The marriage of education and industry is often a forced one, but not at the UK's Met Film. The group, based at the legendary Ealing Studios, combines a film school with an ambitious production company and high-quality digital production and studio facilities. And it has been quietly putting together a pioneering approach of exploiting synergies in the business to address issues of working in a changing digital age.

A big piece of the jigsaw was completed this month when producer - and Met Film director - Jonny Persey's production outfit APT Films (Solomon & Gaenor, Deep Water) rebranded as Met Films Production.

Its projects (all with other partners) include Paul Morrison's film about the young Salvador Dali, Little Ashes; Jerry Rothwell's documentary Heavy Load, which is premiering at the US's Sxsw festival; and Jackie Oudney's romantic comedy French Film, which had its market premiere at last month's EFM (via Works International).

Combining a working film business with education requires some balancing but Met Film CEO Luke Montagu says it works. "For two or three years, students are entering a working and professional environment in which to learn their art and their craft."

For students, the benefits are clear. "Students have to think like the industry," says Persey. "The students on the producer course, for example, have to do the same work we would as professionals on a real film."

The benefits to the production company are partly about business diversity. Film-makers are lecturing as well as making films. But the relationship is much more than a day job to support film-making ambitions, says Montagu.

Met Film puts a strong emphasis on a two-way exchange of ideas and Montagu says the aim is to produce a highly creative environment. "At heart we are a film-making and film education community," he says.

The approach is illustrated by a new writers scheme that looks for scripts from writers with some experience, which can be turned into working projects. It also bears fruit in discussions about digital distribution, where students often have a deeper understanding of areas such as social networking than experienced film-makers.

The diverse digital thinking is not surprising given the school's majority shareholder is Arts Alliance, which has been pushing ahead with a range of digital businesses, including digital cinema installations.

Much of Met Film's emphasis is on exploiting digital distribution and building up the UK skills base in areas such as digital post and special effects. In that sense classroom and commerce make perfect partners. "What's great about the film school is that it is not just near but inside the industry," says Montagu.