Shakespeare 400: A Filmmaking Celebration

06 Mar 2017

8 mins
SIMI Shakespeare
SIMI Shakespeare

2016 marked the 400th anniversary of playwright William Shakespeare's death. To help celebrate the legacy of his incredible body of work, which continues to influence us today, we delivered a Shakespeare 400 filmmaking programme. We commissioned eight BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) organisations across the UK to work with local filmmakers in order to help young people aged 13-17 create their own films inspired by one of Shakespeare's plays.

For inspiration, the young people attended screenings of films inspired by Shakespeare's works, which helped support their idea development, before then taking part in a five day programme of filmmaking activity, ultimately creating their own short films. The filmmakers then celebrated their achievements by watching their completed films at showcase events, attended by with friends and family.

Watch a selection of the amazing short films that were created as a result of our Shakespeare 400 programme below:

Richard III - Sparks and Sir John Cass Foundation School, London

Film and media production company Sparks worked with the Sir John Cass Foundation School in London to help 20 young people aged 14-15 to create a short film adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III. The film tells the story of young basketball player Richard, who'll stop at nothing to make sure his team is the last one standing, and win the coveted Horse Scholarship Prize.

English teacher Sophie Lording, from the Sir John Cass Foundation School, commented on the positive impact the programme had on both the school's students and teachers:

"It's made us think about using practical film exercises more outside of the classroom for enrichment. We hope to reach other groups as a result of this project and create a sustainable, student-led filmmaking club. The students had a real sense of achievement at the cinema screening; you could see they were all so proud of their final film. It also contributed towards their future aspirations. Many of the girls are now considering a career in directing or editing as a result of the project."

The group were visibly excited and very buoyant when taking a bow at the film screening at Richmix. There was a real sense of achievement.

Dan Farrell, Co-Director at Sparks

Grey - Gulbenkian and Canterbury Academy

Gulbenkian, the University of Kent's Arts Centre, worked with nearby Canterbury Academy, helping 10 young people aged 16 and 17 to create their short film Grey, which follows the lives of several teenagers as they struggle with the pressures they feel to look and behave in a certain way. The filmmakers where inspired by the film The Tempest (2010) and the theme of isolation.

Participants had a strong sense of ownership over the project as they were able to identify individual goals at the start of the project and see these through to fruition by the end. They felt they developed new skills, formed new friendships and came out of the project keen to work in the film industry.

Eleanor Cocks, Head of Creative Learning at Gulbenkian

The Readiness - Watershed Arts Trust Ltd and Merchants Academy

Watershed Arts Trust Ltd in Bristol worked with 20 young people aged 14 to 17 years from Merchants Academy to create their short film The Readiness; the story of a young girl called Harriet who's struggling both at school and at home. Harriet must decide whether to continue to suffer the slings and arrows aimed at her or whether to take her revenge, in this short film, inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet and more modern comic book superheroes. 

In terms of successes, we were very impressed by how the group worked together as a team. Their enthusiasm and diligence in their assigned roles was excellent. They really gelled as a crew and were respectful of each other's ideas and input. They took ownership of the project and this shows in the final film.

Roseanna Dias, Engagement Projects Coordinator at Watershed Arts Trust LTD

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