Winning an animation Oscar or a BAFTA, the NFTS way

Mega blockbuster animated films such as Toy Story or The Lion King require the professionals working on them to have finely honed and tuned skills imparted to them by top class trainers. Offering the intense training that is needed to make such box office hits is the MA course in animation direction offered by the UK-based National Film & Television School (NFTS) in Beaconsfield, about 25 km from London. It is known to be one of the best courses for learning animation direction and production.

The MA in animation direction is an exciting two-year course offered by the NFTS that lets students direct the film that they have always wanted to make. Students get to make a high-production film with all the production costs borne by the school.

A still from ‘Tete-a-Tete’ directed by Natasha Tonkin

The NFTS animation department is led by Robert Bradbrook (Home Road Movies) with the senior tutor as Ed Foster (Little Princess). Other regular tutors include, Caroline Leaf (The StreetTwo Sisters), Paul Bush (Furniture PoetryHis Comedy), Osbert Parker (Yours TrulyFilm Noir), Marjut Rimminen (Many Happy ReturnsThe Stain), Kim Noce (The KeyAfter), Matt Abbiss (GodPlay) and Stuart Hilton (Save MeSix Weeks In June).

The course offers a balanced menu  of theory  and practical. “The first year is packed with a plethora of inspiring workshops led by talented filmmakers and industry professionals,” says Bradbrook. These include, improving one’s animation skills, writing better narratives and developing fresh approaches to design and techniques. “In the second year, you will direct a full production team to bring your vision to life using the school’s state-of-the-art production facilities.”

From left: Robert Bradbrook, Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner at Laika masterclass

The professional school’s  students benefit from the advice and expertise of a wealth of inspirational and multi award-winning filmmakers and industry experts. In the past 12 months, master classes have been delivered by the likes of Danny Boyle, Steve Mc Queen and Travis Knight from Laika.

“Many courses offer hands-on, practical work placements and opportunities to attend top events such as the Annecy International Animation Festival,” Bradbrook said, elaborating on the various other activities NFTS offers besides the subjects.

NFTS has its own studio equipped to industry standards with extensive facilities, technical services staff, professional electricians and full time carpenters / set builders.

Anushka Naanayakkara winning BAFTA 2017 for British Short Animation for ‘A Love Story’

The course stays up to date by having regular projects and workshops led by working professionals from studios such as such as Aardman. The department also has an industry advisory board that views the students’ work and suggests new directions that the course could go. Sharing the vision of the school, Bradbrook says: “Whilst it’s important for us to teach students to be able to enter the animation industry, our real aim is to help them steer the industry into new and exciting directions.”

“We are looking for people with a desire to tell stories, who have a strong visual sense and the skills to direct a production team,” he continues.

The course, which offers facilities for digital as well as traditional 2D and 3D techniques, encourages all forms of visual storytelling – including hand drawn and stop-motion animation, life-size pixelation and even puppeteering.

“Students are inspired to push the boundaries; to find interesting new animated techniques and fresh approaches to storytelling.”

‘Poles Apart’ directed by Paloma Baeza

Students get to be in the company of alumni including award-winning directors like Wallace and Gromit creator Nick park, Peppa Pig creator Mark Baker and recent festival favourite Nina Gantz.

After graduating, the students go on to work in a wide variety of job roles which include working at film production companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Laika Films and Aardman, or within the advertising world for outfits such as Blinkink.

The school also holds the reputation of creating directors who make their own films like Oscar nominated alumna Daisy Jacobs whose new film, The Full Story is being premiered at this year’s Annecy.

Films created by NFTS students have been acclaimed with the Best Short Animation award four times in a row at the BAFTA AwardsTéte at Téte directed by Natasha Tonkin is this year’s selection for Annecy. With their graduation films regularly being selected for the world’s top animation festivals, NFTS provides proof of its course allowing students to create new benchmarks every year.

Applications are open until the 6th July 2017 and the two-year MA starts in January 2018.

Behind the scenes of ‘Poles Apart’: Director Paloma Baez and tutor John Osborne

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