Exclusive:Sir Sean Connery’s family reveal plans for new film and TV talent school in Leith Docks

National Film and Television School will expand to Edinburgh for launch of new venture led by Sir Sean Connery’s family
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Sir Sean Connery's family has revealed plans to create a permanent film and TV school at a vast new studio complex in his native Edinburgh.

The celebrated National Film and Television School (NFTS) in Buckinghamshire will be joining forces with the Sean Connery Foundation for a venture aimed at creating a new "cornerstone of the Scottish film industry”.

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The project will be targeted at emerging Scottish talents “who may never have dreamt they could access the film industry, especially those who have faced challenges or deprivation”.

387564 01: Actor Sean Connery addresses a crowd of reporters at the National Press Club, April 6, 2001 In Washington, DC. Connery was in town to accept the William Wallace Award from the American Scottish Foundation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers)387564 01: Actor Sean Connery addresses a crowd of reporters at the National Press Club, April 6, 2001 In Washington, DC. Connery was in town to accept the William Wallace Award from the American Scottish Foundation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers)
387564 01: Actor Sean Connery addresses a crowd of reporters at the National Press Club, April 6, 2001 In Washington, DC. Connery was in town to accept the William Wallace Award from the American Scottish Foundation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers)

An initial 30 places will be on offer for a year-long course at the Sean Connery Talent Lab.

It will be run from Leith Docks, where the James Bond star’s son Jason co-founded FirstStage Studios three years ago.

The film school venture, which will be based in a converted listed building, will be created in the first phase of an extension of a new “creative quarter” which was launched with the opening of the studio complex.

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The Leith Docks project marks a significant expansion for the NFTS, which set up its first Scottish base five years ago to deliver “world-class” training courses at the BBC’s Glasgow headquarters.

Industrial sites around the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith are planned to be transformed into a new creative industries quarter.Industrial sites around the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith are planned to be transformed into a new creative industries quarter.
Industrial sites around the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith are planned to be transformed into a new creative industries quarter.

The Sean Connery Talent Lab will see six teams of writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, editors and production designers formed at the start of each course.

Each team will initially be given a £25,000 production budget to make their own "calling card" short films, which can be submitted to film festivals around the world.

An “open call” has been launched for potential participants from across Scotland to apply via www.nfts.co.uk/sean-connery-talent-lab for the first course, which is due to get underway in April.

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The Sean Connery Foundation, which was set up last year to support causes “in honour of his legacy”, will be underwriting 70 per cent of the course fees.

The Sean Connery Talent Lab is launched by National Film and Television School director Jon Wardle, Jason Connery, Jason’s partner Fiona, Holly Gordon, founding executive director of the Sean Connery Foundation, Stephane Connery, Stephane’s partner Tania and Alison Goring, head of NFTS Scotland. Picture: Tim WhitbyThe Sean Connery Talent Lab is launched by National Film and Television School director Jon Wardle, Jason Connery, Jason’s partner Fiona, Holly Gordon, founding executive director of the Sean Connery Foundation, Stephane Connery, Stephane’s partner Tania and Alison Goring, head of NFTS Scotland. Picture: Tim Whitby
The Sean Connery Talent Lab is launched by National Film and Television School director Jon Wardle, Jason Connery, Jason’s partner Fiona, Holly Gordon, founding executive director of the Sean Connery Foundation, Stephane Connery, Stephane’s partner Tania and Alison Goring, head of NFTS Scotland. Picture: Tim Whitby

All places will be “substantially subsidised” by a range of official partners for the talent lab, including film and TV companies, trusts and foundations.

Initial backers include BBC Film, leading Scottish producers DNA, Synchronicity, LS Productions and Blazing Griffin, and the charity set up by long-time James Bond movie producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli.

NFTS staff and leading industry figures will provide training and mentoring throughout the courses.

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Support is being pledged to disabled and neuro-divergent individuals, including people who are dyslexic, to ensure the talent lab is as diverse as possible.

The Sean Connery Foundation visit the National Film and Television School’s award-winning model making for animation workshop and meet current students during a recent visit.The Sean Connery Foundation visit the National Film and Television School’s award-winning model making for animation workshop and meet current students during a recent visit.
The Sean Connery Foundation visit the National Film and Television School’s award-winning model making for animation workshop and meet current students during a recent visit.

A number of Scotland's leading filmmakers, including Lynne Ramsay, Bill Forsyth, Gillies Mackinnon, Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Michael Caton-Jones are all alumni of the NFTS, which launched a Scottish base at BBC Scotland's Pacific Quay headquarters in 2018.

NFTS Director Jon Wardle said: "This is an exceptional opportunity for emerging Scottish filmmakers to build upon their distinctive creative talents. As we expand our work in Scotland, the NFTS, the Sean Connery Foundation and our raft of pivotal partners are dedicated to nurturing the brightest emerging stars within Scottish filmmaking, ensuring that the legacy of Sir Sean Connery continues to inspire future generations of storytellers.”

FirstStage Studios, which was launched by Jason Connery and film producer Bob Last in 2020, has since attracted Amazon productions The Rig and Anansi Boys.

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They have already announced plans to develop a “creative quarter” around the existing studio complex, which is the biggest in Scotland.

They are working with dock operator Forth Port to help ensure that an undeveloped part of the docks becomes part of an expanded hub for film and TV businesses, as well as other creative industries.

Jason Connery said: “As a director and actor, I know the difference world-class training combined with a network of support can make in terms of building confidence and opening up opportunity.

Two major Amazon productions, The Rig and Anansi Boys, have already used the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith Docks. Picture: Lisa FergusonTwo major Amazon productions, The Rig and Anansi Boys, have already used the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith Docks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Two major Amazon productions, The Rig and Anansi Boys, have already used the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith Docks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"I couldn’t be happier that through this programme, we are bringing both to Scotland. Dad always believed that education was a vital investment for anyone to achieve their full potential, and so supporting a programme that will enable emerging Scottish filmmakers to realise their own unique vision and hone their particular talent within a collaborative environment, with a view to benefitting the wider Scottish film industry, is a dream come true.”

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The Sean Connery Foundation has previously announced plans to distribute £6 million worth of grants to projects and charities in Scotland and the actor’s adopted home of the Bahamas.

The Glasgow Media Arts Centre, Screen Education Edinburgh, the Station House Media Unit in Aberdeen and The Portal Arts in Glasgow will all be supported over the next three years. They were selected for support due to their long-time commitments to offering a "hands-on" introduction to a huge variety of filmmaking roles including writing, producing, acting, editing, set design and costume-making.

Sir Sean’s son Stephane Connery, chair of The Sean Connery Foundation, said: “From the inception of the Sean Connery Foundation, our vision has been to expand access to the film and TV industry for talented Scots who may never have dreamt they could access the film industry, especially those who have faced challenges or deprivation.

"As a life-long learner himself, and someone driven by a commitment to hard work and excellence, Sir Sean would be gratified that we have partnered with the NFTS, a world-renowned film school, to bring this extraordinary training programme to Edinburgh, the city of his birth.

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"We believe this is just the beginning of an exciting journey together.”

The Scottish Government awarded FirstStage Studios £1m through its Screen Scotland agency to help the Leith Docks venture get off the ground. Isabel Davis, executive director at Screen Scotland, said: “The filmmaking landscape has changed significantly over the last five years, with Scotland’s creative and economic growth now well recognised.

"The generosity and vision of the Sean Connery Foundation enables the NFTS to broaden its existing programme, provided with Screen Scotland’s support.

"We warmly thank the programme partners who, through their generous support and commitment to excellence, have joined the Sean Connery Foundation in recognising the wealth of talent in Scotland’s film community.”

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