- National Film and Television School
National Film and Television School Established 1971 Location Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
Affiliations CILECT Website www.nfts.co.uk
The National Film School (the original name) opened in 1971, the work of four years of planning to create an institution to train personnel for the British film industry. Department of Education and Science had in 1967 recommended the creation of a national film school for the UK, and in 1969 an inquiry led by Lord Lloyd of Hampstead began to develop plans.
In 1970, a Scot named Colin Young (then chairing the University of California's Department of Theater Arts), was appointed as the School's first director. The NFS bought the old Beaconsfield Film Studios in Buckinghamshire and set about refitting it to professional industry standards. Young established four permanent departments - production, camera, editing and sound - and in 1971 the first intake of 25 students passed through the studio gates.
The curriculum in the early days was loosely structured; sporadic seminars and workshops were secondary to production, with students spending most of their time doing exactly what they had come to the School to do - making films. But by the early 1980s, Young felt this system no longer served the students' best interests and a more structured curriculum was introduced. Links with the Industry were strengthened, allowing students' idealism and creative talent to be matched with collaborative, financial and production expertise.
In 1982, the School changed its name to The National Film and Television School, as many of its graduates went on to make their careers in TV. That same year it launched a pilot project for re-training freelance industry professionals. This led to the establishment of the National Short Course Training Programme (now ShortCourses@NFTS), which has been running courses ever since on all areas of film and television production. By the early 1990s, the school had modified its original stance on course structure, deciding to provide specialisation at the time of entry. The first year still offered a general course, followed in the next two years by focused training in one of the ten specialist areas (direction, writing, editing, camera, sound, animation, design, producing, documentary and composing).
Colin Young retired in 1992 and was succeeded by Henning Camre, formerly Head of the National Film School of Denmark. Camre aimed for more balanced numbers in each of the ten specialist areas, creating separate departments with their own head tutors and curricula. He was also successful in securing a Lottery grant to install state of the art new equipment, positioning the School to take full advantage of new production methods offered by innovations in technology and ensuring that graduating students could compete with the best as they embarked on their careers.
Camre was succeeded in 1998 by Stephen Bayly, an NFTS graduate and film producer (Richard III, Mrs Dalloway). His first move was to reorganise the curriculum to run over two years, instead of three. Recognising a growing trend towards a requirement for academic qualifications, he sought to achieve this. Eventually, The Royal College of Art agreed to validate the School's courses and 2000 saw the first intake of students who would graduate with an MA. In 2002, Bayly introduced the first of the shorter Diploma courses, established to meet an urgent Industry need for properly trained sound recordists.
September 2003 saw Nik Powell, one of the UK's leading producers, to take over from Bayly. Powell has rapidly expanded the programme of new courses, introducing Diplomas in Producing & Directing Television Entertainment (now an MA), Digital Post-Production, SFX/VFX, Directing Fiction, and Script Development (a partnership venture with The Script Factory). Powell has reinvigorated the programme of visiting filmmakers, and set up a programme of masterclasses run at London cinemas for NFTS students and the public. He has also introduced a range of development deals with broadcasters and independent production companies to help new NFTS graduates get started and, in 2005, joined forces with NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) to launch NFTS Inc, a Creative Pioneer programme supporting graduates of any UK film school develop start-up businesses in the motion picture industry.
Today, the NFTS has around 160 full-time students, with a further two dozen part-timers on the Script Development course and about a thousand a year on its short courses. It is the only film school in the UK which boasts its own film and television studios, and post-production facilities rivalling those of professional companies. Its talented community of students makes around a hundred films a year on courses that are still over 90% practical and unlike anything offered at any other UK film school.
The NFTS also holds yearly graduation shows at the BFI Southbank (formerly known as the National Film Theatre). These are highly selective and invite-only events which showcase the student's projects to scounts and industry professionals, ensuring that the students receive maximum exposure.
The BBC stated that the NFTS was the "leading centre of excellence for education in film and television programme making", and noted that it was "relevant to the industry's present and future needs." British Film Magazine once described the NFTS as being one of the few schools to come "very, very close" to guaranteeing a job in the film industry, and named its leader (Powell) a "maverick"; Filmmaking.net named it one of two films schools outside the US which had such a high international reputation.
Until its repeal in 1986, the school was funded partly through a tax on cinema ticket sales known as the Eady Levy, named after then UK Treasury official Sir Wilfred Eady. The NFTS has since been funded by the UK Government, via (today) the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the television and film industries.
Key Partner Sponsors include main UK terrestrial and satellite broadcasting companies BBC, Channel 4, BSkyB, S4C and the Film Distributors' Association. In addition, a large number of public and private donors fund scholarships to assist (chiefly British and EU) students.
Courses of studies
The NFTS offers the following two-year MA courses validated by the Royal College of Art:
- Composing for Film and Television
- Digital Post-Production
- Directing Animation
- Directing Documentary
- Directing Fiction
- Games Design and Development
- Producing and Directing Television Entertainment
- Production Design
- Sound Design for Film and Television
and the following one-year Diploma courses:
- Production Management for Film
- Production Management for Television
- Script Development (in association with The Script Factory)
- Sound Recording for Film and Television
The NFTS also runs a Documentary Summer School - summerdocs - every year.
Shortcourses@NFTS regularly run short courses for professionals working in the film and television industries - covering the following areas:
- Business Skills
- Camera & Sound
- Craft & Technical
The school has around 100 full-time staff as well as many top tutors from within the industry.
- President: Lord Attenborough, CBE
- Chairman: Simon Shaps
- Deputy Chairman: Stephen Louis
- Director: Nik Powell
- Other Board Members:
- Peter Barron, Google UK
- Floella Benjamin, OBE (Floella Benjamin Productions)
- Tom Betts, ITV
- Dan Brooke, Channel 4
- Colin Brown (British Film Commissioner)
- Sally Debonnaire, (BBC)
- Michael Hamlyn, Specific Films
- Clive Jones, CBE (ITV)
- Duncan Kenworthy, OBE (Toledo Productions)
- John McVay (PACT)
- Steve Mertz (Warner Bros.)
- Simon Relph, CBE (Skreba Creon Films Ltd)
- Angela Roberts, (BBC)
- David Sproxton, CBE (Aardman)
- Sophie Turner-Laing (BSkyB)
- Colin Young, CBE
- Key Partner Sponsors
- British Broadcasting Corporation
- Channel 4
- Film Distributors' Association
- Key Partner Funders
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport
- PACT via the Independent Production Training Fund
- Skillset Film Skills Fund
- Helen Nabarro - Head of Animation Direction
- Brian Tufano BSC - Head of Cinematography
- John Rowe - Head of Digital Post Production and SFX/VFX
- Stephen Frears - David Lean Chair in Fiction Direction
- Lynda Myles - Head of Fiction Direction
- Dick Fontaine - Head of Documentary Direction
- Jon Weinbren - Head of Games Design and Development
- Annabelle Pangborn - Head of Post Production
- Karin Bamborough - Head of Producing
- Caroline Amies / Moira Tait - Joint Heads of Screen Design
- David G Croft - Head of Television
- Corinne Cartier - Head of Screenwriting
- Andrew Boulton - Head of Sound Recording
- Caroline Leaf
Awards and nominations
The school's facilities were expanded in 2008 with the addition of new teaching spaces, public spaces and a new cinema, designed by Glenn Howells Architects and Buro Happold. Upon its completion in 2008, the strikingly modern two storey building (see photo above) won a coveted RIBA prize. In June 2009 it was formally named The Oswald Morris Building in honour of veteran cinematographer Ossie Morris.
Notable alumni (selection)
- Official website
- NFTS page on myspace
- Official Animation Department website
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport
- Quotas and Levies - explanation of various national film levies, including the Eady Levy
- Watch a masterclass about editing sound for animation with Annabelle Pangborn - BBC Blast
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