Master degree in Composing for Film and Television

NFTS - National Film and Television School

Program Description

Master degree in Composing for Film and Television

NFTS - National Film and Television School

Composing for Film and Television

This course commences in January each year. Our emphasis on collaboration means that Composing students are informed and involved throughout the filmmaking process. In particular, composers work closely with other students in Editing and Sound Post Production, increasing their understanding of the relationship between audio and moving images.

Today’s language of screen music has shifted. While many scores still provide a musical commentary on the action, others find a way to integrate music into the fabric of the film itself, creating a seamless weave analogous to the camerawork or editing, to the assimilation of music into the sound world of the film as a whole. Sound design and music grow ever closer - in fact, the roles of sound designer and composer are becoming blurred to the extent that a close collaboration between the two processes is often essential.

The application of music to film - the choices inherent in the "when", "how" and "why" - all stem from an informed understanding of the intention of the film and the contribution music could make to it. Informed understanding, musical versatility and the fostering of an individual musical voice are the intentions of this course and these are determined by the practical and intellectual demands on composers working in the industry.

Composing graduates are qualified to take on all forms of work in film and television as well as productions in multimedia and interactive programming.


Head of Post Production is Award-winning Re-Recording Mixer Dean Humphreys, who has worked with many of the world's leading directors, including Roman Polanski, Ridley Scott, Luc Besson, Bernardo Bertolucci and Franco Zeffirelli. Dean has also been the Sound Supervisor or Re-Recording mixer for major television series such as Kingdom (Stephen Fry) and Primeval, in addition to films including The Pianist (for which he won a César award), Interview With The Vampire, The Ghost Writer and Donnie Brasco.


Recent graduate composing credits include Atonement which netted NFTS graduate Dario Marianelli an Oscar, Golden Globe and Ivor Novello in the Best Original Score category; Wallander, the television drama series, and feature film Endgame, both of which earned BAFTAs for Best Original Score for NFTS graduate Martin Phipps. Martin also received Emmy Award Nominations for his scores on Great Expectations and Sense and Sensibility. Composer Rob Lane also received Emmy nominations for his scores on Longford and HBO's John Adams, as well as winning a BAFTA for Elizabeth I (TV) and a nomination for Jane Eyre.


The Composing course is developmental and progressive. In year one, students are taught the techniques and contexts which inform writing music for the screen. The first term comprises an intensive process during which students compose to a variety of exercises, each one chosen to focus on a particular problem of film composition. These exercises are completed by each student and discussed in seminars and individually assessed. In term two, further exercises concentrate on issues having to do with scoring for live instruments, the combination of live and electro-acoustic elements and the integration a limited range of sound design into film scores. In addition, students will begin engaging with projects generated by other students at the NFTS. This process will continue and dominate the third term. Each student contribution to those films will also be assessed. Students will also participate in visits from industry professionals.

In year two, students’ activities will be dominated primarily by work generated from other parts of the school. However, lectures, seminars and the occasional workshop will be provided to clarify and expand issues arising from those projects. As in year 1, students will also participate in visits from industry professionals.


A series of composing workshops combining practical exercises and seminars:

  • Basic narrative techniques
  • Midi, sampling and audio
  • Combining music and sound
  • Narrative with dialogue
  • Non-fiction scoring
  • Instrumentation and orchestration
  • Composing to script
  • Improvisation

Ongoing analysis of feature film soundtracks and film structure Orchestration and recording with live musicians

Workshops with Sound Design and Editing students:

  • Abstract Film Workshop
  • Without Images - a sound-only project
  • Animation exercises
  • Dramaturgy Workshop – focusing on script and script analysis, blocking and cover, and performance
  • Editing the Scene - editing drama rushes to learn the basics of scene structure


  • Zen and Beyond - fiction workshop focusing on visual storytelling
  • Documentary poetry exercise collaborating with Documentary Direction, Editing and Sound Design
  • First Year Film – the major 1st year fiction production collaborating with all other departments
  • Investigative Documentary - the major first year documentary production
  • Cross Spec - an introduction to film language and storytelling involving all departments


  • Orchestration and recording with live musicians
  • Improvisation
  • Continued analysis of films
  • 2nd year short fiction production, shot on a digital format
  • Co-composing a feature film Graduation films in documentary, fiction and animation

Unlike other schools, all production costs are met by the School. In addition you will be given a cash Production Budget. NFTS students are engaged in more productions as part of the curriculum than any of our competitors.


The Composing MA course is part of the Post Production department, where we are looking to assemble a group of students with diverse and varied backgrounds. There is no 'typical' student or perfect candidate who conforms to a mandatory list of qualifications. You might have had some Industry experience in your chosen field, or a background in the arts or other media. You may now be looking for a further professional qualification, or wish to broaden your knowledge of composing for screen, taking you to a higher level of work.

Students normally have a degree in music but applicants with equivalent practical experience are also accepted; some composing experience is preferred. We look for composers with a strong personal style, a flexible approach and an intelligent feel for drama and narrative. Candidates should normally be able to notate the music they wish to be performed acoustically, have an understanding of the main historical styles and be able to communicate with others using non-musical terms. It is essential that applicants have a strong and demonstrable interest in film.


Application Criteria

On receipt of the application form, duly completed and signed, each applicant will be provided with a link and password to download two film clips. They will be asked to write music to each of these clips, and return their completed work as Quicktime video files with sound and music track, either as downloadable links or as DVD’s sent to the school.

On being accepted for interview by the school, the applicants will be invited to bring further material that may be of interest for examination at the discretion of the interviewers.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated February 13, 2017
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Aug. 2017
2 years
Full time
Start date Aug. 2017
United Kingdom London, England
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 2 years
Price Request Info