Monday, 3 July 2017

The University of Hertfordshire's Harry Potter Heritage

What a way to realise that you’re getting old. Coming in to work on a gloomy Monday morning and being told that it’s the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone being published. 

Like most children born in the 1990’s, I didn’t want to read books. However, thanks to the magic of J.K. Rowling’s quill and ink, I was reluctantly engrossed and grew up reading the books, watching the films and hoping I wouldn’t be sorted into Hufflepuff. Little did I know that the University I would eventually attend holds spellbindingly strong links with the Harry Potter cinematic universe.

The University’s associations with the Harry Potter world are vast, from Rupert Grint ‘performing’ at The Forum Hertfordshire, to having our Film and Television Soundstage named after Mike Newell (Director of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), to sadly being unsuccessful in our bid to host the Triwizard Tournament in 1999. Newell has also held a number of lectures for our Film and Television Production students, giving fascinating insights into the industry and how it has changed over the years. Mike also attended the annual Visions Film Festival at the University where he presented the ‘Mike Newell Prize for Best Directing’ award to Liana Fallia, Director of Commissioned. Fellow Harry Potter Director David Yates has also graced our students with lectures, touching on the challenges brought on by organising a large crew, use of magic on set and his thoughts on casting, rehearsals and finding creative collaborators. 

BAFTA award winning director Mike Newell, and Academy Award winning film editor and sound designer Walter Murch

Harry Potter producers Warner Brothers also provide Film and Television students with the opportunity to attain a £10,000 scholarship to help students further their studies, whether that’s by funding a film, paying living expenses or buying a new Nimbus 2000. Lyndsay Duthie, Programme Leader for Film and TV, stated “We are very proud to be in our 4th year of the Warner Bros Scholarship programme which gives our student’s a unique opportunity to attend masterclasses, film premieres, be mentored and gain work into the industry. Students involved have worked on blockbusters like Wonder Woman and Fantastic Beasts and are forging successful careers.” It is clear that the University’s enchanting relationship with Warner Brother Studios, Leavesden, will ensure that “help will always be given at Hogwar… I mean Herts, to those who ask for it” (Dumbledore, 1998 – kind of).

What is truly magical is the employment opportunities that have been presented to University of Hertfordshire graduates within the world of Harry Potter. This includes the career of graduate Neil Ellis, who boasts prop-making credits from the final two instalments to the Harry Potter cinematic universe. Furthermore, Creative Arts Senior Lecturer Howard Berry has worked on a number of Harry Potter films in Visual Effects. This impressive experience and depth of knowledge that Howard was able to utilise on the Harry Potter series is the same expertise that he is able to teach our students with today.

Tom Rowe
Film & TV Production Graduate

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