Across Australia school students are joining a growing community of young filmmakers who are making their mark on the nation’s film industry.
Students as young as six and seven are taking on lead roles including film production, acting, scriptwriting and technical support as part of the Film By initiative.
Film By… (previously Film By The Sea) is an initiative by a small band of dedicated teachers who firmly believe in the positive educational benefits gained from teaching film and film studies.
Now in its 9th year, the popular program combines the Four C’s of learning – critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication – by teaching students how to develop, participate in and even lead film projects.
Last year, the initiative showcased more than 500 films from the 900 in its database. Today, more than 1,000 student films have been created and a 15-hour registered training course has been provided to more than 700 teachers.
The initiative’s founder, Miranda Public School principal Glen Carter, said the film communities are expanding as educators recognise the value of the initiative.
“People are realising that video is how kids learn things today,” Carter told The Educator.
“There are statistics that show more than 500 hours of video are uploaded on to YouTube every minute and one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.”
Carter added the same studies into the benefits of video as a tool for learning show that 66% of teachers believe video increases student motivation and 60% of video content is retained at a higher rate than text.
“However, the important part of Film By is that kids are making video rather than just watching it,” he said.
Schools in rural and remote areas get involved
Murat Dizdar encouraged Carter to bring the festivals into rural and remote areas, which he has since done.
“We had a project recently out at Nyngan, where 10 fairly remote schools attended. The representatives from one of those schools drove about two or three hours to get to the festival,” he said.
“We filmed with the kids for two days and also ran a project to help upskill teachers while we were there.”
When Carter and his team finished the project, the school said it was excited about the prospect of potentially running a film festival in 2020.
“That festival will be quite a challenging one because there’s a huge distance involved, so we’re not sure what kind of festival that will be. It may screen in varying areas or it might be an online festival. We’re just not sure yet,” he said.
“But that’s one of the things that we do at Film By. We want to get this project into rural and remote areas, similar to how we did last year when we worked with students participating in the School of the Air.”
The Four C’s rolled into one
Carter said Film By enables children to work together collaboratively, creatively, use critical thinking and communicate effectively – essentially rolling all of the Four C’s into a single project.
“NSW has a heavily overloaded curriculum, but Film By is a powerful way of simplifying,” Carter said.
“Teachers can cover all of the areas they want and still provide the most amazing rich learning for kids.”
Carter said a lot of principals involved in the committees of Film By festivals have seen the value of the project for children from a pedagogical perspective.
“Principals are seeing that this is a project that switches kids on and leaves them switched on,” he said.
“Once kids engage with this project, they realise they can do a lot of things they never knew they could previously, and this improves their confidence in a big way.”
Bridging communities and professional learning
Carter said he is seeing communities come together in a powerful way as a result of the project.
“We’re about to have a little festival in Broken Hill, and kids from all over the place are coming together for that screening. It brings people together because it’s a real celebration of kids’ work and achievements. It’s quite a joy to see,” he said.
“I was at another festival in Newcastle recently, called Film By Callaghan, which runs a series of digital stories in an outdoor cinema in the evening. You only see people there with smiles on their faces – there’s something in it for everyone.”
Carter said the professional development aspect of Film By is particularly important in rural and remote schools, which are often short-staffed.
“We find that really good filmmaker teachers are much better to take out than filmmakers, because they understand how to connect with kids and other teachers,” he said.
“We find it to be a great model for rural and remote places where it’s hard to get quality training for teachers, because they don’t have the casual staff to replace them. We bring people in who have the skills and the talent, and this way we can upskill the teacher and at the same time work with the kids and model best practice for filmmaking.”
Carter said that when these filmmaker teachers leave the school, there is a learning resource there for them when they want it.
“We also provide our courses to the support staff in the school that are sometimes the people who are there long-term. We don’t charge anything for that because we want them to become involved,” he said.