Sanditon and Doctor Who art director Tim Overson thinks the two most important reasons for ScreenSkills evaluation and endorsement of screen university and college courses is to help raise the bar on standards and offer “real world” opportunities for students.
The net result, he says, is courses that are fully preparing students for life in the fast-paced world of film and TV.
He explains: “The value to the students is that they are much more industry-ready when they graduate and will have had work experience during their course.
“For industry it means that there are much more employable graduates in the employment pool who, once employed, can contribute to their departments straight away and more strongly progress their careers.”
So both sides benefit from what he calls an “excellent bench mark assessment process” that ensures a consistent standard and clear aims for the university and college courses to aspire to and to be measured against.
Tim explains: “The process draws upon industry professionals who can give ‘real world’ feedback and help to complement the academic side of study with the realities of working in the industry as a graduate and what is required.”
He praises the way the evaluation he did of Nottingham Trent University’s BA (Hons) Design for Film and Television course was conducted through a panel interview with the course team and Skype call with students, which worked well.
“The feedback forms were structured well to help me give concise answers to points made, and the institution provided very good information packs and a [course] presentation which was very useful.”
Speaking from a “warm and sunny” shoot in the south of France where he is supervising art director on the third series of Sky’s drama Riviera, Tim says his own experience of education has helped inform his approach.
“When I first went to university TV/film courses did not exist; I did architecture. I was lucky to return to study as a mature student and therefore have been through a university course and have then been working in the industry for over 15 years. So I wanted to be able to use those two experiences to feed back…to help the academic world train industry-ready.”
“Industry-ready graduates” is exactly what is required during the current boom in TV, fuelled as it has been by the entrance of streamers such as Netflix, which Tim has seen happen alongside his own busy career.
Having spent ten years in theatre followed by retraining in Moving Image Production at Leeds Film School, he spent three years working on BBC1 series Casualty as standby art director and was the designer on Oscar-nominated film Wish 143, which starred Jim Carter, Rory Kinnear and Jodie Whittaker.
From there Tim became the art director on Doctor Who in 2016 before moving on to ITV’s Sanditon and the BBC’s drama Keeping Faith and Channel 4’s crime thriller Baghdad Central, where he was based in Morocco. He was also studio art director for two series of Top Gear in 2018.
With such an array of experience he wants to help pass on some of what he has learnt in order to help others starting out and ensure they are being given the right industry-relevant education.
As he puts it: “I strongly believe that it is important to give something back to people at the beginning of their careers as we were all there once and appreciated mentoring from experienced industry professionals.”