USW graduates employed on ground-breaking TV fantasy, His Dark Materials


Students and graduates from the University of South Wales (USW) Film and TV School have been working on the production of the epic new TV drama, His Dark Materials.

Adapted by writer Jack Thorne from Philip Pullman’s acclaimed series of novels, the series will have its global premiere on Sunday 3 November on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

His Dark Materials is a Bad Wolf production. Through their not-for-profit educational initiative Screen Alliance Wales (SAW), Bad Wolf continues to develop relationships with local schools, colleges and universities, building career pathways and supporting young Welsh talent. Working with USW’s Film & TV School Wales, SAW promotes a wide range of skills needed to work in the film industry, including traineeships, placements and shadowing, and an online networking and jobs portal.

Filming of His Dark Materials took place predominantly at Wolf Studios Wales in Cardiff and on location around the UK. More than 40 USW students and graduates have been involved in all stages of production and across a wide variety of roles. Filming is already underway on season two.

Tom Ware, Head of USW Film and TV School Wales said: “Everyone at USW is thrilled that, thanks to our close partnership with Screen Alliance Wales, we are able to create so many opportunities for our students and graduates to work on this ground breaking series. To be able to support so many talented young people now and on future series is both an honour and a privilege.”


Andrew Creak, Caerphilly, BA (Hons) Film Graduate

Graduate Andrew Creak, His Dark Materials

Andrew is a production assistant trainee on His Dark Materials. Last year, he was on a work placement on season one, which led to a subsequent interview for his current role.

Andrew said: “I chose to study at USW as it’s close to where I live and it has close connections with industry, such as Bad Wolf. Also, the creative arts industry is booming in Cardiff. I think one of the many reasons for this is that there are so many diverse locations for filming, everything you could need is within a 40 minute drive from the city centre.

“My degree involved different aspects of industry from film theory, history of film, to practical assignments making short films etc. We learnt all the different aspects of production – all working together to make something beautiful.

“It feels amazing to go from graduating to working on a high-quality BBC/HBO production. Studying at USW gave me the confidence to apply for work experience. During my first week, I got to work with one of my favourite actors but my favourite part of my role is being able to see every single part of the production – from pre-production through to post-production.

“This is my first proper job working in the industry. I never thought I would go into a role like this. I didn’t even know this job existed when I started studying film.

“I would advise students to use their initiative and apply for lots of work experience. Be nice and people will remember you.

“Working for Bad Wolf has been phenomenal. The things I get to see and do as part of the production has been beyond what I could have imagined.”


Ben Jenkins, Cwmbran, MA Film (Production Management) GraduateGraduate Ben Jenkins, His Dark Materials

Ben Jenkins has always had an avid interest in the business side of television. Since graduating from the Masters course, Ben has worked on productions such as; Bargain Hunt, Casualty, and Da Vinci’s Demons. From there he went on to work as

Jane Tranter’s Executive Assistant at Bad Wolf. Ben is now Operations Executive on His Dark Materials.

Ben said: “I researched the production management courses available and USW offered the exact high-quality course I wanted to study.

“Many of the tutors are industry professionals themselves, so there is not just great course content but they created contacts and opportunities for us.

“You no longer have to go to London to work in this industry, there are opportunities on your doorstep. Through Screen Alliance Wales, there are links to provide a minimum two-week work paid placement which gives a taster of the industry and a realistic experience of your potential career.

“Screen Alliance Wales also arrange traineships in various roles, which can be a springboard from graduating to traineeship to crew member, working from a runner upwards, which is how most people start in the industry.

“My advice to anyone thinking about working in this industry would be to grab any opportunity that is offered to you. These experiences will set you above your competitors.

“The film industry in Wales has exploded over the past four years. It is an incredible opportunity for Wales that we can build something like His Dark Materials. Viewers can expect a highly enjoyable visual experience with gripping drama.”



Sarah Notley, Newport, BA (Hons) TV & Set Design Graduate Graduate Sarah Notley, His Dark Materials

Sarah Notley studied BA (Hons) TV and Set Design at USW, and is now Art Director on His Dark Materials.

Sarah said: “Growing up in Wales, Cardiff was very enticing. I wanted to stay close to home and USW had amazing opportunities. I wanted to be a part of that.

“TV and Set Design was the perfect course for me creatively. Working on TV and film means there is no limit to what you can create.

“A large part of the course was learning to draft, so that was something I enjoyed and wanted to continue doing. As soon as I finished my course I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I worked on different productions, and then was approached to apply for an opening as a draftsman, which I jumped at.

“A designer I knew called me to come in and work on designing Wolf Studios, after that I was asked to be on the drawing team. My first job was with Bad Wolf and I haven’t stopped since, which is fantastic.

“His Dark Materials is very different from anything else I have worked on. A stand-out moment for me was last year. We had a huge location build for season one. The scenery was beautiful and the location was close to home. We created a set of 20 buildings inside a quarry. It was a long process involving a lot of people. It was a real highlight when we handed over the finished product for filming.

“Then the visual effects add to our level of work and the whole scale of this show is elevated. It adds a whole other level to what we have created.

“It’s hard for me to watch the production on screen and not critique my own work. I always watch everything twice. The first time I will analyse it. If I don’t do that I don’t think I am doing a good job as art director. There is always something to improve upon and grow from. The second time I watch, I can relax and enjoy it.

“Nothing like His Dark Materials has been seen before. There are multiple worlds in the books, it’s beautiful that we can explore those worlds on screen. That level of detail from the books really comes across on the screen.

“After being in the industry for a while, I have rarely worked outside Wales, I have been really lucky. I think Wales is a massive hub. USW is producing talented graduates and has enabled the industry to grow quickly. So many productions are here enticing people to come to Wales, they know there are professional crew members here.”