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.
 

 

NFTS Natural History Students Learn How to Film Wild Birds at RSPB Sandwell

NFTS Directing and Producing Science and Natural History MA students recently experienced filming wild birds at an RSPB Reserve in Sandwell Valley from putting up hides to using telephoto lenses.

The MA is delivered in partnership with the RSPB and includes a Scholarship to support a student through their course. The RSPB is working closely with the NFTS to inspire a new generation of filmmaking talent equipped to create engaging and innovative content that champions the charity’s conservation cause  by reaching new audiences through new and impactful visual communications. 

The students spent a long and productive day at the Sandwell Valley Reserve. It started with a talk on the ethics of wildlife film-making by conservation filmmaker, Madelaine Westwood, which stimulated a fascinating discussion. The students then practiced their recce skills working out where would be best to film the wild birds on the reserve.

After lunch, wildlife cameraman, Toby Hough gave a talk on telephoto camera work and the use of hides. There were plenty of questions from the students about this essential skill, not least what do you do in the little canvas box for 12 hours at a time?!  Appropriately the day finished with all the students learning the arcane skill of putting up hides.

On the second visit, the students returned to film from the hides and found out for themselves what it’s like to film wild animals from the little green box. They used 400mm telephoto lenses with 1.5 teleconverters which allowed them to get great close-ups of the ducks, geese and lapwings, and even some of the more shy denizens of the reed beds.

NFTS Directing and Producing Science and Natural History MA course leader and experienced producer of wildlife documentaries and series, Paul Reddish said: “We would like to thank the RSPB for providing such an invaluable opportunity for our students to learn how to film for real at the reserve. They have all really enjoyed the experience and are inspired to learn more.”

If you are an aspiring wildlife filmmaker, sign up for the course open day on the 23rd April 2018 at www.nfts.co.uk/naturalhistory

 

Remembering Sir Roger Moore & His NFTS Links

From Ivanhoe to Supporting the School

We were incredibly sad to hear of the legendary Sir Roger Moore’s passing, especially since he had so many connections to our School. Not only did he shoot 1950s British TV Series, Ivanhoe, at Beaconsfield Film Studios (where the NFTS is now sited), he also very kindly supported the School with a contribution towards the building of our ‘Yellow Block’, which currently houses the Cinematography base and engineering.

The longest reigning 007, Sir Roger also donated two reels – the trailers for Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only and even recommended the NFTS on his Facebook page when asked: ‘Is film school worth my money and time?’ His reply? ‘Yes, most definitely – so long as it’s a good film school. You’ll learn all the important basics and techniques there and it will really help launch you. Just look how many Oscar nominations students from the National Film and Television School in the UK have snagged. Good luck.’

(Beaconsfield Film Studios in the 1920s)

Producer of the Bond films, Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli also made a contribution to the NFTS and EON Productions continue to be big supporters of the School with a gift for our new buildings and sponsorship of our new Director's workshop for directors from under-represented  ‎communities. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson of EON Productions said: “Sir Roger's legacy shall live on through his films and the millions of lives he touched".

As Daniel Craig tweeted, ‘Nobody does it better’ - rest in peace Roger.

4 NFTS Alumni Selected for BAFTA Elevate

Focus on female directors seeking to progress in high end television and features

An impressive four NFTS graduates have been selected for BAFTA’s prestigious new programme, BAFTA Elevate, a series of bespoke programmes that elevate individuals from under-represented groups to the next stage of their career.

Directing Fiction MA graduates, Alicia Duffy, Christiana Ebohon-Green, Emma Sullivan and Cathy Brady have been selected for this year’s programme, which is focussing on female directors seeking to progress in high end television and features.

The aim of the programme is to help to address the gap between 50/50% male/female film school graduates and 87/13% male/female industry directing hires and producers’ desire to hire female directors but saying that they are often hard to find. The programme includes networking introductions, mentoring and expert workshops.

The series of programmes are a result of research carried out in partnership with Creative Skillset and the BFI, to examine the career success factors of film, television and games practitioners from under-represented groups. 

Alice Duffy

Alicia Duffy is a BAFTA-nominated director. While at the NFTS, she directed two short films: Numb (2000) and Crow Stone (2001), both of which screened at numerous festivals internationally. Numb received a Special Commendation at the Edinburgh Film Festival and the Arri Prize, while Crow Stone was a prize-winner in the Cinefondation Competition in Cannes 2001 and received awards at festivals including Edinburgh, Chicago and Bologna, and was an RTS award-winner in the same year. In 2002, Duffy was selected for the Cannes Film Festival Cinefondation Residence in Paris, and later that year made the short film The Most Beautiful Man In The World, for which she received a BAFTA nomination in 2003. In the same year, the film was in the Official Selection at Cannes and won Best International Film at the Hamburg Short Film Festival, as well as receiving further awards at The Rhode Island Film Festival and Chicago Film Festival, and the Turner Classic Movies Short Film Prize. Alice Duffy’s first feature, All Good Children, screened internationally and was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival 2010. 

Christiana Ebohon-Green

Christiana Ebohon-Green is an award-winning drama director, who has worked in television for 15 years. Her credits include EastEnders, Doctors, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks. Ebohon-Green has also written and directed several short films, including St Clare (1997) and In Your Eye (1998), which won the Kodak Award USA 1998, and was screened at the Kodak Emerging Filmmaker’s Showcase at Cannes in 1999. In 2015, Ebohon-Green won a place on Directors UK's High-end Drama Mentoring scheme, and worked alongside director Carl Tibbits (Humans, Black Mirror) in the production of The Tunnel as part of the initiative. She was also a mentee on Women in Film & Television's 2015 mentoring scheme. Ebohon-Green recently received funding from Creative England under their Emerging Talent scheme to direct a short film, Some Sweet Oblivious Antidote (2017), starring Lenny Henry, Wunmi Mosaku, Colin Salmon, and Fatima Koroma, and to develop her first feature film.

Emma Sullivan

Emma Sullivan’s short film After Tomorrow (2009) was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, and won several awards worldwide including Best Short Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2009. That year, she was also named one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow. She was later mentored by director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) on the prestigious Guiding Lights scheme. Sullivan has also directed television drama for the BBC, with credits including The 4 O’Clock ClubHolby City and Doctors. She is currently developing a feature script set in New York, a high end drama series and has written several other features and shorts. Sullivan is a graduate of the National Film and Television School, where she was awarded a scholarship from the David Lean Foundation for her MA in Fiction Direction.

Cathy Brady

Cathy Brady is a two-time IFTA-winning director, having won Best Short in 2011 for her first film Small Change and again in 2013 for Morning, which was also selected for the BFI London Film Festival 2012 and won the Short Film Nominee prize for the European Film Awards at Cork Film Festival. In 2011, Brady directed the BIFA nominated short Rough Skin (written by Laura Lomas and starring Vicky McClure) as part of Channel 4's Coming Up scheme. Her short film, Wasted, competed at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2013. In the same year, Brady was named one of Screen Daily’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’. In 2014, Brady directed on the BAFTA-nominated drama-thriller series Glue. Most recently, Brady directed Stefanie Preissner's TV comedy series Can’t Cope/Won’t Cope for Dead Pan Pictures and RTE, which is currently showing on BBC Three. Her debut feature as writer-director, Wildfire, is currently in development, and will be produced by Carlo Cresto-Dina (The Wonders, Cannes Grand Jury Prize 2014) along with Cowboy Films.

More information at http://www.bafta.org/supporting-talent/elevate/elevate-female-directors-2017

Two Ivor Novello Awards for NFTS Graduates!

Best Original Film Score & Best TV Soundtrack

(L-R: Dario Marianelli; Martin Phipps & presenter, Goldie)

Two NFTS Composing MA graduates, Dario Marianelli and Martin Phipps won coveted Ivor Novello awards (The Ivors) last night, which took place at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London and were hosted by Paul Gambaccini. NFTS alumni now have an impressive 13 Ivor Novello awards between them! 

The Ivors were created by BASCA [British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors] to celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. The awards are unique in specifically honouring the UK songwriting and composing community and are exclusively judged by songwriters and composers.

Dario Marianelli won in the ‘Best Original Film Score’ category for Kubo and The Two Strings and has now received three Ivor Novello awards, previously winning for Atonement and Anna Karenina. Dario has also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Atonement and has many other awards for his compositions.

Martin Phipps won in the ‘Best TV Soundtrack’ category for War and Peace and this is incredibly his fifth Ivor Novello award! He has previously won for The Virgin Queen; Oliver Twist; The Shadow Line and The Honourable Woman. Martin has won two BAFTA TV awards for Best Original Music for Small Island and Wallander and has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy awards.

For more information about the NFTS Composing MA, pleases visit www.nfts.co.uk/composing

NFTS Grads & Senior Tutor Edit BAFTA Winning TV Series

Happy Valley & Exodus: Our Journey to Europe

An impressive 13 NFTS graduates and tutors worked on this year's BAFTA TV Award Winning programmes. Happy Valley, edited by NFTS Head of Editing, Richard Cox beat off stiff competition from The Crown to win Best Drama and Best Actress (Sarah Lancashire) at last night’s Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards.  Richard works frequently with Happy Valley writer and director, Sally Wainwright who recently delivered an inspiring masterclass to NFTS students where Richard described her as “one of the best, if not the best TV writers and directors around!”

If you are a keen editor and would love to be taught by Richard, applications are still open for our Editing MA – more information at www.nfts.co.uk/editing

There was also success for the NFTS Editing department in the Best Factual Series category which was won by Exodus: Our Journey to Europe and credits no fewer than three NFTS Editing MA graduates, Simon Sykes, Nick Fenton and Sunshine Jackson.

‘Best Soap and Continuing Drama’ went to Emmerdale, which credits NFTS Directing Fiction alumna, Diana Patrick. Diana has been directing episodes of the long running series since 1998.

The ‘Leading Actor’ award went to Adeel Akhtar who starred in single drama, Murdered by My Father, which credits NFTS Cinematography graduate, Felix Wiedemann as DoP.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge won the 'Female Performance in a Comedy Programme' category for Fleabag, which credits NFTS Production Design graduate, Clare Winkworth as Graphic Designer and Sound Recording graduate, Howard Peryer as Sound Maintenance.

National Treasure won the BAFTA for Best Mini Series and credits NFTS graduates, Paul Davies as Supervising Sound Editor and Katherine Pearl as Post-Production Co-Ordinator.

Tom Hollander won Best Supporting Actor for The Night Manager, which credits Sarah Byers, Matchmove Artist; Maria Salcher, Assistant Production Co-ordinator and Juan Montoto Ugarte as Sound Assistant.

BAFTA TV Awards Nominations with NFTS credits:

Best Drama Series

The Crown:  Script Editor, Edward Hemming; Editor, Una Ni Dhonghaile; Digital Compositor, Victor Tomi; Sound FX Editor, Alex Ellerington; Additional VFX Supervisor, Jorge Canada Escorihuela; Rerecording Mixers, Stuart Hilliker & Martin Jensen; Additional Music Composer, Evan Jolly

The Durrells:  Additional Music, Jon Wygens

War and Peace:  Composer, Martin Phipps; Rerecording Mixer, Stuart Hilliker;     Boom Operator, Vytautas Kizala; Sound FX Editor, Alex Ellerington; Matchmove Artist, Sarah Byers

Happy Valley: Edited by NFTS Head of Editing, Richard Cox

Best Factual Series

24 Hours in Police Custody: Assistant Editors, Manuela Lupini and Pawel Slawek

Exodus: Our Journey to Europe: Editors, Simon Sykes; Nick Fenton and Sunshine Jackson

Best Mini-Series

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses: Art Department Assistant, Jamie Burrows

National Treasure: Supervising Sound Editor, Paul Davies; Post-Production Co-ordinator, Katherine Pearl

Witness for the Prosecution: DoP Felix Wiedemann

Best Reality & Constructed Factual

First Dates (Series 7): Composer, Miguel d’Oliveira

The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds: Director, Jackie Waldock

Best Scripted Comedy

Fleabag:  Graphic Designer, Clare Winkworth; Sound Maintenance, Howard Peryer

Best Specialist Factual

Attenborough's Life That Glows: Screenwriter, NFTS Head of Natural History, Paul Reddish

Best Single Drama

Aberfan: The Green Hollow: Sound Effects Editor, Vicente Villaescusa

Murdered by My Father: DoP, Felix Wiedemann

NW: Sound Effects Editor, Matis Rei

Best Soap & Continuing Drama

Casualty: Director, Matthew Evans; Writer, Laura Poliakoff

Eastenders: Writer, Laura Poliakoff

Emmerdale: Director, Diana Patrick

Applications are open for a wide range of our MA and Diploma courses from Editing to Cinematography  – more information here.

Lady Macbeth Director & Producer Discuss making an Anti-Bonnet Period Drama with Bite!

Q&A with Lady Macbeth Director William Oldroyd & Producer (NFTS Graduate) Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly

Introduced by NFTS Head of Screen Arts, Sandra Hebron as one of the most talked about debuts of the year and receiving rave reviews across the board, we knew we were in for a treat when settling down to watch Lady Macbeth followed by a Q&A with its director William Oldroyd and NFTS graduate and Producer, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly. (If you would like to follow in Fodhla's footsteps, find out more about the NFTS Producing MA at www.nfts.co.uk/producing)

An adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Lady Macbeth is described in the Guardian as “a brilliantly chilling subversion of a classic” and in the Spectator as “plain terrific” while Sight and Sound praises “its skill at filleting contemporary relevance from a classic literary source.”

Fodhla, whose NFTS graduation film, Head Over Heels was nominated for an Oscar in 2014, met William after a friend recommended she watch William’s award-winning short film, Best. “I fell in love with it; it was very clever. I met up with Will and we chatted for hours and then we watched 12 Years a Slave – after that we felt bonded for life!”

The project came together when William and Fodhla joined forces with writer Alice Birch who had the original idea to adapt the Leskov novella as she felt that its themes - the subordination of women in society, life in rural communities, and of passionate illicit love - would be exciting for a film adaptation. Both William and Alice had made their names in theatre – he as the Director in Residence at the Young Vic Theatre and working with the RSC, and she as an award-winning playwright with work performed at the Royal Court and the RSC.

(Pictured L-R: William Oldroyd, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly and NFTS Head of Screen Arts, Sandra Hebron)

On what drew him to the Lady Macbeth story, William said: “I really wanted to see the central character Katherine on screen as she was very different to other heroines of that time who either had to suffer or die. Katherine fights back; we didn’t have to do very much to make it modern.”

Fodhla was drawn to the project for the same reason: “the complex female character appealed to me. “The challenge of making a period film on such a small budget excited me and I was also excited to find an original take on the genre. We wanted to make an anti-bonnet period drama.”

Lady Macbeth was made through iFeatures, the regional micro-budget filmmaking scheme run by Creative England and supported by the BFI and BBC Films. The scheme was particularly useful for William: “Everything was brand new for me so the iFeatures workshops were really helpful and we relied heavily on Fodhla’s experience having been to film school.” According to Fodhla, “iFeatures took a risk green lighting us but they were totally up for it and very supportive. We got to work with established executive producers and access their knowledge and experience which was invaluable.”

Sandra asked William if he had a sense from the outset of how to make a period film on such a small budget? “The story fit well with a low budget. For example, we couldn’t have many costumes but I’ve always thought it doesn’t feel real when you see so many costume changes in films. We had one location and a small number of characters, which is what we wanted to do anyway. We wanted to keep it focussed and nuclear; having lots of extras and a swooping score didn’t feel right.”

“The austerity and pared down nature of the film came from Alice’s script, which was my taste as well. We used an economy of camera movements, which lent itself very well in terms of representing Katherine on screen.”

On why the film was shot in scene order, William said: “That’s how you would work through a play. I found it difficult to hold a whole feature length film in my head so this approach was helpful with that.” Fodhla added: “It was six weeks intense prep and we shot the film in four six-day weeks. Shooting in order was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. By the third week we had three quarters of the film edited and we knew which shots we needed to pick up. We left a few days free towards the end of the shoot to tie up any loose ends. We needed to block book the actors for the 24 days and half the cast had to be based in Durham but they were all very flexible and understood our approach.”

Ari Wegner is the DoP on Lady Macbeth. According to William, “Ari really understood the script and character. She has an incredible eye and had a symbiotic relationship with Florence who plays Katherine. We wanted to objectify Katherine like the men were so we locked off the camera with a static shot so she would be seen as an ornament and in moments of freedom, rebellion and defiance, Ari moved the camera with Katherine. We wanted it to feel like Katherine wanted to break out of the frame.”

One of the students asked William how the horse scene was filmed: “This was a moment when creative thinking and the low budget had to meet – we didn’t want to cheat as it was a powerful moment and the first time you see Katherine break down emotionally. We found an ‘acting horse’ who could fall over although it was only allowed to fall over three times including one rehearsal! We put aside a morning to film that scene and it was one of the only ones where we broke our rule and didn’t shoot in sequence.”

On why they decided to change the ending of the novella for the film, William had the following to say: “It was important to writer Alice that Katherine wins at the end even if it was a hollow victory as she felt that so many women were punished for what they did.”

In addition to its rave reviews and praise for subverting the period drama genre with a strong and unrepentant female character, Lady Macbeth is also garnering attention for having a number of black characters in its small cast. In a recent article, The Guardian asks: “Will Lady Macbeth end period drama’s whitewashing of history?” On this subject, William said: “There are no descriptions of the characters’ race in the book and the casting was completely open. The UK was a lot more diverse at that time than people think. Britain was white washed in that respect and not just in period dramas. We simply chose the best actors for each role.”

Lady Macbeth is in cinemas now, distributed by Altitude – our thanks to them for the screening.

For more information about the NFTS Producing MA, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/producing

 

 

BT Partners with NFTS to Address Skills Gap In Broadcast Engineering

Launches Scholarship for Production Technology MA

BT has announced a partnership with the National Film and Television School (NFTS) to encourage people to train as broadcast engineers and production technologists to help combat the current skills deficit in the sector.

BT will offer a scholarship to support a student through the Production Technology MA, a two year course which equips successful applicants with the skills required to support all aspects of production technology in live and recorded environments. After completing the masters, graduates will be invited to apply for a job with the company.

BT is also providing up to six students with work placements in the BT TV team, to be based at the iconic BT Tower in London or the BT Labs in Ipswich. The company recently announced plans to recruit 1,700 apprentices and graduates across the UK, with numerous posts available in the TV team.

Greg McCall, managing director of BT TV, said: “We’re looking forward to working with the NFTS and supporting the broadcast industry’s talent pipeline. As we continue to evolve our growing TV arm and provide our audiences with the highest quality content, we need the most talented broadcast engineers on board to help us do that.”

“Today’s announcement is part of our ambition to transform the UK’s tech literacy as we firmly believe it’s the best way to equip young people to get ahead in the workplace while helping to fuel the economy. We’re really looking forward to working with the NFTS to support our goal and help inspire the next generation of broadcast engineers.”

Nik Powell, NFTS director, said: “The UK is facing a crisis in broadcast engineering as there is a significant lack of skilled people applying for positions. According to some estimates, 60% of all broadcast engineers are within five years of retirement, and there are not enough new engineers being trained at the moment.

“It’s fantastic news that BT has come on board to partner with us on this exciting new MA. Both BT and NFTS have content and technology at their heart: BT is leading the way in combining leading edge technology with compelling content and services and at the NFTS, technology and tech know-how is becoming increasingly important in delivering our award-winning content. I am looking forward to working together to deliver a compelling and practical curriculum that will help solve this looming skills gap by providing highly skilled graduates who can hit the ground running.”

Applications for the Production Technology MA are open until October 16th 2017 and the course will commence in January 2018. There is an upcoming onling open day or the course on October 9th at 1pm – sign up here

 

Ends

For further information

Enquiries about this news release should be made to the BT Group Newsroom 020 7356 5369. From outside the UK dial + 44 20 7356 5369. All news releases can be accessed at our web site. You can also subscribe to receive all BT announcements here and you can follow us on Twitter here.

About BT

BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services.  BT consists of six customer-facing lines of business: Consumer, EE, Business and Public Sector, Global Services, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 20161, BT Group’s reported revenue was £19,012m with reported profit before taxation of £2,907m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

1The results for the period have been revised to reflect the outcome of the investigation into our Italian business. Detail of which is set out in our third quarter results announcement published on 27 January 2017.  This financial information is unaudited. 

For more information, visit www.btplc.com

About the National Film and Television School

The NFTS is one of the world's leading film, games and television schools. It has been cited by some media as one of the top five film schools globally and by one as the No.1 international film school. In 1967, the government recommended the creation of a national film school for the UK and in 1971 the National Film School opened its doors for the first time focussing on postgraduate education. In the 1980s, the school officially changed its name to the National Film and Television School to incorporate the demand for courses in television production and has since added games to its remit.

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

 

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