Academic-industry model offers template for future film-making

Mar 9 2012


A ground-breaking academic-film industry collaboration is providing a new model for independent feature film production.

The innovative partnership between Heslington Studios - the commercial arm of the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television – and Green Screen Productions is lowering costs and opening the door to the internationally distributed films market.

Its first feature film, The Knife That Killed Me, is at the late pre-production stage and will be distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures UK at the end of the year.

The new model involves Heslington Studios providing post-production facilities, as well as recent York graduates working alongside well-established industry professionals at Green Screen Productions. These include Oscar-winning producer Stephen Evans (Henry V, The Madness of King George).

The partnership grew out of an earlier collaboration between the University and some of Green Screen’s principals - Kit Monkman, Alan Latham and Tom Mattinson - on the 2006 film The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, featuring Joely Richardson and Tom Berenger. York Music Technology and Media Technology students carried out a significant portion of the visual effects work.

John Mateer from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television  , is the driving force behind the new business model and the visual effects producer for The Knife That Killed Me. Before joining the University, he worked as a producer and director with companies including Jonathan Goodson Productions (in association with Paramount Studios), Gabriel Films Ltd., Ogilvy & Mather and LucasArts (as part of the First Cities project).

John Mateer, one of the founder’s of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at York, said: “Although general industry collaborations in other disciplines are not uncommon at universities, they are rare in film and television. The Knife That Killed Me is particularly unusual in that it has the backing of a major studio.

“This kind of new business model lowers the cost of entry and the overall capital requirements of a production, as well as helping to generate the next cohort of film professionals.  

“For the University there are obvious benefits in terms of raising its profile within the film industry, helping to keep our teaching and practices current, and providing revenue to maintain our excellent facilities and kit. It’s a win-win arrangement.”

In addition to The Knife That Killed Me, post-production work will be carried out on a further four films at the University’s new £30 million facilities over the coming year. In return, Heslington Studios receives a minimum fee for each project based on a Capital Investment Allocation.

Green Screen Productions, specialists in computer generated imagery (CGI), is employing recent York graduates to work on the films under a Knowledge Transfer Partnership agreement. Since September, six graduates have been working on The Knife That Killed Me and more will be taken on later in the year.

John Mateer said: “Initially, it will be postgraduate students and recent graduates who will be the main beneficiaries. They will gain real-world experience working alongside highly creative established professionals, as well as a production credit. There is also the potential for undergraduates to gain work experience through the partnership during University vacations.”

The Knife That Killed Meis set in Yorkshire and chronicles a boy’s spiral into knife-crime. Green Screen Productions is shooting the film almost entirely on green screen at its new northern film studios at Bubwith, near York. Most of the action takes place in the principal character’s head, so cutting-edge CGI techniques are being used to create a distinctive, stylised look. 

Alan Latham, Producer and Managing Director of Green Screen Productions Ltd, said: “Having just launched our new Northern film studios near York, we are very excited about working with Heslington Studios. The Theatre, Film and Television building offers us exceptional post production facilities and access to top level graduates particularly in the field of Computer Generated Imagery.”

The new Theatre, Film and Television building, which was officially opened last year, is purpose-built to support and foster interactions between the University, researchers and business.


Together with the former Head of Department, Professor Andy Tudor, John Mateer spear-headed the development and oversaw the design, specification, procurement and fit-out of all production and post-production areas of the new building.


Wholly owned by the University of York, Heslington Studios boasts two HD broadcast TV studios, a 140-seat preview cinema, a multi-purpose sound stage, as well as superb sound and picture post-production facilities.


Andrew Manns, 23, graduated from the University of York last year with a Masters Degree in Postproduction with Sound Design. He is working as a visual effects artist on The Knife That Killed Me, gaining experience in every aspect of the film’s production from storyboarding to visual effects post-production.

He said: “In the first six months I’ve been working for Green Screen I’ve gained more experience than I could have hoped for even from years in the industry. It’s very rare to have such privileged access to every stage of a film’s development and the contacts I make along the way will all be invaluable in the future. 

“Most people start work in the movie industry as a runner. Some places you even have to start in the kitchen. I was very lucky getting a job with Green Screen in that I managed to skip the runner stage entirely.

“Not only that but, unlike working at a huge company where you are a little fish in a big pond, the other graduates and I have regular contact with the directors and producers of The Knife That Killed Me and so have a great deal of artistic influence. Our ideas are valued and taken on board.”


Notes to Editors:

  • The Knife That Killed Mehas been adapted for film from Anthony McGowan’s novel by Marcus Romer, who is co-directing the production with Kit Monkman. It stars Jack McMullen (Waterloo Road, Brookside, Seamonsters) as Paul Varderman in the gritty story of a boy’s spiral into knife-crime. The film is being produced by Thomas Mattinson and Alan Latham.

  • The Directors of Green Screen Productions have significant skill and experience in the film sector, including Oscar winning Producer Stephen Evans (Henry V, The Madness of King George), film producers Alan Latham (Darkness Falls, Circus of Columbia Pictures) and Thomas Mattison (Irish Jam, Dead Man Running),  as well as award winning designer Kit Monkman. The Advisory board includes Noel Pearson, Producer of the Oscar winning film My Left Foot. For more information on Green Screen Productions email

  • For more information on Heslington Studios visit
  • The Department of Theatre, Film and Television is one of four major academic buildings in the first phase of the University’s £750 million campus extension at Heslington East, one of the biggest capital developments in UK higher education in recent years. Its development was supported by investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in Yorkshire and the Humber, part of a major infrastructure project led by Science City York to extend the assets and strategic potential of York as a leading centre for science and innovation. More information at


The latest news from Heslington Studios...

Other news

European exposure for innovative Yorkshire feature film

Oct 23 2014

News Release

23 October 2014

European exposure for innovative Yorkshire feature film

A feature film produced as a result of a unique academic-industry partnership is flying the flag for UK independent film-makers with screenings at international film festivals in Europe.

The Knife That Killed Me, which was made entirely using green screen technology, will screen at the Nantes British Film Festival (11-19 December). This follows its highly successful European debut at the Alice Nella Citta, a youth-orientated side bar competition held during the Rome Film Festival this month, where the film received a standing ovation.


Click here to

York convention showcases latest innovations in TV and film

Mar 14 2014

A new annual event at the University of York will bring the latest developments in television and feature film to the doorstep of people working in Yorkshire, the North East and beyond.

Click here to

Shooting for visual effects:

Feb 3 2014

Boot camp aims to improve skills

The University of York is hosting a hands-on visual effects course aimed at tutors delivering VFX teaching at UK institutions.

Based in the University’s superb £30m Department of Theatre, Film and Television, course participants will have access to world-class facilities and industry-standard equipment.

The VFX Tutor Boot Camp – Shooting for Visual Effects course on 24 and 25 March, is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, which is funded by the National Lottery via the BFI and the Skills Investment Fund (SIF).

Click here to

University of York Graduate showcased in BBC Music Video Festival

Nov 27 2013

Film director and TFTV graduate Nik Morris' video for Falling in Love, from singer/songwriter Jack Edwards, has been showcased in the 2013 BBC Music Video Festival alongside international artists including Sigur Ros and Roisin Murphy. The BBC Music Video Festival is an online celebration of new and emerging music acts, as well as the film making talents of directors working in the field.

Nik's gritty VFX-filled video collides sci-fi elements from Prometheus and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind to deliver a four-minute break up story for those who really want to forget. Described by the festival as 'beautifully filmed' with a 'cool idea', 'Falling in Love' is Nik's third music video as director, with previous promos made for Roundhouse Records' Tres B and independent musician James Harker. He's currently in pre-production on a new video for Jack Edwards next single, to be released by The Animal Farm label in 2014.

Since graduating from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television in January 2012, Nik has directed and produced animated and live-action online commercials for companies including TouchRight Software, Heslington Studios and the CARMEN Neuroscience platform, also educational films including the animated teenage health story 'Is the World Listening?' Nik's video is featured on the BBC Music Video Festival website from 1st November to 31st December 2013. You can watch 'Falling in Love' and read interviews with Nik and Jack here: Nik's website is

Click here to

Award winning feature film - Entity

Jul 4 2013

News Release

4 July 2013

Media Images and Information: Caron Lett 01904 322029

University of York supports region’s vibrant creative industry

An independent North Yorkshire film production company, currently celebrating the UK DVD release of its award-winning filmEntity, is one of a growing number of creative companies in the region benefitting from the skills and facilities on offer at the University of York.

Nexus DNA Films has enjoyed huge success with its paranormal thriller Entity, with distribution deals on both sides of the Atlantic and theatrical screenings at REEL cinemas across the UK.

The production company, which made the film entirely in the Selby area, is one of a growing number of local creative companies to use the superb post-production facilities at Heslington Studios, the commercial arm of the University’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television.

Entity follows a British film crew venturing into a remote Siberian forest, attempting to solve mysteries both past and present. The paranormal thriller won Best Horror Film at the London Independent Film Festival, and stars Dervla Kirwan (Ballykissangel, Goodnight Sweetheart) and Charlotte Riley (Easy Virtue, Wuthering Heights), who has just finished filming as co-star with Emily Blunt in a new Tom Cruise movie, All You Need is Kill. They are supported by Branko Tomovic, Rupert Hill, Oliver Jackson and Michael David Worden.

Nexus DNA Films also received support on the early development of the original script from the University, while the academic-business partnership enabled the film company to tap into support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The film production company is part of an increasingly vibrant creative industry developing in the North Yorkshire region, with around 320 small creative businesses now based in the area. Many of these are benefitting from the close proximity of Heslington Studios, which boasts two HD broadcast TV studios, a 140-seat preview cinema, a multi-purpose sound stage, as well as professional sound and picture post-production facilities.

Steve Stone, the Director of Entity, said: “The assistance we received from Heslington Studios in the post-production was invaluable both in terms of facilities and the technical back-up that we received there. As with any small indie like ours the budget for post-production was almost impossible to work with. But the help we gained under the ERDF scheme made it possible to finish our film and take it into distribution on both sides of the Atlantic with Metrodome in the UK and Arclight Films/ Fangoria Films in the US.”

Carole Dove, Commercial Director for Heslington Studios, said: “Our remit is to work in partnership with industry to enable out-of-London production companies such as Nexus DNA Films to deliver on a much more cost-effective basis. Creative businesses around the York region benefit from being situated near us and we benefit from having partnerships with them. Our income is gift-aided back to the University and ploughed back into developing new facilities for the future.”

In addition to Nexus DNA Films, Al Jazeera, The Other Planet Media, Digital Fiction Factory, Green Screen Productions and the BBC have all made use of the facilities on offer at the University of York.

Entityis now available on DVD from major outlets including Amazon UK, Sainsburys, Tesco and LOVEFiLM.


Notes to Editors:

Click here to

Heslington Studios sponsor "Most Promising Newcomer" for Royal Television Society Yorkshire awards

Jun 13 2012

Heslington Studios was proud to sponsor the “Most Promising Newcomer” award at the Yorkshire Royal Television Society ceremony on Monday June 11th.  The well-attended event at the Queens Hotel in Leeds celebrated the best television productions and people in the region, including 40 years of ITV's Emmerdale and 30 years of Channel 4’s Countdown. The photo shows Commercial Director, Carole Dove, presenting the award to Dan Johnson from the BBC's regional news programme Look North. Watching is the event host, actor Steve Huison who plays Eddie Windass in the popular TV soap Coronation Street. 

Mike Best, Chairman of the RTS Yorkshire Centre said: 

" Every year the standard of entries for the awards keeps rising and despite the huge changes our industry continues to face, it's clear that, from the point of view of creative talent and technical excellence, the future is bright.  Like everyone else in the country, the Yorkshire Centre of the RTS is finding that times are tight and I am particularly grateful for the sponsors who support this event." 

  • Further information on the Royal Television Society can be found at 




    FuYorkshire RT 

    Click here to

    York graduate secures role on BBC One drama series

    Mar 23 2012

    A recent University of York graduate has got his career off to a flying start by landing himself a behind-the-scenes role on the hotly anticipated flagship BBC One drama series The Syndicate.

    Click here to

    Heslington Studios turns the spotlight on Yorkshire

    Feb 10 2012

    Heslington Studios will be flying the flag for Yorkshire at its official launch at the Broadcast Video Expo 2012 in London

    Click here to