Lights… Camera… Classroom!

FILMCLUB is a charity dedicated to bringing the wonder of cinema into schools – delivering a whole host of claimed educational benefits.

You have your tickets and you have found your seats, the lights begin to dim as you tuck into your extra large popcorn and the music thunders across the theatre as the opening credits begin to roll.

The truth is there is nothing quite like the power of cinema, and the art form has continued to shape our culture for decades.

FILMCLUB is an education charity dedicated to ensuring every child has the opportunity to investigate and learn more about film as well as possibly creating some budding, young filmmakers for the future.

Launched in 2008 by Film Director, Beeban Kidron and Educationalist, Lindsay Mackie, FILMCLUB now operates in 7,000 UK schools. The scheme helps schools set up and run film clubs where children watch, discuss and review a broad range of films from every era and genre of movie-making. FILMCLUB also provides weekly screenings, online reviewing, industry events and hands-on support to engage, challenge and open new avenues for informal learning and perhaps most importantly it is free to all state schools.

FILMCLUB patrons include filmmaker Mike Leigh and actors Emma Thompson and Michael Sheen, with funding received from the BFI Lottery Transition Fund for Audience Development.

Research has shown engaging in film clubs delivers significant educational and social benefits including: boosting children’s literacy and IT skills, improving communication and critical analysis, broadening cultural horizons and integrating isolated pupils. In essence, teachers receive the support they need to introduce pupils to the world of film, and create a memorable experience with proven academic benefits.

A great deal of the scheme is web-based, with a content rich website designed to appeal to young people and offering a wide range of educational resources for teachers including:

  • A curated catalogue of over 3,000 films arranged in themes and seasons, specially designed and constantly updated to appeal to young people.
  • Film descriptions, age group filters and recommendations from FILMCLUB’s resident movie experts.
  • Online reviewing and the facility for teachers to monitor pupils’ individual progress.
  • Interactive Club Pages and Teacher’s Forum.
  • Downloadable educational resources including review writing guides for primary and secondary, SEN programming tips, and themed teaching guides linked to curriculum and/or topical subjects such as climate change, parliament and democracy, civil rights and bullying.
  • ‘Filmworld’ – an online magazine about the world of film.
  • Industry news, interviews and new releases
  • Competitions, Awards schemes and the opportunity to participate in screenings and other special events.

Interactive, online training sessions for teachers have also been introduced so more schools can reap the educational and social benefits provided by school film clubs. Developed to enable busy teachers to join the scheme more easily than ever before, the one hour, interactive, online start-up sessions are open to all education professionals interested in setting up a free film club in their school or college including teachers, headteachers, teaching assistants, school librarians and sixth form students. Following a presentation and guided tour of the website by one of FILMCLUB’s expert School Coordinators, participants will be shown how to create and activate an account and receive help choosing their first 10 films. They will have the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas through Twitter, email or text, and following the session each new member will receive a welcome email and be introduced to their local Coordinator.

In a survey of club leaders 80 per cent said FILMCLUB increased their members’ critical skills and 91 per cent that it engages pupils facing other barriers to learning. Over 6,000 reviews are uploaded onto the website each week including many from previously reluctant writers.

One facility which has been particularly popular is the inspiring series of live webcasts which enable thousands of young people from all backgrounds to have access to a creative professional whilst still at school. The webcasts supplement FILMCLUB’s broader film industry interaction ‘Close Encounters’ programme in which film professionals visit schools across the country on a weekly basis.

The live, streamed interviews, broadcast free to the charity’s existing membership of 250,000 students across 7,000 schools through the FILMCLUM website (www.filmclub.org) and gives students the chance to submit their questions to the guests live via Twitter.
So far students have had the opportunity, through the webcast initiative, to quiz filmmakers as broad in style as Gremlins and The Hole director Joe Dante, legendary documentary maker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Into the Abyss), BAFTA Rising Star winner Adam Deacon (Kidulthood), and screenwriter and novelist Nick Hornby (An Education).

Director, Debs Gardner-Paterson (Africa United) was impressed with the range of questions she received through her webcast interview. ‘I really enjoyed it! I’ve done quite a few Q&As now with the film and I have to be honest that kids and teenagers always ask the best questions,’ she said. ‘It was great to have the mix of interview style and live questions coming in on Twitter, and really cool to answer a mix of story questions and practical filmmaking details.’

FILMCLUB’s commitment to its webcast model enables pupils from across the country to engage with industry professionals on a regular basis. The format allows them to be actively involved by sending in questions of their own and hearing those of their peers answered – this is particularly effective in areas of disadvantage where the model serves to promote inclusiveness and broaden horizons. Moreover, webcasting offers the maximum number of young people – particularly in remote rural areas – the opportunity to gain an insight into the world of cinema, which they may not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with. This diversity of access reflects the broad range of films available for FILMCLUB members to order via the website, including documentaries, British cinema, Hollywood movies, foreign language and classic films dating back to the 1920’s.

As highlighted in the government’s recent Cultural Education Review, involvement with professionals is widely regarded as an important element of youth development in terms of raising aspirations and providing information about potential career opportunities and the webcasts are a fantastic example of this.

Previously webcasted interviews have included Kevin Macdonald (Life In A Day, The Eagle), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo), and Vadim Jean and Robert King – the director and subject of documentary In the Land of the Free. As well as this FILMCLUB has set up webcasts from press conferences with Steven Speilberg (Jaws, E.T.), Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Shrek), Salma Hayek (Frida, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and even The Muppets.

Craig Lucas, the Film Club Leader at Newlands Girls School was delighted with his webcast experience with director Kevin Macdonald. ‘FILMCLUB provides our pupils the opportunity to engage with film in an exciting and innovative way allowing us, as teachers, to take our learning beyond the classroom and into new realms,’ he explained. ‘Having the opportunity to participate in webcasts with award-winning directors such as Kevin Macdonald takes the pupils learning, understanding, engagement and interaction with film even further.’

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