National Film and Television School

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Falmouth School of Art

Beaconsfield Studios - 1942 (courtesy of English Heritage)






























The National Film School started in 1971 with Colin Young at the helm and Liz Kerry as his secretary, Roger Crittenden was in charge of the editing department and Tony Rose took care of the accountancy, Tony Gurrin came onboard some months later to organise the projection and dubbing suite. I was lucky enough to be one of the 25 students in that first year. It was a cold and neglected complex as the previous owners (North Thames Gas Board) used it as a store for their appliances, the money that was promised had failed to arrive and we all had to wait it out until eventually we were deluged with the best 16mm equipment that was available.
I will never forget that first week though, we all sat in a circle in the large shooting stage showing each other our application movies and shivering to death with that promise of Nirvana on the horizon.
Bob the gate man was a real character from the old days, he was a gate man when the studios were owned by Independant Artists and carried on through the Gas Board days and finally into this new era. He would always greet us as we entered the gate with a loud whooping sound (I never could understand what he said) but it gave a great start to the day.
We were all sad when Bob finally retired but soon after he was replaced by Walter Broadbent. Wally came to the school first as a cook that managed the canteen dinners and even used to feed us after a 'session' in the 'Old Hare' pub down the road when we would be spent up and ravenous. One night while he was on gatehouse duty he slapped together steak and chips for the three of us and thus endeared himself to us for all time. His humour was contagious and often he would help out as an extra on student's productions.

Walter Broadbent

Walter Broadbent singing 'Autumn Leaves' - a former film student Jerry Feeny contacted me and offered to let me use a clip from his film about the Beaconsfield Film School.
This is classic Wally at his best, always a smile and a joke to push you on your way.....thanks for the clip Jerry.


Mark Gardiner has provided me with this photo of his Son Jason sneaking up on the gateman, taken around 1975 it shows the old sign (before the 'T' as in Television was added) - just in the distance there is the corner of the old canteen.
In those early days money was scarce and so was accommodation, Tony Rose (the Film School accountant) helped out by offering us the old dressing rooms in the administration block, these rooms were home to us until we all eventually found conventional digs around the Beaconsfield area. We must have been there for at least 6 months or so. Each dressing room had a separate bathroom and toilet and I couldn't resist filming them for posterity. At the beginning we were all given Super 8 Nizo cameras and told to go out and start film making as soon as possible while the new equipment was being installed.
One of the very first tests I did was of the local cinema projectionist Mark Gardiner (he later moved into the special effects camera world) and shot a cassette of him walking around the Film School. Just out of interest I returned to the Film School (now called the National Film and Television School since 1982) to record the similar angles that I shot in 1971 to contrast how much / little it has changed since that time. It has recently had a facelift and a new building has appeared - The Oswald Morris Building that replaces the old canteen and reception with upper floors dedicated to post production techniques for the digital age.
The philosophy in those early days was of an open structure and as a student you had to be responsible for your own production and organisation (this suited me down to the ground) although some fell by the wayside, others truly found this freedom exciting as new possibilities began to develop through that organic process. I decided to go for the experimental way and used the facilities as a 'chance of a lifetime' attempt to bring those dreams alive. Knowing full well that what I was doing was in no way commercial I didn't give it a second thought and I'm thankful now as those experiments paid off when a few years later special effects suddenly became 'sexy'. Other students used the school to make show reels of their particular talent and some combined their budgets to produce very polished productions.
Mark Gardiner used to help out on some of the school productions and here he has filmed some scenes from my experimental film 'Temptae' at the Dashwood Mausoleum in West Wycombe. I gave him one of the Nizo 8mm cine cameras and a few cassettes to play with during the shoot. Guido Van de Vyvere was in my year and I always remember his energetic enthusiasm on all productions he was involved with, Mike Radford was sound recordist, Dennis Borrows specialised in camera work along side John Shorstein and everyone that worked on each others projects usually learned something other than their specialised subjects due to the philosophy at that time of the school.
I never forgot Tony Rose telling me that the cost of putting one student through the three year course at the Film School was equivalent to the cost of training a jet pilot.
It's still impressed upon me to this day.
I was cameraman on George Haggerty's project, it was an ambitious shoot at a location in the Cairngorms near Aviemore in the depths of Winter where the snow was guaranteed. Off we set in the famous school Land Rovers into Scotland where the drifts were 2 feet thick. It took just one day of filming to realise that the batteries would not stand the charge overnight (it was well below zero) and so George's girlfriend Emily knitted woolen cosies to slip the batteries inside and these were strapped inside our clothing to raise the temperature, a quick fix that worked perfectly.

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