Budding moviemakers and entrepreneurs at East Berkshire College were given an insight into the world of filmmaking and advice on starting a business venture, when former student and Oscar-winning film producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin visited Langley College on Tuesday (16th December).
Gareth, who studied A Levels at Windsor College in the late 1980s, returned to his roots to talk to students about running their own business as well as his illustrious career in the film industry. A career that has included producing the critically-acclaimed 2010 film The King’s Speech, for which he won an Oscar for Best Film, and setting up production company Bedlam Productions.
Gareth, who used to play ice hockey for Slough Jets, said: “Winning the Oscar was personally and professionally an amazing time in my life, but part of that legacy is visiting colleges and inspiring the next generation. It is important that industry integrates with education to help build a bridge between careers and school or college.”
Receiving an Oscar from legendary director Steven Spielberg seems a far cry from college life and playing ice hockey in Slough. However, Gareth was keen to highlight to students that their ambitions are achievable if they put their minds to it.
He said: “TV or film are not unachievable careers. I think it is important to give young people that belief in themselves. The development process in any business, project or career is key. You have to work hard and be persistent. I did a lot of unpaid jobs and worked as a runner on various shows to obtain practical experience. My ‘overnight success’ was actually 18 years in the making.”
After graduating from Ravensbourne College in London, Gareth rose quickly through the ranks to be Assistant Director and Production Manager for a number of drama and documentary projects. His first feature film as Producer, Exam (2009) earned a nomination at the 63rd British Academy Film Awards. Following that, Gareth produced The King’s Speech alongside Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, picking up the Audience Award at Toronto International Film Festival, a Producers Guild of America award, seven BAFTAs, including both Outstanding British Film and Best Film, and four Academy Awards, including Best Film.
Gareth’s latest film is Kajaki: The True Story, which tells the moving story of a small unit of British soldiers who find themselves on an old minefield while protecting the Kajaki dam and their subsequent struggle for survival. The low budget British film premiered in the West End on 12th December and is receiving great reviews.
Gareth’s visit is part of a series of talks by guest speakers and former students, which are organised by the College to enhance the learning experience of its students, encourage innovation and demonstrate how the curriculum relates to future careers.
Media student Leigh Reid (18, from Slough) said “It was great to meet someone who has been where we are now and made it in the film industry. I’ve seen a lot of his work and I would like to be a director or producer myself, so I was kind of star struck when I met him. His talk was really inspiring and he was really down to earth. He even made time to give us one-to-one advice and answer our questions.”
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