Tips on engaging your club from February's Leader of the Month

22 Mar 2017 in Into Film Club of the Month

6 mins
Simon Hanks, Leader of the Month from Gwernyfed High School, Powys
Simon Hanks, Leader of the Month from Gwernyfed High School, Powys

Our Leader of the Month for February 2017 is Simon Hanks, Head of Lower School at Gwernyfed High School in Powys, Wales. Simon has run the film club since it started five years ago. His club is particularly active, watching a film a week, regularly reviewing films, and engaging with all parts of the Into Film offer, making him a great person to offer up some tips and advice for other prospective film club leaders.

How long have you been running your club, and what do you find most fulfilling?

I've been running my film club for over four years now. What's most fulfilling is seeing young people widen their horizons through the media of film, and becoming more literate in the language of film. The film club gives young people the opportunity to develop skills with a freedom not always possible in a classroom setting.

You've taken your club to film festivals in other countries. How was that experience?

Attending the Berlinale (Berlin's Film Festival) with my club twice has had a huge effect on myself and my appreciation of film. This has impacted on the club, as it has helped me bring the excitement and sheer spectacle of the experience into film discussions. Hopefully I have inspired the current Year 10 pupils to want to visit the Berlinale in 2019 on their Sixth Form Study Tour.

You recently had a visit from Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams. What was her reaction to your film club?

Kirsty Williams was genuinely enthusiastic about our film club and how we use film in the classroom. She wanted to hear about the members' favourite films, asking them how they benefited from attending the screenings and the associated activities. She told us to watch 12 Angry Men, the film that inspired her to enter politics and stand up for what she believed in.

Your club has had several Review of the Week winners. How does writing reviews help members' language skills?

I think the greatest benefit gained from reviewing films is the development of analytical skills. To be able to express and argue an opinion on a film by comparing and contrasting it to other works is an essential life skill. Hopefully this can be expressed through writing, but for some pupils just being able to verbalise their thoughts is great progress.

How do you encourage review writing? 

We move to an ICT suite after screenings whenever we have the time. I wish we were able to run extended sessions and do this every week, but it's not always possible.

As a rural club, have you had any difficulties with members being able to access the club?

The majority of club members travel to school by bus and have to be picked up by parents after each screening. This puts a pressure on some parents and pupils are not always able to attend every week. This is the main impact of being in a rural location, but the commitment of the members (and their parents) is shown in the strong core of pupils who attend week in, week out.

If there is one other bit of advice you could offer new Into Film club leaders, what would it be? 

While you'll likely need to show some Hollywood blockbusters, don't be afraid to screen classic black and white movies and foreign language films too. You will be amazed how well young people really can follow films with subtitles!

What are your Top 5 recommended films for film clubs?

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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