National Film and Television School: (Inter)national Bright Young Things

By Anna Higgs

Introduction on the state of the nation and the meaning of national cinema in relation to the NFTS

As a student at this institution, I benefit enormously from both the world-class tutors and my talented peers with whom I make films and forge relationships at the school. However, my experience at the school has made me see some of the current ‘hot topics’ in the UK industry with a slightly divided viewpoint.

On the one hand, there is an increasing focus from government bodies and key filmmakers on rescuing the ‘British’ film industry, to return us as a national sector to our leading role in the creative endeavour and technical craft of filmmaking.

On the other hand, at the school I more regularly work with people from all over the world than fellow Brits. On the last short I made (ironically about the hey-day of British wrestling in the 80s) I worked with a Greek director, a Finnish editor, a Spanish DoP and a South African sound designer.

As the microcosm of the NFTS becomes increasingly international in its makeup (as evidenced by the other articles in this collection), can we really continue to divide the development and production of films along national borders in the modern world?

As a producer, I see the wider filmmaking world become more and more international every day- not only in the human universality of stories that we tell, but in the very nuts and bolts of financing and packaging deals. ‘Britishness’ tests for tax relief stamp a film with a ‘made in the UK’ seal of approval, but happily ignore the fact that the film was more than likely financed by piecing together a dizzying array of funds from Germany, the US and soon (if the latest articles in Screen et al., are to be believed) East Asia.

With the facts as they are at these two levels, can we continue to think of British film as an entity- separate in both its content and industry makeup- or must we accept that to truly generate an upturn here for UK filmmakers, we have to think internationally and globally in the truest sense and stop trying to re-create the halcyon days of Ealing Studios?

I think Michael Caton-Jones puts it well on the recently revamped NFTS site. He says ‘I would not be making films in Hollywood without it (NFTS)’. MCJ is a Scottish filmmaker who is hard to classify given his work across a wide range of independent and mainstream movies, most recently directing Shooting Dogs (about the genocide in Rwanda) and Basic Instinct 2 (a Hollywood studio movie, shot in the UK).

If more British filmmakers had this international outlook, perhaps our industry and the people that populate it would be making as diverse and challenging a range of films with more regularity and more success.