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UCA Film Production graduates work on Oscar nominated film Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Oscar nominations were announced on Friday 15 January and Star Wars: The Force Awakens was nominated in no less than five categories – Film Editing, Music (original score), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. Three of our Film Production graduates played a part in the creation of the film and have spoken to us about how they landed their roles and their experience of being involved in this massive franchise.

J. Alexandra Roberts, Sound Assistant

“It was a hard shoot – probably the hardest I’ll do. Even the crew who have been doing this for decades said to me that the desert shoot was tough, and they’re used to working in these settings! The heat reached 50 degrees plus sometimes, and the sand would blow in your eyes and just cover you. The manual labour of changing set-ups to quickly get shots was exhausting and the days were long, working from sun-up to sun-down.

“My favourite thing though was when the sun started to set, the heat began to drop, the breeze picked up, and you'd see these beautiful sand dune sunsets. It just began to feel like you were living Star Wars – almost hearing that John Williams score over the golden landscape. I wish I could have taken a picture, but it was strictly 'no photos' and I'm not stupid enough to break the rules!

“I got the job as my sister has been living out in Abu Dhabi for a few years now and was always telling me about the films being shot out there. I asked at the wrap party of Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert, which I was doing back in March 2014, and the Production Co-ordinator who hired me told me that Star Wars was going to be filmed out there. One talk led to another and so on until I emailed someone in the Star Wars production office. After waiting a month I got a call from the Mixer – Stuart Wilson – asking if I was free.

“I took the job of Sound Assistant during the main unit’s Abu Dhabi shoot. I helped set up the God mic for J. J. Abrams and Tommy Gormley, the first AD, and I also helped run cables, gave out headsets to members of production and visiting VIP guests, cable wrangled, battery checked and what not.

“It was an amazing feeling to see J. J. Abrams, to see how he worked and everything that went into Star Wars behind the scenes, and to see the lead actors before the hype. It’s great to be able to watch those desert shots and be able to say: ‘I was there, I remember that being filmed.’”

Ben Pearce, Producer’s Assistant

"It felt very special to be involved in part of film history, being surrounded by a world that everyone grew up watching and loving on screen. Not only was it the sense of size and scale that was so inspiring, but to be surrounded by characters and sets that were already so iconic made it feel often very surreal.

"After being recommended by a colleague from a film I worked on the year before, Mortdecai, I worked as the assistant to one of the producers, Bryan Burk, working closely with him for a year, not only on Star Wars but also on Mission Impossible. This included everything from scheduling and attending creative and logistic meetings for both productions, to helping with the organisation.

"I’m now working as director David Yates’ assistant on his new film – JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

Frederick Lloyd, Score Composer - Star Wars trailer

Frederick Lloyd photo

"Star Wars is probably the most iconic and well-loved film franchise there is, but more than that, it's a legacy and such a huge historic monument of film. To just be a small part of that is an amazing feeling.

"Hearing something you've worked on over these images and that Star Wars title at the end is incredibly special. I'm a huge J. J. Abrams fan as well so to be involved in something of his is a dream for me. 

"I'm now working on plenty more music, both score and trailer based with hopefully a release in the pipeline pretty soon. I'm also in the process of trying to get a couple of short films made too that I’ll direct and score. Plenty to keep me busy! 

"Studying film was what got my foot in the door initially. After directing and scoring my graduation film Pantheon, part of the score was picked up for the Zero Dark Thirty trailer. I would never have had this amazing opportunity if it wasn’t for my time at Farnham, so I’m forever grateful to the UCA Film Production team for supporting what we wanted to do with Pantheon. Further still, having been taught the structures, intricacies of film at all its stages of production helped immensely in seeing and understanding the relationship between image and music."

You can watch the trailer that used Frederick's score here: 

The Oscar winners will be announced on Sunday 28 February, where Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be up against films such as Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, and The Martian. You can find out more about the Oscar nominations here.

J. Alexandra, Ben and Frederick each graduated from UCA in 2012, having studied BA (Hons) Film Production at our Farnham campus. You can find out more about this course here.