Friday, 20 October 2017


Around a month ago I was asked to provide a filmmaking course for a teenage group up near Stirling, for 16 weeks up until Christmas. The goal is to show any films they make to the local community just before Christmas.

This is a different challenge to what I'm used to. At the weekly academy I teach at, there are 160 students, from ages 6 to 18, who are all there to learn and participate in performing arts, period. In this new group, there are only at most, 12 teenagers, who gather every Tuesday night at a local youth group, in a building they affectionately call, The Youthie.

The difference between the two groups, apart from size, was clear straight away; in Edinburgh they attend for the subject, whereas up in Stirling we could just as easily be meeting to play pool, or video games. In essence this was just another project like any other that they have done recently. So it was quite a challenge convincing them about making a film. Afterall, it's a lot of work, and requires a lot of dedication.

It's a mixed group of abilities, and some young people have their own personal challenges that they are dealing with. But I know from experience the value that filmmaking can bring to young people. I just had to win them over.

After about three weeks I was starting to worry that this project's ambition was too much. Attendance was sporadic at best, but there was a core that were starting to arrive on time and show keen interest. Here they are filming themselves during an improvisation exercise.

As if the combined challenges were not enough, I hatched a plan to put them under pressure to deliver. Though their ultimate goal is to make a short film and show this to the community just before Christmas, I decided to enter them now into the Scottish Youth Film Festival. The entry date was the 19 October, which basically gave them a combined 6 hours to come up with an idea, write and film it. Bearing in mind these are teenagers who have never made a film before.

But they pulled it off. Yesterday their film was submitted to the festival just four hours before the deadline. The festival is held on the 22 November, so fingers crossed they garner some success.

I have also made another observation of these country teenagers that differs from the Saturday city group. They have an air of confidence about them, and are comfortable with each other in ways that the Edinburgh group are not. I've also seen remarkable support toward each other, especially to those handling their own difficult issues. Yes, they have mobile phones, but they are on them less.

Normally we meet on a Tuesday evening, but it has been cancelled on the 31st. Everyone is taking part in Halloween, and they go for it big time. When I was a youngster I too immersed myself in Halloween, but again, this is something I don't see the city kids getting involved in.

I'm hoping when we meet next week that the rest of the group will enjoy watching the first film as much as their fellow students did making it.


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