1 November 2019
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
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 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
“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
“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 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
“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 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
“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.”
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