Friday, 17 August 2018


Having run a brand new film academy for kids from age 9 to 18 in July, I decided to reprise the event in August.

Film Academy summer school, the sequel.

There were a number of parts of the July summer school that didn't work as well as they could have for the students, and during the week that followed I went back to the drawing board, or maybe more appropriately, the storyboard.

One thing that occurred to me was we needed to get the students working on cameras more quickly, so we upped the ante, and threw them in at the deep end, shooting their main film after just two days.

We had received various bits of feedback, all very positive, but a few were surprised the students were filming a pre-written script. They had assumed they would film their own. We had decided this for very good reasons.

A five minute short film script takes around a month of full time work to write and perfect, ready for shooting. Part of that is getting everyone to agree on story, parts and roles. To have been able to do this well in just two days was going to be impossible, hence the pre-written script.

But it gave me an idea for the second week, to satisfy both.

First of all, we altered the website, listing a basic schedule for the week, so everyone knew in advance they would be filming a pre-written script.

During the actual week we trained them up, and shot the film, a day early. By the Thursday lunch time they were wrapped. Then we presented them with a challenge; they had now been shown how to do it all, so we gave them one hour on Thursday afternoon to write a one-page script, with full reign on what they could do. On Friday morning we handed them a camera and a microphone, and gave them just 30 minutes to shoot five short scenes to tell their story, in sequence, no editing allowed. Whatever came out of the camera was the finished film.

And they pulled it off amazingly well. These six shorts were both the most popular with the parents at the end-of-week screening, and it was the most popular activity with the students. An idea I am taking forward to the weekly academy.

So by taking the plunge into the first week, listening to the feedback, we were able to deliver more of what they wanted. Everyone left happy. Click on this link to see just how much fun we all had:

Some students said that having to wait around for their turn to be in front of the camera during any of the shoots, wasn't their favourite thing, but that is part and parcel of filmmaking, and if that was the only moan, then we were doing well.

The closing event, once again, though not quite as problematic as week one, was plagued with last minute technical issues. We found a workaround but we were 30 minutes late. This is real life. Tech issues happen all the time, but for me this felt like a failure, and I left feeling less than happy, thinking, well, I tried it, but it looks like it's not going to work long term. I knew I had five young people overall that wanted to do a weekly, after-school version, but five was not viable.

Six days later and we have 21 signed up, and as I write, only two places remain in the teenagers group. Our capacity is 30, mainly to ensure tutors have a manageable class.

At my current place of work on a Saturday, I have to deal with up to 30 students per class, and it just doesn't work very successfully. It has been invaluable experience over the past four years, but I need to make this better. Having a maximum of 15 is at the top end of numbers in my opinion, with 12 being ideal, but we have to balance the books.

For the future, and I never thought I'd be considering this, we are looking at opening a second academy on a Wednesday. And just this morning I have had inquiries from the Borders and Fife from fellow filmmakers to open something similar there.

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