Film & Screen Arts students win big at Royal Television Society Devon & Cornwall Student Television Awards 2022
Students from across the BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts degree at Plymouth College of Art have won awards at this year’s Royal Television Society Devon & Cornwall Student Television Awards 2022.
Held at Europe’s first immersive dome at The Market Hall in Devonport, the Royal Television Society’s (RTS) ceremony made a return after Covid forced a two year absence. 2022 saw Plymouth College of Art students and graduates win four awards at this year’s ceremony over several highly competitive categories.
BA (Hons) Film graduates Sam Xander, Jacob Saul, Noelia Sansaloni, Hazel Horspool, Cameron McNabb and Sonny Layton won ‘Best Drama’ for their beautifully shot and genuinely scary film, ‘Can You Hear the Choir?’. The film follows a gentleman seeking answers from an enigmatic priest and his discovery of a distorted place, haunted in a hidden horror.
Sam Xander said, “Can You Hear The Choir is a call back to classic horrors. There is an uncomfortable familiarity with the characters, a mesh between surrealism and the all too real effects of mental illness, with the actors’ raw emotions carrying the plot forward. We shot the film in real churches in and around Plymouth”, he explained. “There’s such a sense of history in those places. You can really feel it, and it’s quite unsettling, which made it a perfect setting for a classical horror. As we were trying to keep an authentically historical feeling, it was an interesting challenge keeping the surprising amount of modern technology in churches these days out of frame!”
“I had a lot of time to grow as a filmmaker and a creative during my time at Plymouth College of Art. The chance to learn while actually making was extremely valuable and I’ll take the connections I’ve made with me into my career. It was such a pleasure to share the success of the award win with everyone who made the film possible. I’m really proud of what we made. The awards ceremony was an exciting night and a great opportunity to network; I was able to speak with industry makers and upcoming artists, make new connections and catch up with friends.”
Director of Can You Feel the Choir, Jacob Saul said, “It was so surreal to win the award. We were in a category with amazing nominees, so I was just happy to be there! When they announced we had won, I was (and still am) in disbelief. I can’t thank the Royal Television Society enough."
From left to right: Cameron McNabb, Jacob Saul and Sam Xander
“The collaboration at Plymouth College of Art was my favourite part of studying there and it made this all possible. Being in a building with so many different disciplines is incredibly liberating as a filmmaker.”
Erasmus student from Spain, Noelia Sansaloni said, “It was a wonderful surprise to find out we’d won. I saw a video of Jacob receiving the prize on Instagram and I immediately sent him my congratulations. He sent the same back and said he was proud of all of us, it was a really emotive moment! All the members worked really hard in this film, so the award is a real reward for our hard work. I'm so happy.
“Studying for almost a year at Plymouth College of Art was an incredible experience for me. I came as an Erasmus student from Spain, so everything was new for me, but I feel so grateful for the college and its people. I was a little insecure due to my level of English, I wasn’t always able to understand everything and I found it hard to express myself in the beginning, but everyone welcomed me and helped me with everything I needed. The teachers and students made me feel really comfortable and I finally returned to Spain with a lot of amazing experiences I’ll never forget.”
James Cooper who won Best Factual Film with his short, 'The Bird Feeder'
Plymouth College of Art BA (Hons) Film and BA (Hons) Digital Media Production graduates also took home the award for ‘Best Factual Film’ with James Cooper’s ‘The Bird Feeder’ and ‘Best Animation’ won by Ceri-Louise Prowse’s ‘Joseph’. Ceri-Louise would return to the stage for an incredibly well deserved ‘Craft for Sound’ award, again for her 3D animation ‘Joseph’, a short about a wayward robot on a journey of self discovery.
Winners from 2020 and 2021 were also invited to the celebrations with students and graduates representing Plymouth College of Art.
2020 BA (Hons) Film graduate and ‘Best Shortform’ winner Marek Kawula, who won for his film ‘Time is the Enemy’ was in attendance, along with BA (Hons) Film graduate Sonny Layton whose simple and soulful animation short, ‘1977’ won the 2021 ‘Animation’ category
Right: Ceri-Louise Prowse wins two awards for her animated short 'Joseph'
Judges commented on 21-year-old Sonny film calling the short “mesmerising and original''. They particularly noted how they “could feel the love and hard work that had gone into making it”. The film follows Sonny’s dad as he backpacked from Bournemouth across France and Spain, embarking on his adventures in May of 1977. Travelling over three months, he documented his travels in a journal every day. Sonny recreated his father's diary entries with simple, black and white illustrated animation that, despite its simplicity, captures great detail.
Sonny said, “During the first lockdown last year, I ended up having conversations with my Dad about life and he told me stories about what he was up to when he was my age. He showed me the journal he had written during his travels and I was blown away by the amount of information in there. Being a film student, it immediately sparked ideas for an adaptation.
“I’d barely done any animation before this project since I was primarily working as a cameraman or editor, meaning I had to create my own style from scratch. I used the technique of rotoscoping to draw over each frame of footage, which was extremely painstaking. Five seconds on screen took two days to animate. It was a full month of 10 hour work days, which if it hadn’t been during lockdown, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to.
“I was really surprised to find out I’d won. I thought I’d have no chance since this was my first animated film and I was presumably going up against much more experienced animators.”
Sonny first came to Plymouth College of Art with the Saturday Arts Club, which led him to further education at the Pre-Degree campus, followed by choosing the college for his degree in BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts.
Sonny continued, “There is an undeniable charm to the college, which has always pulled me back in. The equipment and resources available are very attractive and I’ve always had great experiences with fellow students and lecturers here. The Film & Screen Arts course has been a rollercoaster, but it’s been so fun creating films with my coursemates. The last year has been tough for us with online learning but we have worked around it well. I can’t wait to start shooting my grad film and seeing what everyone creates.”
Dr Neal Kirk, Lecturer on BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts said, “We are incredibly pleased with this year’s RTS nominees and winners. The RTS celebrations represent the external recognition of the hard work and vision of our students, and act as both a culmination of their studies and a springboard for their future mediamaking careers. In many cases, the vision for these projects had to be adapted around the effects of covid, making these wins even more special.
“More than a trophy, the RTS recognition represents the really incredible and profound transition from Film & Screen Arts student to media maker. Seeing our students accept prestigious awards for their work and hearing their discussions with industry peers, it’s a confirmation that the conversations change from ‘I always dreamed of being a filmmaker’ to ‘I am a filmmaker - and this is the film we made!’ The validation is exhilarating and I’m thrilled to see how our creative graduates build on this success. I can’t wait to see the next films they make!"
The Royal Television Society’s Devon & Cornwall Centre also runs its own programme of public lectures, technical workshops and social events throughout the year, with the Student Television Awards presented as part of their Annual Awards Ceremony. Winners from the six categories go forward to be judged as part of the National Awards in London with the Devon & Cornwall region regularly boasting winners in the national awards.