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BAFTA-nominated VFX pro shares tips with NextGen students

Phil Attfield (left) and Matty McGrory with students in Sunderland College’s NextGen studio

A BAFTA and Emmy-nominated visual effects creative director who has worked on a host of high profile films and TV shows has shared his expertise with Sunderland College students.

Phil Attfield supervised the visual effects (VFX) filming for the critically-acclaimed motion picture The King’s Speech and has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry.

He visited the college on Tuesday to meet students who have just begun an innovative new course in animation, games design and visual effects, as part of his role with NextGen Skills Academy.

Phil, who was nominated for BAFTA and Emmy awards for his work on the Hornblower TV mini-series, was appointed as the VFX and animation partnership manager for NextGen earlier this year.

Sunderland College was selected by NextGen as one of only four colleges in the UK to teach its brand new professional and technical diploma which has been designed in collaboration with high-profile companies such as Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft Reflections, Double Negative and Framestore.

Phil, whose recent credits include season one of Da Vinci’s Demons, said: “I’ve always believed that industry needs to take responsibility for its talent pipeline. The NextGen diploma is a big step in that direction. Young people need and deserve future prospects that they can feel inspired by. Filling skills gaps and shortages equates to jobs, wages, and ultimately promotes a civilised society. The NextGen diploma is one way to empower young people to be creators and not consumers, and I think that’s very important.”

Students on the NextGen Level 3 Extended Diploma are taught a range of skills on the course – from creating visual effects for the latest blockbuster to developing the next videogame sensation – and are given unprecedented access to mentors and briefs from leading companies in the industry.

Sunderland College has opened a state-of-the-art NextGen studio which is based in its specialist Arts Academy at Bede campus and was purpose-built for the new course.

Featuring professional work stations with industry standard software, along with a twelve-foot cinema screen, cinema projector, 7.1 surround sound and conference facilities, the workspace has been designed to replicate the real-world working environment of a commercial game and VFX studio.

Phil visited the NextGen studio to set the students their first industry live brief – to produce digital versions of real world objects, which will be judged by The Mill, a highly-respected VFX and creative content studio.

He added: “It’s essential for the NextGen students to speak with industry for mentoring and feedback. They’re already learning by doing and working in a way that leading companies will recognise. The students are putting themselves in the shop window and employers will see the difference between NextGen students and other courses.”

Phil, who co-founded VFX company Men-from-Mars and worked as creative director at Molinare-MfM, also spoke to students about his background and advised them about the various options available to help them launch their career in the animation, games design and VFX industry.

When asked about the highlight of his career so far, he said: “My daughters are 11 and eight, and have just discovered that my old company Men-from-Mars produced the VFX for the St Trinians movies, so I’d say that as far as they are concerned. For the rest of my family I think it’s The King’s Speech. Every VFX project brings its own joys!”

Matty McGrory, programme leader for the NextGen course at Sunderland College, said: “It was great welcoming Phil to the college and the students benefitted massively from his visit. They were all inspired by his impressive CV and were very keen to hear how he got into the industry and his experience working on TV and film projects.

“Phil develops industry contacts for the college and we are looking forward to working with him in future as part of the NextGen programme.”

For more information about the NextGen course, email info@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk, call 0191 511 6000 or click here.

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