HE is responsible for creating some of the most recognisable villains who have turned Doctor Who’s world upside down.
So when an alien creation catches they eye of Neill Gorton, the man behind everything from the Sontarans to the Cybermen since the series returned to the television screens in 2005, it is going to be something special.
And when the work of a University of Bolton student Julian Griffiths caught his attention, the leading special effects guru offered him a work placement over the Easter holiday.
Not only that, but the undergraduate has also now been invited to send his CV to the firm.
Mr Gorton was at the university delivering his first session to students as visiting professor and was looking at the work of students when he came across an animatronic alien head which was Julian’s second-year project.
He was invited to work on his final-year degree project at Mr Gorton’s studios Millennium FX, which he co-founded and of which he is a director.
The 39-year-old said: “It was well worth the trip. I got to work with industry professionals who are at the top of their game and some of the best in the business. It was good to get their advice on my own work and ask how they got into the industry.
“The highlight was just working in that environment and being around top-quality professionals. Speaking with them one-to-one was really helpful. Some came into the industry from engineering field and different backgrounds like me, so it was great to get their perspective on the industry.
“Working there felt just like a normal working environment compared to other workshops I’ve been in, except there are random objects all around, pieces of prosthetics, bizarre creatures. One day, the guy on the next table from me was just making brains all day.”
Mr Gorton is a leading make-up and prosthetics expert whose projects have included the Oscar-winning film, Gravity and feature- length 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. He began his career by making models in his garden shed and reading the end credits of TV shows he liked, before writing to the programme’s SFX person for advice and guidance.
Mr Griffiths said he had a similar DIY approach to his model-making and joined the degree hoping to turn his hobby into a career.
He uses social media to promote his work. Mr Griffiths said: “To start with, the SFX stuff was just a bit of a hobby, but then I put some of my work on YouTube and one of the comments on the videos mentioned their daughter was doing an SFX course at Bolton and maybe I should check it out.
“I thought to myself ‘that is really what I want to do’ and two weeks later I was on the course.”
Mr Griffiths spent two weeks working at the Millennium FX studios.
He worked on his final year project which is a bigger, more ambitious version of his animatronic alien head from second year.
He added: “I’m extremely dedicated to the course. Though this is my hobby, it is also my passion.
“I want all my work to be the best it can be. Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been working on something and can be moulding or shaping for hours and hours. But that is the way and I am and this opportunity with Neill Gorton just puts me one step closer to my goal.”
Special effects programme leader Simon Wiggins said: “The entire day spent with Professor Gorton was a fantastic one, both in terms of offering tips and techniques to students but also in helping to develop a greater understanding of what it is like to work in the industry.
“The on-going nature of the role will definitely be beneficial to staff and students alike. The icing on the cake was Neill’s offer to Julian, which will be a great experience for him.”
The eighth series of Doctor Who, starring Peter Capaldi, is now being filmed.
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