recognises the most original and imaginative directorial debut.

Beast synopsis: While celebrating her birthday, Moll drifts away from the party and finds herself eye-to-piercing-blue-eye with Pascal, a local poacher and police suspect. The attraction between these two damaged souls is immediate and palpable, and the film captures both the euphoric flush of first love and the heady insanity of sexual obsession.

(Still from Beast)

Beast credits a number of NFTS graduates in addition to the director, Michael Pearce, including: DoP, Benjamin Kracun; Editor, Maya Maffioli; Art Director, Thalia Ecclestone; Production Designer, Laura Tarrant-Brown; 2nd Assistant Director, Pascha Hanaway; Sound Designer/Supervising Sound Editor: Gunnar Oskarsson and Boom Operator, Joanna Andrews.

I Am Not A Witch synopsis: In a Zambian village Shula, a small, silentgirl with big eyes, is accused of being a witch. Her choice: join a travelling witch camp or become a goat.

I Am Not A Witch, which is directed by Rungano Nyoni also credits NFTS graduate, Gabriel Gauchet Associate-Producer/Location Manager in addition to producer, Emily Morgan.

Also competing in the First Feature Competition is Summer 1993, directed by Carla Simon, and whose Art Director is NFTS graduate, Isona Rigau Heras, and The Wound, directed by John Trengove, whose DoP is NFTS graduate, Paul Ozgur.

(Still from Comeback Kid)

Two NFTS graduation films have been selected in the laugh strand of the festival. These include Comeback Kid, directed by Ian Robertson – the dark humour of reincarnation portrayed as a man comes back, buy-eyed and bludgeoned, to avenge his masculinity - and Pipe Dreams, directed by Christa Jarrold – self-help turns to self-love when Helen can’t find a decent plumber or a decent man and she discovers all she needs is confidence to fix her blockage and her doubts.

(Still from Pipe Dreams)

Other notable selections directed by NFTS graduates include: Clio Barnard’s Dark River, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, The Hungry and The Party both produced by NFTS graduate, Kurban Kassam.

Special Presentation, Dark River stars Ruth Wilson, Joe Dempsie and Sean Bean and is about two siblings who struggle to come to terms with their inheritance after their father’s death.

(Still from Dark River)

You Were Never Really Here screens as part of the Headline Gala. The film is a stark inversion of the noir thriller and a devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse, anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

(Still from The Hungry)

The Hungry, produced by Kurban Kassam, is part of the 'Dare' section of the festival: In-your-face, up-front and arresting: films that take you out of your comfort zone. This UK-India co-production employs Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus as the source of its story about a ruthless businessman whose world is threatened by an evil act. 

(Still from The Party)

Special presentation, The Party, is also produced by Kurban Kassam: Following some unexpected revelations, a celebration quickly takes a turn for the worse in Sally Potter's razor-sharp new comedy.

Nicola Sturgeon Announces Funding to Open World Leading Film, Television & Games School Hub at BBC HQ in Scotland

NFTS Scotland to Operate from BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow

On 25th August 2017, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon announced funding of £475,000 in her keynote speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, to support plans for the world leading National Film and Television School (NFTS) to open a hub at BBC Scotland’s studios in Glasgow and Dumbarton Studios.

NFTS Scotland will significantly enhance vital skills provision arising from the expected growth in film and television production in the country. The BBC alone has committed additional investment of £40m a year in Scotland and is proposing to launch a new channel next year and will also produce more network output in future. NFTS Scotland is expected to open in January 2018 with students enrolling from April 2018.  The NFTS is an acknowledged global leader in the provision of postgraduate, high-level, creative and technical skills for the audio-visual industries.

In addition to the BBC, the School has secured strong support from a range of industry partners including STV, Channel 4, the British Film Institute (BFI) and the producers of Outlander (David Brown), Mad Max Fury Road (Iain Smith) Sunshine on Leith and T2 Trainspotting (Andrew MacDonald).

Diversity and inclusion are key priorities and there is a joint aspiration that a third of all places in the first two years will be fully funded scholarship 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 scholarship places and ensure that students will be drawn from a broad range of backgrounds.

Specialist courses will be designed to meet the growing needs of film and television production companies in Scotland and will include three-month certificate courses; twelve month full-time and part-time diploma courses; and short courses to provide ‘Continuing Professional Development’ (CPD) in key film, television and games craft disciplines.

The School will specifically work to address gaps in existing provision by delivering courses other providers aren’t currently offering in Scotland, such as Production Accounting, Script Editing and Factual Development.  Projected annual student numbers are expected to be in the region of 450 (100 full time, 50 part time and 250 on CPD courses) with over 1500 students expected to graduate from the facility within five years.  

The NFTS has a proven track record in producing successful Scottish alumni, who include BAFTA-winning director, Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), first NFTS graduate and renowned film and TV producer, Steve Morrison (My Left Foot), BAFTA-winning Sherlock and Dr Who director, Douglas Mackinnon, multi award-winning director, Gillies Mackinnon (Hideous Kinky); Oscar-nominated animator, Sharon Colman (How to Train Your Dragon) and many more. The NFTS’ founding director, Colin Young, also hails from Glasgow.

The First Minister made the keynote speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival:

“This is an exciting development for our screen sector which is already an area of growth for Scotland. While we have excellent university and college provision for a range of screen subjects and media skills, NFTS’ plans will complement and expand the training opportunities available in Scotland.

“We have seen a rise in high-profile film and television productions being made in Scotland, and this government is focused on ensuring that continues. That is why we are establishing a new Screen Unit within Creative Scotland to better coordinate public sector support for screen. And as the BBC expands its operations in Scotland – specifically in Scottish news and drama productions – we must ensure people can gain and update the skills they need to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.”

Jon Wardle, NFTS Director says:

“The NFTS has a proud history of developing Scottish talent from its base in Beaconsfield, so we are incredibly pleased to announce the expansion of the School into Scotland and look forward to making an even greater contribution to the Scottish economy through our unparalleled reputation for delivering high-calibre, job ready graduates.”

Renowned TV and film producer, Steve Morrison, who is the National Film and Television School’s first ever graduate and the BBC’s board member for Scotland says: “As a Scot and a graduate of the NFTS, I am fully supportive of this initiative. It’s fantastic both for the School and for creative industries in Scotland to have such a driving new force in skills and talent development in Scotland.” 

Patrick McKenna, NFTS chairman, says:

“The School plans to make its courses increasingly accessible to students throughout the nations and regions of the UK.  This exciting new initiative in Scotland marks the beginning of an ambitious programme of development.”

BBC Scotland Director, Donalda MacKinnon, says:

“BBC Scotland already has an excellent track record in helping to create the broadcasting stars of the future through our various apprenticeship and training projects, so hosting the NFTS in our Glasgow HQ will build on that. The NFTS has a well-deserved international reputation for the quality of its training so we’re very happy to be working in partnership with them to ensure that we and other broadcasters - along with the film industry in Scotland - have a well-trained and well-educated workforce to select from for many years to come.”

Amanda Nevill, CEO, BFI says: ‘The NFTS is the best film school in the world so it’s fantastic that its coming to Scotland and giving more talented young people from all sorts backgrounds the opportunity to learn about film, and prepare them for a career in the industry. With the film and TV industries booming, we need 1000’s more skilled people to join the workforce so this is great news for the Scottish creative industries and great news for the economy.’

For more information, please visit www.nfts.co.uk

Contact for further information:

Vicky Hewlett, Head of PR and Communications, NFTS: vhewlett@nfts.co.uk

NFTS Triumphs in CILECT Global Film School Awards

Scoops Top Prize for Animation

The NFTS has triumphed once again affirming its place as one of the world’s leading film schools by winning accolades in both the Animation and Fiction categories of the CILECT Global Film School Awards. This is the ninth time that the NFTS has taken top place in these prestigious awards and in 2013, the school made history by becoming the first institution to win first prize in all three categories. This year, 180 film schools submitted entries from 65 countries.

NFTS students won joint first prize in the Animation category with A Love Story directed and co-written by Anushka Naanayakkara (full credits below). A Love Story takes place in a universe entirely made of wool:

Synopsis: “It’s love at first sight for our two beings… but will their relationship survive the onslaught of depression that takes over their lives.”

A Love Story also won the British Short Animation BAFTA at the EE British Academy Film Awards this year.

Sweet Maddie Stone, directed and co-written by Brady Hood took joint second prize in the Fiction category.

Synopsis: 15-year-old Maddie Stone rules her school yard under the protection of her family name.  But after discovering her notorious father has been arrested, she has to make his bail money or lose the yard. The more Maddie fights, the more her world spirals out of control – and the closer she gets to becoming the man she’s trying to save.

Sweet Maddie Stone has won a number of awards including ‘British/ Irish Short Film of the Year’ at the London Critics Circle Film Awards.

The Teams:

A Love Story - Director Anushka Naanayakkara; Producer Khaled Gad; Writers Elena Ruscombe-King, Anushka Naanayakkara; Designer Solrun Ósk Jóndóttir ; DoPs Yinka Edward, Alvilde Horjen Naterstad; Editor Joseph Comar; Composer Victor Hugo Fumagalli; Sound Designer Marcin Szumilas; VFX Supervisors Ye Teng; Eloise Tomlinson; Online Editor/Colourist Vlad Barin; Lead Animators Anushka Naanayakkara, Iván Sarrion Soria; Animators Robert Millard, Adrian Piqueras Sánchez; Modelmakers Amalie Vilmar, Alicia Canovas Verdú, Joanna Brooks, Katherine Millar Craig; Art Assistants Lenka Dobranska, Alice La Trobe, Manuela Romero, Louisa Brooks, Emily Hake; VFX Artists Gillian Simpson, Zhao Xi, Li Suoran, Zhuge Bijun, Alexander Davis; Vocals Lucia Bulgheroni, Hollie Buhagiar, Marina Elderton Cinematography Advisers Leigh Alner, Ben Hecking; Production Manager Simone Tomasi; Production Coordinators Agnieszka Pawlowska, Inês Lourenço.

Sweet Maddie Stone: Director/ Co-writer, Brady Hood; Cinematographer, Dan Atherton; Production Designer, Declan O’Brien; production Manager, Grace heath; Production Co-ordinator, Simone Tomasi; Production Assistant, Scott Eggleholfer; 3rd Assistant Director, Anna Bennett-Squire; Editor, Meredith Mantik; Production Sound Mixer, Richard Eastick Esq; Boom Operators, Simon Richert, Tom Osborn; Composer, Tim Morrish; Compositor, Victor Almela; Sound Editor & Re-recording Mixer, Payam Hosseinian; Online Editor & Colour Grader, Carl Thompson.



Cameras, Sound & Vision Mixing Students Work on Thronecast

"Being part of the team at Sky which puts a show on air - a show which might be one of the highlights of the year for some people watching - is an exciting feeling!"

(NFTS Cameras, Sound & Vision Mixing students on the Thronecast set, L-R: Sean McDonald, Briony Dowson, Laura Jeacocke, Henry Young)

This year’s Cameras, Sound and Vision Mixing for Television Production Diploma students have been lucky enough to work on Game of Thrones after show, Thronecast as part of their annual work placements at Sky who are official course partners.

Sky’s Camera Team Leader, CJ Brown explained what the camera students had been learning in addition to helping out on programmes like Thronecast, The Pledge, Sky News, Sky Sports News and more: “The students have been learning how to strip down and rebuild a big box lens camera. We’ve gone through the kinds of shots used on Thronecast, which include MCU (medium close up) and big wide shots as well as panning and tracking. They have also been resizing shots and going from a single to a two shot. They have experienced cleaning fibre optic cables, how to ‘8’ up a cable as well as fault finding and rigging. They have been working on Thronecast rehearsals and live shows cable bashing and some have experienced using Radamec studio and support equipment and/ or handheld cameras on live programmes such as the news.”

We met with some of the students to find out more:

What have you enjoyed the most about your work experience at Sky?

Henry (Camera student): “I’ve enjoyed working as part of a large team of people - almost every day I’ve been at Sky I’ve met someone new, whether that be from camera operators, floor managers, technical directors… the list goes on. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and inclusive, making us forget that we’re only there on a work placement! Being part of the team which puts a show on air - a show which might be one of the highlights of the year for some people watching - is an exciting feeling which I certainly thrive on.”

(Emily Bailey, Vision Mixing student)

Emily (Vision Mixing  student) has worked on a range of Sky programmes including Soccer Saturday, Asia Trophy Football, Sky Sports News, The Pledge, Euro Tour Golf, PGA Golf and Rugby League Catalans: “I've really enjoyed the opportunities I've had to gain practical hands-on experience cutting some of the shows I have been trailing and putting what I have learnt at NFTS into practice.” 

Laura (Camera student): “The placement at Sky has been such an invaluable opportunity that's given us the chance to crew on live productions and be part of such a renowned organisation. Working with all the staff/freelancers as part of their crew has been great fun and I've learnt so much, both about camerwork itself and the production of the shows in general whilst there. My mentor Lucy has been such an inspiration and a huge help in developing my skills and understanding of camera operating.”

(Students with Sky's Camera Team Leader, CJ Brown)

What have been the highlights?

Emily (Vision Mixing student): “Practical hands on experience on the desk - I've particularly enjoyed working on and trailing Sky Sports News, The Pledge and Euro Tour Golf. It's also been fantastic to meet and network with Sky employees and gain insight into broadcast operations there.” 

Laura (Camera student): “My highlights would have to be live operating on the Golf chats, working on Thronecast and all the time we got to spend rigging/de-rigging!” 

Henry (Camera student): “Some of the highlights for me include working on the Game of Thrones magazine show, Thronecast, which is recorded live in front of a studio audience. I also really enjoy working in News, controlling robotic cameras on the other side of the site (or even in a studio in central London). Knowing that there are tens of thousands of people watching an interview you’ve framed up is a confidence-filling feeling. I also really enjoyed working as a jib assistant on the studio segments surrounding the Super Rugby final, and operating one of the cameras in the studio during the Euro Tour Golf coverage.”

(Thronecast presenter, Sue Perkins)

How has the NFTS Diploma been so far?

Laura (Camera student): “The NFTS Diploma has been better than I could've hoped for. Considering about  7 months ago none of us knew how to operate a ped (which requires a completely different skillset to cameras on sticks), whereas now we're operating on live programmes and crewing NFTS graduation TV shows. It's been such a fantastic learning curve. The technical knowledge we studied at the beginning has been the foundation for all our camerawork and was completely invaluable to learn. Our industry recognised camera tutors have taught us everything we know and guided us through, from our very first steps on the ped to the dynamic developing shots we can explore now. The single-camera/PSC side has also been great fun, a completely different skill but equally creative and something which, with the help of the course, I will definitely be exploring further. The facilities and equipment we have access to is of the highest standard (Vinten Quattro peds, Sony HDC4300s, 4K studio) and provides an amazing classroom for us, getting us completely industry-ready.”  

Henry (Camera student): “The NFTS Diploma has been an incredible experience - working on the summer multicamera shows (which are directed and produced by the TV Entertainment students) was a great opportunity to work as camera operators on five very different shows in just a couple of weeks. I’m really looking forward to working on a number of the graduation projects by the second year TV Entertainment students in September, along with a placement at BBC Elstree.”

Emily (Vision Mixing student): “I've really enjoyed the Diploma so far - it has been invaluable for learning technical skills with state-of-the-art equipment and having support from talented and experienced tutors. I've enjoyed how varied it has been as we have worked on a diverse range of live TV genres and it has helped me to work out what my interests are and to develop different strategies for working on different shows.“

What are you hoping to do when you graduate? 

Emily (Vision Mixing student): “I'm hoping to find work as a Vision Mixer at a UK broadcaster.”

Henry (Camera student): “After I graduate, I’m hoping to go into studio camerawork (initially as an assistant). Whilst the course teaches us the skills to work in both studio, outside broadcast and location camerawork, studio work is my favourite due to the wide range of programming you get to work on - from music, to cookery, to news, and everything in-between.”

Laura (Camera student): “Upon graduating I'll most likely be entering the freelance world where I'll be looking to focus my work around on location PSC/OB shoots, whilst also hopefully getting involved with as many studio shoots as I can.” 

If you would like to follow in our students’ footsteps, apply for the Cameras, Sound and Vision Mixing Diploma by the 23rd november to start in January – www.nfts.co.uk/camerassound&visionmixing

Hollywood Reporter Names NFTS Top International Film School

NFTS Only UK Film School to be Included

The Hollywood Reporter has once again named the National Film and Television School (NFTS) as one of the world’s top film schools. This is the seventh consecutive year the School has been featured in the list of the top 15 international film schools and once again, the NFTS is the only UK film school to be included.

The highly respected digital and print publication, which was established in 1930 and focuses on the film television, and entertainment industries, says the following:

“THR’s overseas correspondents – in London, Hong Kong, Sydney and elsewhere – give the scoop on where to learn filmmaking in a foreign land.” The article continues to highlight the opening of state-of-the-art facilities at the NFTS: “National Film and Television School, Nick Park and Roger Deakins’ old school – in Beaconsfield, England - is undergoing a $26 million expansion.”

Jon Wardle, NFTS Director says: “We are thrilled that The Hollywood Reporter has once again recognised the NFTS as one of the world’s leading film schools. 2017 has been an incredible year so far: We have opened state-of-the-art new facilities, welcomed the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Sally Wainwright and Roger Deakins to deliver masterclasses and our students have once again done us proud winning a number of high profile awards including the Short Animation BAFTA for the fourth year in a row.”

Read the full article here.

For more information, please visit www.nfts.co.uk

NFTS TV Entertainment Project Selected for New York Television Festival

‘Against All Odds’ Created by Lucy Smith and Jamie Minty

National Film and Television School graduation TV Entertainment project, Against All Odds, created by Lucy Smith and Jamie Minty, is the only UK project to be selected for the New York Television Festival’s (NYTVF) flagship Independent Pilot Competition (IPC).

The NYTVF, which takes place in New York City on October 23rd-28th, is dedicated to identifying and nurturing top independent creative talent and connecting it with networks, studios, digital media companies, agencies, and brands. Against All Odds, which is selected in the unscripted category, is the only UK project out of the 52 digital and TV pilots chosen; only three of the selections originate from countries outside North America.

About Against All Odds [World Festival Premiere]

In Against All Odds, five ordinary strangers each choose one of five locked bags – four contain blank paper, one contains £100,000 in cash. Over three days the team must carry their bags on an epic journey across some of the UK’s toughest natural landscapes for the chance to split the money at the finish line. Who will have the grit to make it to the end? Who will be broken by the unforgiving forces of nature? And will the contestant carrying the money even cross the finish line?

The Team:

Producer, Lucy Smith; Director, Jamie Minty; Camera, Mostyn Maltpress, Matt Murnaghan, Julie Rocque; Production Co-ordinator, Sophie Halton; Location Sound, Hosea Ntaborwa, Nick Olorenshaw, Rory Rea; Composer, Louis Dodd; Dubbing Mixer, Mark Bailey; Sound Editor, Sam Boulton; Graphics, Kelvin Chim; Colourist & Online Editor, David Sheldon.

For more information on the NFTS Directing and Producing Television Entertainment MA and to apply for a January 2018 start, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/tvent

Creative Digital Producing Students Work with VR at Sky

“It’s such a new medium that it’s a fairly unique thing for students to say that they’ve experienced working on VR and 360 video projects.”

(NFTS Creative Digital Producing students, Oredola Agunbiade and Tara Jasminaz)

Students on the NFTS Creative Producing for Digital Platforms Diploma, which is delivered in partnership with Sky, are spending four weeks working in the Digital Content Production team at Sky as part of the course. We met with some of the students on placement – Tara Jasminaz and Oredola Agunbiade - and Production Manager, Sky VR, Marc Lamb to find out more:


Marc: “The Sky VR Production team at Sky create complimentary VR experiences based on original Sky programming within entertainment, sport, news, drama and comedy genres. Content ranges from 360 video production to fully interactive and immersive experiences. It’s great to have a fresh perspective from the students who aren’t constrained by any previous knowledge of the technology. It’s also a great experience for them as they get the opportunity to make contacts within the broadcast/VR industry and get involved with the end-to-end production. It’s such a new medium that it’s an exciting thing for students to say that they’ve experienced working on VR projects. The good thing about the NFTS placement is that each student comes wide a wide range of backgrounds so they tend to have a broad set of skills and experience which they get to utilise across the placement. We have a very high rate of employment with NFTS graduates from this course as well with William Samaha working in our team and Pav Janda working for Sky Sports.”

Oredola: “So far my work placement at Sky has been great, I have been given a good amount of work that’s helped to develop my thought process when it comes to creative thinking. Working at Sky is an amazing opportunity; since I’ve joined I’ve gained a lot of insight about the industry I’m going to work in when I graduate. I work in Sky Drama at the moment and it’s a really energetic and positive space to be in. The placement has influenced the kind of work I’d be interested in doing after graduating, which is creating immersive storytelling and digital interactivity in physical spaces”.

Tara: “Since starting my placement with the Sky VR team, I have already spent time shadowing both a 360 Creative and Technical Director, had a stitching session with the 360 Editor and talked through a current project with the Producer, Interactive Designer and the 3D Animator. This experience is hugely valuable as I prepare to enter the industry; I have built a good idea of the kinds of job roles involved and best practise work flows. On top of that, I have also been set a creative virtual reality brief, which I am having a lot of fun with while having access to any support I need. The working environment at Sky is really diverse and positive; I know I would like to work in a company like this with the right infrastructure to nourish young talent who work alongside experienced professionals.”

Applications are open for the Creative Producing for Digital Platforms Diploma, which is delivered in partnership with Sky, until the 23rd November and the course starts in January 2018 – more information on how to apply at www.nfts.co.uk/creativeproducing



NFTS Grad Film Finalist in Student Academy Awards!

Sweet Maddie Stone Directed by Brady Hood

NFTS graduation film, Sweet Maddie Stone, directed by Brady Hood, is a finalist in the narrative (International film schools) category of this year’s Student Academy Awards. NFTS students are a regular feature in these prestigious awards, having won an impressive six Student Academy Awards. The awards presentation takes place on Thursday October 12th at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sweet Maddie Stone (Fiction): Directed and co-written by Brady Hood, produced by Jake Riley-Hunte and co-written by Jessica Jackson (full credits below):

Synopsis: 15-year-old Maddie Stone rules her school yard under the protection of her family name.  But after discovering her notorious father has been arrested, she has to make his bail money or lose the yard. The more Maddie fights, the more her world spirals out of control – and the closer she gets to becoming the man she’s trying to save.

Sweet Maddie Stone has won a number of awards including ‘British/ Irish Short Film of the Year’ at the London Critics Circle Film Awards. In response to the announcement, Director Brady Hood said "I'm overwhelmed, ecstatic and very humbled! This is a special moment which belongs to everyone who invested so much into this film. it even makes waking up to the warden (producer) of the prison we bunked in , playing "Black Skinhead" at 5am, all the more worth it. It's been an incredible journey and hopefully this opens doors for all those involved."

The Team: Cinematographer, Dan Atherton; Production Designer, Declan O’Brien; production Manager, Grace heath; Production Co-ordinator, Simone Tomasi; Production Assistant, Scott Eggleholfer; 3rd Assistant Director, Anna Bennett-Squire; Editor, Meredith Mantik; Production Sound Mixer, Richard Eastick Esq; Boom Operators, Simon Richert, Tom Osborn; Composer, Tim Morrish; Compositor, Victor Almela; Sound Editor & Re-recording Mixer, Payam Hosseinian; Online Editor & Colour Grader, Carl Thompson.


Marrying Docurealism with Award-Winning Feature Films

A Masterclass by Paul Greengrass

“Ultimately, you need to see what the film should be and go towards that with absolute conviction”

Four time BAFTA winning and Oscar nominated writer-director Paul Greengrass dropped in for a fascinating masterclass at the NFTS and regaled the students with tales of his journey from making hard-hitting documentary series for British investigative current affairs programme, World in Action, to award-winning feature films that bear his distinctive docurealistic style.

His acclaimed work includes United 93, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Bloody Sunday, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, Omagh and Captain Phillips.  His BAFTAs include an award for Outstanding Contribution to Television.

The session was hosted by NFTS Director, Nik Powell, who kicked things off by selecting a clip of Paul’s first feature film, Resurrected. Resurrected is the true story of a British soldier, Philip Williams (played by David Thewlis), who is presumed dead and left behind in the Falklands but is accused of desertion when he reappears seven weeks after the war ends.

(Nik Powell, former NFTS Director & Paul Greengrass)

According to Paul, “Granada, which made World in Action, gave me a great film education. The World in Action title was actually bought from (pioneering Scottish documentary maker), John Grierson and had its roots in documentary realism. I was taught to shoot like that.” Paul learnt from the likes of seasoned broadcaster, John Slater, who incidentally taught at the NFTS in the 1970s and is described in The Guardian’s Obituary report as ‘nurturing a generation’ while ‘retaining his radical roots.’ Paul said: “John was a complete maniac, but I loved him! I learned from him that the moving picture has its own life but if you allow it to spew everywhere, it has no form. Knowing how to engage with that paradox is the essence of filmmaking. You have to listen to where the film wants to go but also be the master of it. World In Action gave me a language. The challenge for me was staying with that aesthetic and building in a fictional camera. Even when I made Bourne, I tried to use that language through employing a ‘knowing’ and an ‘unknowing’ camera.”

While Paul was at Granada, he developed a desire to make movies and move into feature films. He came up with the idea for Resurrection and felt “it was a story that spoke to Britain at that time. When I met David Thewlis who stars in Resurrection, it was the first time I met an actor!” Paul said: “I was advised at the time to never treat actors like human marionettes. Your relationship with actors is the most important bond you have when making a film. When you make a film, you’re in a box. It doesn’t matter if it’s a student film or a big movie, there’s always a box or set of restrictions whether it’s resources, practicality, space or time. Everyone can solve certain problems but it’s the actor who is the one person in the equation that can solve all problems in a heartbeat.”

Paul gave an incredible example to illustrate this when he was shooting a scene in Captain Philips that just wouldn’t go right. “After shooting it every f****** way possible, we had a conversation with the captain of the ship, who advised that Tom Hanks’ character would have gone to the medics room after being rescued covered in blood. We used the ship’s actual medic in the scene who stepped in brilliantly despite being in awe of Tom Hanks. Something happened and you could feel the intensity as you were shooting it. Great actors are like water diviners, they know where the truth is!”

It took Paul a while to build the confidence to walk away from a project he knew wasn’t right. He said: “Ultimately, you need to see what the film should be and go towards that with absolute conviction and have an unwavering desire to control it. Nothing must deflect you from that. If you’re going to make films successfully, you have to develop an inner core that says, don’t f*** me around but you can’t develop that by starting off with f*** me arrogance. You need to listen and ask, what do you think? You won’t develop the character or muscles to make your point of view prevail if you don’t collaborate and work with people.”

After a clip of Bloody Sunday about the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" shootings in Derry, Northern Ireland, Nik asked Paul about the techniques he used such as fading to black in between shots. Paul explained: “I wanted to convey how events spiralled into each other like a macabre violent ballet. Bloody Sunday was cut beautifully by Clare Douglas; the fade to black gave it an energy and clarity and a sense of almost watching strobing images, creating a rhythm”.

Paul employed the same sense of docurealism when making United 93, which chronicles events on United Airlines Flight 93 when it was hijacked during the September 11 attacks. “We decided from the outset that we would shoot entirely in the aeroplane and so be bound by the physical space and real time experience. We had the camera on a bungee which gave a sense of tremendous fluidity married with realism in the confined space. It was an incredibly inspiring filmmaking experience. It felt like we were telling the truth about it.”  

If you would like to attend masterclasses like this one, applications are open for a range of MA and Diploma courses from our Digital Effects MA to our Diploma in Production Accounting – for the full list of courses starting in January 2018, click here.

3 NFTS Students & Grads ‘Ones to Watch’ at Edinburgh TV Festival

Apply for TV Entertainment & Factual Development Now!

We are extremely proud to announce that three NFTS students and graduates are finalists in this year’s Edinburgh International Television Festival Ones to Watch (OTW) talent scheme. NFTS Directing and Producing Television Entertainment graduate, Abigail Dankwa; Factual Development and Production Diploma graduate, Dershe Samaria; and current Factual Development and Production Diploma student, Chitsidzo Kurangwa have all been selected for the prestigious programme.

The OTW scheme, which was founded in 1994, is aimed at those who already have three or more years’ experience in TV and are looking to make the next big step in their career.

(L-R Abigail Dankwa Chitsidzo Kurangwa Dershe Samaria)

The OTW candidates will enjoy a series of exclusive workshops and masterclasses at the TV Festival, which takes place between the 23rd and 25th of August, led by prominent industry executives and creatives. In addition, they will be showcased to over 2000 delegates at the TV Festival, and will receive 12 months of mentoring from the best in the business.

Campbell Glennie, Director, Talent Schemes, Edinburgh International TV Festival, says: “We have long been committed to finding and nurturing the very best talent from across the country and a range of backgrounds. Every year, we are amazed by the standard of talent and this year has been no exception. The final 30 were selected based not only on their drive and enthusiasm, but also on their portfolio to date and their potential to go far in the TV industry.”

Applications are open now until the 7th September for the NFTS part-time Factual Development and Production Diploma, which is delivered in partnership with Discovery and starts in January – more information on how to apply at www.nfts.co.uk/factual There are also a few places remaining for our Directing and Producing Television Entertainment MA, which also starts in January – more information at www.nfts.co.uk/tvent