Students are being inspired to pursue careers in the film industry as their lecturer joins the cast of Ridley Scottâ€™s next blockbuster, where for the next four weeks his pupils will include big-screen A-listers Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton.
Alistair Aston, a lecturer in 3D design at the Coleg y Cymoedd, describes himself first and foremost as a teacher. However, over the last five years, he has also become a highly sought-after archery consultant, prop-maker and instructor for the Hollywood film industry.
Alistairâ€™s current movie exploits have seen him on location in Spain, where he will provide archery training to Welsh film legend Christian Bale on the set of Exodus, Ridley Scottâ€™s next biblical block blockbuster.
Alistairâ€™s involvement in the film world began on the beaches of West Wales, when he applied for a supporting artist role in the cast of Ridley Scottâ€™s 2010 movie, Robin Hood. The energetic educationalist, who has competed in national longbow tournaments for many years and held the world record in 2007, was recognised by a member of the archery training crew and asked to lead the training of extras on the set.
Rubbing shoulders with Hollywood royalty aside, Alistair believes the most valuable aspect of his participation in movie production is the ability it has given him to demonstrate to his students the employment opportunities that exist in the creative and design industries.
He said: â€œThere is no denying that being part of major Hollywood projects is an exciting undertaking, but whatâ€™s truly rewarding is being able to demonstrate to students the real opportunities they have to apply the skills theyâ€™re learning in the creative industries and how they can earn a living from those skills.
Many students believe working in the film or TV industry is an unobtainable goal, it isnâ€™t. Yes, my students want to know what Batman is like in person â€“ and he is exceedingly professional, but what I try to instil in them is the drive to apply themselves and to be passionate about their education and their outside interests.
Real opportunities exist for these students, for example Iâ€™m just one lecturer at the college who works in the industry in addition to teaching. Some of my college colleagues work with the BBC, the Welsh National Opera and other world class organisations and bring that real-life experience into the classroom. Those links also enable us to help students gain real work experience with national broadcasters and production companies and this has often led to employment or has contributed to students winning coveted places at high profile universities.â€
Recently two Coleg y Cymoedd students secured paid apprenticeships with BBC Wales. Lucy Robertson, 19, from Gelli, currently working on a number of projects with the broadcasterâ€™s art department. Lucia Strinati, 19, from Caerphilly, secured a coveted role within the BBC Wales costume department, which will allow her to transfer the 3D project design skills she has gained at the college.
Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd said: â€œAlistairâ€™s skills and spirit of adventure in getting involved in the film industry illustrate the exceptional quality of the teaching staff at the college. His work in films and that of his colleagues with the creative industries, allows their students to see how they can apply the own skills, progress to higher studies or employment and inspires them to pursue their own dreams and career goals.â€