David Fincher, Sam Mendes Among Top Talent Giving Online Masterclasses for NFTS

David Fincher World War Z

Like so many schools around the world, the U.K.’s renowned National Film and Television School (NFTS) has closed its doors and moved to online learning amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

To help deliver its curriculum, the NFTS has drafted in top talent including David Fincher, Sam Mendes, Ricky Gervais, Jesse Armstrong and Edgar Wright to give masterclasses via Zoom webinars to students.

Four days after moving to online learning, BAFTA-winning writer-director Sally Wainwright was online and delivering the NFTS’ very first masterclass. Wainwright talked through her writing and directing process across both the BAFTA-winning “Last Tango in Halifax” and BBC One period drama “Gentleman Jack.”

NFTS students then logged into Zoom in their hundreds for David Fincher’s  masterclass, in which he provided insights into the filmmaking process of his best known titles including “The Social Network,” “Gone Girl,” “Zodiac,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Panic Room” and “House of Cards.”

The next day, “Succession” creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong gave his time to the NFTS’ screenwriting students.

Next up was Nathan Johnson, composer of “Knives Out,” who hosted a masterclass for NFTS Composing students, followed by Nainita Desai, an NFTS graduate who has written the scores for films including the Oscar-nominated documentary “For Sama.”

“Baby Driver” and “Shaun of the Dead” writer-director Edgar Wright, currently in post-production on his new film, “Last Night in Soho,” shared advice to those trying to break into the film industry: “There is no reason not to be making something these days; take matters into your own hands and don’t wait for opportunities, make your own!” he told NFTS students.

Wright also revealed how he is coping in quarantine: “Now is the time to watch all those movies you never get around to. I’m finding watching war and dystopian movies strangely soothing,” he said.

Meanwhile, writer-director Ricky Gervais filled in students on the second season of his Netflix show “AfterLife,” which is due to drop from April 24.

Gervais gave students advice on finding their own voice on projects: “You’ve got to trust your instincts, you’ve got to do it for you. You’ve got to be confident. If you find it interesting, someone else will and it’s your job as a director to make them as interested in that subject as you.”

Ahead of his masterclass, Oscar-winning documentary writer, director and producer Alex Gibney, whose credits include “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” and “Taxi to the Dark Side,” gave NFTS students a screening of his new release “Citizen K,” which sees him explore modern Russia through the story of an oligarch who became an anti-Putin dissident.

Oscar and BAFTA-winning documentary maker Asif Kapadia also talked to the documentary students, while writer-director and animator Corin Hardy — who has directed four episodes of Sky’s upcoming drama “Gangs of London” — also delivered a masterclass.

So, too, did director Sir Sam Mendes, who chatted to the students about his career to date including the journey of making the Oscar winning “1917.”