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College launches initiative to support Welsh creative talent to work in the film industry

L-R: Coleg y Cymoedd creative learner, Ashley Syms, with course leader, Alistair Aston, and Eliot Gibbins, who heads up creature effects for His Dark Materials

A college in the South Wales valleys has teamed up with a leading creative industry body to boost learners’ prospects of securing a career in film and television.

Coleg y Cymoedd has officially partnered with Screen Alliance Wales, a not-for-profit organisation which works to develop and grow a pipeline of talent for Wales’ TV and film industries.

The partnership will enable learners to gain valuable industry experience with film and TV production companies in Wales, as well as the opportunity to learn directly from world-leading experts in the field.

While original plans for the programme were centred around providing work placements and facility tours, in light of current circumstance, elements of the scheme have been adapted, with a focus on virtual masterclasses and socially distanced workshops. Learners will also receive training sessions on how to operate safely within the sector during the pandemic.

 Moving forward, once appropriate, the college hopes to roll out the full programme, which will see learners have access to various work placement opportunities where they will be able to shadow industry professionals and gain an insight into different TV and film roles. They will also benefit from visits and tours of Cardiff-based Wolf Studios Wales, famous for producing shows such as BBC One hit His Dark Materials, Sky Original drama A Discovery of Witches and upcoming BBC/HBO co-production Industry. 

The first stage of building stronger links with industry at Coleg y Cymoedd has seen the talented team behind His Dark Materials set up a base at the college. The show’s heads of ‘Creature Effects’, Brian Fisher and Eliot Gibbins, who are responsible for creating the on-set references for the creatures found in the series, will work out of the college over the next year, developing creature effects for a variety of film and TV productions.

As artists in residence, they will provide learners with insights into the fascinating world of creature effects, showing them how traditional puppetry and cutting-edge visual effects are used to bring daemons and animals to life on screen.

Eliot Gibbins said: “We are passionate about educating and nurturing the next generation of creative talent. Being based at Coleg y Cymoedd will enable us to provide an educational outfit, offering seminars and workshops to help students gain hands on experience and develop the skills needed for a job within the industry.

“As well as helping to create a pipeline of potential candidates for future roles, having a base here will also allow us to have access to the incredible industry-leading tools and equipment available at the college.”

Jacob Mansell, 18, from Pencoed, is one of the learners set to benefit from the partnership. Jacob, who has just started a course in prop making at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “I’m really excited to start my course in prop making and part of the reason why I chose to study here was because of the links with industry. Gaining work experience will be crucial to boosting my employment opportunities in the creative industries.

“Having the chance to work with professionals will help me establish what area I want to work in as well as boost my skills and help me to stand out from others. It will also enable me to make connections with key people in the heart of industry, which will be very beneficial in the future.”

As part of the collaboration with Screen Alliance Wales, the college will also work closely with the organisation to develop its courses in line with industry requirements, ensuring learners are equipped with the skills they will need for successful careers. Leading experts will also be invited to deliver masterclasses for creative learners at the college.

Thanks to the partnership, learners on creative courses will be able to develop a range of key industry skills including camera work, special effects and prop creation. They will also participate in mock interviews to prepare them for future roles in creative fields.

Alistair Aston, course leader for Coleg y Cymoedd’s TV and Film Prop Making course, said: “We’re very excited to be collaborating with Screen Alliance Wales and the partnership will bring plenty of benefits to our learners, ensuring they are equipped with the right skills and experience to enter the workforce of the future.

“Obviously, with the current climate, things have had to be adapted to make sure learners continue to have access to experience and insights from industry professionals in a safe way. We are thrilled to have the creature effects team from His Dark Materials join us as artists in residence at the college. They will be an invaluable learning resource for learners across our whole portfolio of creative courses.”