London Film School
|Director||Gísli Snær Erlingsson|
|Affiliations||CILECT, GEECT, ScreenSkills, NAHEMI|
LFS was founded in 1956 by Gilmore Roberts as the London School of Film Technique (LSFT). Originally based on Electric Avenue in Brixton, the school moved to its current premises on Shelton Street in 1966, after a brief parenthesis in Charlotte Street, and changed its name to London Film School in 1969. From 1974 to 2000, it was known as the London International Film School (LIFS), and reverted to the name London Film School in 2001.
LFS offers various degrees at postgraduate level: an MA in Filmmaking, an MA in Screenwriting, and, in partnership with the University of Exeter, an MA in International Film Business and a PhD in Film by Practice. It also offers an expanding range of short and part-time professional development courses under the LFS Workshops banner.
LFS recruits students from all over the world and is specifically constituted as an international community; around 60% of its students are from outside the United Kingdom. LFS is one of the ScreenSkills "Film Academy Centres of Excellence".
The school's current Director is Gísli Snær and its current chairman is Greg Dyke.
In October 1956, the principal of the Heatherley School of Fine Art, Gilmore Roberts, set up a short course in filmmaking. Before applicants could even enrol, he found out that the school had been sold from under him. He decided to continue the course independently, so he set up the London School of Film Technique in Brixton. The first filmmaking course started in April 1957.
The school was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. Inspired by the emergence of film schools in Eastern Europe after World War II, it was set up around the belief that the future of the British film industry required properly designed formal training, rather than the apprenticeship basis which was, at the time, the only access into the field. At first, the school offered a 6-months diploma course which students could take over the day or evening classes, with an optional 6-months extension. Under the leadership of principal Robert Dunbar, the course was expanded to 33 weeks and later 2 years, forming the basic structure for a curriculum that is still largely in place today.
This caused a drastic increase in the student numbers, which made the original premises in Electric Avenue, Brixton, unsuited. The school moved to the West End in 1963, first into a building in Charlotte Street and later, in 1966, in its current premises on Shelton Street. In 1969 it changed name to London Film School, to avoid being regarded as an institution that only offered narrow technical training. Notable alumni from the 1960s include directors such as Mike Leigh, Michael Mann, Don Boyd, and Les Blair, cinematographers such as Tak Fujimoto and Roger Pratt, as well as producers like Iain Smith.
In the early 1970s, a decrease of student numbers caused by various factors, including the establishment of the National Film School and the global impact of the oil crisis, brought the school into a financial crisis and eventually into liquidation. Staff and students banded together to press for continuation of the school; thanks to their efforts in raising the necessary funds, the school reopened in 1975, at the same location, under a new name: the London International Film School.
The school was newly incorporated as a charity, nonprofit-making company limited by guarantee. All students automatically became members of the company upon enrolment, with the right to elect, together with the other members, a board of governors with the overall responsibility for the management of the school. Manny Wynn was appointed Principal of the re-established LIFS until his sudden death six months later, when he was succeeded by John Fletcher.
Notable filmmakers from all over the world studied at the LIFS in the 1970s and 1980s, including Mexican director Luis Mandoki, Hong Kong director Ann Hui, Swiss cinematographer Ueli Steiger and Argentinian director Miguel Pereira. After John Fletcher’s death, Martin Amstel was appointed principal in 1986. Ten years later, in 1996, the 40th anniversary of the school was celebrated with events and screening of graduates’ work in London, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
After the appointment of principal Ben Gibson in 2000, the school returned to be known as London Film School. Under Ben Gibson, LFS transitioned from offering a diploma course to offering postgraduate MA programmes, first validated by the London Metropolitan University and later by University of Warwick. Nevertheless, the curriculum of the filmmaking course remained very similar, with a continued focus on practical filmmaking. Adjustments where brought in place to reflect the technological developments in the film industry and the transition to digital. The school also started diversifying its courses: next to its traditional course in filmmaking, it started offering an MA course in screenwriting in 2005 and, from 2014, an MA in International Film Business in partnership with the University of Exeter.
Ben Gibson was succeeded as the director of the school by Jane Roscoe, who briefly held the post from 2014 to 2017. In 2018, Gísli Snær, already LFS Head of Studies since 2016 and former head of the Puttnam School of Film at the LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, was appointed as the new director.
In recent years, films made at the school have regularly featured and won awards in some of the world’s top film festivals, including Venice, Cannes, Berlin, the BFI London Film Festival, Encounters and Sundance. Recent alumni include Duncan Jones, Benjamin Cleary, and Anu Menon.
The main London Film School building in Shelton Street was previously a brewery and a banana warehouse. Additional facilities are present in an annex building in Long Acre.
Facilities at LFS include two studios (Stage B and Stage D) equipped with lighting grids, as well as a rehearsal studio used also for workshops. LFS occasionally hires external studios facilities as well.
The school has a fully equipped design studio with drawing boards, model making facilities, visual reference library, materials library and design computer suite. It has editing suites equipped with Avid Media Composer as well as sound suites equipped with Pro Tools 24HD, a commentary and foley recording area and a sound effects library.
Courses of studies
The London Film School is built around a conservatoire model, providing an environment for intense creative work. Filmmaking is taught on stages and in workshops rather than in classrooms, and the courses are structured around practical work; students spend most of their time making films of increasing levels of difficulty. The school has a full-time faculty and a varied group of regular visiting lecturers, forming a living creative community with continuous connections to the film industry.
The MA Filmmaking programme has no pre-specialisation. All students are provided with a full education in all the craft areas of filmmaking: directing, producing, editing, cinematography, sound, production design, and writing. Students work on a minimum of ten films over 2 years, in different roles, and have the chance to crew on films from terms above and below them. Exercises include films shot in 16mm on location with no sound or only post-recorded sound and films shot on 35mm or digital in studio, on purposely designed and built sets. One term is dedicated to making a documentary. For their graduation films, students do not have limitations and are allowed to shoot on any format and at any length they can budget and schedule. Often, students go back to their home country to make a graduation film, which means that LFS films have been made all over the world. All film exercises are provided with a production allowance included in the fees. With around 200 full-time students at any one time on the programme, it generates over 180 films a year.
The one-year MA Screenwriting programme is centred on the development of a full length feature script, with individual monitoring and guidance from industry mentors. Workshops on storytelling and film language, characterisation, scene writing, and more are based around practical writing exercises. Screenwriting students have the chance to collaborate with students on the filmmaking programme and experience the production side of filmmaking first hand.
The MA International Film Business programme, run in conjunction with the University of Exeter, prepares students for careers in programming, exhibition and distribution. Over the one-year course, students participate in modules in international finance, world cinema and a trip to the Berlin Film Festival.
Next to the full-time MA courses, the London Film School offers a variety of short term workshops and professional development courses, as well as a PhD programme in Film by Practice in partnership with the University of Exeter.
Governance and Staff
Notable LFS alumni
The school's alumni include:
Every year, at London Film School’s Annual Showcase, the school awards an Honorary Associateship to one or more commended filmmakers. Previous recipients of this award are:
- Official Website, London Film School. Retrieved June 2007.
- Petrie, Duncan J.; Stoneman, Rod (2014). Educating Film-makers: Past, Present and Future. Bristol: Intellect. pp. 123–140. ISBN 978-178320-185-3.
- "London Film School 50th". www.lfs.org.uk. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
- "Facilities | London Film School". lfs.org.uk. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
- "Admissions | London Film School". lfs.org.uk. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
- Official website
- London Film School 50th Anniversary Website
- Alice Jones, "Preview: 50 Years of the London Film School, National Film Theatre, London", The Independent, 28 May 2006.
- "More than just a way into the reel thing", Times Higher Education, 23 June 2006.
- Nick Roddick, "The London Film School conquers the world", London Evening Standard, 24 July 2009.