The NFTS trains composers in both live and electro-acoustic music for the moving image in a production context closely modelled on Industry working practices.
  • Training in live and electro-acoustic music
  • Students compose for wide variety of audio visual material
  • Creative and technical skills developed
  • Study in a collaborative, filmmaking environment
  • Flexible curriculum adaptable to individual needs
  • Individual music suites
  • Recording sessions with live musicians Business, legal and professional skills taught
  • Unlike other schools, all production costs are met by the School.

We welcome EU/EEA Students. Those accepted onto the course starting in 2018 and 2019 will have their fees guaranteed at the UK rate for both years of the course. Postgraduate students can apply for a loan to help with their studies via the Student Loans Company Loans. A £10,609 loan is available to contribute to course and living costs. The Postgraduate Loan is only open to EU/EEA and UK Students who normally live in England.  It is not currently available to Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland Students. Find out more here.

Course Overview

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.


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. Some of 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) use of samples and audio
  • Combining music and sound
  • Narrative with dialogue
  • Non-fiction scoring
  • Instrumentation and orchestration
  • Composing to script 

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


  • Zen and Beyond Time - 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
  • Continued analysis of films
  • 2nd year short fiction production, shot on a digital format
  • 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.

Course Showreel

For the outline programme specification and MA course student agreement, please view the documents available on our entry requirements page for more information.


Head of Composing is the BAFTA-nominated composer (and NFTS graduate) John Keane, whose credits include Hornblower,Mansfield ParkTara RoadInspector George GentlyHideous Kinky.


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.

Entry Requirements

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.

Apply With

Application Criteria

Once we receive your application, we will provide you with a link and password to download two film clips. You will be asked to write music to each of these clips and return the completed work as Quicktime video files with sound and music track as downloadable links via WeTransfer.

If you are invited to attend an interview, you will be invited to bring further material that may be of interest for the selection panel at the discretion of the interviewers.

How to Apply

The application deadline has now passed, please contact registry via email stating your name, course of interest and email address if you would like to be added to a mailing list:
  • 2 Year Course
  • Full-time
  • Course runs Jan-Dec each year
  • Next intake: January 2020
  • NFTS Scholarships available for UK Students