Luke Whitelock graduated from BA (Hons) Film and Animation at Bournemouth Film School (BFS) in 2004. He’s currently an Assistant Art Director, working on Dr. Strange, a Marvel film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams.
Luke has also worked on Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and the live action Beauty and the Beast – to name a few. We spoke to Luke about his time at BFS:
Why did you choose to study at BFS?
“I’m originally from Bournemouth, so choosing to go to Arts University Bournemouth (AUB), or Arts Institute Bournemouth as it was then, was an easy decision. After completing my GCSEs I joined AUB and studied a GNVQ in advanced Art & Design in 1998, leading onto an ND in Audio Visual Production (Art Direction Foundation). Finally, I studied BA (Hons) Film and Animation Production with Bournemouth Film School, specialising in Film Art Direction. I was in the first year to complete the newly formed BA (Hons) Film and Animation production degree at AUB.
“My graduate film, The Lotus Flowers, was a really large production, especially for student films at the time. It was set in Ancient Japan and it was around the time when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was really big. We drafted in help from a plethora of courses at AUB, for example Costume Design and Modelmaking. We had students creating the swords and other props as well as creating the visual effects, digital mapping and special effects like blood packs. There was a real sense of collaboration on the shoot.”
After graduating how did you obtain your first project?
“While studying at BFS I had the opportunity to do some hands-on work experience, working on murder mystery television series Rosemary and Thyme. I got this through a visiting tutor, who had been working in the industry for around 20-30 years. Through this I met Paul Cripps, who is a Production Designer. When I graduated I moved to London and badgered Paul for a job. After moving in October, I got work in January on a Channel 4 teen drama called Sugar Rush. Contacts are everything!
“Another great contact of mine was made during the Animation Module on the Film Degree. Peter Parr, who was leading the module, studied with Stuart Craig (who is well known for being the Production Designer on the Harry Potter franchise). Peter gave me his number and I phoned him, not realising how big he was. I managed to get work experience for two weeks and then went back for more. I created models, did a little drawings and some stand by Art Direction.
“Years later I revisited Harry Potter. I was asked to design parts of Diagon Alley for the theme park in Orlando, Florida for phase two of Harry Potter World, based on the originals drawings. It made a nice change to just doing films, as you’re designing something that will be kept, unlike films where sets are usually destroyed after production. Theme park sets are normally around for 20-30 years, and it’s exciting because it’s built for real, with no scaffolding holding it in place.”
What reputation does BFS have?
“BFS is a foot in the door to the industry. When you tell people where you studied they automatically know where you mean. They start thinking, “Oh Bournemouth, you must be alright then”. I once sent 300 personalised emails in a day and got 15 back, only five of which were job leads, but the rest were contacts. I still get emails and texts from people I sent emails to back then wondering how I’m getting on, and sometimes they mention that they have job opportunities, from commercials to films. It’s a lot of networking, but it really does pay off! You just have to remember during every set back to keep your chin up and keep moving forward.
“The British film industry is currently very strong and there’s plenty of work. I believe there’s going to be an expansion at Pinewood (Studios) as Star Wars moved in and took over so more stages are needed. It’s a big change from 2008 when the industry was really quiet, with the majority of work going to Prague and other places. A lot of amazing films are made in the UK and not in Hollywood – most people don’t realise that. Most major productions are filmed here like most Marvel Films, Fast & Furious, Star Wars, the Bourne Trilogy, and Mission Impossible, the list goes on.
“From the course at BFS you get a wealth of knowledge and you get to try a bit of everything, whether it’s editing, directing or anything in between. You start to believe “I can do this for a living”. Studying film and being in the industry, you have to apply yourself, College and University are a great start if you’re unsure or if you know where you want to be, but are unsure of how to get there.”
LUKE’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE
“If you knock on as many doors as possible, one of them will open.
Quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) © Warner Bros. Pictures