My time at NFTS has been especially productive and beneficial, and spending time speaking to current students there has opened my eyes to different opportunities and knowledge I do not yet have, and skills I wish to build upon. There are students from many different backgrounds there, which is interesting to see how people use their specialisms to aid their work and how their knowledge has an impact on their designs.

The team I worked with was very good. Spending the majority of the time working with Alessandro, he ensured I always had something to do, and tried to make sure everything I worked on would be beneficial to my learning, and tried to avoid giving me ‘less exciting’ tasks. Additionally, because of the nature of the production, it meant I used many techniques and materials, so got a lot of experience doing a variety of things.

I will definitely be looking into furthering my education because of this experience, as I feel there are many things I do not know which I would like to, and speaking to students at NFTS, their wide knowledge basis has been improved by doing this course.



These visuals were sent to me by Alessandro prior to my time at NFTS to give me an idea about the project, the aesthetic, and the outcome. They were very helpful when making the pieces, as I had some kind of idea as to what the desired final result was. When constructing the helter skelter in the first week, I had some of these visuals pinned up around me to help envision what I was aiming for.



helter skelter


burger shop


inside helter

interview place 2

interview place

living room



travel agency

Outside Research

Between my time spent at NFTS and home, I did small levels of research regarding the next day’s projects. I wanted to go in with some idea of how I could achieve the task at hand, and even bring some ideas to the table regarding possible approaches. Alessandro was definitely always open to suggestions, and often did not have a completely defined idea, so we often worked together to achieve the final idea result. Sometimes I would not know what I would be doing the next day, but I used Pinterest as a platform for inspiration and to aid my ideas and understanding. This also meant I could suggest things neither of us would have initially thought of, and use my research to aid my work.


Reflection on the interview with Francesca Berlingieri Maxwell…

I feel very lucky that we had the chance to interact so closely with Francesca during our time at NFTS. Through a mix of group and individual time with her, it was good to get feedback on a professional level, and be able to relate to her on a number of different ideas. Its very interesting to see how, as a designer and maker, her experiences separates her massively from the MA students. I would take the MA students advice, just as confidently as they would take hers, as she has valuable knowledge that she happily passes on. It’s beneficial to be able to get this information from her, as it is interesting to see how people work into the industry, and their own opinion on the best techniques and  routes. My own question to her was ‘What is the best route into the creative film industry, is a MA degree or BA degree a good route for new designers?’ I had never considered doing an MA before I had this experience at NFTS, but seeing how much more knowledgable the students are for it, and how beneficial it can be when beginning a career, it has definitely made it consider that route. Seeing how confident both Francesca and the students are in the course, made me realise how much more I have to learn, and that perhaps an MA course would provide me with a fraction of this knowledge.



Week 3

8th May – 12th May

The construction of the bar was complete, so it was time for me to move on to coloring it. Alessandro said to me at the beginning of the day that, if possible, he wanted to keep the wood grain visible in the finished product, to maintain authenticity. I began considering different ways I could achieve this. The only paint medium we had was acrylic, and if applied neat would just mask the wood grain. Therefore I did a sample of the paint diluted, and although the colour was close, the wood just completely absorbed it, making the colour weaker and requiring far too many layers to achieve the desired finish. Because of this, I tried using Button Polish to see how that would come up on the wood. The colour at first was weak, but after a few layers, built up a good tone with an effective texture, as it had a slightly varnished finish to it; unlike the acrylic on its own that dried completely matte.

After a few layers of button polish were applied to my sample piece, I decided to try putting the acrylic paint (diluted) over the Button Polish. This was extremely effective, as it gave the desired colour, and because the polish had primed the surface, the paint did not get absorbed as easily, giving a richer colour and saving time as less layers would be needed. I used Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna, and varied the ratio of each depending on whether I wanted an area to be darker or lighter.

Seeing the process visually is good, as when you are doing it, sometimes it is hard to see changes. Looking back at the pictures, I can see that each layer I did made a considerable difference. I diluted the paint more in some areas, and less so in others, to keep the variety of textures and mimic the visuals given to me by Alessandro. This process took a considerable amount of time, as each layer had to dry before another could be put on. Plus, to keep the wood grain visible, I had to put each layer on very thinly, which took longer than anticipated. However, I am pleased with the overall finish of it, and glad that I took my time on it. Alessandro and Director and Cinematographer of the project were all very pleased with the outcome, and Alessandro than asked me to do the same finish on the skirting boards, doors and windows for the set. When it was finished painting, I put two final layers of Button Polish over it, erasing any areas that were too matte and giving it a slight shine, similar to the visuals give to me.



This is the door Alessandro bought in to fit into the Pub set. He felt as the other elements were being made from scratch, that it would save time to buy some of the parts in. This door and the windows he bought were made of something different to the bar and skirting boards, and so required a few more layers of Button Polish to achieve the same effect.

The same had to be done to the skirting boards and columns (for the bar – Alessandro bought these in). The columns were the hardest to achieve this finish on, because of their shape and the material they were made out of. The paint and the polish seemed to just sit on top of the material, and take a while to soak in, which made the process far longer and also made it difficult to see what areas needed more paint etc.

I was was pleased with how the skirting boards turned out, as I managed to get them to look the same as the bar. Challenging, as Alessandro ran out of Burnt Umber paint, so I had to comprise my own out of Burnt Sienna, Black and Yellow Ochre. I finished them with Button Polish so they had the same texture as the bar, to keep it all consistent.


I sawed the columns down to size and glued them in, I had to hold them in place to make sure they stayed in the correct place and didn’t slip under the weight of the bar. I also had to put the wood finish onto beams that would I would later put onto the ceiling. I enjoyed making and watching the plans develop into 3D set pieces, and it was a very good experience for me to see how the plans for objects are drawn up, as the plans were not necessarily always how I would have imagined them to have been done.


I had a small break from working on the Pub set, as I was the only assistant in on Wednesday afternoon and there were some pieces that needed completing for the test shoot the next day. The two polystyrene half-spheres would be hills, and needed painting and texturing. I made a base green (using one of the visuals as a guide), and put it on as a base layer, before gradually adding yellow and white to the mix to add other colours onto the half-spheres.  Once dry, they would then be textured with fine green shavings (bought) and trees and fences would be made and put on them to match other elements of the set, to bring the Countryside Road scene together.


Nafisah then went on to texture the ‘hills’, and put props on them such as the trees and fences.


Once they were done, we both went with Alessandro and Ed (Producer), to do a test of this scene – to see if anything needed adapting and to test angles and timings etc. The scene is very reliant on man power, as it needs multiple people to assist in moving the parts around in sync. After the test, Ed suggested that the hills be filmed still and then edited in with movement, as it would be impossible to get two people to be completely in sync and keep the shots clean. This was definitely a good experience for me, and immediately made me understand how important it is to continually test props and shots, to make sure there are no surprises on the allocated day of shooting and that everything can be run against a plan knowing how everything works behind the camera.


I was asked by Alessandro to continue with the Pub set, and carried on to make the walls to attach to the skirting board. They needed to be textured, but the designs had not been finalised by the team yet. Texturing the walls would be far easier with the skirting boards detached, however Alessandro said he wanted the set put together to see how it would look, so asked if I could put the walls together anyway and work the textures on afterwards.


I had a few issues when constructing the ceiling. The initial process was simple, the size of the ceiling was bigger than one piece of foam board, so I had to divide the ceiling into two parts and then stick them together before putting the printed ceiling texture onto it. Then, the beams had to be stuck on. This went wrong the first time, as I need to cut 4 of the beams down to fit the bar into the set. I did not realise this until I had began sticking the beams on, so I needed to pull them off and have the ceiling texture reprinted. Although I had reviewed the plans, this taught me to ensure I have covered every area of the plans thoroughly enough. Luckily, it was not a mistake that could not be easily changed, and it didn’t take me long to rectify it. I did however, find the plans confusing at times, as I had to look at them facing a certain way, but the actual ceiling would be flipped when put onto the set, so everything had to be done the opposite way to how the plans showed. Confusing at first, but I got the hang of it and stuck the pieces on. However, I had to make some adjustments to the beams as they were on the plans, because they did not allow room for the ceiling to sit on the walls. Therefore, I cut 0.5cm (the depth of the foamboard walls), away from each of the beams, to ensure the ceiling would fit.


Another issue came to light when I put the bar into the set. Because of the floor being made out of foamboard, that added an extra 0.5cm to the height of the set, problematic to the final piece as it meant the bar was higher up and slightly clashed with the ceiling. To solve this issue, I first of all cut a 0.5cm add-on to the walls. Although the resolution was along the right lines, 0.5cm was not enough to account for the space needed, and so instead I added a 2cm foamboard extension to all of the walls. This allowed enough room for the bar and beams without there being any issue. As the texture was not already added, this was easy to do and did not effect the design.


(Below- the beams obstructing the ceiling and wall connection before they were cut)




Nafisah and I went into the main studio where they were setting up for the shoot of some of the sets, and it was really interesting to see the bits of sets coming together to make the final thing. Its also really good to see how they will use elements in different ways to create visual effects, and really beneficial to experience how really basic materials and techniques can be used to produce something much bigger. It looks much different on camera, and the screen was constantly being referred back to as their main point of visual, as this would be how it was viewed in the final film.


The next step was to put the textures on the walls. A brick texture had been ordered but had not arrived, so Alessandro printed the textures for me to put onto the walls. He also did the same with the carpet, by finding a pattern he wanted and overlaying a texture onto it to give it a carpet effect, a technique I had not thought of before, so that was a good tip.


The next stage was to fit the doors and windows. However, as soon as I went to fit them, I could see there was going to be a problem. Alessandro had ordered these parts, but did not check the measurements against his plans. Therefore as I went to fit them, the door was a few cm too narrow for the gap, and the windows were about an inch too big. A good learning curve for me to see and work with.

I used the leftover beams and fitted them to each side of the door way. The door then fit, however, the gap was still slightly too big to glue to door in, so I got some Balsa wood and put a thin strip on either side to allow enough space to glue the door in without it moving around constantly. This would not be a problem as I could just paint the Balsa strips using the same technique as I did with everything else. The door was then fit in, and I taped it in place whilst it dried as there was not much room for movement.


As seen in the picture above, There is a gap between the top of the door and the side beams. I cut some more of the beams up and put one small piece either side, and then put some Balsa at the top to give it a cleaner finish.

For the windows, I had to cut away some of the foamboard to allow them to slot straight in as designed. This was very simple and didn’t take long, however the problem was with the skirting, and how it clashed with the windows when they fit in.


There could be no gaps between the window frame and the foamboard, as it would effect the lighting when filming. So although the window fit in and I added foamboard underneath the bottom of the frame to prevent light coming through, without cutting the skirting board, there were big gaps either side of the window frame.

The only issue with cutting the skirting board was that the Balsa wood splinters really easy, as I have learnt many times from this project. I made sure I had a sharp blade on my scalpel and had to put pressure on the remainder of the Balsa so that it didn’t snap, and took 0.5cm off of each side, allowing for the frame to fall into place.

Once all of these issues were rectified, I could begin putting the set together. It would only pinned together as the director stated he wants to be able to take the walls apart during filming to have access to all angles.



The space between the bar and the ceiling is so the bar can be lit when filming.

I was very glad to have independently worked on an entire set. It was good to see how it all came together from technical drawings and plans, to 3D work ready for shooting. It definitely gave me a small sense of what it would be like to work on independent projects, and opened my eyes to a variety of different opportunities linked to scale models. I also got a sense of attachment to the set, and although I know that most of the time you will have to constantly pass work around to the next practitioner as part of a working process, it was beneficial for me to work on every part of it, working on a variety of different skills all at once.


Friday 12th was the first day of filming, so there were lots of small things that needed doing, most of which were not pre-planned, and instead were decided they would look effective on the day. I had to make clouds using cotton wool,  and cut out silhouettes of bushes and trees for the background of the fairground scene.


The final task I had at NFTS was to work on the props for the Pub scene. Alessandro had bought in all of the furniture, and wanted me to paint it using the same technique. However, a lot of the furniture had been varnished in manufacturing, and the paint would not sit properly on them, so I sanded the varnish off of them before repeating the painting technique on all of them. Towards the end of the day, a few of the MA students approached me and asked how I achieved the wood stain effect across the entire set. I shared my technique with them, and felt encouraged that they enjoyed what I had produced. It’s good to be able to share knowledge, as it can help people achieve exactly what they envision in their designs.



Roles within ‘Hedgehog’ at NFTS

Alessandro is the main designer for the sets of Hedgehog. He put together concept art for the production, followed by an animatic to bring the sets to life and inform other members of the team of the desired outcome. He is who all assistants answered to when discussing design and fabrication of sets and props.

Jonah is the Director of Hedgehog. He was the least involved with the assistants, as his role is mainly involved with the final outcome when shooting. Any feedback he has came through Alessandro to us.

Ed is the Producer of this project, and although he was less involved in the making, he had the final say when it came to Artistic Direction. He regularly came in to check up on the project, making sure everything remained on schedule, and any potential changes were ran past him. Although he had the final say, he took on board feedback and advice from other members of the team. Towards the end of the making stages, Ed wanted to do tests with lighting and camera to ensure everything would run smoothly when shooting, and directed changes where necessary.

The Cinematographer for ‘Hedgehog’ focuses mainly on the shooting side of things, assessing how the designs will work in the final outcome, and considers the camera and lighting more than the other members of the group. She was present a few times during production, and any decisions involving filming or lighting had to be ran through her.

There are other people in roles involved in the production which I did not come across, such as Lighting, Writer, CGI Animator and Post Production. CGI animator and Post Production will work closely with each other once the film has been shot and all scenes taken, as it will involve the animation of characters for the film, as well as editing them in and making sure each element involved runs smoothly.

My role as an assistant to the production involves making and fabricating designs, bringing them through the stages of production, from 2D plans to 3D sets and props ready for filming. I used a variety of different skills and interacted with most of the team,  turning the concept into reality. As an assistant, I had the most interaction with the sets and props, and followed instructions very closely to ensure all elements were accurate and could be moved onto the next step.


If I were to compare my role at NFTS to my role at Evolution Productions, I would say that NFTS was far more of a collaborative project with the MA students, than a work placement which is definitely more of what Evolution was. Working on Hedgehog, I had a lot more individual responsibility, and the work I did would be the final outcome for a production. At Evolution, I was very much shadowing the team, especially Michelle, taking on a lot less creative freedom, working on elements that seemed quite irrelevant to the production’s final success. When comparing the two experiences in relation to the industry, I would say that NFTS required a lot more detail, precision, and care, as details are a lot more prominent on film and there would be no chance to rectify anything you had completed. At Evolution, there was definitely a different attitude relating to detail. Because it is a theatre production, detail is a lot less visible, making each task a lot quicker. On the other hand, there is no post-production involved in theatre, so the final outcome is the thing the public see. However, a cleaner film set means less work to do post-production, so it is important that a high level of care is put into everything.


Statement of Intent

I aim to make the opportunity of working alongside NFTS MA students a very beneficial experience, expanding my knowledge and skill levels alongside other students that are also learning. I will definitely use my time here to assess my own learning, and gain a greater understanding of what I need to learn, as well as pushing myself to create new things and tackle obstacles I may not have come across yet. Working on someone else’s project that is so reliant on my work will be a new experience for me, but I intend to use this to improve my time management skills, as well as work on exercising my abilities to interact with new people on a professional level.

Week 1

3rd April – 7th April

The week after working at Evolution Productions, I started my collaboration with NFTS. Specifically, I would be working with MA student Alessandro on animated production ‘Hedgehog.’

My first day started off at 9am, I met Alessandro and got quickly briefed before being given a task to begin. Being given the plans and materials without any context was slightly daunting at first, but it didn’t take long at all for me to apply myself and figure out the desired finish myself. When I saw Alessandro again I asked for some visual references so I could begin constructing the parts with a target aesthetic, as this could effect the finish and smaller detailing on the work. The plans were very descriptive, speeding up the beginning of the process as all of the technical information was there. Some of the drawings were even in the correct scale, which was very helpful when it came to constructing under a time limit. At the beginning of the task, another assistant was assigned to the animation project Hedgehog, so we worked together on the construction. Having an extra pair of hands was helpful as it would have been quite a challenging shape to put together alone, however it did open my eyes to the pros and cons of working with other people on small projects. Both of us had very different skills, and at first it was hard to utilise these until we realised who was more experienced and knowledgable in each area, and understood the different ways in how we worked. The base was constructed using foam board covered in Balsa wood. This was suitable as the shapes on this part were not complex, and the wood gave the right texture and could easily be manipulated. Scoring the wood to give a panelled effect was definitely more challenging than anticipated, but this immediately taught me more about the material. When being scored with the grain, the effect was strong, however going against the grain just split the wood and caused us to have to redo elements. Initially, the assistant I was working with wanted the leave the broken wood as it was, but I insisted we redo it to produce the most effective finish possible. It was surprising how small detailing can effect the final outcome of a piece, for example adding small trims to any edges or joining seams kept it very neat.


The days following this, I worked alone on the rest of the helter skelter construction. Although working with other people is effective, I did enjoy finishing this piece alone, as I was able to put my own ideas into practice, and ended up with something I was fully pleased with and did not have to compromise. I felt it was also quicker when working alone, as I could move from task to task quickly.

The next stages were more complex, with less detailed plans, so there were elements of the design I had to improvise myself. I enjoyed this, as it not only had an element of design, but it meant I had free reign to add my own twist in parts.

Using foam board for the main elements worked as the details were not tiny, plus Balsa sticks effectively to it simply by using Spray Mount which meant the construction could continue quickly without having to wait for anything to dry. Due to how versatile Balsa can be, and the available thickness’, I could cut the pieces to accurate sizes and shapes.

The masking tape kept it all together whilst the UHU adhesive was drying. Without using tape to keep it all together, it would not have been as neat.

The next part was different to the plans, as instructed by Alessandro. He wanted the top two sections to come apart (for filming purposes), as well as come away from the base of the helter skelter. After some consideration, I decided the approach that would be easiest, as well as provide the best finish, would be to measure and widen the section that the stairs come up from, and construct a lip that hangs over the base. It needed to be wide enough to fit over the base without having to make changes to it every time it needed to be removed or put back on, but firm enough around it so that it could clip on rather than just balance, and did not move around.




Alessandro also asked that the roof come off of the piece too, so I had to make sure that the finish was neat all over the main part of the helter skelter, without any areas of foam board showing. As shown in the above pictures, I replicated the removable section process with a lip that clipped onto the section below. However, this time it was a lot more complex as smaller details were involved, as well as making sure the proportions of these detailed areas were 100% correct. Due to the shape of the roof, it needed to be removable in a way that didn’t effect or allow room for potential damage to the helter skelter. I did a lot of experiments with the roof when constructing it, involving materials, shapes and sizes. Alessandro was unsure of exactly how he wanted it to be, so I was quite free to experiment. Initially, the plans stated that the roof should swoop down from a centre point at the top and attach at the edges of the roof on each side. At first I tried with basic card to get the shape and, although flexible, the material did not leave a neat enough finish. Next I tried with Balsa wood, but there were a number of complications including the size of the Balsa pieces (which meant I had to stick pieces together – making it less strong as a whole), and also the malleability of the material, as pushed too far and it can snap.




After these experiments were not successful, I proposed an alternative design to Alessandro which he approved and I continued with instead. I decided that a straight and sturdy layer of foam board covered in Balsa wood would be stronger and more effective for filming, as the other materials were too unpredictable for a set under time pressure.


(comparison picture – card/foamboard&balsa wood) ^


The most complex part of the construction was left until last. The slide that spirals around the helter skelter needed to be made out of balsa wood, an interesting material to work with on a curve.

I began by using a paper macette to model how it would look and figure out angles and placements. IMG_0063.jpgIMG_0065.jpg

I then cut the shape out of card, and began by layering Balsa on top, angling each individual piece to gradually curve and create the slide without any ridges. Alessandro requested that the slide also be removable for filming, so this was a good experience for me, having to problem solve and improvise with limited materials. The top first few inches of the slide are attached to the helter skelter, however the rest is separate and can be reversibly attached to the beginning of the slide.

IMG_0067 2.jpg

Whilst I was away for Easter, the assistant from the first day finished off decorative elements and painted the piece. It looked very effective, and the only additional features that needed completing were slide (painting and attachment), and high/low lights to bring the features of the piece out more for filming.



I spent four days out of this Monday-Friday week with Alessandro working on the helter skelter. However for the remaining day, I assisted David on his project as he needed an extra set of hands. This was a very different kind of work, which was positive as it give me an insight into what everyone else was doing, but it did break up the flow of my other work.

I wasn’t really briefed for this task, but this wasn’t much of an issue due to the task revolving more around texture and less around overall finished piece and aesthetic. I was given a lot of visual references which was good, however none of the pictures seemed to correlate in any way and were all completely different, which made it tricky to understand which finish he wanted. I decided to do a small sample of each different texture to show him, so he could have a visual idea of what the final outcome would be. The only requirement he had was that it be done in Artex.

Mixing the Artex with a few different materials achieved more effective results, as it is easier to sand away at the material rather than add to it after half of it has gone off. One thing I did learn is that Artex goes off much quicker than it says on the packaging, and to only mix a small amount at a time so as to not waste any before it goes off and becomes unusable.

After doing a few small samples, the best results for the desired texture (tarmac/ruined roads) came with mixing the Artex with shavings, waiting for it to go off and then sanding it down in the places that needed to be smooth and all one level, and keeping it as it set in the areas which would be rougher.

Another task I was given to complete by David, was to mix up a colour from a swatch he gave me, sand down the door surfaces and paint them. Taking the advice given to me by Michelle at Evolution Productions, I mixed the paint quickly without much difficulty, and could apply it immediately.

Once they were painted, I glazed them. This gave them a better finish, and once they were dry, they could be put into the set piece. Although it was good to work with different materials, breaking up the week, I definitely preferred the work with Alessandro, working on small scale, realistic models. This gave me an insight into what my main interests are relating to this placement, and even further when looking into the industry side of things.