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It's a school day and I'm in the school hall, at Anson Primary School, London. There are 100 children aged between 7 and 11 years of age with me. There is nothing strange about this situation. After all, schools have assemblies every day and children in Key Stage Two are often gathered together for collective thought. However, I'm the only adult in the room and I'm not doing anything. At all.
That's because it's our weekly Into Film Club, and as usual the children are in charge. We've come a long way since we began in 2009. Back then we were a group of 16 children sitting in a classroom watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. I still remember the feeling of excitement every week setting up my classroom, making it feel different, lowering the lights and simply watching a film.
The club created a buzz around the whole school. People couldn't believe there was a club to just watch films. It's all it was in the beginning. It was a chance for children to watch a whole film, uninterrupted. We showed blockbuster after blockbuster to keep the excitement levels high, and numbers soon started to grow. Pretty soon we had grown too big for a classroom, and began to watch films in the school hall.
There was no screen. Resources were limited. We used an old projector, which sat on a table, and projected the image onto a king size bedsheet. It was a rustic cinema, but we were all in it together! The experience was everything.
The numbers grew and with it, the innovation. We needed to keep the children entertained, but also, we could expand the club's potential, and make the experience more engaging.
We installed a huge screen and began Seven Degrees of Bacon - a fun, pre-screening game playing on the famous "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game (but taking it one degree further, because who doesn't like a challenge?). This gave the students the chance to explore the actors in a film, and try and delve into their back catalogue a little, to try and link them to Mr. Bacon.
Review writing took off too, and we began to share reviews of previously screened films while looking ahead to what would be screened in the future. But it wasn't enough. We began to theme films to evoke feelings, to discuss events and to give children a glimpse of the world outside their own. We looked for ways to reward review writers using stickers, passports and prizes before deciding to give away a film every week. Using the money raised in the shop we began buying the films we screened and the best review won the film. Numbers increased again.
By the time we reached 80 children we had put together our first Film Club Council, with children making decisions about the films we wanted to screen. We use the 3Ss and 3Cs for every film, interrogating our feelings about characters, our views of the setting and how the story is constructed. Children became responsible for the Seven Degrees of Bacon, began to control the passes which allow children in and out, and even started to run the shop. I just sit here.
I sit here and plan. I plan the filmmakers sessions, as part of the filmmaking programme at Anson. I plan our whole school film festival, where every child makes films before a special screening in November. I plan how film can support the whole curriculum. I plan our school radio show, packed full of the content we make at the clubs, and work on the magazine show we've started recently, dedicated to the world of film. This has brought in more members, more reviewers, and more filmmakers.
So I sit here in the school hall. I sit and I think about those small beginnings. I sit and I think about how we've gone from 16 members in the early days to fifty percent of Key Stage Two now gathering to enjoy film, to engage with film and to be inspired by film. I sit and think about the impact on those children who don't get to the cinema, who can't watch a whole film at home. I sit and I marvel at how they are engaged, learning, becoming wise, making friends and beginning to understand the world outside their own. I sit and I smile.
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