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BFI Film Academy students premiere their work


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Over the course of two weeks, 54 16-19 year olds attended the BFI Film Academy Intensive Residential Programme with the National Film and Television School (NFTS). Last week, TNS headed down to the BFI Southbank for the premiere of their six short films. 

Learning from professionals who have worked on such films TrainspottingHot Fuzz andThe Wind That Shakes the Barley, the students got to grips with all aspects of filmmaking whilst working together to create the short films.

With the choice to specialise in Directing, Producing, Editing, Cinematography or Sound Recording, the programme emphasised the collaborative nature of filmmaking whilst still being suited to the individual participant.

What is unique about the programme is that apart from travel costs and an admin fee, it is free with bursaries available to cover those cots.

Two-thirds of the students were chosen through regional workshops and the other third from open applications.

Nik Powell, director of the NFTS, said that the regional workshops were great preparation for the residential as it meant the students were already engaged and familiar with some of the tutors and each other. In regards to the residential programme, he felt that the students, who had come from all across the country, really learnt that filmmaking is a craft which it takes time to get good at even for talented people.

The NFTS building was formerly a film studio, with state of the art equipment. But the NFTS’ involvement with the students isn’t just for the two weeks; Nik stated that "a very important part of the programme we’re delivering is aftercare. We have an alumni officer who together with the school will look to advance them, find them mentors, internships and job placements, some might be able to work on our graduation films to keep them engaged, of course some of them are going to uni."

The final result of the students’ hard work was remarkable to say the least. All of the films were of an extremely high and professional standard which is even more impressive considering they were filmed in only two days and then edited in two.

The six films were:

Cha, Cha, Cha

A housewife plans to escape her mundane life by going to India on a spiritual retreat, bringing into focus the strained relationship with her husband.

Been A Riot

During riots a young looter finds himself stuck in a basement with the police officer who has arrested him. The two of them realise that they must put differences aside to help one another.

The Other Side of the Wall

Every day without fail a grieving mother visits the wall where her teenage son was tragically killed in a car accident. The fed up owner of the home outside helps her come to terms with her loss.  

Teach Me

Dealing with a difficult teenager causes a former city banker turned social worker to revisit unwanted feelings of anger from the past.

Man of the House

A mother and her adult daughter are brought together again by a burglary as they reminisce about their deceased husband and father.

Voices in the Attic 

The sudden death of her young child leaves a mother distraught but through a mysterious stranger her grief is eased.

Putting into perspective just how tight their schedule was, 18-year-old Mdhamiri Nkemi, who was editor of Cha Cha Cha, mentioned that they themselves had yet to see the final cut of their films as they were only completed the day before.

Despite the highly disciplined nature of the programme, he thought it was "an amazing experience, there were so many good parts about it that came together nicely and I had a great time.”

The residential, which he heard about through his college tutor, was an invaluable experience as he plans to study editing at uni next year. He also though that “it was really cool being able to meet loads of other people interested in film and being able to talk to them about their experiences.”

Charley Packham also worked on Cha Cha Cha but as a producer. “I was heavily involved in script development and overseeing the whole thing so from making call sheets to production scheduling to organising the budget and working closely with the production manager,” Charlie says.

With all these tasks she found that it was a great  learning curve, “good because you had to be really disciplined; sometimes people wanted to take three takes of something weird like cup but you have to be like no, get it right first time!” Before the residential Charley didn’t want to do producing but directing, but her tutor helped her see that she was good at it.

She says: “You have to be quite entrepreneurial, talk to people and problem solve which I always thought a director did but it’s actually what a producer does." Although as a producer she was mainly responsible for logistics, there was the chance to lend some creative input, particularly relishing the chance to work with professional actors.

The event also saw the BFI introduce new organisation Film Nation UK who will deliver a "new film education programme that will be available to every 5-19 year old and the 26,700 schools in the UK.”

Chief Executive of the BFI, Amanda Nevill, said that there exists certain snobbery towards film due to it being "the medium that speaks to everybody; it’s not as inhibited as the opera or theatre, compared to them, it’s also cheap" but that "in the 21st century it should be seen as important as the written word as most young people’s experience of life is through moving image."

The exciting programme plans to instil a real love of cinema from an early age which will hopefully lead to great consumption of films later on life. The scheme also hopes to develop key skills in all areas of film production so that the top talent are able to succeed in the industry.

Film Nation UK’s education programme and the abundance of talent from the film academy both point to a bright future for British cinema. With extra revenue coming from the lottery fund due to the Olympics, there’s plenty to invest in young people.

Photos: BFI/NFTS

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