Take part in the BFI's new consultation and have your voice heard

17 Jun 2016 BY Paul Gerhardt

7 mins
Young People Watching Films
Young People Watching Films

The British Film Institute (BFI) is running a new consultation, presenting an opportunity for teachers, educators and club leaders to give their views on the value of film in the education of young people aged 5 - 19. The BFI want to hear directly from you, to ensure that the perspectives of practicing educators are best represented across their programme - including all Into Film activity. The feedback that you provide during this consultation will help to inform the BFI's future strategy, giving you a voice in shaping one of British film's most significant institutions.

The online consultation runs from 24 June to 8 September on the BFI website at bfi.org.uk.

Below, Paul Gerhardt, Director of Education at the BFI, has written an article to help stimulate thought and consideration on the place and value of film within education.

Squeezing into my Economy Class seat on the flight to Edinburgh, my thoughts strayed to the last BFI Roadshow. It was at the end of 2013, and the theme was Film Forever - Year One into the new five year strategy.

We held some education workshops during that tour, and they were an opportunity to introduce a brand new organisation, Into Film, together with its chief exec, Paul Reeve. We also discussed the first year of a new talent initiative, the BFI Film Academy, and reflected on the wider ambitions for film education.

Nearly three years later, we've entered the final phase of Film Forever and we are beginning to explore the themes for its successor. Education and Audience Development was the number one priority three years ago, so what have we achieved and where do we fit on today's agenda?

The first thing to say about our achievements is that our delivery partner (Into Film) has built the largest network of after school cultural education clubs in the UK. It's a huge achievement, and raises some challenges of success: where do we go from here in terms of the impact on individuals and on the role of film in education? How do we continue to sustain a lifelong passion for film in a club member when she or he leaves school? And when will we get to the tipping point for all our work inside and outside the classroom, when film becomes a normal language for education and learning?

But the BFI Roadshow is for the next day. Tonight we have the opening night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and it turns out that it is an amazing 70 years old! Over half the lifetime of cinema itself. The evening itself is a blast of Scottishness: a film (Tommy's Honour) about the true relationship between a farther and son who helped develop the game of golf, a wet evening defied by everybody in black tie as we threaded our way through the streets, and a noisy party in the National Museum.

It was a great opportunity to meet Into Film's enthusiastic team in Scotland, and also some of their school Ambassadors. Getting tickets for the opening night was an inspired gift, a reward for their hard work and achievements.

The next day we gathered at the Caledonian Hotel for the opening of the Roadshow. BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill's welcoming speech introduced some big key themes to think about: What do we mean by film today, in a world of expanding screen entertainment? How can we take a further big step on diversity and opportunity for all? To what extent are our policies and activities relevant to the UK as a whole, not just London and the South East? And, finally, how can we make film and moving image central to the cultural life of everyone in the UK?

There were about 150 guests present, from Creative Scotland, universities, film production companies and elsewhere. Following Amanda's state of the nation introduction we held an extended panel discussion where I joined fellow BFI directors Ben Roberts and Heather Stewart.

The questions from the floor were wide ranging and challenging: is the BFI doing too much, when it should be handing over to others? What are we doing about conserving video of TV programmes in our archive? How does our audience development programme connect with mainstream operators? I especially liked a question on how we were supporting young people who were already already communicating with each other through moving images on social media. It's not often that you hear recognition of this phenomenon from an older generation. But it also led to the thought that the entire meeting would have been more dynamic if we'd had more young people in the audience.

Scotland provided the context for some interesting issues, particularly around archive and heritage film. As Amanda pointed out, previous generations have deposited this rich seam of cultural value for us to draw on and inspire our creativity. But do young filmmakers and young students of film know about this? They understand and exploit book libraries in their pursuit of knowledge and learning. Why aren't they also demanding access to our libraries of 120 years of film history?

So there's a challenge: how do we match up a young passion for film with the (relatively) ancient treasures of a film archive? It would be great to hear your thoughts, in person at one of the BFI Roadshows or through the online consultation.

Paul Gerhardt, Director of Education for the BFI.

Paul Gerhardt, Director of Education for the British Film Institute (BFI)

Paul Gerhardt is Director of Education for the BFI.  He has also been Controller of Adult Learning at the BBC, and responsible for the partnership with the Open University.  His innovative project, the BBC Creative Archive, was awarded a BAFTA.

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