Filmaking in Beaconsfield - the National Film and Television School

Sue Abbey

National Film & Television School
Cullen, E

The government believed that a school was required to provide all aspects of film making – production, editing, camera work, screen writing and design – and in 1971 the Beaconsfield Film Studios were purchased by National Film Studios.  Ten years later it changed its name to the National Film and Television School to mark the developing links with television.  The initial intake was 25 students and this rapidly expanded.  However, in 1986 the Eady Levy Act was repealed resulting in the NFTS losing a vital source of revenue and creating uncertainty over its future.

Developments since 1995

In the mid 1990s the NFTS announced that they had purchased Ealing Studios and there was a proposal to relocate to these studios in London by 1999.  Much uncertainty followed, with talk that the Beaconsfield site might become a new arts and leisure centre with a swimming pool.  However, it was finally decided to follow the tradition of film companies and remain outside the capital.

There was then a period of major modernisation, expansion and technical innovation for the NFTS.  Many of the buildings were huts in need of considerable renovation.  Some of the land was sold for housing development (a block of apartments was built adjacent to the studios) to finance an up-to-date building, featuring a 150 seat digital cinema.  In addition, more facilities were created for the growing student population such as film and television studios equipped to industry standards, as well as post-production facilities rivalling those of many professional production companies.  Initial work was completed in 2008 with further state-of-the-art teaching facilities being opened in 2017.

Since 2016 a series of initiatives have been taken to increase the number of women working in screen directing, and the range of courses has expanded to include a 2-year MA as well as Diplomas and Certificates.  ‘Games’ have also been added to course contents.  The intake of students had increased to over 500 by 2021.


The NFTS has launched the careers of many famous directors, producers and other key film personnel working in both the UK and Hollywood. One of the best known is Nick Park, the creator of the animated films ‘Wallace & Gromit’, using figures made from plasticine.  Starting young, he made his first animated film in his parents’ attic at the age of 13.  However, it wasn’t until 1982 that he started the first of the Wallace & Gromit films, ‘A Grand Day Out’ whilst still studying at the School, a project which wasn’t completed until a decade later.  He was awarded his first Oscar in 1990, with further Oscars following, and later he directed ‘Chicken Run’.

Other success stories have included David Anderson who was the first student to receive a BAFTA award for his animated film; Nick Broomfield, the controversial documentary director who made ‘Life and Death of a Serial Killer’;  David Yates, who, among other films, directed ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’; James McCoan, editor of ‘Waking the Dead’; cinematographer Roger Deakins whose work included ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and Mark Herman, director of ‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’.  There are many others.

Accolades for the NFTS

The NFTS graduates are among the most sought after creative and technical personnel in film and television in the UK and Hollywood.  This has resulted in the School being featured in the top 15 international Film Schools over a number of years in the Hollywood Reporter. Student films are regularly selected for the top film festivals around the world, as well as being nominated for an Oscar 3 times in the 6 years to 2021.  In 2017 its reputation encouraged professionals such as Harry Weinstein, Kenneth Brannagh, Sally Wainwright and Roger Deakins to deliver masterclasses to the students, this coinciding with the opening of the new teaching facilities.  In the same year, the School received a number of high profile awards, including the Short Animation BAFTA for the fourth year in a row.   In 2018, the NFTS was honoured with the most prestigious BAFTA award for ‘Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema’.   More recently in 2023, a NFTS student’s short film, ‘Killing Boris Johnson’ (a film immortalising the feelings experienced during the pandemic), was the only UK entry selected for a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, with a worldwide premiere later taking place in May.

Contribution of the NFTS to Beaconsfield

NFTS continues to go from strength to strength, and Beaconsfield is very proud of its success and the growing contribution it makes to the community.  Groups of students are regularly seen around the town filming or recording interviews with local residents and the presence of the school, and its students, has obviously benefitted local traders. Since 2008 the NFTS cinema is open to members of the Beaconsfield Film Society, and occasionally, charity screenings of popular films are shown to raise money as the closure of the Chiltern Cinema in the New Town in 1989 left a gap in local entertainment.


Beaconsfield & District Historical Society “The History of Beaconsfield”  Beaconsfield (2009).

History of the NFTS”  Wikipedia

Beaconsfield Historical Society Archive: O-NFTS/A/001-004; O-NFTS/B/004; O-NFTS/D/OO1; O-NFTS/E/001; O-NFTS/NC/003-009,013-016,025-027.


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