Graduates and students from University of the West of Scotland’s (UWS’s) industry-renowned MA Filmmaking course are celebrating a series of high-profile national successes.

Niall Morison MacRae and Tabita Knoblauch have been nominated for the Best Postgraduate Factual prize, at the Royal Television Society (RTS) Student Awards, for the documentary And So It Was.

The emotional short film tells the story of Norah Morison, in the village of Achmore on the Isle of Lewis. Norah – the longest-serving post office worker in Scottish history – reflects on what’s to come in her remaining years, following the loss of her sister.

Niall said: “Both Tabita and I are honoured and a little bit shocked, if I’m honest! To be nominated for a film so personal – a film about my gran, my family, our grief and the village that I grew up in – is incredibly touching.

“I often thought that the audience for this film wouldn’t extend beyond myself, the island or Scotland at most but this nomination is the first sign that perhaps that isn’t the case; it adds a whole new dimension to what it means to all of us, and I’m delighted that this film is starting to resonate with other people.”

Ryan Pollock’s graduation film, Bluebird, was selected for the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) of Art and Architecture’s 197th annual exhibition, where it lifted the prestigious Latimer Award. It has also been nominated for Best Short Film (19 or over) at the Film the House Awards.

Ryan said: “Bluebird tells the story of an unfulfilled litter picker, who is searching for the meaning that his life has always seemed to lack. Mick, the protagonist of the film, is an amalgamation of various male figures who’ve played a part in my life growing up in a small, working-class, Scottish town.

“It was shot on location in Wishaw, and the setting is very much a character. Three generations of my family have lived in Gowkthrapple, the soon-to-be demolished area in which the protagonist lives. I hope that “Bluebird” can, at least in some small way, immortalise a place that has been an important part of my life.”

Meanwhile, current student Dhillon Clarke has been selected as one of only 12 Grierson DocLab trainees.

Grierson DocLab, run in partnership with the UK’s leading factual content production companies, with support from The Rank Foundation, provides 18-25-year-olds aspiring to enter the industry, with a hands-on training and mentoring programme.

Dhillon said: “Being selected as a Grierson trainee is both an honour and a huge opportunity. It allows me to build contacts at the highest level, and to gain industry experience that could prove invaluable.”

Professor Nick Higgins, MA Filmmaking Programme Leader and Director of the UWS Creative Media Academy, added: “I am incredibly proud of these students. Their achievements are much deserved, and come on the back of hard work and a real dedication to their craft.

“Their successes are further endorsements of the MA Filmmaking course, which has become a consistent source of talent for the Scottish and wider-UK film industries, who routinely make a serious impact.”

The MA Filmmaking course is no stranger to success, with students and alumni being in regular contention for prestigious accolades, including the BAFTAs and Grierson Awards – widely considered the Oscars of the documentary world.

Recent graduation films have been screened at the Glasgow Short Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, while many former students work in high profile jobs, contributing to household name TV shows and films; and also producing critically-acclaimed films and documentaries independently.

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News

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