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Director of National Film & Television School and Film Producer
National Film Television School

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Nik Powell

00.00.03 My name’s Nik Powell. I’m the director of the National Film Television School which is in Beaconsfield and I’m a film producer. When I first changed direction in my career quite radically two or three times, and when I got into my 50s I saw that the job of running the film school was available. And I thought that would be a cool thing to do. But I didn’t do it in the sense of so a lot of people teach and so on to put back into the industry. I didn’t do it for that reason. I did it for me because I thought I would really enjoy doing it.

00.00.41 My father came from a mining town in South Wales. And my grandfather on one side was a miner and on the other side was a general. So I always used to say I’m truly middle class because we’d met in the middle. My best friend in the village was a guy called Richard Branson. That relationship became the centre of my life and schooling aspect to me was just a way to get educated and to explore the subjects that interested you. I was a medium student, no subjects were very tough for me but I was also not a star, I wasn’t a scholar, I wasn’t an intellectual. My father was the only person from his whole county in the 1930s to get into Oxford University. So he was very keen for his children to go to Oxford.

00.01.33 I did spent briefly one term at university because when I forming my partnership with Richard Branson, we got to negotiating the deal between us and Richard’s idea of a partnership was 4%. I said, ‘Bye bye, I’m off. I’ll be at university’. So I went down there and at the end of the first term Richard called me and offered me 40%. So in 1969 I returned and worked with Richard.

00.02.03 We published a magazine for students at the time which was losing money and we started a record mail order as part of it to try and make it more financially better. So we opened a little shop above a shoe shop in Oxford Street and that was a major hit and did phenomenal business. But that company became, it was called Virgin Records from the time when we launched the mail order. I came into the film industry having been already in the music business for the previous 15 years. Myself and my then new partner, Steven Woolly, we moved into making our own pictures. We had distributed a little film called Angle by Neil Jordan. Neil had a project called Company of Wolves which was based on a wonderful short story by Angela Carter and then became our first film production.

00.03.00 Neil then, after Company of Wolves was a decent hit, Neil came forward with Mona Lisa. So to me, contemporary films and also films in periods within our lifetimes were our major interest on the producing side. I think there are definitely things I should have done differently. The obvious one for instance is had I stayed with Virgin, I might have a better cash flow.

00.03.32 But I’ve made those choices because I think the most important thing in a career is to feel you’re in control, to make choices and then not to regret making those choices. And when those choices turn out to be wrong not to be worried about changing them again. I’m not looking ahead to where I’m going to be, I never have ever since I got a job a chicken farm at 15 and then went into partnership with Richard in my late teens, I’ve really not looked beyond the day, the week. For me, I’ve always taken each day as it comes and concentrated my energy on making sure it’s a great day.

00.04.13 End

Nik Powell is Director of the National Film and Television School and a Film Producer. He also set up Virgin Records with Richard Branson. When he saw that the job of running the film school was available he thought it would be a cool thing to do.

More information about Arts officers, producers and directors

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

42%  male 
58%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Arts officers, producers and directors assume creative, financial and organisational responsibilities in the production and direction of television and radio programmes, films, stage presentations, content for other media, and the promotion and exhibition of other creative activities.
Entry can be via academic qualifications, BTEC/SQA awards, diplomas or degrees in sector-relevant subjects. Apprenticeships are available at NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in some areas.
  • Chooses writers, scripts, technical staff and performers, and assumes overall responsibility for completion of project on time and within budget;
  • Directs actors, designers, camera team, sound crew and other production and technical staff to achieve desired effects;
  • Breaks script into scenes and formulates a shooting schedule that will be most economical in terms of time, location and sets;
  • Prepares rehearsal and production schedule for main events, design of sets and costumes, technical rehearsals and dress rehearsals;
  • Ensures necessary equipment, props, performers and technical staff are on set when required;
  • Manages health and safety issues;
  • Selects, contracts, markets and arranges for the presentation and/or distribution of performance, visual and heritage arts.
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