Posted on 8 March 2012
Heslington Studios, the commercial arm of the University’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television, is providing post-production facilities to Green Screen Productions, specialists in computer generated imagery (CGI). Last month Green Screen Productions launched its new Northern film studios at Bubwith near York.
Although general industry collaborations in other disciplines are not uncommon at universities, they are rare in film and television
Its first feature film, The Knife That Killed Me, is at the late pre-production stage and will be distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures UK at the end of the year.
The new partnership involves recent York graduates working alongside well-established industry professionals at Green Screen Productions, including Oscar-winning producer Stephen Evans (Henry V, The Madness of King George).
The partnership grew out of an earlier collaboration between the University and some of Green Screen’s principals - Kit Monkman, Alan Latham and Tom Mattinson - on the 2006 film The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, featuring Joely Richardson and Tom Berenger. York Music Technology and Media Technology students carried out a significant portion of the visual effects work.
John Mateer from the University's Department of Theatre, Film and Television is the driving force behind the new partnership and the visual effects producer for The Knife That Killed Me.
Before joining the University, he worked as a producer and director with companies including Jonathan Goodson Productions (in association with Paramount Studios), Gabriel Films Ltd., Ogilvy & Mather and LucasArts (as part of the First Cities project).
John Mateer, one of the founders of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at York, said: “Although general industry collaborations in other disciplines are not uncommon at universities, they are rare in film and television. The Knife That Killed Me is particularly unusual in that it has the backing of a major studio.
“This kind of new business model lowers the cost of entry and the overall capital requirements of a production, as well as helping to generate the next cohort of film professionals.
“For the University there are obvious benefits in terms of raising its profile within the film industry, helping to keep our teaching and practices current, and providing revenue to maintain our excellent facilities and kit. It’s a win-win arrangement.”
In addition to The Knife That Killed Me, post-production work will be carried out on a further four films at the University’s new £30 million facilities over the coming year. In return, Heslington Studios receives a minimum fee for each project based on a Capital Investment Allocation.
Green Screen Productions is employing recent York graduates to work on the films under a Knowledge Transfer Partnership agreement. Since September, six graduates have been working on The Knife That Killed Me and more will be taken on later in the year.
John Mateer said: “Initially, it will be postgraduate students and recent graduates who will be the main beneficiaries. They will gain real-world experience working alongside highly creative established professionals, as well as a production credit. There is also the potential for undergraduates to gain work experience through the partnership during University vacations.”
The Knife That Killed Me is set in Yorkshire and chronicles a boy’s spiral into knife-crime. Green Screen Productions is shooting the film almost entirely on green screen at its new studios. Most of the action takes place in the principal character’s head, so cutting-edge CGI techniques are being used to create a distinctive, stylised look.
Alan Latham, Producer and Managing Director of Green Screen Productions Ltd, said: “Having just launched our new Northern film studios near York, we are very excited about working with Heslington Studios. The Theatre, Film and Television building offers us exceptional post-production facilities and access to top level graduates particularly in the field of Computer Generated Imagery.”
Carole Dove, Commercial Director for Heslington Studios, said: “The new partnership is great news for the creative industry in Yorkshire, especially in light of Screen Yorkshire’s announcement of a new £15 million Yorkshire Content Fund. The money will be invested in content creation by Yorkshire-based companies as well as being used to attract productions looking to locate within the region.”
The new Theatre, Film and Television building, which was officially opened last year, is purpose-built to support and foster interactions between the University, researchers and business.
Together with the former Head of Department, Professor Andy Tudor, John Mateer spear-headed the development and oversaw the design, specification, procurement and fit-out of all production and post-production areas of the new building.
Wholly owned by the University of York, Heslington Studios boasts two HD broadcast TV studios, a 140-seat preview cinema, a multi-purpose sound stage, as well as superb sound and picture post-production facilities.
Ben Louden graduated from the University of York last summer with an MA in Postproduction with specialisation in Visual Effects, and is working as a visual effects artist on The Knife That Killed Me.
He said: “The experience I'm gaining from this project will help me no end in the future. Because we are heavily involved in all aspects of the filmmaking process, the amount I am learning amazes me sometimes.
“My time is split into two at the moment. Half the time, I work creatively with the other guys developing the look of the film and working on test footage etc. The other half, I organise different aspects of the infrastructure involved with setting up what is essentially a small Post-Production house, as well as generally overseeing and coordinating the work done within the team.
“I hope the experience I've gained on this project will fast-track me to a higher step on the industry ladder when it ends.”