A Tribute to Roger Knott-Fayle

Words: Steven Sheil
Thursday 01 September 2022
reading time: min, words

A mainstay in Nottingham’s screen industry for decades, Roger Knott-Fayle was a guiding light for countless aspiring and established filmmakers in the city before his recent passing. Among those is Steven Sheil, who opens up on why Roger meant so much to so many… 


Roger Knott-Fayle may not have been the most famous person to emerge from Nottingham’s film scene over the past few decades, but he was arguably the most influential. For over thirty years working as an educator, practitioner, collaborator and mentor, Roger was instrumental in guiding and shaping the careers of multiple generations of filmmakers and other creatives in Nottingham and beyond, helping to ignite passions and shape futures - my own included.

I first met Roger in 1996 when I was a student on Intermedia Film and Video’s Headstart programme, a one-year practical foundation course in filmmaking designed to help people into the industry. It was a difficult time for me, just after the death of my sister, and I was apprehensive about going into a new and potentially challenging environment. But the course, and Roger - whose kindness and empathy were there from the start - ultimately changed the direction of my life.

Roger was revelatory as a teacher - he knew that formal education could sometimes exclude or alienate students and he worked hard to counter that. His key gift was as a communicator - he was forever seeking the best way to translate his knowledge and experience to his students. He knew that communication was not about imposing your ideas on others, but required empathy and care and interest in other people and their thoughts and needs. He delighted in the interplay between his mind and others, and for many of those he taught his approach was transformative. With Roger, you never felt like you were being instructed by a superior authority, but that you were engaged in a conversation. It was part of the reason why so many of those he taught became, like me, his friends, and why the outpouring of grief at his passing has been so profound.

Roger Knott-Fayle may not have been the public face of Nottingham’s filmmaking scene, but he was certainly its heart

Beyond Headstart, Roger continued teaching - for Intermedia, Broadway, Confetti and NTU amongst others - and he brought the same care, curiosity and creativity to each of those roles. Alongside education, he also worked as a cameraman - where his knowledge, experience and innately collaborative approach made him a boon to any crew - and on his own work across a whole range of disciplines, including photography, film, art, music and writing. In recent years he was a key member of the team involved in the BFI Film Academy at Broadway, guiding the next generation of young people through their first contact with the industry. I’m so glad that my own daughter also got the experience of being taught by him.

If you were to create a personality that embodied the characteristics of the film culture from this city you might include these elements: determinedly individual, naturally anti-authoritarian, endlessly curious and experimental, and profoundly interested in the lives and minds of others. Roger Knott-Fayle was all of these and more, and his teachings and his ethos are embedded throughout the city’s filmmaking DNA.

He may not have been the public face of Nottingham’s filmmaking scene, but he was certainly its heart.

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