The joy of watching a diverse range of films

26 Jul 2017 in Leader of the Month

7 mins
Meadows Primary School and Nursery, Club of the Year: Under 12 2017
Meadows Primary School and Nursery, Club of the Year: Under 12 2017

Our Leader of the Month from June is Andrew Denton, from Meadows Primary School and Nursery in Telford, West Midlands. Andrew's dedication led his film club to be crowned Into Film Club of the Year: 12 and Under at this year's Into Film Awards, and his and his club's work has only continued to impress since then. We caught up with Andrew to find out a little more about his award-winning club - and spoke to some of his members, to get a taste of their experience of being in a film club.

Andrew Denton - Club Leader

How long has your club been running? 

The club at Meadows has been running for just over 18 months. We launched it with some Into Film Festival screenings in November 2015, although I've been running film clubs since 2008.

How do you approach review writing?

The other teachers in the school are amazed at how many reviews the children have written - over 700 since the club began! Most of these, the children have written in their own time. The children also make sure their submissions are of a good standard.

We always try to talk about the films screened at the club and about the themes we identified and what inferences we can make. As a result, the children are all now secure in a model of writing an interesting introduction, a synopsis of the story and then sharing their opinions on the themes and as many technical aspects of the film as they can identify. From this structure, we've seen them be really creative. Their evaluative skills have really grown and they've been able to apply this to other fields like book reviews too.

Has film club benefitted students' academic or social development?

Over the past year, the way the children have been inspired by film has really blossomed and it has created a real community spirit amongst the thirty five children who regularly attend. They have screened films for younger children and their parents, talked about ideas for their reviews together and spent lunchtimes editing films and making animations. 

Giving the children a voice within the club - particularly with regard to programming, and because our club has been so well regarded in the school community - has seen the children really grow and come into their own. The vast majority are much more confident in public speaking now, and several have introduced films at the club. The two children who accepted our Primary Film Club of the Year Award blew us away with their confidence with their speech on stage at the Odeon Leicester Square.

What do you enjoy most about running a film club?

I enjoy sharing the films with the children - particularly the ones I don't think they would be exposed to otherwise. Early into running film clubs, I decided I wanted to share the films of Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy, because I remembered watching these in the mornings of school holidays and knew that these films were not screened as much anymore. I thought children would appreciate the slapstick humour - this has proven to be so.

When reading and listening to professional reviews, I pay attention to what may be interesting films to show and I don't think I would have watched as many Studio Ghibli films - which I love and the children really enjoy - without running a film club. 

Talking to the children, they have expressed how much they enjoy watching a range of films and it's an absolute joy to show them something they have not seen before and watch them totally engaged. We've had a lot of big laughs, children jumping out of their seats and jaws dropping at the club this year for films like The Princess Bride, Safety Last and Kubo and the Two Strings.

The film club has also given an opportunity to share experiences with the children that they wouldn't otherwise have had, such as when we arranged a screening of a Charlie Chaplin film with a live score from musicians. Watching videos from Into Film about foley artists and other careers in the film industry have also broadened the children's minds and raised their aspirations.

If there is one bit of advice you could offer to new Into Film club leaders, what would it be? 

Make sure you show a broad range of films and get the children talking about them. Similarly, if the children are watching films they are familiar with, it gives you a good opportunity to discuss the technical aspects of the film and try to find depths they have not looked for before. However, more importantly is to show films that you are familiar with, too, so that you can prompt discussion and give them aspects to look out for to stimulate discussions. Show some of the films you loved from your childhood and tell them why you loved them - let them see your own passion for film.

Meadows Primary - Club Members

What do you enjoy about being part of film club?

Alannah: Watching the different films I wouldn't normally watch. 

Esstar: I enjoy that we get to watch a different range of films.

Carmen: I like how we manage to work together to make animations and how it's so quiet when the films are on because everyone is so focused on the film. We really enjoyed sharing films with younger children and our parents that they haven't seen before.

Noah: Because we watch films like Song of the Sea, Charlie Chaplin and anime that people don't normally watch.

Tyler: Because we eat ice cream and its a club where we can relax a bit more at the end of the school day.

Johan: Because it's a fun, non-sport related club.

Greta: I like sitting with my friends from other classes and enjoying the films together.

Megan H: We watch films that we haven't seen before like Spirited AwayMy Neighbour Totoro and Song of the Sea.

Have you ever watched a film you thought you wouldn't like, but did?

AlannahSpirited Away. I had never heard of anime films but this is now one of my favourite films

CarmenSong of the Sea because I didn't like the images on the front cover but the music and how it made me feel won me over. Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin films because they were black and white and silent but the story and slapstick comedy made us laugh.

BladeGoosebumps because I hadn't read the stories before but I liked it because it had lots of action in it.

NoahSchool of Rock because I'm not really in to rock but the comedy and action made me enjoy it.

TylerKubo and the Two Strings and James and the Giant Peach. I liked them because they had clear morals to them. The Princess Bride I thought it was going to be too girly, but I liked that it had Andre the Giant and action and humour.

Joseph: I didn't think I'd like Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy films because they were really old but they were so funny.

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