Surrey alumni Tom Berkeley and Ross White

Surrey alumni Tom Berkeley and Ross White are writers, producers, and directors of Oscar and BAFTA-award winning short film, An Irish Goodbye

Ross White and Tom Berkeley outside the GSA building

Tom Berkeley and Ross White first met at the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) in 2014 as first years on the BA Acting programme.

Since graduating from Surrey in 2017, the pair have gone on to enjoy success as writers, producers and directors.

“The University and the Guildford School of Acting has done so much for us," says Tom. "We met here, our collaboration started here and it took on many forms.

"There’s such a passion to push students to be entrepreneurial, to make their own stuff and to make what that they want to see in the world. That’s what started us off."

Tom Berkeley with his Oscar

During their time at Surrey, Tom and Ross co-founded a student-run theatre company, Split Second Productions, creating extra-curricular performance opportunities for GSA students in productions which toured to festivals and venues across the UK and Europe.  

They also developed a shared interest in playwriting, and their early plays were shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize, Papatango Prize and the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing.

In 2020, they established the independent film and television production company Floodlight Pictures, and their inaugural project, ROY, featuring Harry Potter actor David Bradley, was longlisted for Best British Short at the BAFTA awards in 2022.

“The training at GSA and indeed the ethos of the whole Surrey campus really for us promoted a lovely proactive energy and a curiosity around artistic life which has served us really well in everything that we’ve done so far,” says Ross.

Ross White with his BAFTA
Promotional image from the film, An Irish Goodbye

The pair’s second short film, An Irish Goodbye, is a black comedy set in rural Northern Ireland. Estranged brothers Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) and Lorcan (James Martin) are reunited following the untimely death of their mother. After discovering their late mother’s unfulfilled bucket list, their awkward reunion takes an altogether different course.

Having played at more than 60 international film festivals worldwide, the film was named Best British Short Film at the 76th BAFTA Awards and Best Live Action Short at the 95th Academy Awards, and Ross and Tom became the youngest British filmmakers to win an Oscar at the age of 27.

Tom Berkeley and Ross White at GSA

They returned to campus in May 2023 to share their experience of life since leaving drama school, their move into filmmaking and their recent awards show success. After a masterclass with GSA students, they took part in a Q&A on their time as filmmakers following an exclusive screening of An Irish Goodbye.

Tom Berkeley and Ross White at GSA
Ross White and Tom Berkeley answer questions during their visit to GSA

They returned to campus in May 2023 to share their experience of life since leaving drama school, their move into filmmaking and their recent awards show success. After a masterclass with GSA students, they took part in a Q&A on their time as filmmakers following an exclusive screening of An Irish Goodbye.

“We are so proud that we trained at Surrey,” says Tom. “The friendships I’ve made are so important but they also some have become working relationships; there is this cohort of really creative people that you are trying to buy into, in all kinds of different disciplines – technical, acting, musical theatre, actor-musician.

"We’ve kept those relationships up for the last decade and they have impacted on our work in massive ways.”

Tom Berkeley with his Oscar and BAFTA trophies

"Finding ‘your people’ is massive in an industry like ours and GSA has a real ensemble feel to it, like a family; it’s important to keep that feeling around you when you graduate."

Tom Berkeley with the BAFTA award

“I’m Proud to be Surrey because, even though we’ve moved into a different discipline from which we trained in when we were here, I still recognise every day in what we’re doing how much it is informed by the training and the skills and those transferable skills that we picked up whilst we were here – it feeds into the work that we are doing now,” says Ross. 

“Surrey was an incredibly encouraging and supportive place to be, which I think it’s very important for anyone in an artistic or creative study. It can often be quite a lonely industry to be in. But I think the sense of collaboration, family and support that was here for us is something we’ve tried to keep in the work that we are doing now on set. 

“When we are working with our crews and our actors, we remember that we did our best work under the support and the infrastructure that is here at Surrey and we try to create that on set for the people that we are working with in the future."

Ross White with his Oscar and BAFTA trophies

“Surrey holds a special place in our hearts and we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today, if it wasn’t for our history with Surrey.”

Ross White with his Oscar award

Tom and Ross have remained in touch with Jaq Bessell, the lead for the BA Acting programme.

"Those of us who taught Ross and Tom during their time here at GSA will agree that they were both outstanding students, and that they are two of the nicest people one could wish to meet," says Jaq.  "That they are now our most-celebrated and decorated alumni is as heartwarming as it is deserved. 

"Tom and Ross often speak warmly about GSA as a “family” to which they belong, and I am proud to say that it is typical for former students to stay in touch, no matter how successful they’ve been.  In fact, those of us who teach here actively encourage alumni to check in from time to time, to share their successes, and to mentor and inspire our current students. 

"One of the key messages our current students took away from the workshop was that their training gives them opportunities to forge dynamic and lasting partnerships and collaborations; the importance of dedication and preparation was also very clear. 

"While at GSA, Ross and Tom created a series of staff-student collaborative projects and I’m proud to say that I directed a number of shows for Ross and Tom’s theatre company both while they were students and after they graduated.

Their creative ambition was so evident, their planning so impeccable, and their generosity of spirit so infectious, that it was impossible not to take them seriously, and to want to get involved. 

"Their creative achievements, ambitions and influence have grown beyond recognition in the short time since they graduated, but they’ve remained unchanged and unspoiled by their success, and I’d be willing to bet that the same generosity of spirit will continue to make them very welcome, wherever they want to go next."

Musical theatre students in performance

Guildford School of Acting at the University of Surrey is one of the most highly regarded theatre schools in the UK with a vibrant community of performers, performance makers, creative practitioners and technicians graduating from our wide variety of programmes each year. 

Building on a heritage of over 85 years and our reputation as arguably the leading musical theatre school in the world, we are passionate about helping our students to develop the practical, inter-personal and intellectual skills need to make them employable in today’s highly competitive and ever-evolving creative industry.

Our ‘Proud to be Surrey’ campaign shines the spotlight on some of our brilliant staff and students who make Surrey such a diverse and welcoming place to work and study.

There are undergraduates, postgrads, alumni, academics and professional services staff but they all have one thing in common – they are all Proud to be Surrey.