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University and Alumni Feature Prominently in Multiple Award-Winning Film

The independent short film, Emotional Motor Unit, shot partly at the University of Portsmouth and featuring university alumni in its production cast, has risen to prominence after winning awards at two film festivals.


(A scene from Emotional Motor Unit featuring Francesca Burgoyne)

The science fiction romance explores a dystopian future where human emotion is repressed by medication and features scenes shot in Portland courtyard and the networking laboratory in Anglesea Building. The scene featuring the School of Engineering’s networking laboratory sees a robot with human features, portrayed by Francesca Burgoyne, programmed with human emotions. Later in the film, the robot roams Portland courtyard with an ever-increasing sense of wonder as she gets to grips with her new found emotional capabilities

Emotional Motor Unit‘s exceptional depiction of human feeling saw it awarded Best Sci-Fi Film at the Golden Gate International Film Festival in San Francisco, California. The film enjoyed further success at the Indiewise Virtual Film Festival, picking up Best Actor and Best Actress. The film also won Best Director for Adam Nelson, who graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a degree in Film Studies.

“I fell in love with the networking lab and knew it would be perfect for what we wanted to do,” gushed Nelson. “Choosing the exterior was harder. We needed a location that had a minimalist feel to it and the courtyard outside the Portland building fit this perfectly with its mix of white walls and big windows.”


As well as directing the film, Nelson also took on the role of producer and was convinced to shoot parts of the film at the university after meeting Dr Djamel Azzi, principal lecturer in engineering. “The networking laboratory in the School of Engineering provided the perfect backdrop for one of the scenes in the feature which deals with an increasingly likely subject – the emotional awakening of machines in the future and its potential impact on humans,” explained Dr Azzi. “Cedric Arrow, our technician and IT administrator, and I were delighted to welcome the production team and show off some of our excellent facilities.”

As well as Adam Nelson, Tim Pierson, who graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a  degree in TV and Film Production, was credited as an assistant cameraman on the film. Pierson was also heavily involved in pre-production and production, as well as assisting the director of photography with location reconnaissance.

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