The Search - the black and white comedy taking the world by storm

20 Nov 2018 BY Andrew Denton

8 mins
The Search - the black and white comedy taking the world by storm

We're very proud to present the fascinating and inspiring story of Film of the Month-winning short The Search, facilitated by Into Film Club leader and Education Ambassador for England Andrew Denton and his film club.

The Search, which you watch above, is an all-female made black and white silent film from Meadows Primary School that has enjoyed a non-stop journey of film festivals and awards since it was made. Having won our September Film of the Month prize, Meadows' film is now about to be part of the BFI's Comedy Genius season. Check out Andrew's account of all that the short film has been through below!

We began making The Search in June. Over the past three years we had watched a number of silent comedies starring Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. In June we watched shorts from the Buster Keaton selection and the girls were inspired to make their own, particularly because they felt the silent comedies we had watched only had male heroes, and they wanted to make their own silent film with a female lead.

It seemed that back in the olden days that boys really mattered and the girls didn't get to do anything

Nikola, Into Film Club Member and Filmmaker

Our club has been good at watching, discussing and reviewing films but this year we wanted to develop our filmmaking skills and luckily in March we were invited to be part of an Into Film archive filmmaking project. This gave school staff, other than myself as Into Film Club leader, a chance to develop their filmmaking skills and one of our teaching assistants, Lorraine Warner, was therefore able to support the girls and we endeavoured to make the project an all-female production.

We were fortunate that our Parish Council were prepared to contribute some funding to the project as they wished to celebrate one hundred years of women having the vote and this suited the all-female production. 

This paid for us to work with a professional filmmaker for a day. Lorraine worked with the girls through story-boarding their ideas and rehearsing scenes so we could make the most of the limited time with the filmmaker as the girls wanted to film in three locations.

Being part of the archive filmmaking project gave me the skill and confidence to tackle this all-female film. It was hard at times, but the girls put so much time and effort into this that the end result speaks for itself. We loved making the film and I would happily do it again given the chance.

Lorraine Warner, Teaching Assistant at Meadows Primary School

After the day's filming, the girls spent the next two weeks of their lunchtimes editing a first cut of the film to submit to the filmmaker who would produce a final cut for them. They even tried out producing some Foley sounds. 

We try to make the premiere screenings of the children's work a special event so I contacted our local BFI Film Hub partners - Flatpack film - about some ideas for how we could do this and it happened that they were preparing a screening of Buster Keaton's The Cameraman with live accompaniment for the Telford Film festival. They agreed that we could screen the film as a supporting feature and that the pianist, Meg Morley, would provide a live score for our film too. This was very exciting and would make a great premiere for the film. 

Our filmmakers, Yikes projects, had also used Film Freeway to enter the film into festivals and that's when we had the news that the film would be screened first in San Francisco, as part of the Noe Valley Girls Film festival, an event to inspire girls to make films (The Search went on to win second prize in competition). 

So the film truly had a world premiere and the following Friday it had its UK premiere with the live accompaniment and was well-received by the Buster Keaton fans at the screening. Following that, it screened at a festival in Austria and more recently won a further prize in the children's category at the St. Neots Film Festival, which is another huge honour.

Knowing their work has been screened to a number of audiences around the world has left the girls feeling very proud. Their hard work and achievements have inspired both staff and the other children in the school.

It's made me feel so happy that my film was showing in a place I have always wanted to go

Nelly, Into Film Club Member and Filmmaker

Some of the children involved are not very confident speakers, but the medium of silent comedy meant they could be part of a project that shows their hard work is appreciated all around the world. All the girls involved have had a huge boost to their confidence. 

Next up for The Search is a screening at our school as part of a silent comedy double bill for the BFI Comedy Genius season. The other showing will be of The Magnificent Mabel Normand package of short films to highlight a female comedy star of the silent era that we did not know about when we made our film. There will be a live score for all the films provided by Meg Morley, who has scored a new soundtrack for the Mabel Normand films as part of a BFI commission.

The BFI's Comedy Genius season runs from 22 October 2018 until 31 January 2019, and is the UK's greatest ever celebration of film and TV comedy. To complement this autumn season, Into Film created its own Comedy Genius: Slapstick to Subversive strand as part of the 2018 Into Film Festival, which was part-compiled with the help of young programmers from our Youth Advisory Council and the BFI's Film Audience Network (FAN) programming groups. There's a huge range of festival screenings yet to go as part of the strand, from comedy classics such as Bringing up Baby and Steamboat Bill Jr to more recent films such as Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleBlackkklansman and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.

Primary School teacher at Meadows Primary School

Andrew Denton, Primary School Teacher

Andrew Denton is a class teacher and the Into Film Club Leader at Meadows Primary School, Ketley, Telford. Andrew has been running film clubs in schools for ten years and is an Into Film Education Ambassador in England.

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