Facing It, an animation graduation film directed by Sam Gainsborough, produced by Jimmy Campbell-Smith and co-written by Louisa Wood has won ‘Best Student Film’ at the World Festival of Animated Film, ‘Animafest Zagreb’ in Croatia.

The award follows hot on the heels of the success of two other NFTS graduation animation films – Poles Apart directed by Paloma Baeza which won the ‘BAFTA for Best Short Animation’ earlier this year, and Inanimate directed by Lucia Bulgheroni which won third prize in the ‘Cinefondation selection’ at Cannes Film Festival and has been shortlisted for the upcoming ‘BAFTA Student Film Awards’ in LA.

Facing It mixes stop-motion with live-action and explores the psyche of character Sean, who is forced to confront his own unhappy memories and relationships in an evening that will leave him changed forever.

Director of Facing It, Sam Gainsborough at Animafest Zagreb

'Animafest Zagreb’, created in 1972 in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is an exclusively animation festival promoting upcoming filmmakers and showcasing animation in all its different forms – from traditional drawings, to stop motion, CGI, to experimental cross-media films.

The second oldest film festival completely dedicated to animation, ‘Animafest Zagreb’ festival brings the best of animation from all over the world, with over 300 films, 200 international guests and more than 20 000 visitors. Festival awards include prizes given in the Short Film Competition, Feature film Competition, Student Film Competition, Children Films, Site-specific competition and Croatian competition.

Co-writer of Facing It and Screenwriting MA graduate Louisa Wood says: “It was such an honour to have Facing It recognised by ‘Animafest Zagreb’. I'm very proud of Sam and the team for all the hard work they've put in to make this wonderful film. It was lovely to read the Jury comments about the characters being emotive and expressive. Sam's animation technique is perfect for externalising the internal. We decided early on not to have any dialogue and let the faces tell the story, so it was therefore extremely important that we got the character Sean's emotional journey absolutely spot on at the writing stage so that Director Sam could use the detailed beats during the animation process. It was a fun project to be involved in, right down to having my hands covered in red paint and my face replaced by spinning Plasticine!”

Sam Gainsborough, graduate of the Directing Animation MA, says of the eight-minute animation: “I really wanted to make a film that people of different backgrounds could relate to. The film is about celebrating the imperfections we all have, rather than trying to repress them. I’m so pleased that the audience connected to the experience of the main character, Sean.”

He continues: “It was amazing to win the award at ‘Animafest Zagreb’. The selection of films at the festival were beautiful, thought provoking and hugely inspiring. It was fantastic to have people respond to Facing It in such a positive way.”

The selection Jury at ‘Animafest Zagreb’ were made up of Animator and Assistant Professor Darko Masnec, Vimeo Curator Meghan Oretsky, Animator and Sound Designer Natko Stipaničev, and Painter/experimental animator Chi-Sui Wang.

Jury Comments said of Facing It: “We were immediately pulled into the wondrous world of our student film winner, Facing It, which was built with an incredibly creative and unique visual technique. Each character's face was vibrantly expressive and emotive, and the story of social anxiety as a common obstacle for all people (especially artists) a comforting and sweet one.”

Producing MA graduate Jimmy Campbell-Smith adds: Facing It was a massive leap into the unknown for the whole team so it’s absolutely thrilling to be recognised at ‘Animafest Zagreb’. Above all, credit goes to Director Sam and the creative team for the countless hours (and ridiculously large amount of plasticine) that went in to bringing this to life. They deserve it!’

Facing It has also been selected for the ‘Graduation Films in Competition’ category at Annecy Festival and the ‘Mclaren Award for Best New Animation’ at Edinburgh Film Festival later this month.

Facing It Credits: Sam Gainsborough, Director/ Animator/ Co-Screenwriter; Jimmy Campbell-Smith, Producer; Louisa Wood, Co-Screenwriter; Bruno Grilo, Cinematographer; Demian Lovett & Lilla Vindics, Assistant Directors; Fiona Guest, Production Designer; Garry David Frost, Production Manager; Jenny Martin, Production Co-Ordinator; Mdhamiri A Nkemi, Editor; Adam Woodhams, Sound Design & Dubbing Mixer; Jack Newton, Composer; Oliver Buus, Lead Compositor; Daniel Quirke, Compositor; Laura Jane Dart, Colourist & Online Editor.

Applications for the NFTS Directing Animation MA are open until the 5th July 2018 (the two-year MA course starts in January 2019) – for more information and to apply, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/animation

NFTS graduation animation, Inanimate directed by Lucia Bulgheroni and produced by Lennard Ortmann has won both the ‘Jury Award’ in the Graduation Film Category and the ‘Junior Jury for a Graduation Film’ special prize at Annecy Film Festival - Europe’s biggest animation film festival.

The stop frame animation explores puppet Katrine’s quest for truth as she discovers an ethereal and haunting world which plummets around her, in a brilliantly vivid tale of hope, angst, disillusionment and acceptance. Lucia, who graduated from the NFTS Directing Animation MA this year, used Super Sculpey, a material similar to clay that can be baked, to bring puppets Katrine and Patrick to life; delivering a hyper-real, dark and dreamlike quality to the expressive animation film. More than 15 puppets and sets were created for Inanimate, culminating in a blend of live action, pixilation and stop-motion animation and the longest single shot sequence in NFTS animation history.  

Director and Animator, Lucia comments on the creation of Inanimate: ‘The idea came to me with a vision of a soul inside a puppet, suddenly ripping out of its own body to get out. I always resonated with the idea that we are souls, or consciousness, inside bodies who were experiencing life, and then we return to our original form of consciousness.’

Inanimate was also selected for the prestigious Cinéfondation programme at Cannes Festival where it won Third Prize and is a finalist in the BAFTA Student Film Awards for animation and selected in the ‘Mclaren Award for Best New Animation’ at Edinburgh International Film Festival, both later this month.

Founded in 1960 and organised by CITIA, Annecy Festival's aim is to reveal and promote creations by the greatest animation studios as well as young talents. The Graduation Short Category jury included Comic strip author, Pénélope Bagieu, Director Bruno Forzani and Distribution Director Laurence Petit, whilst the Junior Jury were made up of four young students, from the OTTOmani association and Atelier de cinema d’Animation d’Annecy et de Haute-Savoie (AAA).

Inanimate is a stop frame animation film; a style the NFTS is particularly famed for as alumni include Oscar winning, Wallace and Gromit director, Nick Park and Peppa Pig creator, Mark Baker.

The Team:

Lucia Bulgheroni - Director/Animator; Lennard Ortmann – Producer; Drew Eu – Screenwriter; Ronnie Mcquillan – Cinematographer; Kristina Kovacs - Production Designer; Alex Mcardle - Production Manager; Raphael Pereira – Editor; Louise Burton – Sound Designer & Dubbing Mixer; Jose Pavli – Composer; Niall Harty - Cg Lead; Amy Gibson - Lead Compositor; Hugh Howlett - Colourist & Online Editor; zsófi szemerédy, PR and Marketing

Applications for the NFTS Directing Animation MA are open until the 5th July 2018 (the two-year MA course starts in January 2019) – for more information and to apply, please visit www.nfts.co.uk/animation

We caught up with British Short Animation BAFTA winner and NFTS Directing Animation MA student, Paloma Baeza to find out more about her multi award-winning animation, Poles Apart, which tells the story of un unlikely meeting between a polar bear and a grizzly bear in the melting Arctic.

Paloma Baeza and Ser En Low collecting their BAFTA

The film has also won 'Best Student Film' at the prestigious Annie Awards and the McClaren Award for New British Animation at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

How does it feel to win a BAFTA and an Annie Award?! Well it’s really amazing.  The film’s success has surpassed our expectations and it’s so great to see that it’s connecting with such varied audiences.  

L-R Rocio Gimenez - Art Director (non NFTS) Paula Gimenez Production Design Paloma Baeza & Ser En Low Annie picking up their Best Student Film Annie

Can you tell us a bit more about how you came up with the story for Poles Apart and what inspired you? I was looking for a story primarily about two characters since I knew that would be achievable with our time and budget. And I loved the idea of the characters being animals.  I saw this article describing an Arctic landscape seen from a helicopter, with a single dark figure moving across it - a grizzly bear.  It described the effects of global warming on a melting Arctic and how Grizzlies and Polar bears were increasingly coming together.  This seemed like the perfect backdrop for an unlikely friendship, with a message about our changing world at it’s heart.

Paloma Baeza animating Poles Apart

What kind of challenges did you face when making Poles Apart? It was always an ambitious project, so we had to be very strict with our schedule and make sure we completed our weekly shots, even it meant staying late sometimes. One of the biggest issues on long shots was that temperature changes made the set move - which meant we couldn’t turn the lights off mid-shot.  We’d have stay until the shot was finished, sometimes taking turns to animate through the night.  

Behind the scenes photo from Poles Apart

You were an actress before you came to the NFTS – what was the driving factor behind your career change? I had written and directed some live action shorts, but had always been interested in animation.  This had led to me experimenting with stop-motion at home, not really knowing how it worked.  Eventually I felt that if I didn’t explore this fully now, I never would, and I applied to the NFTS.

What were the highlights of studying at the NFTS? I loved collaborating with other students from all disciplines, and our team on Poles Apart was exceptional.  I also think each project we did as we went along taught me something and I enjoyed that challenge.

Still from Poles Apart

What are your ambitions now you have graduated? To keep telling stories!  I feel very liberated now I understand animation in the way I hoped I would, so there are several potential projects in the pipeline, from a hybrid film to a contained sitcom starring more talking animals.

If you would like to follow in Paloma's footsteps, more info at www.nfts.co.uk/animation

At the NFTS, our credits tell the story. These are just some of the recent credits from our graduates.

Recent/Upcoming Cinema Releases

Films with NFTS graduate involvement grossed more than $14bn at the box office in 2018.


Pelé Editor Matteo Bini, Sound Recordist Sara Lima

To Olivia Re-recording Mixer Sven Taits

News Of The World VFX Supervisor Roni Rodrigues

Jingle Jangle Art Director Steve Lawrence, 1st Assistant Sound Jennifer Annor

Mank Art Dept Co-Ordinator Kimberley Pope

No Time To Die Concept Artist Tim Browning; Art Department Gabe Robertson; Junior Concept Artist Quingling Zhang; Dialogue Editor Adele Fletcher

Tenet Production Co-ordinator Sofia Guiotto

The King's Man Art Director Gary Jopling; Set Designer James Collins; Sound Recordist Andy Paddon; Digital Compositors Luke Hardisty and Gillian Simpson; DoP Effects Elements Nigel Stone, Assistant Colourist Sara Buxton

Death On The Nile Editor Úna Ní Dhonghaíle ACE

Wonder Woman 1984 Set Decorator/Art Director James Spencer; Draughtsman Will Houghton-Connell; Art Dept. Trainee Steven X. Haber; 1st Assistant Sound: Additional Photography Alex Bryce; Compositors Adam Arnot and Luke Hardisty; Additional Editor Tom Harrison-Read; Colour Assistant Michael Pearce

Saint Maud Writer/Director Rose Glass; Art Director Isobel Dunhill; Sound Designer Paul Davies; Additional 1st Assistant Director Andrew Cumming

1917  Co-Writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns; DoP Roger Deakins; Production Sound Mixer Stuart Wilson, Art Director Stephen Swain, Art Department Assistant Rosalind Grégoire, Art Department Assistant [Dailies] Fiona Guest, CG Artist Roxana Loncea; Draughtspersons Dana Anusca & Lizzie Osborne, Draughtsperson [Dailies] Jamie Burrows, On-Set Compositor Gillian Simpson

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Production Sound Mixer Stuart Wilson; Sound Assistant Barry Coxhead, Sound Mixer: Additional Photography Splinter Unit Ivor Talbot; 2nd Unit 2nd Assistant Sound [Dailies] Keith Morrison; Lighting TD: ILM Boyan Baynov; Layout Artist: ILM Jake Ferris; Junior Layout Artist: ILM Paul Robinson; Visual Effects Supervisor: ILM Dan Snape; Art Director Patrick Harris; Assistant Art Director Stephen Swain; Location Coordinator Caterina Boselli; Draughtspersons Lizzie Osborne, Andrew Tilhoo & Sara Taddei; Production Assistant Anna Bennett-Squire; Production Coordinator: Second Unit Lizzie Bull 

Shooting the Mafia Director Kim Longinotto

The Street Sound Designer/Rerecording Mixer Markus Moll

Ophelia Supervising Sound Editor Paul Davies; Supervising Dialogue & ADR Editor Ian Morgan; Sound Editor Morgan Muse; Sound Designer/Sound Effects Editor Jay Price

Blue Story Editor Mdhamiri Á Nkemi; ADR Editor Adele Fletcher

Cinematography graduate Roger Deakins won a long-overdue Oscar for Blade Runner: 2049, then followed up with another win in 2020 for 1917

Recent TV Highlights

It's A Sin DoP David Katznelson, Boom Operator Henry Dyer

The Serpent Executive Producer/Director Tom Shankland, Dialogue Editor Jussi Honka, Editor Miikka Leskinen

Finding Alice Second Assistant Sound Victoria Lockwood

The Great DoP Maja Zamojda, Art Directors Isobel Dunhill & Pedro Moura, Concept Artist Elo Soode, Assistant Set Decorator Violet Elliot, 1st Assistant Editor Tine Lykke Jensen, Dialogue Editor Jussi Honka, Crowd PA (Dailies) Julien Lara Cid, SFX Floor Supervisor Jennifer Groves

Small Axe Sound Mixer Ronald Bailey, 1st Assistant Sound Nik Stojkov

His Dark Materials Series II Co-Writer Francesca Gardiner

The Crown Series IV Editor Paulo Pandolpho, VFX Supervisor Jorge Canada Escorihuela, Composer Martin Phipps

A Suitable Boy ADR Editor, Titles Sound Designer and Assistant Music Editor Louise Burton

Des Director Lewis Arnold; Composer Sarah Warne; Sound Designer Nikola Medic 

All Creatures Great and Small Director Metin Huseyin; Composer Alexandra Harwood; Art Director Thomas Goodwin

Lovecraft Country Director Yann Demange

Normal People DoP Suzie Lavelle

Noughts + Crosses Based on the novel by Malorie Blackman; Co-Producer Rienkje Attoh

Dr Who Series 12 Directors Emma Sullivan, Jamie Magnus Stone; Sound Recordist Dominic Corbisiero; Composer Segun Akinola

The Pale Horse Executive Producer Basi Akpabio; Editor Mdhamiri Á Nkemi

Endeavour Editor Miikka Leskinen

Sex Education Creator and Writer Laurie Nunn; Writer Rosie Jones; Director Alice Seabright; Supervising Art Director Katie McGregor; Compositor Eloise Tomlinson

Dracula Editor Paulo Pandolpho; Assembly Editor Michele Chiappa; Junior Draughtsman [Dailies] Tom Coxon; Accounts Assistant Megan Randle; 2nd Assistant Sound Barry Coxhead

Watchmen Production Designer Kristian Milsted; Supervising Art Director Katie MacGregor; 2nd Assistant Sound [UK Unit] Kirsty Wright; Prosthetic Effects Producer Kate Walshe

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Find a course



The two-year NFTS Directing Animation MA is world-renowned for being one of the most dynamic and creative animation courses. If you have a passion for storytelling, creating characters and the art of animation, the course will give you the skills to bring these passions to life on screen and help you develop into the filmmaker you aspire to be.

Pic of student working in animation studioLed by some of the most talented artists from across the animation industry, the course combines art school philosophy with state-of-the-art film school facilities. Students create their projects within a workshop environment that inspires experimentation and creativity. You will gain the skillset required to write, direct and animate films, graduating with a portfolio of outstanding work that will provide a showcase for the relevant techniques and knowledge required for successful employment.

"Over the years the NFTS Directing Animation MA has provided us with some of the brightest talent in our company, from skilled and creative directors to savvy producers and talented crew. " Benjamin Lole, Executive Producer, Blinkink

Films made by students on the Directing Animation MA are consistently selected for film festivals all over the world. They have picked up some of the most celebrated awards in animation, from BAFTAs to Sundance and Annecy.

All NFTS students can attend the School’s masterclasses programme, with animation guests including: Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls), David O’Reilly (The External World, Please Say Something), Glen Keane (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast)  and Michaël Dudok De Wit (Father and Daughter, The Red Turtle). 

​This course is industry recognised by ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based industries, and carries the ScreenSkills Select quality-mark which indicates courses best suited to prepare students for a career in the screen industries.

Recent credits and successes

Stills from Graduation Films

What you will study

All forms of visual storytelling are encouraged and nurtured; giving you the opportunities to work across traditional and digital media including drawn 2D, 3D, stop-motion and life-size pixilation. Students feel empowered to push boundaries; confident in finding their own unique voice, while exploring original new animated techniques and fresh approaches to storytelling.

Collaboration is the key to succeeding in the world of animation and it is also central to the ethos of the course and the NFTS. Collaborative workshops with many other filmmaking disciplines across the School fosters a strong team spirit and are an essential tool, enabling animation directors to better understand the role of each crew member and develop expertise across the whole of the production process.

Pic of student on set filmingThe first year builds a solid foundation across all aspects of animation. It is filled with inspiring workshops, including improving your animation skills, writing better narratives and developing fresh approaches to design and techniques.

In the second year, you will develop, produce and direct your graduation film, leading a fully crewed team who will enable you to bring your vision to life, using the School's incomparable production facilities.

The professional pipeline of making films at the NFTS will prepare you to be ‘job ready’ upon entering the highly competitive field of animation while the creative freedom the course gives will help you steer an industry that thrives on innovation in new and pioneering directions.

Download programme specification (PDF)

Download course outline (PDF)

Head of Department

Head of Animation is Robert Bradbrook (Home Road Movies, Dead Air, The Journey).

Current or Recent Tutors

Senior Tutor is Kim Noce (Forget Me Not, The Key, After); and Paul Bush (Babeldom, His Comedy, Furniture Poetry) is also a tutor on the course. Recent visiting tutors include Matt Abiss (Poor God, Play), Caroline Leaf (The Street, Two Sisters) and Marjut Rimminen (The Stain, Many Happy Returns).

Fees and funding options

Fees for this course are as follows:

Home Fees:  £14,800 per year 

International Fees (including EU nationals): £24,900 per year 

These are the confirmed tuition fees for January 2022 intake.

Please note:

EU nationals who have been granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme may be eligible for “Home Fees”, subject to meeting the residency requirements. (You need to be  ordinarily resident in the UK or EEA for 3 years prior to the start of your course).  

The NFTS has £900,000 of scholarships and bursaries available.

There is a compulsory, non-refundable £25 application fee for each MA application. A non-refundable deposit of £500 is required against the cost of your fees on confirmation of your place. As a part of our admissions selection process, following a successful interview applicants are required to attend a selection workshop for five days, which has a fee of £150. 

All production costs are included in the course fees, including the use of School facilities and equipment. The School also covers the travel costs for curriculum-related off-site visits. Students are expected to provide their own laptops. International students will need to pay for any visas that may be required for attendance at non-UK festivals as part of the course.

Pic of student drawing on glassThe NFTS is committed to ensuring it is open to students of genuine ability, no matter what their background or financial circumstances. We don’t want anybody to be put off applying for a place at the NFTS because of the cost, which is why we award more scholarships and bursaries to British students, relative to the size of our student body, than almost any other educational institution in the UK.

At the NFTS you will get far more time learning directly from tutors, in real production facilities and on real projects, than in the vast majority of film schools or universities – and we won’t charge you extra for the cost of productions or materials. The specialist nature of our courses mean that our students gain the relevant skills and experience they need to go straight into the industry.


Animation Directors talk about their experience of making their graduation films.

Entry requirements

All applicants must show a passion for visual storytelling through their portfolio of work. While a background in animation is desirable, successful applicants have come from many creative environments such model-making, comic books and dance.

Ideally, you should have either a degree in a relevant subject, such as animation, graphics, illustration or fine arts; taken an intensive short animation course; or worked in the animation industry.

Pic of student on set with modelsWe place emphasis on attracting students with a strong desire to tell unique stories and who can embrace alternative and imaginative approaches to visualisation and narrative construction. The ability to clearly articulate your ideas and work well as part of a team is a must due to the collaborative nature of the course and the animation industry.

If you are a problem solving, creative thinker with high standards, bundles of enthusiasm and the ability to function well under pressure, a career in animation via studying the Directing Animation MA could be for you.

As a part of our admissions selection process, successful applicants are required to attend an online selection workshop for five days. 

For international students, more information about our entry requirements, including Visa and English language requirements, can be found on our What You Need To Know section of our Students From Abroad page. 

As a part of our admissions selection process, following a successful interview applicants are required to attend a selection workshop for five days, which has a fee of £150. 

If you have any questions, please email info@nfts.co.uk.

How to apply

Application deadline: 08 Jul 2021

All applications must be accompanied by the following supporting materials:

  • A Portfolio of Animation/Moving Image with a maximum running time of 20 minutes. Your submission must include a complete film created by you. It can be either a personal or commissioned project, but it should be more than a simple exercises done on a previous course.
  • A Portfolio of Still Images. This can include illustrations, sketchbook work, digital artwork, photography of puppets and sets that you have made or anything you think will be suitable for your application.

Because the course focuses on collaboration and team work we have a workshop as a part of the interviewing process. The workshop gives us all the chance to meet in a working environment, and for you to learn about storytelling for short animated films. We provide extensive feedback to your work and candidates find the workshop very useful even if they were unsuccessful with getting on the course.

Applications are now open! We are happy to receive applications until midnight of the application deadline date.

Begin your application