"How do I get into the NFTS?"

I'm starting to get a lot of emails and questions from people who are considering applying to the National Film and Television School this year or next, asking for tips and advice on the application procedure.

I can't really say anything specific, mostly because I just don't know. They'll be looking for different things each year, depending on the general skill level and interests of the applicants (there's no point in having a class of 8 people who are all at completely different levels of experience, technical knowledge etc). I have a fairly limited knowledge of the procedures outside the post-production section, and the knowledge I do have is three years old. Some of the things I'll say may be more relevant to some courses than others, and the knowledge I have related to the applications procedure comes from having been at the school for two years and talking to the other students rather than being involved in or enquiring in-depth about the selections.

However, I'll pass on some notes expanding on the points I try to mention to everyone else who asks me, so that I can direct people to this page in the future. This is more of a guide to things you may want to think about before you start your application than what to actually write - above all, be yourself. Don't assume that what I'd write is in some way more likely to get you a place than what you'd write. Not only do things change, but you're the one who's going to be going through the stages of the applications - and potentially up to two years at the place.


1. Do your research

The school's website is at http://www.nfts.org.uk . From there you can view course information, an online copy of the prospectus, information about the school's history and alumni (famous and recent), details of the application procedures for each course.... just about everything you need.

By having found this page, this probably isn't something that I need to be saying to the people who are reading it - but the number of job interviews I've been to when I've casually mentioned something I've seen on the company''s website that interested me and the astonishment it has sometimes caused.... I've learnt to not just assume that it's taken for granted that I've taken even 10 minutes out of my Facebook/ Twitter/ sleeping time to read up on a company or specific role before an interview.

This isn't just a tip for the applications process - it's to make sure that you know that you want to go. The majority of courses last two years. That's two years in which you're not earning money (and have to pay fees), two years in which you're handing your life over to the projects you're doing at the school on some very intensive courses, and for some students at the school who I knew, two years in which you may not be able to even visit your home country or see your family (international students are a huge part of the NFTS, don't let the 'National' in the name put you off!). This the structure of a typical UK undergraduate arts degree where there are two hours of lectures and then a lot of time in a bar - this is a 5/6/7 days a week 8-20 hours a day undertaking at the really busy periods for some courses.

2. Why do you want to do the course you're applying for?

Why do you want to do cinematography/ directing/ producing/ sound design etc. rather than anything else? How did you find it? Where would you like to end up in your career? What would you do if you didn't get into the school? What steps have you taken towards your goals so far? How is the NFTS course suitable for your specific needs? Do you have any concerns or questions about the contents of the course and how suitable it is for you?

3. Why do you want to go to the NFTS?

The research you've done into the school will help here. Consider which other options were open to you - other film schools, employment, even waiting a bit longer and applying another year. Have you considered the implications of the time/ financial/ personal/ residential commitment?

Again - this is something you should be able to answer for yourself, and as a secondary consideration as part of an application process. Film School isn't the be-all and end-all of working in film or television. There's no obligation to go. A lot of the courses run week-long selection workshops during which it's stressed that it's as much for you to find out about the school as it is for the school to find out about you. This is a graduate degree programme, and a degree of maturity is expected. If you see the course solely as a means to an end then you're going to have a very rough two years, and you definitely won't get the best that you can from the experience.

.... and that's all I can really think of to say. You can read the rest of my blog for some of my further experiences at the school (specifically the most recent ones for the overviews). I've met some great people there, and had some good times. Is it for you? That's not something I'd want to comment on for anyone. But hopefully I've given you something to think about before you make your application.

Good luck!