How running your own film festival can help to inspire young people

24 Sep 2018 in Into Film Club of the Month

5 mins
FCOTM september's leaders
FCOTM september's leaders

Our Into Film Club of the Month for September 2018 is Highfields School in Wolverhampton. The Into Film Club at Highfields School is jointly run by Aman Beesla and Dan Cooper, who have been running the film club for 7 years. We spoke to Aman about the film club and how he and Dan were able to create their own youth film festival.

What do you enjoy about running an Into Film club?

The great thing about film club is it allows a safe space for students to collectively experience and create something together. Film has the ability to be completely inclusive and engaging which sets it aside from many other subjects and clubs. For the first few years we only screened films every week, however the last few years has seen us leap into the world of filmmaking although we still watch a film at the end of each Half Term. All the students who attend seem to genuinely enjoy being part of the film club, forming friendships they wouldn't have otherwise.

How have your club members benefited from being part of the film club?

In terms of filmmaking, students haven't only improved their practical skills but also their team skills; organising themselves and patiently working through the process in order to create the end product. They've grown more confident and enjoy the process of film making. Through watching films students have been able to participate in a shared experience, meaning that it's given them a platform to improve their communication and comprehension skills too.

In July, you organised your first film festival. What was the idea behind the Young Wolf Film Festival?

At Highfields School, we've recently encouraged our A-Level students to produce their own films as well as creating a Film Studies option for Year 9. With these subjects, along with film club, we found the school was making a lot of films and these needed a platform to be celebrated. Alongside celebrating the success of existing work, we also wanted to promote filmmaking and cinema to all students in school, creating workshops and events which would show students how easy making a film can be. In addition to this, we wanted this to not only be a school wide celebration, but a city wide celebration. One of the key factors of filmmaking is networking and collaborating, so we also wanted to give students a chance to work with other schools and like-minded individuals.

The festival featured a trip to The Electric Cinema in Birmingham (the UK's oldest running cinema), a whole school film quiz, a day of filmmaking workshops, an Oscar style Awards evening and then we concluded with a film themed song and dance show followed by an open-air screening of The Greatest Showman. It was an incredibly busy and wonderful week of film.

How did you engage other local schools in festival activities?

We decided to work with schools who we have already formed relationships with such as feeder primary schools and a special school which is located in the same building as ours. In addition to this we reached out to secondary schools who we know also offer Film Studies in the hope that they too had content which they wanted to celebrate. The films which we collated were all entered into our Oscar style Awards Evening which featured a range of filmmaking organisations plus guest speaker Simon Brew, creator of Den of Geek website.

We then had a bridging project with the primary school and special school where our students created a video diary of life at Highfields and the other schools responded with their own videos. Our sixth formers worked with other schools to create a series of vlogs about careers in the film industry with a professional filmmaker provided by Birmingham's Flatpack. Ultimately, we've started small with 4 other schools involved in our first festival and we hope to go bigger this year.

Did you receive any support from partner organisations?

Into Film were a great support to us during the Film Festival. As well as keeping us informed of events happening in our area where we could network with other schools, such as the Careers Event at Birmingham University, they also lead one of the filmmaking workshops on our Workshop Day. On that day we had workshops on green screen, make-up, foley sound and editing - all of which were very engaging.

Flatpack in Birmingham provided us with a professional filmmaker to work with the sixth form and they'll be supporting us more in next year's festival.

What benefits did you see for the young people involved in Young Wolf Film Festival?

The festival gave those students with an interest in film a platform to push themselves further and showcase the work they'd created. Students were able to appreciate and celebrate film in ways they hadn't done previously as we made many of the events school wide. What I thought was interesting was the wide range of students involved in the festival, all from different year groups and abilities. Ultimately, they could celebrate what they'd already achieved and been inspired and learnt how to continue down their creative paths.

What advice would you give other club leaders looking to organise their own festival?

Firstly, don't be afraid to try it; I've been meaning to create one for ages and my only regret is that I didn't make one sooner. Start small and be realistic with your goals. We had a very busy week which we couldn't have done without the support and help from other people, so try and share the responsibility and even get the students involved in organising aspects of the festival.

If there is one piece of advice you could give to new club leaders, what would it be?

Be open to trying and testing new ways of engaging the students. Every year I seem to try something new and it makes it more interesting for the students too. Also be patient as my film club had a regular attendance of four students to begin with and has now grown to a committed core of around 30 students, peaking at 80 students at one point! You can make it as open or as focused as you want: start small and grow.

This Article is part of: Into Film Club of the Month

Each month we celebrate one Into Film Club's achievements and talk to the club leader about how they approach their sessions.

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