Bringing Shakespeare to Life in Schools through Filmmaking

22 Apr 2022

4 mins
St Albans High School for Girls filming Macbeth for Coram Shakespeare
St Albans High School for Girls filming Macbeth for Coram Shakespeare

It's Shakespeare's birthday on Saturday 23 April, and what better way to celebrate than exploring a vast catalogue of short films made by students across the UK. The films were produced as part of the inaugural Shakespeare Schools Film Festival last autumn; a collaboration between Into Film and Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation.

From the epic battle scenes of Macbeth by Aberdeen's Sunnybank School, to the beautiful costumes and dreamy autumnal green screen seen in Ysgol Caer Elen's rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, students from across the UK have brought the magic of Shakespeare's works to life in their filmmaking projects. Making films as part of curricular learning - in any subject and topic - is a great way to increase engagement and understanding, not to mention developing essential transferable skills like teamwork, problem-solving, communication and critical analysis.

Over 50 schools took part in the festival and we've picked our top three of the films that were submitted to us in a special spin-off competition. You can watch snippets of those films further down this page, or visit Shakespeare Film Festival to watch the full length films, or watch a Best of the Fest highlights reel for a quicker overview.

The Merchant of Venice by The Loddon School, Hampshire

We just loved the artistic display of talent from The Loddon School in Hampshire, in their adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. "All students acting in the film have a diagnosis of ASD along with other complex learning needs," says Lead Practitioner of Drama, Katy Rado. "Due to the academic level of our students and the complexity of Shakespeare, we covered the text by picking out key scenes which told the story and then focused on actions and emotions present in these scenes which the students were already familiar with."

Enjoy the clip below, or watch the full version.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by St Louise's College, Belfast

From St. Louise's College in Belfast, we have a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream with some magnificent special effects. "We had so much fun making this film," reported teacher Seamas Olabhradha. "When the young people weren't in front of the camera, they were behind it, operating the camera, mics and studio lighting, in our own wee film studio that we built for this project. We wanted to experience working on something epic, like a superhero film, so we used CGI to create magic, and make characters fly. We strove for inclusivity, and the only quality required in our cast and crew was passion, and yet we acquired some exceptional performers."

Enjoy the clip below, or watch the full version.

Twelfth Night by Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Kent

Over in Kent, the students of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School got to work on their film version of Twelfth Night. Here's what Teacher of Film Studies and English Dr Todd Dedman had to say: "The project was run for our Year 9 students. They had studied Twelfth Night in Year 8, so it was an excellent opportunity for them to put their version of the play on screen. They were helped with the technical side of things by some Year 12 Film Studies students, but their roles became increasingly peripheral as the Year 9s became more confident with the use of the equipment. The energy and commitment of all of the students was an absolute joy to see."

Enjoy the clip below, or watch the full version.

Special mention also goes out to the students of Saint Ronan's in Kent, who produced a fantastic Twelfth Night film despite having to contend with an injured leading lady, several cases of COVID, and maintenance works to the building creating a racket in the school grounds. Well done, St. Ronan's!

The Shakespeare Schools Film Festival project is taking place again this year, and now is the time to sign up. We'll be working with Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation to bring you all the filmmaking support you need to transform your teaching on Shakespeare, through a series of webinars, resources and more. As one teacher said, "I'm full of gratitude for this training - it has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone, but I'm now full of ideas to share with our young people. Thank you!"

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