Our credits tell the story.

3 NFTS Grad Films Semi Finalists in Student Academy Awards!

Perched, Sweet Maddie Stone & Tête-à-Tête

An incredible three NFTS graduation films – Perched, Sweet Maddie Stone and Tête-à-Tête - have been selected from over 1500 films to reach the semi-final stage of the Student Academy Awards. The awards presentation takes place on Thursday October 12th at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Tête-à-Tête (animation): Directed, written and designed by Natasha Tonkin and produced by Rae Erlingsdóttir (full credits below).

Synopsis: A young woman visits her family. Over the weekend tensions flare, whilst technology provides an easy respite. As Kerri's gaze shifts from the screen, she discovers a deeper kind of connection.

Tête-à-Tête has also been selected for Annecy, Anima Mundi, International Animation Film Festival and Supertoon, and was shortlisted for the BAFTA International Student Film Awards.

The Team: Cinematographer, Donna Wade; Editor, Fiona Brands; Production Manager, Daniella Rice; Sound Designer & Re-recording Mixer, Sashko Potter Micevski; Compositor, Colourist and Online Editor, David Sheldon.

Perched (animation): Directed by Liam Harris and produced by Elina Litvinova (full credits below).

Synopsis: Hamish Fint, a crotchety old man used to a life of seclusion inside his submarine balanced precariously atop a mountain, struggles to maintain equilibrium when an unwelcome visiting seagull rocks his world.

Perched has won multiple awards including ‘Best Animation’ at London Indie Fest and the ‘GFA Jury Award’ at the US Hollywood Int’l Film Festival. 

The Team: Writers, Nathaniel Price, Eoin Patrick Doran; Cinematographer, Dan Atherton; Production Designer, Jan Gronczewski; Production Manager, Paul Smith; Editor, Sian Clarke; VFX Lead Compositor, Victor Almela; VG Lead Artist, Stevie Gill; Sound Editor & Re-recording Mixer, Payam Hosseinian; Composure, Victor Hugo Fumagalli; Online Editor & Colour Grader, Carl Thompson.

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.

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.

If you would like to follow in our filmmakers footsteps, applications are open for a range of MA and Diploma courses for a January 2018 start including an MA in Digital Effects, Television Entertainment and Production Technology - more information on how to apply here.

Sir Richard Branson Inspires NFTS Students at Masterclass

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"The lesson is to keep going until you get the lucky break, and then pile in there!" – Sir Richard Branson

In a sparkling encounter that ran for over an hour, legendary entrepreneur and Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson took questions and cracked jokes with scores of students from the NFTS in a transatlantic Q+A hosted by the school’s outgoing Director Nik Powell (assisted by head of Producing and head of Creative Business for Entrepreneurs and Executives, Chris Auty).

Speaking from Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands to students in the NFTS cinema on Wednesday, Branson offered practical support to some students and networking opportunities to others, whilst taking questions and sharing business and personal lessons reaching back to his days as a schoolboy. 

He personally complimented Nik Powell, his one-time business partner, on his remarkable achievements at the school, in a warm exchange.

Branson, who sold his cherished Virgin Records company for almost $1bn in the early ’90s in order to save his then-struggling Virgin Atlantic airline business, talked about personal and business lessons, old and new, that included:

Saying yes or no.
I always prefer to say yes to something new and exciting, even though I know it may not succeed… In fact one of my lessons is that failures and challenges can still be good for the brand — they can reinforce its quality and value. That’s certainly true in the UK — though perhaps less so in the USA…

Filmmaking and business
We made a classic film in 1984 — the film of Orwell’s classic novel ‘1984’. It was the same year as the start up of Virgin Atlantic. The film went THREE times over budget and we ended up in a very public wrangle with director [NFTS alumnus] Mike Radford. I wanted to include a music track from the Eurythmics — simply to save our investment — and it caused a fuss. We got there in the end.  But that over-run on costs nearly killed the whole Virgin business at a critical moment….

There are many, many more investors out there looking for new businesses today than when Nik and I started up. That’s all I can say.

Name and Brand
Imagine: I originally wanted to call Virgin ‘Slipped Disc Records’ . That could have been our brand. I’m not sure it would have worked for the airline business! 

Social issues and personal conscience
I’ve always been involved in social issues and I still am today: whether it’s about the death penalty or the treatment of drug addiction rather than its punishment….

Over 40 years ago, through my sister, I was asked to buy the London night-club HEAVEN, as someone who could pledge to keep it gay forever. I have always been vocal on gay rights. I did it. We finally handed it over in a management buy-out to the staff last year, at their request.

To-Do lists
I have always had them. Today they just tend to be a bit bigger. Top of list today: ‘how to fix rocket to top of jumbo jet for launch’..

When I was a kid at school I’d look at a blackboard and go blank. I ended up leaving school at 15. But it made me stronger:  it also made me a better delegator. I simplify everything. There can be no jargon. We have a rule in-house: if Richard understands it, anyone can.

Some sectors are not just competitive: the companies already there — Air B ’n’ B, Coke, Google — have VERY deep pockets. So if you are going up against them you'd better have something very UNIQUE and very CLEAR!

They come in many shapes and sizes and for different reasons. British Airways had an American partner and could have killed us. 
So we ended up in a terrific partnership with Delta. Who would have guessed?

Personal journey to success
We made the best of our lucky breaks. The lesson is to keep going UNTIL you get the lucky break, and then PILE IN there!!!!!

A company is just a group of people. Planes are planes. Look at what has happened on the transatlantic route in the last 20 years: most of the airlines have gone out of business. But we are still there. When we started I hoped that the spirit would still be there in the business 20 years later. It is, and we are still there. It’s all about people.

If you are have a great Creative Business idea, our Creative Business for Entrepreneurs and Executives MA could be for you. Apply now and start January 2018 - more info at www.nfts.co.uk/creativebusiness


Brand New Channel 4 Rose Building & 4K Sky Studios at the NFTS Unveiled

Apply for TV Entertainment, Digital Effects and Games MAs now!

Leading industry representatives from the film, television and games industries turned out in their droves to toast the opening of the £20 million  development of the School including the ‘Channel 4 Rose’ building (named after the  late Senior Commissioning Editor for Fiction at Channel 4, David Rose) and ‘Sky Studios at the NFTS’, a brand new 4K digital content training studio and hub.

The ‘Channel 4 Rose’ building houses our cutting-edge facilities for the Digital Effects MA and Games Design & Development MA. ‘Sky Studios at the NFTS’ is home to our new 4k television studio, which will predominantly benefit our Directing and Producing Television Entertainment MA. The NFTS is the only UK film school to have its own TV studio built to this standard. (If you would like to study in this state-of-the-art environment with Industry standard equipment, than apply now for one of the last remaining places on these courses. More info at www.nfts.co.uk/tvent, www.nfts.co.uk/games and www.nfts.co.uk/dfx).

Lord David Puttnam was also announced as the School’s new Life President to replace the late Lord Richard Attenborough.

The Rt Hon Ed Vaizey MP, the long-serving former Minister of State for Digital and Culture at the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), unveiled the new buildings alongside Channel 4 Chief Executive, David Abraham; Gary Davey, Managing Director, Content at Sky and NFTS Deputy Chairman, Stephen Louis.

Following the unveiling, guests were invited to go on a tour of the School and experience:

  • The new 4K multi-camera digital content training studio and hub, guided by Head of Television, David G Croft
  • Cinematography and Design departments, led by Co-Head of Cinematography, Stuart Harris and Head of Production Design, Caroline Amies
  • A glimpse into the worlds of animation and model making,  led by Head of Animation, Robert Bradbrook
  • An experience of VR and 360 video, led by Head of Games, Alan Thorn and Head of Digital Effects, John Rowe.

Guests were then treated to champagne and canapes while chatting to staff and alumni.


NFTS Games Students Win UKIE Game Jam

Apply for Games Design MA now!

(NFTS Game Jam Winning Team. From left to right: Shuaiying 'Shane' Hou, Daisy Fernandez, Michael Murray, Joel Marshall)

NFTS Games Design and Development MA students have won ‘Best Game’ at the highly competitive Ukie Student Game Jam organised by UK Interactive Entertainment, the only trade body for the UK's games and interactive entertainment industry. (If you want to be part of our exciting Games department, apply now and start in January 2018! More info at www.nfts.co.uk/games)

The Game Jam saw teams from Ukie Student institutes competing against each other to create the best game in 48 hours and win the coveted Ukie Student Game Jam trophy. The theme of the game jam was announced at 9:30am on the first day and then teams had 48 hours to brainstorm, design and complete their game. A panel of games industry judges awarded the trophy to ‘My Body, My Choice’ developed by NFTS students including Michael Murray, Shane Hou, Gracie Drake, Daisy Fernandez and Joel Marshall.

About ‘My Body, My Choice’

My Body, My Choice is a good-humoured side-scrolling platform game. The player takes on the role of a disembodied skull, collects body parts as they go, navigates the environment and builds a body.

Head of NFTS Games, Alan Thorn says: “I am thrilled that NFTS Games Students have won the UKIE Game Jam ‘Best Game’ Award with their game ‘My Body, My Choice’. The UKIE Game Jam is a highly prestigious event for students throughout the UK, and the games industry more widely, for showcasing talent and excellence. There is a lot of skilful, friendly competition involved, and this award reflects the great work our students do as well as the creative climate running throughout the NFTS. By coming on our games course, students immerse themselves in a multidisciplinary environment, work with students from other departments, attend key industry events, and receive extensive guidance and support from industry expert tutors.”

Playthrough here

Apply now for the NFTS Games Design and Development MA – www.nfts.co.uk/games


NFTS Sweep the Board at RTS Student Television Awards!

Apply for TV Entertainment MA now

(Marika Santala, Director, The Love Gym with her RTS Student Award)

NFTS students have once again done us proud winning no fewer than seven RTS Student Television Awards! Prizes were won in Comedy & Entertainment; Drama; Factual; Camerawork; Editing; Production Design and Sound. There were an incredible 20 NFTS nominations overall. (If you would like to follow in our winners’ footsteps, apply now for MA’s in Directing & Producing Television Entertainment; Directing Animation and Production Design.)

The ceremony took place on Friday 16th of June at the BFI Southbank in London and was chaired by Philip Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and hosted by the very funny, writer, presenter and comedian, Katherine Ryan.

The awards recognise the best audiovisual work created by students across the UK and Republic of Ireland at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Awards are judged in Animation, Comedy & Entertainment, Drama, Factual, News and Short Feature. Excellence is also rewarded in craft skills for camerawork, editing, production design and sound.

The winners:

Postgraduate Comedy & Entertainment

The Love Gym, Raphael Beaulieu (Producer) and Marika Santala (Director)

 “A great concept, brilliantly executed. Being character led rather than overtly scripted meant the right balance of charm, naughtiness and naturalism. The jury wanted to watch more!”

Postgraduate Drama

Ferris & The Fancy Pigeon, James Gardner (Director/ Writer) and Helene Sifre (Producer)

“An uplifting, heart-warming coming of age comedy; mixing grounded, kitchen-sink style drama with heightened moments and flights of fancy.”

Postgraduate Factual

Uprooted, Ross Domoney (Director/ Producer/ Cinematographer)

 “A beautifully crafted film that demonstrated a real understanding of how personal stories, powerfully told, can be used to shine a light on a wider political issue.”

Postgraduate Craft Skills - Camerawork

Krzysztof Trojnar, Mia

“The jury admired the beauty of composition and how every shot seemed to have been carefully considered.”

Postgraduate Craft Skills - Editing

Dennis Mabry, The Sunflower Inn

“With no resorting to voiceover, the edit managed to deliver great clarity of storytelling and hugely contributed to the joy and warmth of the film.”

Postgraduate Craft Skills - Production Design

Joelle Aoun, Mia

“The production design was quietly effective in creating a distinct and clear vision for the film and was integral to its success.”

Postgraduate Craft Skills - Sound

Eleanor Nicholls, Mia

“Sound was used very effectively in bringing to life the world of the film. Bold choices such as the use of silence at times were greatly admired by the jury.”

More information on how to apply for MA’s in Directing & Producing Television Entertainment; Directing Animation and Production Design at https://www.nfts.co.uk/sign-me-up/deadlines

NFTS Games Promotes Innovation and Storytelling

Apply by 6th July!

“Anybody with strong ideas, talent and industry exposure can make successful games”

Alan Thorn, NFTS Head of Games explains why our Games Design and Development MA can help you stand out from the crowd and get a step ahead of the competition. If this sounds like you, apply by 6th July – more information on how to apply here:

The games industry is an exciting landscape. It’s constantly challenging developers to innovate and captivate in order to be successful. With the democratization of games development, more people than ever may now download software and tools completely free of charge, and then invest their time making fun games. But in this climate of openness, the competition in the marketplace is undoubtedly fierce, and so other types of skills and knowledge are needed to stand apart from the crowd. Developers must work cleverly to let their creativity flourish. This is why our games course at the National Film and Television School is especially unique and important.

At NFTS games we realize that you don’t necessarily need a background or a degree in games to make great games. People from all walks of life and all backgrounds can be successful games developers, and indeed they can move beyond traditional gaming to challenge the very meaning of games themselves. This is part of the beauty of the games industry and our games course. This variety of perspectives is critically important for innovation. With determination, talent, and great ideas our course can help you develop story-telling skills, technical skills, and the necessary industry connections that elevate your work to excellence and recognition. Specifically, our games course teaches you the art and craft of game-making from all major perspectives, alongside related skills like story-telling and producing, and it helps develop your industry profile through connections, events and portfolio development. Let’s take a look further at what makes our ground-breaking MA so special.

Portfolio Approach

NFTS Games is a two-year flagship MA course that’s highly regarded for its unique approach. We welcome rising stars and strong talent onto the course, even if they have no prior game development skills! It doesn’t matter if you haven’t programmed before or created 3D art and animations. Our course is taught by leading industry practitioners with many years industry experience who are committed to helping you establish a varied skillset. The first year of the course consists of five intensive modules, each of which results in a complete, playable game specifically intended to build you a career portfolio showcasing your talent. You’ll learn programming, life-drawing, 3D-modelling, texture creation, story-telling, game production and many more industry-relevant skills. This portfolio will be critical to employability, demonstrating what you can do while working in a highly collaborative studio setting.

(Game: ReTreat; Developer: Jonathan Nielssen; Module: Moments of Consequence)

Innovation Focus - Storytelling and Mechanics

Our course aims to make you an industry leader and a pioneer. Someone who assertively challenges established norms and tries new ideas. Right now, the games industry is still dominated by a traditional diet of big guns, glorified violence, hyper-sexualized women and blood-soaked zombies. But games can be so much more than this if we let them. Games can make us laugh and cry, can bring us together and make us think, and most of all they can inspire us to become better people both inside and outside of virtual worlds. We recognize the value of strong story-telling skills, coupled with innovation in gameplay, to help you make compelling games that stand apart from the mainstream shooters. Our modules are designed to engage you with philosophical, cultural and contemporary themes, and to help you explore new directions for gaming experiences.

(Game Name: Sprinkle Palooza; Developer: Benita Kvinlaug; Module: Final Year Project)

Collaborative Workflow

Nobody is alone on the games course! The games department is an energetic hub of creativity and sociability within the school. It inevitably attracts connections across all departments. Although curriculum hours are normally between 10am-5pm on weekdays, students nevertheless get access to the games labs and equipment 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week! That’s simply incredible! In this studio environment, connections and networking naturally happens. Our students get access to high-talent from other departments within the school, including screen-writing, cinematography, digital FX, sound design and composing, production management, marketing and creative business, and many more. For this reason, nearly every game made at the NFTS is the result of a collaborative process guided by the game student’s central creative vision; a process in which many skills and experiences have been brought together to form a high quality experience. In short, NFTS Games is a great place to work if you want to work with talented people!

(NFTS Games and Digital Effects Departments at FMX)

Industry Connectedness

Our games course is tightly integrated into the games industry in many ways, and our graduates quickly achieve success and recognition for their work. Our modules are taught by passionate and experienced industry professionals who are masters of their craft. And they continue to maintain industry links and careers outside the school too. In addition, guest speakers from across the creative industries, including games and film and television, regularly visit the school to deliver inspirational talks and masterclasses, and to visit students to discuss their work. We are also committed to taking student talent directly into the industry, and so our students attend and exhibit their work at high-profile industry events, like EGX.

Apply now! More information at www.nfts.co.uk/games


NFTS Grad Nick Park Remembers Peter Sallis’ ‘generosity of spirit to help out a poor film school student’

Wallace & Gromit Voice Actor Passes Away

(Peter Sallis with Nick Park)

NFTS graduate and Wallace & Gromit creator, Nick Park has paid tribute to actor, Peter Sallis who has passed away aged 96 and was the voice of the much loved Wallace.

Nick created the famous stop motion animation while at the NFTS and recalled Peter’s “generosity of spirit to help out a poor film school student back in the early 1980’s, when we first recorded together, when neither of us had any idea what Wallace & Gromit might become”. 

Peter provided the voice for Wallace on Nick’s NFTS graduation film, A Grand Day Out, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1989. Peter continued to voice Wallace for 15 years over various feature, short and video game iterations including Nick’s Oscar winning animations, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

(Still from A Grand Day Out)

Nick reflected how Peter’s “unique, charming quality, together with oversized vowels and endearing performance” helped him fashion Wallace from the beginning. “The way he first said “We’ve forgotten the Crackers Gromit” and “Cracking toast Gromit” or just “Cheeeese!” soon lead to Wallace’s enormous ‘coat-hanger mouth’”.

“I’m so sad, but feel so grateful and privileged to have known and worked with Peter over so many years. He was always my first and only choice for Wallace. I knew him of course from the very popular long running BBC series Last of the Summer Wine. He brought his unique gift and humour to all that he did, and encapsulated the very British art of the droll and understated.

“Working with Peter was always a delight and I will miss his wry, unpredictable humour and silliness – that started the moment he greeted you at the door, and didn’t stop when the mic was switched off. He had naturally funny bones and was a great storyteller and raconteur off stage too and would keep us amused for hours. He could make the simplest incident sound hilarious – just by the way he said it.

 “They don’t come along very often like Peter Sallis – he was a unique character, on and off screen, and an absolute honour to have known him.”

The NFTS continues to work with Aardman Animations (the production studios behind Wallace & Gromit) and inspire new generations of animators through its animation courses including:

Certificate in Character Animation in partnership with Aardman (apply by 8th June)

Model Making for Animation Diploma in partnership with Aardman and Mackinnon and Saunders (apply by 6th July)

Directing Animation MA (apply by 6th July)


Students Enjoy Q&A of a Lifetime with Sir David Attenborough

"You are the future. It's up to you to change things about the way you look at the natural world, using formats I haven't dreamed about."

Whilst many may dream of following in Sir David Attenborough’s footsteps, not many get the chance to spend two hours in the iconic Natural History presenter’s presence and fewer get the opportunity to get their individual questions answered in person.

This is the privilege the National Film and Television School’s inaugural intake of Directing and Producing Science and Natural History students enjoyed, each getting the chance to put three questions to David. (Applications are open now for the NFTS Directing and Producing Science and Natural History MA - more information at www.nfts.co.uk/naturalhistory)

David drew us all in from the outset as he informed the students how audiences are usually built for programmes and introduced the concept of the ‘inheritance factor’ when at least 50% of the audience is inherited from the previous programme.  This certainly applied in the days when there were only a three TV networks – and probably still does to a considerable extent.  He gave the example of Planet Earth II being followed by the hugely popular Great British Bake Off, - although he was quick to point out he didn’t watch cookery programmes himself!

He put his popularity down to the fact that he had been appearing in natural history programmes for as long as most viewers could remember.

On how he writes narrations, David said: “When I happen to see a programme that I narrated a long time ago I almost invariably feel that there were too many words!  A commentary should not blather but let the pictures tell their story.  It should never give information that viewers can see for themselves.

The attributes that make a good presenter are a lot more difficult to pin down according to David. “It’s very difficult to know who will capture the interest of the audience. Hollywood had the phrase, ‘does the camera love him or her?’   One person can be magic on screen while another can be boring for no obvious reason. There’s no correlation between zoological knowledge and being a good natural history presenter. If you can’t mug up on the subject, you shouldn’t be in the business. You’ve got to have a feeling for animals of course and have the ability to speak from the heart. What’s so unfair is that so few get the chance to demonstrate their talent and many get into it by accident, as I did.”

(Still from BBC's Planet Earth II)

David was vociferous when asked if Blue Chip natural history programmes have a future when there are so many wildlife programmes: “Of course they do. The familiarity of a species is seldom a huge problem.  We know that people love looking at apes. It doesn’t matter how often they see them, apes will always be fascinating. And if you can’t make a decent film about big game, you’re in the wrong business.  But the programmes have to be well filmed – and that can take a lot of money.  If natural history films are given the proper budgets, I am sure they will hold their place!”

The conversation then turned to the prehistoric as David was asked to choose which prehistoric place and period he would like to visit and what he would make a film about. “It would most certainly be terrestrial and probably Triassic. Surprisingly little has been done on pterosaurs.  We still don’t know how some of the really big ones flew.” David then regaled us with a charming story about telling a lady at a black tie event how he was making a film about pterodactyls gliding over the cliffs of Dorset, to which she replied, ‘Oh they are so lovely aren’t they!’ and turned away.

(Still from Flying Monsters 3D)

The narrative then swiftly moved to politics and whether David has ever been tempted to join a political party, given his considerable influence and respect. “I would like to influence no matter what political party is in power. I’m not a politician. What astonishes me is that politicians are expected to know the answer to everything! Don’t ask me about the economic effects of Brexit! I don’t know! But I do have strong views about CO2 and feel confident speaking about it to whatever party is in power.”

Technology was the next subject covered thanks to a question about whether new filming techniques affected the way audiences view nature. “I don’t think any filmic tricks have changed the audience’s attitudes.  I hope they have instead deepened their knowledge and broadened their understanding. Not so long ago, we could only film during the day so people thought that lions were lazy creatures since they sleep for much of the day.  But of course, at night they are very active hunters.  The more technically competent we become, through using high-speed cameras, drones and night vision and so on, the fuller the story we give. The aim of the natural history programme maker is to tell the truth about the natural world and convey the reality about what is going on out there.”

Continuing the theme of truth, one of the students asked whether there is a place for anthropomorphism (crediting animals with human emotions). “A certain amount is justified.  We inevitably judge what an animal is feeling by comparing it with our own reactions.  If an elephant flares its ears, trumpets and charges towards you, you can be pretty sure that it is angry - even though anger is a human emotion and you are, therefore, being anthropomorphic.  On the other hand, if you watch an elephant pick up an elephant bone that it finds lying on the ground and fondles it with its trunk, you cannot be equally sure that it is mourning over a dead relative.  So if you say that it is, you should make it clear that this in only a suggestion.”

(Still from Frozen Planet)

“You should not conceal the way things are filmed, but you need not necessarily declare it. The classic case was in Frozen Planet. We filmed a polar bear giving birth and in the credits, we credited the zoo where it was filmed.  A journalist noticed this and accused us of fakery because we did not say so in the commentary.  The midwinter birth is a crucial event in polar bear biology. It would have been impossible to film in the wild without risking the life of the cub, the mother – or indeed the cameraman.  But it would have been absurd and defeated the purpose of the film to convey the reality of the Arctic winter to interrupt and say ‘by the way this scene was shot in captivity’.  We were not shooting a documentary about the experiences of an arctic explorer.  We were trying to convey the reality of a polar bear’s life – and we can therefore use background music, or cut together shots of different individual animals or different localities to do that.  The question simply is whether or not the filmmaker is trying to tell the truth.

On how to inject emotion into a film with a hard-hitting conservation message, David advised that “you have to start by producing a rational argument using cold, clinical facts.  Pleading a cause without a rational basis is dangerous.  Nor do you necessarily have to provide answers to issues.  Broadcasting on a national network is a huge privilege only given to few.  It should not indulge in propaganda, no matter how high-minded the issue.  Instead, it should strive to present both sides of an issue with such force that it cannot be ignored.

Most useful secondary skills for wildlife filmmakers was up next and David had plenty of intriguing stories to tell. “I’ve always said if I get into trouble in the bush, the person I want to have as a companion is a wildlife cameraman.  They are the most resourceful people, and skilled at everything from sweet talking customs officials to cooking! They have extraordinary mechanical abilities. For example when we were in the Galapagos shooting in 3D, a tiny lead broke.  We didn’t have a micro-soldering iron to fix it. The cameraman solved the problem using a hypodermic syringe from the medical kit – the tiny point of the syringe was used to make the connection. Their ability to improvise is really extraordinary! A recordist once even used a hollow plant stem to inject petrol!”

A question followed about whether future generations will lose touch with wildlife and how to combat this. “The industrial revolution led to great numbers of people losing contact with the countryside. There are great advantages and pleasures in living in cities. I live in London by choice. I love the theatre, museums, and have a wide range of friends.  But I’m aware that if I didn’t get away, I’d lose touch with the natural world which I also treasure. TV is very important in maintaining a link to the natural world. So people now can be more knowledgeable than they have ever been about the nature world-wide.  And that is of great importance when the natural world is facing such grave threats”.

(Still from Hummingbirds: Jewelled Messengers, narrated by David and produced and directed by NFTS Head of Natural History, Paul Reddish. Credit Mike Potts.)

On which of his trips he had enjoyed most, Sir David chose a trip back in 1956 to get the first ever television coverage of Komodo Dragons – “it took two months to get to Java.  No one there even knew about them!” He then reminded NFTS Head of Natural History, Paul Reddish about their own ‘unforgettable journeys’ together to film birds of paradise: “Paul and I had good times!”

And on which three people he’d like to have dinner with, David chose Darwin; marine biologist, William Beebe, and Canadian author and naturalist, Ernest Thompson Seton whose books caused David to ‘weep buckets’ in his childhood and was a ‘huge influence on me!’

(Charles Darwin)

David had plenty of good advice for young filmmakers and on what it takes to succeed: “One thing you want is dedication and the ability to take the rough with the smooth. Persistence and being serious about what you are doing is key.” And the best way to convince potential employers that you deserve a chance is to make a 10 minute film to show what you can do.

David left the students to ponder the role they could have in the future of wildlife filmmaking and how they can make a difference:

“You are the future. It’s up to you to change things about the way we look at the natural world and exploit formats, styles and means of transmission to find audiences that I haven’t even dreamed about.” 

For more information about the NFTS Directing and Producing Science and Natural History MA, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/naturalhistory

3 NFTS Films Selected for Sheffield Doc Fest

Over 40 NFTS Students & Grads Credited including ‘one of the most influential documentary makers of our time’, Nick Broomfield

Three NFTS graduation documentary films have been selected and over 40 NFTS students and graduates are credited at this year’s Sheffield Doc/ Fest, the UK’s premier documentary festival, which takes place between the 9th and 14th June.

NFTS Directing documentary graduate, Nick Broomfield, described on the Sheffield Doc/ Fest website as ‘one of the most influential documentary makers of our time’ is being interviewed by Louis Theroux for The BBC Interview on Sunday 11th June at 3.30pm – tickets here. Nick’s latest acclaimed documentary about Whitney Houston, Whitney, “Can I Be Me” is being screened at the festival.

(Still: Whitney, "Can I Be Me")

The three NFTS graduation films include: Pride in Rags, directed by Tom Whitaker; Professional Foreigner, directed by Catherine Harte and Unspeakable, directed by Kate Stonehill.

About Pride in Rags: 

Dewsbury is a town with a 19th century heritage and a 21st century population, and recent events have brought unwanted attention to this small corner of Yorkshire. From suicide bombers to the case of a mother who faked the kidnapping of her own child, the area is regularly trashed by the national media, leaving its reputation in tatters. Danny Lockwood is the local Rupert Murdoch, a controversial newspaper publisher and author of ‘The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury’. Pride In Rags looks at Dewsbury through Lockwood’s readers and critics, in a town where the pride went with the woollen industry and racial tensions bubble under the surface...

Tom Whitaker says: “I am delighted that Pride In Rags will be premiering at Sheffield Doc/Fest. I was fortunate to work with a really talented crew at the NFTS and am looking forward to discussing the film with an audience in Yorkshire.”

Pride In Rags is screening on Wednesday June 14th at 3.15pm – book tickets here.

Tom is speaking on the panel, ‘What Does Brexit Look Like?’ at the festival discussing the impact of Brexit on documentary making in Britain – you can see him at 10am on Tuesday 13th June.

About Professional Foreigner

This character-driven documentary explores the bizarre job opportunities available to white people in India. Talent is not essential — just the presence of a white face supposedly adds glamour to a movie or event. Following casting agents and foreigners, this documentary explores race and stereotypes while illuminating a world where Europeans migrate East for work. The story centres around Sasha, who left Russia with his mother and sister in the hope of making it as an actor. He needs to support his household so when acting gigs run dry, he is forced to reassess his easy but limited prospects in India.

Catherine Harte says: "I volunteered at Sheffield Doc Fest in 2011 and that's where I first heard about NFTS. It's so nice to look back over the years since then and to finally have a film to show there!"

Professional Foreigner is screening on Friday June 9th at 3pm – book tickets here.

About Unspeakable:

In 2015, the British government issued a press release calling for universities to do more to tackle extremism. The document identified six men as examples of ‘radical’ speakers who have expressed views that are ‘contrary to British values’ and who should therefore be silenced. Unspeakable is a hybrid documentary that combines interview, performance and image to tell the stories of three of these men. The result a complex and gripping encounter with some of Britain’s so-called extremists and a rigorous meditation on the nature of free speech.

Kate Stonehill says: “My motivation for making this film was to ask some hard questions in a creative way, and instigate a conversation around what I thought was a deeply troubling UK government policy. I'm thrilled to premiere the film at Sheffield Doc/Fest, which I hope will provide a perfect space for a discussion of the complex grey area between freedom of speech and incitement to hatred that is the subject of the film.”

Unspeakable is screening on Tuesday June 13th at 6.15pm and Wednesday June 14th at 3.15pm – book tickets here.

Other NFTS graduates credited include:

(Still: Almost Heaven)

Almost Heaven (Director/Producer, Carol Salter; Associate Producer/Editor, Cinzia Baldessari; Composer, Terence Dunn; Editors, Hoping Chen & Rodrigo Saquel; Sound Designer, Raoul Brand; Additional Sound, Ania Przygoda & Rob Szeliga

69 Minutes of 86 Days (Producer, Tone Grøttjord-Glenne)

Carnage: Swallowing the Past (Sound Assistant, Nina Rice)

The Dread Pirate Roberts (Director, Emily James)

The Flying Proletarian (DoP, Annika Summerson; Re-recording Mixer/Sound Designer, Philippe Ciompi)

Out of Thin Air (Editor Miikka Leskinen; Sound Editor, Christopher Wilson)

Thank You for the Rain (Editor, Adam Thomas; Composer, Chris White)

Whitney: Can I Be Me (Writer/Producer/Co-Director, Nick Broomfield; Cinematographer, Sam Mitchell)

The Workers Cup (Producer, R Paul Miller)

If you are an aspiring documentary maker, find out more about our Directing Documentary MA at www.nfts.co.uk/documentary


NFTS Alumna Lynne Ramsay Wins 2 Awards at Cannes!

Best Screenplay & Best Actor‎ for Joaquin Phoenix
BAFTA-winning NFTS alumna, Lynne Ramsay, was the talk of the town at Cannes this year with her film, You Were Never Really Here, receiving critical acclaim across the board. The film was awarded ‘Best Screenplay’ (shared with The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and the ‘Best Actor’ accolade went to its star, Joaquin Phoenix. Further NFTS involvement came from Cinematography MA graduate, Thomas Townend who worked as DoP on You Were Never Really Here.
(Still from You Were Never Really Here)
The Telegraph gave You Were Never Really Here a five star review, describing it as ‘an experience fully capable of blowing you away’ while Variety stated: ‘Lynne Ramsay makes a stunning return with this stark, psychologically raddled hitman thriller, led by a quietly furious Joaquin Phoenix’. 
This is Lynne’s second nomination for the Palme D’Or with her best known film, We Need to Talk About Kevin also receiving a nomination in 2011. She hails from Scotland where she studied photography in Edinburgh before coming to the NFTS to enrol on the Cinematography MA in 1992. She won BAFTAs for her short film, Swimmer in 2012 and for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ for Ratcatcher in 2000.
(Still from Ratcatcher)
We Need to Talk About Kevin star, Tilda Swinton, couldn’t have summed it up better when she said in a recent interview that Lynne is “one of those rare directors who creates the kind of films that just would not be there if she didn’t make them.”
(Still from We Need to Talk About Kevin)
All in all, this was a fantastic Cannes for NFTS students and graduates. NFTS students enjoyed their sixth consecutive Cinéfondation short film selection at the festival with Wild Horses, directed and written by Rory Alexander Stewart and produced by Rebecca Smith and A Drowning Man, directed and produced by Directing Fiction graduate Mahdi Fleifel and edited by NFTS alumnus, Michael Aaglund was one of just nine films selected from 4,843 submissions to compete for the Short Film Palme d’Or.