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Nick Broomfield – A Life in Documentary Filmmaking

Studying on our TV Production Technology and Film Production Technology courses you’ll not only have access to industry-connected tutors, but also get to learn from and meet some of the biggest names in the Film and TV industry. During Industry Week our students met legendary filmmaker Nick Broomfield and they were the first audience in the world to see an exclusive trailer for his new film Whitney: Can I be me? premiering this month.

Before heading into his workshops, Nick took the time to talk to us about his career, future projects and what advice he has for our students.

How did you get into documentary filmmaking?
I was always curious. When I was young I had a little camera – like a stills camera – and I remember being an exchange student in France with not much to do, so I just went around taking lots of pictures. I saw that I was enjoying it and was actually really good at it. I also really enjoyed chatting to the people I was photographing and finding out who they were.

What is the first documentary-style film you remember doing?
I did a film called Who Careswith a friend of mine in Liverpool, which actually turned out pretty good. We used a little wind-up camera – a little Berlex – I think I was like 19 and it took a little while to shoot. We were shooting for three months and it turned into an 18-minute film which took me a year and a half to cut, so that should be an encouragement to students – films tend to take a long time.

What is key to conducting a good interview?
Interviews are more like conversations and if they feel like interviews then that’s already a problem. More than anything you want to make the person you are interviewing feel relaxed – unless you’re doing a very aggressive kind of thing with them. You just want them to feel like you are very interested in them, that you are listening to what they are saying and that you are just having a conversation.

Often in conversation people open up and you can get into their thought process, so that you don’t ask a question that’s completely irrelevant to what they’ve been saying – your interview questions need to come out of what they’re saying.

So who was the most difficult person you ever had to interview?
Oh my goodness, I interview a lot of difficult people. Sometimes the scene is actually about how difficult the interview and conversation process was. I think the art in filmmaking is to use whatever is there, not want something that isn’t there and go in with a thesis. Sometimes I think that’s the hardest thing – learning to be flexible and receptive and genuinely interested, because your function as a storyteller is to follow the story and not to prove an idea.

So when you’re planning an interview how do you go about it?
Well it depends, I’ll always read as much as I can about that person – often not enough, but that’s cause I’m lazy. If they’ve done other interviews, then you should watch those as well and get clues as to what works with them. Sometimes people are triggered by a word – it’s very odd – you can notice a word in another interview that makes someone really react, so obviously you want to use those words too.

You have been described as fearless, but have any of your documentary subjects really intimidated you?
Well I think they are all intimidating – I made about 40 films and I don’t really think in terms of ones anymore. I think the whole process is intimidating and that’s a good thing because you’re always trying to think “How am I going to tell this story and how am I going to make other people interested in the story that I am interested in telling?”. I think it’s like sitting around the fire and telling a story to people – you don’t want everyone to go and take a toilet break in the middle of it, so how do you keep them there? That’s what storytelling is all about – how to keep the audience really fascinated.

What was the hardest/strangest documentary you’ve made?
Well they’re all so strange – they’re all just completely wacky. I don’t normally watch my films, but the last couple of months I’ve been redigitising all my films from negatives and you sit in front of these films that you haven’t seen for ages and think:“WOW these are so mad, these people are so crazy and the situations are so unique you could never write them – how on earth did I get through this?!”

They’re all an adventure into the absurd. I’m a big believer that the gods are either with you or against you, and sometimes they’re really against you and it doesn’t matter what youdo, you just don’t make such a good film and those are the hardest ones. I think all my films have been pretty extreme, but more than anything you just have to stay with an idea. They’re all really hard and you always think about giving up many times in the middle and the secret is to just stay with it.

What has been your favourite documentary that you haven’t been involved with?
There are a lot of films I like – some really early films like Run for the Hillsand Private Place and more recently a great film about the immigrants coming here from Syria called Into The Sea and also The White Helmets, which won the Oscar.

So do you have such a thing as a favourite film?
You see so much stuff and you like different things about different movies. They’re all stories and you’re moved by different aspects every time. I would rather say I like different filmmakers and I like their way of telling stories – I like early Alex Gibney or early Fred Wiseman. More recently I quite liked the Nina Simone film that Liz Garbus did and I also liked Amy and Senna.

What is your creative process?
I’m not one of these brainy filmmakers who has a list of films that they are going to do. I never really know what I’m going to do next after a particular film until I finish the last film and then you have to think ‘Oh what am I interested in now?’. Every time you make a film you learn something and you change.

I just finished this film about Whitney Houston and I’m thinking about what I want to do next – do I want to do another music film or would I rather do a drama. It’s a nice period where you read lots of newspapers and books, because often when you’re making films you get quite cut-off and get very focused on your film. In between films it’s a great opportunity to just look around you and go to exhibitions or go out to dinner (which I don’t do hardly at all when I’m making a film) and an idea comes along really quickly.

Have you watched or read something recently you’d recommend to our students?
I’m really interested in architecture and I also read a lot of funny things about architecture which aren’t really relevant, but made me think of making a series about buildings. I think when you have a big structure it often represents the politics of the area and I was thinking of doing a film around some colonial buildings around the world and telling the story behind the politics of the area and the period of time through the building.

That’s a fun non-commercial idea for BBC 4 (or 2 if you’re lucky) and probably an idea that’s hard to sell – probably not relevant for all countries – whereas with films like Whitney there’s a massive market.

Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
I don’t really know what I’m going to do next – currently I’m just getting the Whitney Houston film out. When you make bigger films and lots of people put a lot of money behind them it becomes much more bureaucratic – dealing with a lot of legal issues and very boring things that take your time up.

Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
I think the actual process of making a film is incredibly simple – and the simpler you make it, the better. If you need to, you can literally wear the same clothes everyday – buy 5 pairs of underpants and 5 t-shirts, so that all you need to do is focus on that film. Maybe work with one other person and keep a teeny tiny crew and just focus on the idea – become obsessed with it and don’t think about other things – this is if you want to make a good film. And just stay with it – there’s going to be lots of problems and the difference between a good filmmaker and someone who doesn’t get there is really just persistence.

Generally, ideas don’t go very well and there’s lots of problems and sometimes it’s a question of how you integrate the problems into the story – so you make it a part of the story. You have to be mastering the story, rather than the story mastering you. I always think the best thing to do is find your closest friend to work with and then the two of you go on an adventure.

The Broadway are holding a screening for Whitney: Can I Be Me? on Sunday 11 June which will also include a live Q&A with Nick Broomfield via sattelite. Tickets can be bought here.

Want to have the chance to meet industry guests and be a part of Industry Week? APPLY NOW to study on our FdSc TV Production Technology or FdSc Film Production Technology degrees or come along to one of our degree-level open days.

Confetti Students ‘Them Pesky Kids’ Hold Their First Film Screening

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Them Pesky Kids Showreel

Posted by Them Pesky Kids on Friday, December 5, 2014

On Thursday 4 May, two current BSc Film Production Technology students and two former students held their very first film screening at the Nottingham Contemporary to showcase a special selection of work featuring short films, documentaries, and music videos. Not only was this a chance to show the work of their film production company ‘Them Pesky Kids’ to a live audience, but it was also a chance to celebrate the hard work of their cast, crew members, tutors, and supporters.

Them Pesky Kids is a four-piece film production company entirely comprised of Confetti students past and present; Oliver Blair, Jack Booth, Ryan Harvey and Michael Jobling. The four-piece have just completed two productions; a music video for Nottingham music artist BUD’s song ‘Sugar’; and The Chestnut Effect – a short comedy film with the main plot revolving around a missing cat. They’re now working on two very exciting projects over the next year, A Broken Mind (dir. Jack Booth) and Ariella (dir. Michael Jobling).

Ariella Film Trailer

Tell us about the run up to the screening event

We found it extremely rewarding and bonding, we actually planned the event in two weeks, we’d had it in the pipeline for a little while and really wanted to show off our work and of course, the fantastic work that people had provided for all of our films.

How did the night go?

We knew that we’d get a fairly good audience as we’ve all worked with many different industry professionals throughout Nottingham, but in no way did we estimate the amount of love, support and positivity that everyone attending gave us that night. We did have to screen the films a little bit late because we were still waiting for guests to arrive, but nobody seemed to mind! Now we’re just hungry to make more – that includes short films, music videos, promotional artwork, anything. If it’s a well thought out idea, we’re totally on board to assist, whether that be advice, contribution or for us to produce the work.

“We want to push towards working on high budget television and film and we can only do this through good practical practice, and this is what the top up year at Confetti has provided.”

Would you do anything differently?

We do intend on running another event in the new year but we’d give ourselves more time. Next time we’ll hire an actual cinema as there were some serious projector issues which could have been avoided in a dedicated cinema. We’d also make it very clear to guests that the films will start without them if they are not on time. There were people who couldn’t make the screening because of the two-week time window, people that contributed massively to our work which was unfortunate, but it didn’t stop us from singing their praises all night! Apart from that I think any other changes would be down to natural progression.

How did Confetti help you?

Confetti very kindly agreed to donate a percentage of the budget to us, to help cover the costs of venue hire. As well as this, Confetti helped publicise the event on their social media, building the profile of our event and reaching people who we might have missed otherwise. It’s not just the event where Confetti have helped us, as our course and tutors have given us our base skill set. They’ve allowed us to build the foundations of our working personalities and have never tried to stop us when we wanted to reach higher. I think that’s the impact and inspiration that Confetti gives us – the determination, resilience and hardworking ethic that drives us all forward to be able to successfully create films and host events like these.

Them Pesky Kids

Why did you choose a top up degree with Confetti?

The film industry values talent and work ethic over any other qualities a filmmaker can offer. During our first two years at Confetti we were able to build these two skills to a level where we are now working professionally. We want to push towards working on high budget television and film and we can only do this through good practical practice, and this is what the top up year at Confetti has provided. We’ve been involved with 5 films this academic year, a level of experience that few courses can offer.

Do you have any advice for students that want to do the same as you?

We’ve learnt that networking is vital. It’s daunting sometimes and I think it’s an innate fear in all of us, that you’re not going to be good enough for people; but you can’t make a film on your own. We’ve seen fantastic projects sink because they didn’t have the crew available for the shoot and so the producer/director had to settle for less than they wanted. It’s hard work and you can push yourself to extremes that even you didn’t know existed, but the result at the end of it is all worth it. Find local film-making networking events (TweetUp, Shooters, Short Stack monthly film screenings) and start introducing yourself to people.

Them Pesky Kids
Jack Booth, Ryan Harvey, Oliver Blair & Michael Jobling

Have you got any opportunities our students can get involved in?

We’re going to be working on a series of shorts over the summer to keep our wheels from rusting, so if you’re interested, check out our Facebook page for more details. We’re always on the lookout for new talent, so don’t refrain from getting involved in our exciting projects. Also, if you’ve got an exciting project you think we’d be interested in and are willing to pitch, get in touch!

Want to take the same path Them Pesky Kids have? Discover our FdSc Film Production Technology and BSc Film Production Technology (top up) courses and apply for a Confetti Degree now! You can request a prospectus and if you want to explore our facilities, book a place onto our next open day.

What our Film students got up to during their first residential

Our FdSc Film Production Technology students have been working hard on their group project all year – from location scouting trips to professional casting sessions, it all culminated with a two day on-location filming residential.

What started off as a concept has slowly developed into a full feature film for seven film student groups. FdSc Film Production Technology student Christie Ellis and her group have gone to Youlgreave for two full days of filming to shoot their film Heading Out. The project has been ongoing since the beginning of the academic year and has gone through various stages of pre-production.


In November, the group went on a recce in order to begin planning their location shoot during the residential. They knew they wanted to film in the middle of nowhere because their story is built around two siblings going on a camping holiday, so the landscape around Youlgreave was the perfect backdrop.


A further stage was casting, which again involved a lot of exciting work. The casting call was available to external professional actors and auditions were held both on Skype and in person. The female lead – Rebekah Cutmore – auditioned after finding out about the project from the NTU Drama society. Her on-screen brother and male lead – Adam Redford – is a professional actor from London who the students had the opportunity to audition through Skype after uploading role details on Casting Network – an online casting website whose representatives came in for a guest lecture earlier in the year.

Daily journal

Throughout the two days of filming Christie has kept a journal which documented her experience on-location. Below is an excerpt of what her and her group got up to whilst filming Heading Out.

Monday 27 March 2017

06:15am – Today is the day I go off to Youlgreave to make our film, Heading Out. I’m so excited that the day has finally arrived, we have been planning it for three months now. It’s a very early start though, which isn’t good because I’m not a morning person.

08:00am – Now that everyone has arrived at Confetti reception, we are on the way to Youlgreave. I am sitting in the front of the mini-bus, while the rest of the film crew and our actors are in the back so I get to control the stereo.

10:00am – WE HAVE ARRIVED IN YOULGREAVE!!! After two hours on the road, we met up in the car park with Ollie (member of Confetti’s tech support team) who brought all the camera and audio equipment.

11:00am – At our first filming location now – River Lathkill – it’s slightly cloudy weather but hopefully it will clear up soon. We are going to start filming with scene 3.

14:00pm – After a 30 minute lunchbreak, back to filming we go as we’ve got a lot to do in a short space of time and the sun will be going in soon. We need to make the most of the daylight we have left.

18:30pm – On our way to the hostel after a very long but productive day, as we have got all the scenes with Adam finished. As a team, we were quite concerned we wouldn’t have enough time but now we are here we reflect that it all went really well and all the scenes went very smoothly.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

06:00am – I woke up early and decided it was time to get some breakfast and get ready for yet another long day of filming. After breakfast my team and I spent time working through the plan for the day.

08:00am – After talking to the team, we needed to start getting ready to leave and sort out the camera and audio equipment needed for the day.

10:00am – Today we are focusing on the shots we need for scene 2. The woods next to the River Bradford are perfect for it, since it needs to be in the middle of nowhere.

11:15am – Just finishing up scene 2. It took a while because we needed to set up everything (the camera itself, the tripod and audio equipment including the boom mic) and as we are only at this location once, we thought it would be a good idea to film the scene from lots of different angles.

13:00pm – We’ve only got a few more scenes to film and then we are finished. I’m getting so excited now. Both days have been so successful and productive, the team and I are very happy with how it all worked out.

14:45pm – WE HAVE OFFICALLY FINISHED HEADING OUT!!! After two whole days we have finally completed our film. The team and I are so happy and we have just found out that we were the first group to finish, which was pretty good news. Now we’re ready to start editing and get Heading Out ready for screening!


Want a sneak peek at what our students got up to during their two day shoot? Christie filmed a vlog which documents her group’s two day shoot for Heading Out.

Our students will also have the opportunity to take advantage of our 25 seat screening room at Space2 to organise private screenings for Heading Out as well as the movies created by the six other groups on our FdSc Film Production Technology course.

Want to ‘Do it For Real’ at Confetti like our FdSc Film Production Technology students? Apply for a Confetti Degree course now! You can request a prospectus and if you want to explore our facilities, book a place onto our next open day.

Our first Space2 Open Day!

This academic year saw the opening of our brand new space for TV & Film students – Space2. For those interested in pursuing a career in Film & TV we threw open the doors on Wednesday 1 February to show them what goes on in our new facilities. If you didn’t make it to our first ever Open Day at Space2 don’t worry, here’s a look at what we got up to!

TV Studio

Space 2 Open Day TV Studio

Our Level 3 Acting and Film Production students were rehearsing a scene in the studio for one of their upcoming productions. We had a camera crew filming and the full lighting rig had been setup to show off our industry-standard facilities!

TV Gallery Suite

Space2 Broadcast Gallery

Up in the gallery the production for a mock broadcast was being managed and visitors got the chance to get hands-on with some of the equipment – controlling the lighting and cueing in the ad breaks.

Green Screen Room

Green Screen Room Space 2

In the green screen room Level 3 Visual Effects and Animation students were recording assets for their current projects and visitors got to see some of the behind the scenes work that goes into creating special effects!

25-Seat Screening Room

Screening Room - Space2

Finally our guests were seated in our 25 seat screening room where they got to watch ‘Magnus Opus’ the winning short film from this year’s Celebrate Short Film Festival. The screening room has Dolby Atmos audio facilities so it’s like watching films at the cinema!

If you’re interested in studying a course in Film & TV at Confetti come along to one of our Open Days or Apply online now.

Film & TV student directs his first short film ‘Catharsis’

Catharsis Film

Here at Confetti we openly encourage students to work on and get creative with their own projects in their free time. We caught up with second year Film & TV student Jay Martin who has just finished directing his first short film ‘Catharsis’, to find out how it went.

Jay, can you give us a brief outline of the plot?

J: Catharsis follows the story of Sandra, a thirty something business woman, who, after the loss of her first born child Megan, begins a drug and alcohol fueled decent into her own mind as she desperately tries to relive the lost memories of her daughter.

What motivated you to make this story you came up with into a short film?

J: To be honest, I really wanted to prove to both myself, and my peers, that I as a director could create something that really proved what I’d learned both inside and outside of Confetti, and to also show that if you genuinely believe in your ability, and your source material, you can make something great.

Catharsis Film
Discussing the alley way scene.

Where did you start & what was the first thing you did to prepare?

J: First and foremost I always set myself what I call a quality bar, and I refuse for any aspect of the film to drop below this threshold. This creates an environment where your film can be taken seriously as a piece of artwork, and not just a college assignment project.

Having said that, after finishing the final draft of the script I approached one of my tutors (Luke Radford), who put me in touch with ex-Confetti student and freelance DOP, Louis Vella, from there we began building a core team of industry professionals to get the film made to the highest quality we could!

This was massively motivating for me; I remember one of the first things Louis said, “With the right amount of attention, it’s not out of our grasp to enter this film into Sundance, or any of the other major festivals.” And he was deadly serious, from there it was a case of working on my craft, ensuring I knew every nook and cranny of my script, every shot was storyboarded and I had fully understood what I was trying to convey in this film.

What do you wish you’d known going into this process?

J: Finding locations was easily the biggest challenge of the entire production, and there were quite a few. From its inception Catharsis had several locations that would be tricky to secure, thankfully early on I managed to secure both a Church, and swimming pool location, and the managers at both these facilities were incredible in facilitating me and the team, and at no cost! The tricky part proved to be other minor locations that at first we didn’t pay any mind too, locations such as high class office space, alley ways, and general streets proved to be the hardest to find and secure, with permissions and scheduling proving hard to keep, it caused a huge issue leading up to production.

Catharsis Film

How do you think the experience has impacted you as a film maker/director?

J: I’ve learnt an incredible amount, it hasn’t been an easy process at all – lots of late nights and financial issues put a huge amount of stress on myself and the entire team, but what I learnt is to always have complete faith in your vision as the director. At times it’s hard to put your foot down and stand your ground when you’re the least experienced person in the room, but at the end of the day your vision is what counts, and without the director the production is adrift. As long as you have the ability to clearly communicate to your team, the vision in your head, and get everyone on the same page, you’ll do just fine.

What advice would you give to other students wanting to make short films?

J: Don’t be afraid of making the film you want to make. With a budget of only £700, we were able to use industry standard kit and work with some of the most incredible local talent. Make sure you have; a solid story that is worthwhile to tell, a professional and dedicated crew, pinpoint casting, and a clear and concise vision.

Catharsis Film

Where can we find/watch Catharsis?

J: The film will be available to watch early next year, at, as well as several key screenings taking place at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema, The Ritz Cinema in Belper Derby, and more locations we are awaiting confirmation to announce. These will be open to industry professionals and Confetti Students alike, so come on down and support the film! Just keep an eye on your student notices for more information about these dates.

Any additional information/special thanks

J: I’d like to say a huge thank you to the cast and crew, without you guys none of this would have been possible and I cannot wait to see what the future holds coming off the back of this project! I’d also like to give a special thankyou to the Television and Actors workshops, and lastly to Luke Radford, for being a huge help throughout production and giving me the necessary contacts to make this production possible!

Interviewed by Level 3 TV & Film student Hollie Doherty

If you’re interested in TV & Film check out our college and degree courses and book an open day with us.