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Wednesday 20 March 2019

A film featuring Nick Reynolds of Alabama 3, death masks and Jacob Rees-Mogg has helped five Solent University television students scoop the Best Student Factual TV award at the recent Royal Television Society (RTS) Southern Region Awards.

The brainchild of BA Television and Video Production students Jesse Hargrave and Curtis Stephan, The Final Portrait tells the story of Nick Reynolds, singer of band Alabama 3, son of Great Train Robber, Bruce Reynolds, and one of the few remaining sculptors of death masks - the likeness of a person’s face following death, mostly taken by making a cast directly from the corpse - in the UK. 

Clearly impressed with the film, the RTS judges said: “This film was like unrolling a magic carpet. It was a film that just kept on giving. Well put together with room to breathe and for the story to develop at its own pace. Who knew Jacob Rees-Mogg could be so interesting, or that he had such a relationship with an ageing rock star son of a train robber who made his father’s death mask?”

Talking about how the idea for the documentary came about, Jesse (24) who directed the award-winning piece said, “Curtis and I happened to catch a radio documentary that Nick Reynolds had done about death masks. After researching him we found there was so much more to him than his hobby. We decided it would be a fantastic idea to produce a documentary about Nick, his unique hobby, and his life.”

But speaking to Nick’s death mask clients proved challenging, “It was difficult gaining access to people he had worked with”, said Jesse from Cambridge. “Finding museums which actually have them on display was also a struggle, not many of them are still shown in public but we were lucky to gain access to the largest collection left in the UK,” she continued. “And we were very fortunate to interview Jacob Rees-Mogg. The interview went so well, and both Jacob and his mother were so kind - they even offered us tea and biscuits!”

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Lewis Woolcock (camera), Adam Polley (production assistant) and Stacey Willis (producer) completed the award-winning student team.

Senior Lecturer Tony Moon, who helped supervise the project said, "Winning at the RTS is not easy. It requires a film that is unique, has a strong sense of narrative, and technically perfect. The Television Production and Post Production courses are proud to have students who can operate at a professionally high standard."

Both Jesse and Curtis are continuing their studies at Solent University on the MA Post Production in Film and TV.