How film clubs offer community and connection during COVID-19

04 Sep 2020

8 mins
How film clubs offer community and connection during COVID-19

With the majority of young people learning from home instead of the classroom for much of the last academic year, Into Film Clubs are one of many activities impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

But for many, having fewer or even no pupils in school didn't mean no film club. Instead, educators across the UK thought creatively and quickly adapted to the situation, just as they did by delivering lessons online, to mixed-age classes and by teaching in "bubbles".

The flexible Into Film Clubs programme can be moulded to the needs of your school and tailored to the interests of your members, whether you want to focus on watching and discussing cinema or on making your own short films. At their heart though, all film clubs offer young people a community and a safe space to connect with each other and express themselves and their experiences. The lockdown has proved no exception.

Below, some of our film club leaders reveal how they adapted their clubs to keep them going throughout lockdown, whether in school as part of key worker provision or online for members tuning in from their homes. As a new school year begins, we hope these success stories and our new film club resources can inspire you to resume a club interrupted by coronavirus or even start a new one in your school. 

Virtual clubs

There are several ways to facilitate a virtual club, but the key ingredients are safe access to age-appropriate films and a forum for discussion. These can take place using your preferred video conferencing software, social media, or perhaps your school's Learning Management System.

Charlie Dawson is a Specialist Youth Development Worker who has been running a film club at Rowlands, a youth community centre in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, for six years. With face-to-face meetings no longer possible, Charlie moved the club online. Striving to make the club as accessible as possible by avoiding subscription streaming services, Charlie focussed on freely available films. 

"I decided after much thought to pick 6-8 different films (with descriptions and times) from Freeview and terrestrial TV, and list these on our Facebook on a Thursday. The young people voted for 24 hours and then the winner was announced. Everyone watched the film and on a Tuesday night at 7pm we had our virtual film club, with me live on the Rowlands Facebook page talking about the film and the young people commenting and interacting". 

This approach helped the young people retain some semblance of routine, and kept them in regular contact with Rowlands staff. "They could approach us online if they needed to talk", recalls Charlie. Given the risks for young people online, Charlie also took the opportunity to refresh key lessons around internet safety. In its new online form, the club became a site of interaction fostering communication for the whole community.

A whole range of films were discussed from Musicals to Westerns to the old Hollywood silent era. This opened up new film suggestions for the young people, and others in the community have expressed an interest in volunteering when the film club is back in the building.

Charlie Dawson, Specialist Youth Development Worker at Rowlands film club

Saskia van Roomen, film club leader at Highfield Junior School in Bromley, also found that her virtual club helped connect people, and provided fun educational activities parents and children could do at home together. "It was clear when children were feeling insecure or down and we were able to help them. The parents definitely had a bigger stake in the club as they often took part in the exercises with the children". 

Saskia used Zoom to connect members for sessions on various topics such as point of view and framing, which they then applied to their own filmmaking exercises. Saskia found the virtual environment provided some unanticipated benefits too. "Normally in class you can see that the most assertive children get to hold the camera and take the plum jobs but during lockdown they all were equal". Of course, not all young people have access to phones or tablets for filming, but here the school were able to help by lending equipment.

For easy-to-follow guidance on how to run your own virtual film club, download our new Quick Start Guide to Virtual Film Clubs.

Socially distanced extracurricular clubs in school

In some cases educators staffing provision for the children of key workers were able to run film clubs in school. Daniel Smeaton, leader of Bessacar Primary Film Club in Doncaster, held a lockdown film club every Friday afternoon in the school hall.

"Our idea was to protect them and pull a veil over the scary things that were happening outside, so apart from a massive increase in hand sanitising and encouragement of social distancing, there weren't too many changes. It was really interesting to see the varying age groups react to the different films".

Daniel's experiences highlight some of the simple ways a club can continue in our new normal. Download our Quick Start Guide to Socially Distanced Clubs for advice on what to consider when adapting or setting up a club to be COVID-secure. 

Our film club is a key part of school life. Our children thrive on the social aspect of getting to enjoy time in school with their friends and peers that isn't classroom based. The relaxed atmosphere helps to engage the children and we have such positive feedback.

Daniel Smeaton, Bessacar Primary Film Club in Doncaster

Film clubs in the classroom

If you want to make the benefits of film learning available to your whole class or school, you can incorporate the club experience into everyday classroom teaching. As more pupils returned to Bessacar Primary, Daniel adapted his approach once again.

"Due to the wider opening of schools from June 1 our numbers increased. I had to go back to the drawing board to find a way to keep the club going. I talked to a couple of my colleagues who have a vested interest in film. I introduced them to Into Film resources we could use as part of our 'recovery curriculum'. We decided the best way to do it was to show films that would tie into topic work. We were inspired to show Song of the Sea as the work pupils were doing was around the environment. We also showed some fun films like Matilda. I popped down and introduced the film each time and we got them to write reviews".

For simple guidance on how to bring the club experience into your classroom, download our Quick Start Guide to Film Clubs in the Classroom

Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million of funding has been made available to support communities across the UK during the Coronavirus crisis. The National Lottery is playing a critical role in supporting people, projects and communities during these challenging times, including Into Film Clubs. By playing The National Lottery, you are making an amazing contribution to the nationwide-response to combatting the impact of COVID-19 on local communities across the UK.

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